Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth Hardcover – 10 Feb 2017
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This book is refreshingly good as it deals with the most controversial and misunderstood Mughal emperor without any bias. Must read! --By Gopalan on 14 May 2017
Great book to know about facts of that period and brought into light many events that colonial rulers had hidden to implement divide and rule policy. Many negative ratings are really biased and I think they not read the book which is very much secular --By BAIG MOHIDDIN on 14 May 2017
Author had did great job in finding hidden content. Really enjoyed every page of this book. Definitely it won't disappoint. --By Amazon Customer on 14 May 2017
About the Author
Audrey Truschke is assistant professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. She received her PhD in 2012 from Columbia University. Her teaching and research interests focus on the cultural, imperial and intellectual history of early modern and modern India (c. 1500–present). Her first book, Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court (Penguin, 2016) investigates the literary, social and political roles of Sanskrit as it thrived in the Persian-speaking, Islamic Mughal courts from 1560 to 1650.
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Unfortunately, her effort with Aurangzeb does not meet the same high standards of scholarship and new insights. This is regrettable as Aurangzeb is pivotal in Mughal history in much the same way as Akbar was. Audrey correctly argues that It is difficult to discover the real Aurangzeb from behind the polemical smoke on both sides. However her own short essay on Aurangzeb adds very little to our knowledge and understanding. She falls into the usual polemical error of offering her views to the reader, dwelling on the positives and trying to explain away the negatives. This leaves the reader tasting wisps of smoke, rather than historical food. For example, she presents the increased percentage of Hindus in Mughal employment during Aurangzeb reign as a positive - even while she tacitly acknowledges that this was probably because he conquered new territories in Deccan and absorbed existing local officers into Mughal employment.
She is also regrettably vague about the destruction of 'few dozen' temples during Aurangzeb's reign. She argues (as other notables have done before) that this was merely done for military reasons, but fails to mention a single mosque which was similarly destroyed by Aurangzeb for 'administrative' reasons. Her argument that no temples in South were destroyed is disingenuous- she has argued in her other book on Sanskrit encounters that Mughals reduced their patronage of Sanskrit as they became more established. The same logic would explain why Aurangzeb did not want to endanger his fragile hold over the South by attacking temples.
She also glosses over Guru Tegh Bahadur's execution - using the old trope of his having risen rebelliously against Mughal might. She also berates Jadunath Sarkar, arguing at one point that the use of the phrase 'Mughal Crescent' shows how communal Sarkar was. All this sounds so much like a rehash of our own domestic Left wing historians that one wonders whether Audrey Truschke need have travelled all the way from US for this.
There is some useful information here. For instance, it seems Aurangzeb was never forgiven his sin of deposing and imprisiong his own father. She suggests that this could explain why he tried to boost his image by wooing the ulema (appeasement politics?), using disastrous policies such as jeziya to enrich them. Another interesting tidbit is that he sacked the court historian 10 years into his reign. That may explain why we do not have a more reliable contemporary account, which in turn makes it easy for both the Left and the Right to confound all of us with their possibly concocted stories about how good or how bad Aurangzeb was.
We must therefore wait some more for a more balanced history to find out who Aurangzeb was and why did the Mughal empire disintegrate with his passing.
Hopefully her own longer book on Aurangzeb (due May'17) would have more facts, deeper analysis and less apology...
The author presents most of the excuses that people including some historians make for Aurangzeb's actions and embellishes them with the historical record. Wherever there is an absence of historical record absolving Aurangzeb of the crime or proving that it was motivated by political expediency and not religious bigotry, the author dismisses it as an anomaly. One could almost get an impression that the author believes that crimes committed out of the necessity to gain or maintain power are somehow less heinous than those inspired by religious extremism.
The following are a couple of glaring examples of the author's slant: Firstly, towards the end of the book, she writes about Aurangzeb's legacy and takes the reader through to the final overthrow of the Mughal dynasty. It was not necessary to mention everything in that 150-year period since that was not the topic of this book, but she fails to mention the fact that Mughals spent half a century, nearly a third of that time as a protectorate of the Marathas (who feature prominently in the book as Aurangzeb's adversaries). Secondly, the author casually mentions that the Raja of Jodhpur a vassal of the Mughals destroyed all the mosques in his fiefdom during a revolt. Considering, that she has written an entire book trying to rescue Aurangzeb's reputation which she believes has suffered due to temple destruction, she could have dedicated more space to explain the motive of the said mosque destruction or not mentioned it at all, as the focus of that paragraph was only to show how the empire crumbled after Aurangzeb's death.
Modern hagiographies are not reverent in their tone as they do not fly off the shelves unless there is some controversy. This topic was tailor made for controversy. Many times simply presenting the historical record in a book can lead to controversy. This author has struck the right balance - to select just the right facts to present Aurangzeb in a favourable light, which is a controversial view in India but stay away from any comment or aspects of his life that may cause an uproar which may lead to any problems in the sale of the books. On the whole, this book may have gained limelight now but will be forgotten in a couple of years. Not a must read by any stretch.
if someone writes to beat a deadline this is how scholarly it would look.
the book has one remarkably standout insight for which the 2nd star(compared to the rest of the book of course): the fella, and the dynasty, would have fared better with a reign 20 years shorter. makes sense. imagine someone ascending to the throne at 40 and refusing to go for another 50 years! poor sons!! they never could come into their own. no wonder Bahadur Shah I, was 65 when his time came. as mentioned earlier, this is remarkable given the overall sloppiness which is a constant throughout the book. legengary CEO's who would turn to fossil but not retire may well take note of this. don't ruin your successors by overstaying.
of course Shiva (who is Shiva? Shivaji of course, cos Mughal chroniclers wanted to save some ink) didn't escape in fruit basket, cos author thinks it's more conceivable that the guards were bribed. brahmins (ah, the entity that is axiomatically at the root of all evils) of Kashi and Mathura were somehow responsible for this. in addition they were falsely interpreting religious texts. the emperor couldn't but dispense his form of justice by pulling down the signature temples in these towns. so these crooks wrought it upon themselves. who were ye folks daring? so, it turns out that the wicked brahmins were at it again: sullying the emperor's image etc etc.
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