MUHI-UD-DIN Muhammad Aurangzib, the third son of the Emperor Shah Jahan and his famous consort Mumtaz Mahal, was born on 24th October, 1618, at Dohad, now a town in the Panch Mahal taluq of the Bombay Presidency and a station on the Godra-Rutlam railway line. The most notable incident of his boyhood was his display of cool courage when charged by an infuriated elephant during an elephant combat under his father's eyes on the bank of the Jamuna outside Agra Fort, (28 May, 1633). The victorious beast after putting its rival to flight, turned fiercely on Aurangzib, who firmly kept his horse from running away and struck the elephant on the forehead with his spear. A sweep of the brute's tusk hurled the horse on the ground; but Aurangzib leaped down from the saddle in time and again faced the elephant. Just then aid arrived, the animal ran away, and the prince was saved. The Emperor rewarded the heroic lad with his weight in gold.

On 13th December, 1634, Aurangzib, then 16 years of age, received his first appointment in the imperial army as a commander of ten thousand cavalry (nominal rank), and next September he was sent out to learn the art of war in the campaign against Jhujhar Singh and his son Vikramajit, the Bundela chiefs of Urchha, who were finally extirpated at the end of the year.

From 14th July, 1636 to 28th May, 1644 Aurangzib served as viceroy of the Deccan,—paying several visits to Northern India during the period to see the Emperor. This his first governorship of the Deccan, was marked by the conquest of Baglana and the final extinction of the Nizam-Shahi dynasty of Ahmadnagar. He was married, first to Dilras Banu, the daughter of Shah Nawaz Khan Safawi, (8th May, 1637), and at some later but unknown date to Nawab Bai, and began to have children by them, his eldest offspring being Zeb-un-nisa, the gifted poetess, (born 15th February, 1638).

In May, 1644 the prince gave up his duties and took to a life of retirement, as a protest against Dara Shukoh's jealous interference with his work and Shah Jahan's partiality to his eldest son. At this the Emperor was highly displeased, and at once deprived him of his governorship, estates, and allowances. For some months the prince lived at Agra in disgrace. But on 25th November, when Jahanara, the eldest and best beloved daughter of Shah Jahan, recovered from a terrible burn, her joyful father could refuse her nothing, and at her entreaty Aurangzib was restored to his rank. On 16th February, 1645, the viceroyalty of Gujrat was given to him; his vigorous rule suppressed law­lessness in the province and won rewards from the Emperor.

From Gujrat Aurangzib was recalled two years later and sent to Central Asia to recover Balkh and Badakhshan, the cradle of the royal house of Timur Leaving Kabul on 7th April, 1647, he reached the city of Balkh on 25th May, and battled long and arduously with the fierce enemy. The bravest Rajputs shed their blood in the Van of the Mughal army in that far off soil; immense quantities of stores, provisions and treasure were wasted; but the Indian army merely held the ground on which it encamped: the hordes of Central Asia, “more numerous than ants and locusts,” and all of them born horsemen,—swarmed on all sides and could not be crushed once for all. The barren and distant conquest could have been retained only at a ruinous cost. So, a truce was patched up: Nazar Muhammad Khan, the ex-king of Balkh, was sought out with as much eagerness as Sir Lepel Griffin displayed in getting hold of the late Amir Abdur Rahman, and coaxed into taking back his throne, and the Indian army beat a hurried retreat to avoid the dreaded win­ter of that region. Many krores of Rupees of Indian revenue were thus wasted for absolutely no gain; the abandoned stores alone had cost several lakhs, and much property too had to be sacrificed by the rearguard for lack of transport.

During this campaign Aurangzib did an act which made his fame ring throughout the Islamic world. While the Mughal army was fighting desperately with the vast legions of Abdul Aziz Khan, king of Bukhara, the time for the evening prayer (zuhar) arrived. Dis­regarding the prohibitions of his officers, Aurangzib dismounted from his elephant, knelt down on the ground, and deliberately and peacefully went through all the ceremonies of the prayer, in full view of both the armies. Abdul Aziz on hearing of it cried out, ‘To fight with such a man is to court one's own ruin’ and suspended the battle.

From Balkh, Aurangzib returned to Kabul on 27th October, 1647, and was afterwards appointed viceroy of Multan (15th March, 1648). This post he held till July, 1652, being twice in the meantime called away from his charge to besiege Qandahar (16th May—5th September, 1649, and 2nd May—9th July, 1652). This fort had been wrested from Shah Jahan by the Persians and these two huge and costly sieges and a third and still greater one under Dara (28th April—27th September, 1653) failed to recover it.

With his second viceroyalty of the Deccan (for which appointment he set out on 17th August, 1652), began the most important chapter of Aurangzib's early life. What Gaul was to Julius Cæsar as a train­ing ground for the coming contest for empire, the Deccan was to Aurangzib. Many hundreds of his letters, preserved in the Adab-i-Alamgiri, give us much interesting information about his life and work during the next six years,—how he overcame his recurring financial difficulties, how he gathered a picked band of officers round himself, how ably and strenuously he ruled the country, maintaining order and securing the happiness of the people. By constant inspection and exercise he kept his army in good condition. He must have been often out on tour, as he admits in one of his letters that he was a hard rider and keen sportsman in those days. Thus the year 1658 found him beyond doubt the ablest and best equipped of the sons of Shah Jahan in the ensuing War of Succession.

At this period, too, occurred the only romance of his life, his passion for Hira Bai, (surnamed Zainabadi), whom he procured from the harem of his maternal uncle. It was a case of love at first sight and Aurangzib's infatuation for the beautiful singer knew no bound: to please her he consented to drink wine! Their union was cut short by her death in the bloom of youth, which plunged her lover in the deepest grief.

After a long intrigue he seduced from the king of Golkonda his wazir Mir Jumla, one of the ablest Persians who have ever served in India. At Aurangzib's recommendation Shah Jahan enrolled Mir Jumla among his officers and threw the mantle of imperial protection over him. To force the Golkonda king to give up Mir Jumla's family and property, Aurangzib made a raid on Haidarabad (24th January, 1656); the king fled to Golkonda where he was forced to make a humiliating peace with immense sacrifices. Mir Jumla joined Aurangzib (20th March), was summoned to Delhi and created wazir (7th July), and then on 18th January, 1657, returned to the Deccan to reinforce Aurangzib.

A year after this unprovoked attack on Golkonda, on the death of Muhammad Adil Shah, king of Bijapur, Aurangzib with his father's sanction invaded the latter country, (January, 1657), captured the forts of Bidar and Kaliani (29th March and 1st August respectively), and was looking forward to annexing a good deal of the territory, when the whole scene changed in the most unexpected and sudden manner.

The Emperor Shah Jahan had now reached his 66th year, and was evidently declining in health. His eldest son and intended heir-apparent, Dara Shukoh, who lived with him and conducted much of the adminis­tration, induced him to recall the additional troops sent to Aurangzib for the Bijapur war, on the very reasonable ground that the Bijapur king had thrown himself on the Emperor's mercy and offered a large indemnity and piece of territory as the price of peace. But this peremptory order to Aurangzib to come to terms with Bijapur gave him a sharp check when flushed with victory and cut short his schemes of aggression. Besides, the depletion of his army left him too weak to hold the Bijapuris to their promises, and thus the fruits of his victory were lost.