As Aurangzeb is Erased, Here are Some Tales From the Flip Side of History

Even as the medieval period of Indian history is remembered by some only for the demolition of Hindu temples and the conversion of Hindus to Islam, we hardly stop to notice some instances to the contrary – when mosques were demolished and replaced by temples and when Muslims were converted to Hinduism, either by way of the medieval version of ghar wapsi or directly. Surely that’s something the sangh parivar can feel happy about.

Sher Shah, the Afghan ruler who had snatched the Mughal empire from the hands of Humayun in 1540, vowed to punish the Hindu zamindars who, according to him, had, “after destroying the mosques and places of worship of the Mussalmans converted them into places of idol-worship”. Earlier on, in the port city of Cambay in Gujarat, the Parsis ‘instigated the Hindus to attack the Mussalmans, and the minaret atop (a mosque) was destroyed, the mosque burnt and eighty Mussalmans killed’. To the credit of the Hindu ruler, who checked the facts and found them to be true, he had the mosque restored to its old state.

In Akbar’s time, the theologian Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi complained that “the Hindus are demolishing mosques and are building their own places of worship in their stead”. Shah Jahan is also on record having seized seven mosques “from their unlawful proprietors” who had “violently seized and appropriated them for their own use in Punjab”. Aurangzeb too refers to one of his two Rajput nobles with the highest mansab of 7000 given to any noble – Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur – who had in around 1658-59 “destroyed mosques and built idol-temples in their stead”. Yet, the two worked together for the next 20-odd years until the Rajput’s death in 1679.

Similarly, there is testimony for reverse conversions from Muslims to Hinduism, unthinkable in a theocratic Islamic state.

Vishnu killing the danavas Madhu and Kaitabha. From the Razmnama, the illustrated Persian translation of the Mahabharata in 1605. Credit: Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata

Vishnu killing the danavas Madhu and Kaitabha. From the Razmnama, the illustrated Persian translation of the Mahabharata in 1605. Credit: Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata

Mahmud bin Amir Ali Balkhi, a Central Asian traveler to India in Jahangir’s reign was horrified to see a group of 23 Muslims in Banaras who had deserted their religion and turned Hindu, having fallen in love with Hindu women. “For some time”, he records, “I held their company and questioned them about their mistaken way. They pointed towards the sky and put their fingers on their foreheads. By this I understood that they attributed it to Providence”, Balkhi concludes ruefully.

Zain al-Abidin, pre-Mughal ruler of Kashmir (1420-70) formally permitted Muslim converts to return to their Hindu faith if they so wished. As did Akbar later on, who also decreed that a Hindu converted against his will at any age “could return to the religion of his forefathers”. The eminent 15th-16th century saint-poet Chaitanya Mahaprabhu reconverted the Muslim governor of Odisha and converted a group of Pathans, who were not Hindus in the first instance, even as Hinduism is not a proselytising religion. They earned the sobriquet of ‘Pathan Vaishnavas’.

The Persian language text of the 17th century, Dabistan-i Mazahib, written by a Zoroastrian, Mobed, implies the considerable existence of reconversion at the higher levels and mentions, among others, two high nobles of Shah Jahan’s court – Mirza Salih and Mirza Haidar – who had converted from Hinduism and then returned to their original religion. Neither was punished.

At the mass level, Shah Jahan discovered that in the Bhimbhar region of Kashmir, it was common for Muslim boys to marry Hindu girls, with the boys then converting to Hinduism. He tried to stop it but found that his diktat had no effect. The Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind, also reconverted a large number and the Dabistan mentions this with some hyperbole: “Not a Muslim was left between the hills of Kiratpur in Punjab and the frontiers of Tibet and Khotan’.

History is never simple, you see.

The author is National Fellow, Indian Council of Historical Research

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  • History is never simple. True. But statistics are simpler. The author would do well to compare the numbers of temples destroyed to build mosques over them with the number of mosques destroyed to make way for temples. Or simply read up more about the number of hindus converted vs those who reconverted back via gharwapsi under the benevolent gaze of Mughal emperors. But why would he do such a communal thing?

    • Shikha Shikha

      And you would do well t check the hindu muslim population ratio and then make proportionate calculations – why dont you try . There’s a law of proportions which states that when the nos of one are greater , then often te absolute no of the same would be greater. One has to check proportions accordingly. Besides , teh author’s point is that the so called ‘muslim period’ when muslim rulers ruled was not such a black and white period despite the fact that power was in their hands and this was a time when world over rulers and conquests were accompanied by endless violence and conversions across board. Hindus have never attempted conversion simply to maintain the purity of their caste system – so unlike the myth of more peaceful hindus,hindusim has been a deeply violent religion enforcing a violent and debilitating caste system on its own people – no wonder so many lower castes have always been eager to convert and escape.But why would casteless and secular peoplelike you think about this ?

      • You know what? This line of argument about caste system blah blah blah has worn out completely. No one who is even mildly educated in non partisan history takes it seriously. And your attempt to bring in the element of proportionality is even more ridiculous. Because Hindus were in majority, their conversion numbers would be higher? Remind me how many conversions happened in the entire middle east in the last century. I would’ve suggested some good primary sources for you to read up on but I will refrain from that, considering your profile is fake with just two comments made so far. Good luck with the propaganda.

  • Shree

    Yeah its true that, there were instances of Mosques being destroyed and Muslim converts reconverted to Hinduism. But it was never on the organised scale as it was in case of Islam. One needs to remember that It was reaction to Muslim oppression. But tell me one name from History regarded as Hero by Hindu right who persecuted Muslims. All heros are the one who resisted Muslim oppression. They never attacked Muslims Mosques. Here the So called secularist constantly trying to show how Aurangzeb was benevolent towards Hinduism. He was never interested in composite culture and resorted to destroying symbols which were active in spread of Hindu faith. Support to some temples here and there can not reverse the larger pattern. It same like Modi giving lip service to Secularist ideals by saying Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas.

    • Poonam Srivastava

      Take a look at Moghul art, madam, and you are easily proven WRONG.

      • Jai Kumar

        Goto Vishavnath temple in Varanasi, and u will be appalled.

      • Piyush

        your reply isn’t even relevant to the comment here.So what are you proving “WRONG”?

  • Utsav Kumar

    yes the mughals came from central Asia originally ; but they adopted India as their country ; they were not invaders , they did not loot and destroy ; they gave us the finest monuments of the time and good governance and one must realize that the times were different , you cant expect democracy then ; tyranny was the order of the day and the same applied to Hindu rulers too . I guess we should be proud of the Mughal culture and lineage we have ….they lived here and died here ..next time you visit the Taj or the Lal Kila or eat Mughlai ; think of them as our own …I know lots of injustice has happened but not anymore ; no more

    • Subbu S

      Mughal rule was a shame, with the exception of akbar every body else were tyrant, the majority Hindu paid special tax for being Hindu for thousand years. They destroyed our temples which were close to our heart. The idiot Aurangzeb came all the waybdown to south to destroy Madurai meenakshi temple. Don t get fooled by the history text books thought in school, with the world wide web available we should be able to make the judgment, it was bad time then, no point in letting or blood boil now but don t try to paint rosy picture on facts. Behind the so called beautiful marble structure called taj there were lives of 20000 slaves all for a love of a women who was somebody else wife originally. Tipu of South is called tiger of Mysore but he ravaged every temple in Karnataka and kwrala we do not ve back bones to pull these titles away now and call them tyrant.
      By your logic British ruled us for about 250 years, we are wearing their clothes, their language opened the doors to the world for us. Can we consider them as one of our own or will they consider the same. Neither we now are looking to revenge the English, past is past. But don t paint colors on it

      • Lion Heart

        Let us face the fact: Aurangzeb was not a HUMANE king—neither he was a SECULAR manBut in ancient and medival time, most of the Kings used to do what Aurangzeb did.

        Afterall King Ram burnt down the whole Lanka after defeating his enemy—–so did the Hindu king Shivaji who demolished mosques in Bijapur—Raja Ranjeet Singh demolished a mosque in Lahore.

        But all these Kings were not ANTI-Muslim….demolition of mosque was just a way of showing —-look who is the boss.

        similarly Aurangzeb detroyed FEW temples….at the same time he gave LOT of money and properties for upkeep of many temples such to Jagannath temple.

        At the same time Aurangzeb destroy a MOSQUE too (Quwwatul Islam mosque in Delhi, which was being manged by his enemies).

        so history is not that black and white as you portray

        • Miyagi Jr.

          I think its the way of our times, anything related to a Muslim or some Muslims ought to come out negative, if it doesn’t then no ones willing to believe it. Prejudice i think, no ones willing to look at history in its perspective. Everyone’s conveniently forgetting their own history, but busy pointing fingers at Muslims whenever they get a chance

          • Navnith

            What will one say about Aurangzebnama which has chronicles the demolition of Temples and forcible conversion of Hindus.

          • Miyagi Jr.

            Look, Islam is not responsible for tyrants or tyrannical regimes. If you can point out any injustice to non-Muslims in the first 300 years after the Prophet or during His lifetime, then show me. Whatever happened afterwards, I don’t really care. In fact it was prophesied by the Prophet that after Him, the first 300 years are the best, afterwards, He warned about tyrants, but anyway.


  • raxxx

    Who said Pathans were not hindus in first place? The author needs a lesson in history. Pathans were the frontline hindu warriors for 8 centuries. As recent as during the time of Hemachandra Vikramaditya most Afgans sided with the Brahmin king of India ignoring their recently converted status to islam.

  • kampalian

    History is never erased, only a fool or a madman tries to do that. History has two sides, history from the point of view of those who wielded the baton and from the point of view of those on the receiving end. Perhaps bigots should be kept out. India will pay a high price in blood for these mad acts and history as fantasy from RSS or worse the psychotic minds like Dinanath Batra.

  • Subbu S

    The author is trying in vain to find a dot of white on a black board and trying to justify the black because there was a dot of white. What happened to journalistic ethics in this country. It is all about what sells hot now

  • IhateHypocrites

    It is a shame that a country was having the name of a mass murderer and invader like Aurangzeb………

  • shrihari kulkarni

    It’s not simple Muslim rulers wanted
    In order to rule they needed Hindus cooperation or otherwise it was very difficult since large trade part,agriculture was managed by Hindus.
    The list of tyrants is enough
    Gazani,Ghori,Timur,Babur,khilji,Tughlaq,Bhaktiyar,Aurangzeb,Abdali,Afzal Khan,Nadir Shah

    • Lion Heart

      If Muslim rulers wanted they could have converted all Hindus to Islam—-and then allowed them to carry on their respective profession……..infact their TRADE and AGRICULTURAL lands could have confiscated and would have been given back once they convert to Islam—-that is what Spanish did in Philippines, South America etc.

  • venkatesh

    This magazine doest not really permit views that are from diametrically opposing view point. I will try for the second time….
    In spite of authors effort to sugar coat the benevolence of islamic rulers in india, he fails to show that we should commemorate a true tyrant and one who deliberately destroyed ancient temples such as shri Vishwanathji at Benares and executed a sikh guru ruthlessly.

    Pointing to other cruel non muslim rulers to justify the tyranny is purely a revisionist attempt. Only in Pakistan they would name their nuclear missiles after the likes of Aurangzeb, Ghori and Gazhni. We are not erasing history in removing Aurnagzeb’s name. Aurangzeb has documented his own tyranny enough. We just dont want to commemorate his tyranny.

  • Tapas Banerji

    Throughout history ‘mazhab hi hai sikhata apas me bair karna ‘ , religion divides humanity ,as it has divided these fellow commentators ; it creates ‘us’ and ‘they’ . Religion is founded on the basis of ‘heaven’ (greed) and ‘hell’ (fear),as we know now that existence of either is unproven . Religion has lost relevance in this age of knowledge . History should only be of academic interest in developement of human societies .So live and let live and pursue knowledge in a dispassionate and unprejudiced way .

  • Arun

    Although I find this a much better commentary than the silly ones doing the rounds on the internet (solely for the sake of its assumed neutrality and not quality), where I differ from the author is in fact in a point that he has alluded to in his argument. Hinduism does not have the concept of proselytisation unlike Islam. So any mass movement or sporadic conversions or reconversions can only manifest in the form of a backlash and not independently. That said, what I truly feel is that scrutiny from a moral prism of any event or part of History does not bode well for the future of the subject and hence the populace — For what are we without our past? It’s deconstruction should be objective. History is never simple in the sense that it becomes extremely difficult to derive moral conclusions from it. It is difficult if you have a set idea or goal in mind and try to use events in history to arrive at it. On the other hand if you look at it objectively, letting go of all prejudices, it becomes quite interesting (Still not simple, though).

    • Navnith

      The bane of Hinduism is not Islam but its Brahmanism and casteism. Ever since Brahmins converted their priestly profession into a caste based one( rejecting the scripture that only a learned man can be called Brahmin) the down fall of Hinduism started.They prevented others from learning Hindu scriptures and even prevented a majority from entering Temples. Where as in other religions like Islam and Christianity, the Mullahs, Moulvis and bishops took pains to teach common people about their religions, Brahmins kept every thing for themselves and their progenies. They selfishly made non-Brahmin kings spent almost 80% of their income on Brahminical rites like Yagas to boost their own finances.
      The immigrant Namboothiri Brahmins injected the casteist poison into states like Kerala where till then there was no caste system. But these Brahmins made all others including the warrior caste of Nairs as Shudras.Nairs were the rulers of Kerala before Namboothiris .

  • Miyagi Jr.

    How many wars were imposed on Indonesia by the Muslims?, or how many times was Indonesia invaded by the Muslims?? None, yet Indonesia have the biggest Muslims population in the world!

  • Qaiser Usmani

    very real and good facts and true history of India…..solute u

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