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Books > History > The Mughal Empire: The History and Culture of the Indian People (Volum VII)
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The Mughal Empire: The History and Culture of the Indian People (Volum VII)
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Preface

 

The reasons for the postponement of the publication of this and the next volume (Vols. VII and VIII) till after Vols. IX, X and XI were published have been stated in the Preface to Vol. IX of this series (p. xxxiv).

 

This, the seventh volume of the series, deals with the period from 1526 to 1707 A. D. during which the Mughuls gradually established their authority over nearly the whole of India. This is the brightest Chapter in the history of Muslim rule in India, which began in the 13th century A.D. and covers a period of nearly six hundred years in north and five hundred years in south India. The Mughul rule is distinguished by the establishment of a stable Government with an efficient system of administration, a very high development of architecture and paintings and, above all, wealth and splendour such as no other Islamic State in any part of the world may boast of.

 

So far as the Hindus were concerned, there was no improvement either in their material and moral conditions or in their relations with the Muslims. With the sole exception of Akbar, who sought to conciliate the Hindus by removing some of the glaring evils to which they we're subjected, almost all the other Mughul Emperors were notorious for their religious bigotry. The Muslim law which imposed many disabilities and indignities upon the Hindus, mentioned in Vol. VI (pp. 617-20), and thereby definitely gave them an inferior social and political status, as compared to the Muslims, was followed by these Mughul Emperors (and other Muslim rulers) with as much zeal as was displayed by their predecessors. the Sultans of Delhi. The climax was reached during the reign of Aurangzib, who deliberately pursued the policy of destroying and desecrating Hindu temples and idols with a thoroughness unknown before or since. Such disclosures may not be liked by the high officials and a section of the politicians, but it is the solemn duty of the historian to state the truth, however unpleasant or discreditable it might be to any particular class or community. Un- fortunately, political expediency in India during this century has sought to destroy this true historic spirit. This alone can explain the concealed, and mostly unsuccessful, attempt to disparage the statements about the Hindu-Muslim relations made in Volume V (pp. 497-502) and Vol. VI (pp. 615-636), though these were based mainly on Muslim chronicles and accounts of a Muslim traveller, supported by contemporary Indian literature.

 

The difficulty of writing the true history of Hindu-Muslim relations as well as the editorial policy followed in this matter has been stated at some length in the Preface to Vol. VI (pp. xxix- xxx) of this series. The same policy is followed in this volume also.

 

It is very sad that the spirit of perverting history to suit political views is no longer confined to politicians, but has definitely spread even among professional historians.

 

In the present volume, reference has been made in some detail to the' Muslim bigotry in general' and the persecution of the Hindus by Aurangzib in particular (pp. 233-36, 305-6). Although the statements are based on unimpeachable authority, there is hardly any doubt that they will be condemned not only by a small class of historians enjoying official favour, but also by a section of Indians who are quite large in number and occupy high position in politics and society. It is painful to mention, though impossible to ignore, the fact that there is a distinct and conscious attempt to rewrite the whole chapter of the bigotry and intolerance of the Muslim rulers towards Hindu religion." This was originally prompted by the political motive of bringing together the Hindus and Musalmans in a common fight against the British but has continued ever since. A history written under the auspices of the Indian National Congress sought to repudiate the charge that the Muslim rulers broke Hindu temples, and asserted that they were the most tolerant in matters, of religion. Following in .its footsteps a noted historian has sought to exonerate Mahmud of. Ghazni's bigotry and fanaticism, and several writers in India have come forward to defend Aurangzib against Jadunath Sarkar's charge of religious intolerance. It is interesting to note that in the revised edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, one of them, while re-writing the .article on Aurangzib originally written by Sir William Irvine, has expressed the view that the charge of breaking Hindu temples brought against Aurangzib is a disputed point. Alas for poor Jadunath Sarkar, who must have turned in his grave if he were buried. For, after reading his History of Aurangzib one would be tempted to ask. if the temple-breaking policy of Aurangzib is a disputed point, is there a single fact in the whole recorded history of mankind which may be taken as undisputed? A' noted historian has sought to prove that the Hindu population' was better off under, the Muslims than under the Hindu tributaries or independent rulers. While some historians have sought to show that the Hindu and Muslim cultures were fundamentally different and formed two distinct and separate units flourishing side by side, the late K. M. Ashraf sought to prove that the Hindus and Muslims had no cultural conflict." But the climax was reached by the politician-cum-historian Lala Lajpat Rai when he asserted that "the Hindus and Muslims have coalesced into an Indian people very much in the same way as the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes and Normans formed the English people of today." His further assertion that "the Muslim rule in India was not a foreign rule" has now become the oft-repeated slogan, of a certain political party. I have discussed the question in some detail. 'elsewhere" and need not elaborate the point any further.

 

The policy adopted in regard to this question in this ,and the preceding volumes, and discussed at some length in Vol. VI (pp. xxix-xxx) , was most eloquently expressed by Jadunath Sarkar as far back as 1915 in 'his Presidential speech at a historical conference in Bengal. The following is a literal English translation of the original Bengali passage:

 

"I would not care whether truth is pleasant or unpleasant, and in consonance with or opposed to current views. I would' not mind in the least whether truth is or is not a blow to the glory of my country." If necessary, I shall bear in patience the ridicule and slander of friends and society for the sake of preaching truth. But still I shall seek truth, understand truth, and accept truth. This should be the firm resolve of a historian."

 

I may conclude this topic by referring to the views expressed by Jadunath Sarkar and Dr. Rajendra Prasad at a much later date when Dr. Rajendra Prasad launched a scheme' to write a comprehensive national history of India on a co-operative basis, and requested Jadunath to become its chief editor. Jadunath wrote to him on 19 November, 1937: "National history, like every other history worthy of the name and deserving to endure, must be true as regards the facts and reasonable in the interpretation of them. It will be national not in the sense that It will try to suppress or white-wash everything in our country's past that is disgraceful, but because it will admit them and at the same time point out that there were of and ' .nobler aspects in the stages of our nation's evolution which:'c;51fset· the former. In this task the historian must be a judge; He will not suppress any defect of the national character, but add to his portraiture those higher qualities which, taken together with the former, help to constitute the entire individual."

 

In his reply to the above, dated 22 November, 1937, Dr. Rajendra Prasad wrote: "I entirely agree with you that no history is worth the name which suppresses or distorts facts. A historian who purposely does so under the impression that he thereby does good to his native country really harms it in the end. Much more so. in the case of a country like ours which has suffered much on account of its national defects, and which must know and under- stand them to be able to remedy them."

 

An apt illustration of the truth of the observation in the last sentence is furnished by the religious bigotry of the Mughul Emperors. If we consider the relevant facts of history as discussed in this volume, in an open mind, without either any rancour or resentment on the one hand, and a desire to suppress the truth on the other, we can never deny that religious bigotry contributed to a very large extent to the downfall of the mighty Mughul empire. If we realize fully this great historical truth we may learn a valuable lesson from the teachings of history which might serve as a useful guide in shaping our destiny in future. If we deny it out of misguided sentiments, it would be a perversion of historical truth. For. the rebellion of the Rajputs, who were a pillar of strength to the Mughul Emperors, against Aurangzib, and the rise of the Marathas and Sikhs as great military powers-the three great events which brought about the decline and fall of the Mughul empire were direct consequences of the bigotry of the Mughul emperors in general and of Aurangzib in particular. It is not perhaps a mere coincidence that the reign of Aurangzib, during which the religious bigotry reached its climax, was followed almost immediate- ly after his death by a rapid process of decline and disintegration of the Mughul Empire. It is true that other causes were also at work, such as the fratricidal wars of succession. We should remember, however, that there were similar wars also just before Aurangzib ascended the throne, but the Mughul Empire survived it-because it could still count on the loyal support of the Rajputs and had not to encounter the opposition, either of the Rajputs or of the Marathas and the Sikhs whom Aurangzib's bigotry had converted into deadly enemies.







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The Mughal Empire: The History and Culture of the Indian People (Volum VII)

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Preface

 

The reasons for the postponement of the publication of this and the next volume (Vols. VII and VIII) till after Vols. IX, X and XI were published have been stated in the Preface to Vol. IX of this series (p. xxxiv).

 

This, the seventh volume of the series, deals with the period from 1526 to 1707 A. D. during which the Mughuls gradually established their authority over nearly the whole of India. This is the brightest Chapter in the history of Muslim rule in India, which began in the 13th century A.D. and covers a period of nearly six hundred years in north and five hundred years in south India. The Mughul rule is distinguished by the establishment of a stable Government with an efficient system of administration, a very high development of architecture and paintings and, above all, wealth and splendour such as no other Islamic State in any part of the world may boast of.

 

So far as the Hindus were concerned, there was no improvement either in their material and moral conditions or in their relations with the Muslims. With the sole exception of Akbar, who sought to conciliate the Hindus by removing some of the glaring evils to which they we're subjected, almost all the other Mughul Emperors were notorious for their religious bigotry. The Muslim law which imposed many disabilities and indignities upon the Hindus, mentioned in Vol. VI (pp. 617-20), and thereby definitely gave them an inferior social and political status, as compared to the Muslims, was followed by these Mughul Emperors (and other Muslim rulers) with as much zeal as was displayed by their predecessors. the Sultans of Delhi. The climax was reached during the reign of Aurangzib, who deliberately pursued the policy of destroying and desecrating Hindu temples and idols with a thoroughness unknown before or since. Such disclosures may not be liked by the high officials and a section of the politicians, but it is the solemn duty of the historian to state the truth, however unpleasant or discreditable it might be to any particular class or community. Un- fortunately, political expediency in India during this century has sought to destroy this true historic spirit. This alone can explain the concealed, and mostly unsuccessful, attempt to disparage the statements about the Hindu-Muslim relations made in Volume V (pp. 497-502) and Vol. VI (pp. 615-636), though these were based mainly on Muslim chronicles and accounts of a Muslim traveller, supported by contemporary Indian literature.

 

The difficulty of writing the true history of Hindu-Muslim relations as well as the editorial policy followed in this matter has been stated at some length in the Preface to Vol. VI (pp. xxix- xxx) of this series. The same policy is followed in this volume also.

 

It is very sad that the spirit of perverting history to suit political views is no longer confined to politicians, but has definitely spread even among professional historians.

 

In the present volume, reference has been made in some detail to the' Muslim bigotry in general' and the persecution of the Hindus by Aurangzib in particular (pp. 233-36, 305-6). Although the statements are based on unimpeachable authority, there is hardly any doubt that they will be condemned not only by a small class of historians enjoying official favour, but also by a section of Indians who are quite large in number and occupy high position in politics and society. It is painful to mention, though impossible to ignore, the fact that there is a distinct and conscious attempt to rewrite the whole chapter of the bigotry and intolerance of the Muslim rulers towards Hindu religion." This was originally prompted by the political motive of bringing together the Hindus and Musalmans in a common fight against the British but has continued ever since. A history written under the auspices of the Indian National Congress sought to repudiate the charge that the Muslim rulers broke Hindu temples, and asserted that they were the most tolerant in matters, of religion. Following in .its footsteps a noted historian has sought to exonerate Mahmud of. Ghazni's bigotry and fanaticism, and several writers in India have come forward to defend Aurangzib against Jadunath Sarkar's charge of religious intolerance. It is interesting to note that in the revised edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, one of them, while re-writing the .article on Aurangzib originally written by Sir William Irvine, has expressed the view that the charge of breaking Hindu temples brought against Aurangzib is a disputed point. Alas for poor Jadunath Sarkar, who must have turned in his grave if he were buried. For, after reading his History of Aurangzib one would be tempted to ask. if the temple-breaking policy of Aurangzib is a disputed point, is there a single fact in the whole recorded history of mankind which may be taken as undisputed? A' noted historian has sought to prove that the Hindu population' was better off under, the Muslims than under the Hindu tributaries or independent rulers. While some historians have sought to show that the Hindu and Muslim cultures were fundamentally different and formed two distinct and separate units flourishing side by side, the late K. M. Ashraf sought to prove that the Hindus and Muslims had no cultural conflict." But the climax was reached by the politician-cum-historian Lala Lajpat Rai when he asserted that "the Hindus and Muslims have coalesced into an Indian people very much in the same way as the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes and Normans formed the English people of today." His further assertion that "the Muslim rule in India was not a foreign rule" has now become the oft-repeated slogan, of a certain political party. I have discussed the question in some detail. 'elsewhere" and need not elaborate the point any further.

 

The policy adopted in regard to this question in this ,and the preceding volumes, and discussed at some length in Vol. VI (pp. xxix-xxx) , was most eloquently expressed by Jadunath Sarkar as far back as 1915 in 'his Presidential speech at a historical conference in Bengal. The following is a literal English translation of the original Bengali passage:

 

"I would not care whether truth is pleasant or unpleasant, and in consonance with or opposed to current views. I would' not mind in the least whether truth is or is not a blow to the glory of my country." If necessary, I shall bear in patience the ridicule and slander of friends and society for the sake of preaching truth. But still I shall seek truth, understand truth, and accept truth. This should be the firm resolve of a historian."

 

I may conclude this topic by referring to the views expressed by Jadunath Sarkar and Dr. Rajendra Prasad at a much later date when Dr. Rajendra Prasad launched a scheme' to write a comprehensive national history of India on a co-operative basis, and requested Jadunath to become its chief editor. Jadunath wrote to him on 19 November, 1937: "National history, like every other history worthy of the name and deserving to endure, must be true as regards the facts and reasonable in the interpretation of them. It will be national not in the sense that It will try to suppress or white-wash everything in our country's past that is disgraceful, but because it will admit them and at the same time point out that there were of and ' .nobler aspects in the stages of our nation's evolution which:'c;51fset· the former. In this task the historian must be a judge; He will not suppress any defect of the national character, but add to his portraiture those higher qualities which, taken together with the former, help to constitute the entire individual."

 

In his reply to the above, dated 22 November, 1937, Dr. Rajendra Prasad wrote: "I entirely agree with you that no history is worth the name which suppresses or distorts facts. A historian who purposely does so under the impression that he thereby does good to his native country really harms it in the end. Much more so. in the case of a country like ours which has suffered much on account of its national defects, and which must know and under- stand them to be able to remedy them."

 

An apt illustration of the truth of the observation in the last sentence is furnished by the religious bigotry of the Mughul Emperors. If we consider the relevant facts of history as discussed in this volume, in an open mind, without either any rancour or resentment on the one hand, and a desire to suppress the truth on the other, we can never deny that religious bigotry contributed to a very large extent to the downfall of the mighty Mughul empire. If we realize fully this great historical truth we may learn a valuable lesson from the teachings of history which might serve as a useful guide in shaping our destiny in future. If we deny it out of misguided sentiments, it would be a perversion of historical truth. For. the rebellion of the Rajputs, who were a pillar of strength to the Mughul Emperors, against Aurangzib, and the rise of the Marathas and Sikhs as great military powers-the three great events which brought about the decline and fall of the Mughul empire were direct consequences of the bigotry of the Mughul emperors in general and of Aurangzib in particular. It is not perhaps a mere coincidence that the reign of Aurangzib, during which the religious bigotry reached its climax, was followed almost immediate- ly after his death by a rapid process of decline and disintegration of the Mughul Empire. It is true that other causes were also at work, such as the fratricidal wars of succession. We should remember, however, that there were similar wars also just before Aurangzib ascended the throne, but the Mughul Empire survived it-because it could still count on the loyal support of the Rajputs and had not to encounter the opposition, either of the Rajputs or of the Marathas and the Sikhs whom Aurangzib's bigotry had converted into deadly enemies.







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