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 CustodianAn extract from "The Peacock Throne: The Mughal Empire Across 500 Years" by Tony Jones 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.