Alamgirnama: A Mughal Timeline

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Madhav Deval, Aug 29, 2018.

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  1. Threadmarks: 1. God's Elected Custodian

    Madhav Deval Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2018
    Before I begin, I feel I should elaborate a bit on the nature of this new undertaking. Timelines have been done where Dara Shikoh wins the war of inheritance, most famously in Gurkani Alam, but in re reading that, I feel it severely simplifies some of the issues facing the Mughal Empire and thus diverges from the realm of possibility- I on the other hand will attempt to stay as true to the situation on the ground as possible. I will try and take this timeline upto the "modern day", with a surviving, powerful mughal empire, and so there will be a significant amount of butterflies across the globe- but I will try to keep it mostly familiar. I would also like to rehabilitate Aurangzeb a bit as far too often, he is seen as the major force in the decline of the empire, with people pointing to his religious intolerance or his endless campaigning- I will attempt to show that even with all of these things, Aurangzeb could have secured the Mughal empire for another few centuries had he been just a bit shrewder. Note, I am not claiming he was a good man, but he was certainly not the vicious warlord he is made out to be and even had some admirable qualities such as his self control and wit. My principal sources for at least the beginning are "India Before Europe" and "The Mughal Throne: The Saga of India's Great Emperors" So without further ado, we begin as one emperor makes way for the next:

    God's Elected Custodian
    An extract from "The Peacock Throne: The Mughal Empire Across 500 Years" by Tony Jones


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    Aurangzeb's official coronation ceremony took place on the 15th June 1659, the grandest in Early Mughal history and dazzling enough were the festivities, which lasted fourteen weeks, that people were briefly distracted from the stigma of his infamous usurpation. His predecessor, Shah Jahan, had in fact recovered from the illness that caused the succession war to begin, but as Aurangzeb had wrongly anticipated his death and already claimed the imperial mantle, there was nothing to be done but imprison his aged father within his palace at Agra- although every precaution was taken to prevent his escape, he was given all that he might need and had full access to the imperial harem and the associated royal cooks, dancers and singing girls.

    Aurangzeb had immediately taken control of the royal treasury after seizing the fort in Agra and at once began to pester his father to give up his personal jewelry, using the argument that all royal properties existed for the good of the people and that the king was merely "God's Elected Custodian and trustee of his money for the good of his subjects". And it does appear for Aurangzeb, this was true- he often spoke to the Begum Sahib, his sister Jahanara, of the burden of rule and even goes so far as to tell his father to thank him for relieving him of "such a heavy load and making my own mind the slave of a thousand afflictions". His conduct throughout his reign suggests that no Mughal emperor derived less pleasure on the throne than Aurangzeb and yet, so convinced was he of his duty to rule in his own perverted concept of righteousness that he was amongst the most determined to secure his own rule.

    His combination of righteous ruthlessness is shown perhaps for the first time since ascending the peacock throne in the manner he disposes of his brother, Murad Bakhsh, who is accused of murder in 1661, given a trial and sentenced by a judge to be executed. This was most certainly a sham trial but Aurangzeb was never one to against the letter of the law, no matter how many times he went against the spirit. There was an incident in his deccan campaigns as reported by Mannucci where some hindu and muslim soldiers from the opposing side were captured and a Kafi said that the muslims could not be killed and if the hindu soldiers converted they were to be given the same protection. Aurangzeb takes the Kafi aside and asks him to re-examine the law, after which they are all killed. This is nonetheless a marked departure from all previous Mughal emperors who never broke the law because their own whim was the law.

    Murad was predeceased in late 1660 by Shah Jahan, who died of the same illness that had laid him low two years prior and until the end maintained contact with Aurangzeb, every letter a barrage of accusations, wounded pride and mutual bitterness. Jahanara was with her father as he died and she composed a poem at his death:

    I cry from grief, like a reed, with only wind to grasp,
    I burn from sorrow, like a candle, but only smoke rises from my head

    This is a sharp contrast with Aurangzeb, who despite being informed of the illness' resurgence, only sends his son Muazzam, who arrives late. Jahanara, it is said, was planning a great state funeral but this was vetoed by Aurangzeb as too ostentatious for the man who had, in his eyes, caused the succession war by his unfair impartiality for Dara Shikoh- in his letters Aurangzeb often claims that Shah Jahan did not love him at all and had he done so, a great much consternation might have been spared. Aurangzeb had not seen his father for close to a decade and when he does finally go to Agra in February 1661, it appears to be more to reconcile with Jahanara than to visit his father.

    His relationship with Jahanara herself, however, is much warmer despite her having favored Dara Shikoh and he strived to win her affection- giving her the title of Padshah Begum and inducing he to move back to Delhi with him, where for the next twenty years, they spent frequent evenings together which were rare moments of tenderness in the life of this dour emperor. Jahanara became a powerful figure in court, often changing the way he approached problems, such as the Maratha uprising, although his treatment of Hindus remained a bone of contention until her death.
    Among the very first firmans issued by Aurangzeb was that no new Hindu temples were to be allowed and neither was repairing old temples permitted although any attempt at demolishing an old temple was still a punishable offence. This symbolised the beginning of Aurangzebs attempts to systematically weaken Hinduism, through no particular malice or hatred as he has sometimes been accused of but merely according to traditional Sharia law, for which Aurangzeb had made many sacrifices and thus expected everyone else to defer to it as well. In his early reign, he is notably more fervent in his defence of Islam (if anything he did could be termed as fervent, considering how soullessly he carried out his duty). He even removed the Muslim declaration of faith (the kalima) from coins, for fear of it being defiled in the hands of Hindus.

    The other notable orders given at the beginning of his reign were designed to protect the poor from illegal taxation, for held in balance with Aurangzebs contempt of hinduism was his fundamental politeness and desire to keep his people happy. Whereas other Mughal emperors were quick to defend their pride, Aurangzeb was always humble, and forgave every slight against himself- this doesn't mean he would suffer anyone to pose a threat to his authority but he was generous when faced with incompetence (when in burhanpur, a pile of gunpowder was discovered under his rooms and since it was an honest mistake, Aurangzeb merely temporarily demoted his guards, where Jehangir would have blown them up using the very same gunpowder). Three things: the influence of Jahanara, Aurangzebs obsession with the islamic concept of a good king, and the cunning with which he first seized the throne would go on to define Aurangzebs reign and because of the watershed role this era played, in the development of the Peacock Thrones power thereafter"

    So! We have our POD, Shah Jahan died in imprisonment six years before he does OTL, which has no significance in terms of policy or anything really apart from that it frees up Jahanara to move back earlier and have a bigger role to play in imperial policy.
    Our next stop is going to see the initial stages of the Mughal Maratha relationship.
     
  2. haider najib Well-Known Member

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    Jun 14, 2016
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    Has no idea
    nice subbed
     
  3. Whiteshore Defender of Myrcella Baratheon

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    Philippines
    I see what you did there with the author of the history book.
     
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  4. markus meecham Marxism-Leninism-Bricksquad thought Banned

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    Very interesting.
     
  5. Freedom2018 Well-Known Member

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    Jul 22, 2018
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    India
    True aurangzeb was not the man he is made out to be .
    But how do you go about preventing the factricide parricide and prolicide which was common in Mughal elite not to mention blinding rival claimants to the throne
    Most people brush this fact aside but this is very important esp from a absolute monarchy point of view since all policy making is in the hands of the royal family the infighting in the royal family leads to instability
    My question is not about aurangzeb but what happens after him
     
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  6. Sardar Well-Known Member

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    May 4, 2018
    Yay! Another India TL. Should be good.
     
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  7. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    Sep 24, 2012
    Very interesting! I am looking forward to more.

    fasquardon
     
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  8. Xianfeng Emperor Amateur Iran-o-phile

    Good to see India getting some much needed love on the forum as of late.
     
  9. Sardar Well-Known Member

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    May 4, 2018
    Update soon?
     
  10. Madhav Deval Well-Known Member

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    Jul 3, 2018
    I’m working on it, and it should be up tomorrow.
     
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  11. Milites Not a sahib

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    In the shade of the Buland Darwaza
    Gonna follow this with interest! Always nice when somebody tries to redeem the bad reputation of Aurangzeb.
    Azeem O Shaan Shahenshah!
     
  12. BlazedSoulofHate Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2014
    Yay! Always had a soft spot for Aurangzeb (I mean the name just sounds cool) so a strong Mughal Empire + a redeemed Zeb, I'm in.
     
  13. manitobot Well-Known Member

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    Sep 28, 2014
    A soft spot for him? I mean I am not one to judge, but wasn’t he a ruthless tyrant who oppressed the Hindus?
     
  14. VVD0D95 Lemmy is God.

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    Birmingham, UK
    Depends who you believe
     
  15. Madhav Deval Well-Known Member

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    Jul 3, 2018
    Well I mean in the latter half of his rule there was a greater proportion of Hindus in high level government positions than even under Akbar (widely regarded as a paragon of tolerance) and despite him yes reintroducing the jizya tax (which he never could never enforce on even most of his Hindu subjects) and doing some weird things like attempting to precisely regulate beard length of Muslims to be what the Quran said (apparently there was someone who went around on the street with a ruler) - he also enforced laws that said Brahmins weren’t to be harassed (as long as they didn’t attempt to make new temples) and earned his own wages by copying out the Quran and that’s all he ever used for his own expenses. Sure he may have been conniving, and even a ruthless tyrant at times, there’s definitely more to him than that.
     
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  16. manitobot Well-Known Member

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    Sep 28, 2014
    Just seems like an inner tyrant that has become bothersome.
     
  17. BlazedSoulofHate Active Member

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    Aug 30, 2014
    Yeah, not exactly the best choice of words...especially since I'm part Hindu/Sikh but tbh Aurangzeb does get a crap rep as was mentioned above, and a common belief is that his bad traits are probably exaggerated by contemporary Indian sources due to him massively downsizing the Mughal court and leaving many chroniclers, artisans and musicians out of work as a cost-cutting measure.
     
  18. Cregan Well-Known Member

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    Jul 20, 2008
    Subbed. Always interested in surviving Mughal Empire TLs
     
  19. Threadmarks: 2. Shivaji and the Marathas

    Madhav Deval Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2018

    Shivaji Bhonsle and The Marathas
    "The foundation of the Marathas as a power undoubtedly lies with Shivaji Bhonsle (1630-78). Shivaji’s father had acquired rights to land near modern Bhavnabad, formerly known as Pune, during the course of an ambitious but checkered career that included military service for the Ahmednagar and Bijapur sultanates, a brief spell as a Mughal officer and even an unsuccessful bid for autonomy.


    From his home base near Pune, the charismatic Shivaji was able to carve out a small realm in the frontier regions of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar. One of Shivaji’s renowned exploits occurred in 1659, after the Adil Shahs dispatched the general Afzal Khan to subdue him. The predator became the prey however at a meeting near one of Shivaji’s forts in the hilly terrain of the Western Ghats, where Shivaji killed Afzal Khan with a pair of Iron Claws.

    By the following year, Shivaji occupied forty forts and controlled eight passes through the Western Ghats, and began to harass the Mughal position. At first, he maintained the upper hand, with acts like his daring night raid against the encampment of the Mughal commander Shaista Khan. Though details differ, most sources agree that Shivaji infiltrated Pune under the cover of a wedding procession and entered Shaista Khan’s quarters, killing most of those they found. The Khan himself managed to escape but without three fingers and a number of wives and sons. Furious at this, Aurangzeb sent Shaista Khan to Bengal, only giving him a small audience before the transfer to show his anger. This in fact, turned out to be a good move, as Shaista Khan would later prove a capable ruler and administrator there.

    Shivaji’s treasury now depleted, he raided Surat, the empire’s main port a few months later in January 1664, looting more than ten million rupees in goods. This forced Aurangzeb to send an army to the Deccan in 1664, expressly to overpower Shivaji, under the command of Rajput general, Raja Jai Singh Kachhwa. Jai Singh attempted to besiege Vajragad fort after driving the Marathas into a defensive position there but was unsuccessful (there is a general consensus amongst historians that this is because of the speed at which Aurangzeb pushed for retaliation, which didn’t allow sufficient levies to be raised). The Marathas were never forced into that defensive position- however this experience of near defeat must have precipitated an epiphany in Shivaji, for he soon sent a diplomatic party to Jai Singh and this culminated in the signing of the treaty of Vajragad; according to this treaty, Shivaji could keep thirty of his forts along with an area worth an income of 100,000 huns, but in return he would have to attend Aurangzeb in person and aid the Mughals when required.


    Seeing as he was technically not defeated, upon Shivaji’s arrival at Agra, he was received with honours, although perhaps grudging and was seated near the highest ranking mansabdars. After staying there for three months, which passed mostly uneventfully, Aurangzeb demanded that Shivaji be stationed in Kabul to recapture Kandahar, which had passed back into Safavid hands a decade ago. Shivaji, though not tactless enough to refuse outright, nevertheless delayed and postponed obeying this order until eventually Aurangzeb was forced to tacitly allow him the spoils of conquest further south once he returned.

    So in the summer of 1665, Shivaji led a company of Maratha warriors to Kabul. And Shaista Khan? Delataic Bengal had been the wild east of the Mughal realm up to that point- the swampy home of the tiger, the crocodile and the criminal. The dregs of foreign settlement drifted into this tract, dominated by the portugese and Arakan pirates, who raided Bengal so frequently that not a house was left inhabited on either side of the rivers in their path. Shaista Khan endid this chaos- rebuilding the shattered Bengal flotilla, he launched a combined land and sea operation against Chittagong, annexing the kingdom of Magh and ending piracy in the area.

    The divergences from OTL become slightly more apparent here. Jahanara's influence moderates Aurangzeb's anger at Shaista Khan and he gives him an audience. Because Jahanara is spending more time with Aurangzeb, and Surat is her jagir, after the Maratha sack, he pushes for a hasty retaliation and is thus unable to levy enough troops to decisively defeat the Marathas. Shivaji meanwhile, is still impressed by the Mughal army and volunteers to become a "loyal" vassal in return for favorable treaty terms and a place in the Mansabdar class. Because he wasn't defeated he isn't treated like a vanquished enemy at court and the relationships dont sour enough to lead to his house arrest as in OTL. This leaves him available to go and do what was originally planned and shore up the Mughal frontier in the northwest. We'll join Shivaji in Kabul next time and assess the Maratha impact on central asian politics.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
  20. markus meecham Marxism-Leninism-Bricksquad thought Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2018
    Shivaji, the tiger of Kabul has a nice ring to it.
    Hopefully nobody will throw stones at your house for having that idea lmao
     
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