Sunday, March 09, 2008

Aurangzeb, art, and intolerance

Demolition of Mathura temple
This painting depicts the demolition of the Keshav Rai Temple at Mathura in January 1670 by order of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, and the construction of a mosque in its place. As per the Masir-i-Alamgiri, an official history of Aurangzeb's reign which was compiled from revenue records, official correspondence, treaties, and despatches, "In this month of Ramzan, the religious-minded emperor ordered the demolition of the temple at Mathura known as the Dehra of Keshav Rai. His officers accomplished it in a short time. A grand mosque was built on its site at a vast expenditure."

This is history as per the Mughal records. Even the die-hard leftists, who tried so hard under the dictatorship of Indira Gandhi to whitewash all instances of Muslim intolerance from history books, grudgingly admit that at least Aurangzeb was a bigoted, ruthless, and intolerant ruler. Not so in Chennai....when this painting was displayed in that southern city, the police stormed into the gallery, destroyed the paintings and roughed up three women hosting the art exhibition!

This vandalism, display of intolerance, and the violation of women's rights, was done at the instance of the ruling communal party called the DMK, and its Muslim supporters, prominent among whom was the ex-Nawab of Arcot who had the audacity to claim, "the paintings amounted to fabrication and distortion of history.....Aurangzeb had never done anything to harm the Hindus."

His own forefathers had been servants of Aurangzeb and had forcibly occupied the lands around Arcot during the Mughal invasion of the south. French journalist Francois Gautier's Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) put together this exhibition based on official records of the Mughal Empire....the exhibition also included Firmans, hand written orders of Aurangzeb to his subordinates.

The collection was first exhibited to critical acclaim at the Habitat Centre in New Delhi. It next travelled to Pune where one lakh people visited the show. It was equally well received in Bangalore where the popular Gallery G hosted the exhibition. FACT then decided to take the collection to Chennai where it was supposed to be exhibited at the Lalit Kala Akademi from March 3 to 9.

In Chennai high-ranking and respected government officials N Vittal, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner, and B Raman, security expert and former RAW official inaugurated the exhibition.

Some of the other paintings:

Mathura Brahmans carry the murti of Sri Krishna to Rajasthan (Kingdom of Mewar) to save it from being desecrated by Aurangzeb the medieval terrorist. It is housed today at the famous shrine of Nathdwara.

burial of Shah JahanThe burial of Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb's father whom he kept in a prison in his old age, and on his death denied him the dignity and ceremony of a royal burial. The builder of the Taj Mahal was taken in an ordinary coffin by a side gate of the Agra Fort to be buried next to his wife Mumtaz Mahal.

Dara Shikoh paradedAurangzeb's elder brother Dara Shikoh being paraded through the streets of Agra, after being captured in Baluchistan. Aurangzeb's intention was to humiliate his brother in the eyes of the public, but the result was just the opposite as can be seen with the Mughal soldiers threatening to shoot an arrow at the restless crowd. Also shown is generous Dara throwing his shawl to a beggar.

Jaziya collectionCollection of jaziya, a tax paid by infidels for permission to live in an Islamic State, from Hindu peasants. It's impact was highest on the poorest section of the infidel population, in addition the tax-payer had to come on foot and offer the money with his open hands. Jaziya was imposed by Aurangzeb after the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh in 1679, and the occupation of his Kingdom of Jodhpur by the Mughal invaders.

Hindu protests against jaziyaHindus from villages around Delhi gathered in that city and appealed to Aurangzeb to spare them this communal tax. They were joined by the shopkeepers and artisans of Delhi...Aurangzeb sent forward his elephants to crush these peaceful protestors.

Shivaji audience with AurangzebShivaji angrily leaves Aurangzeb's court at not getting the proper honours from the Mughals.

execution of Dara ShikohA father and son are brought in chains, taken into the torture chamber.....their remains fed to the dogs. Probably the execution of Dara Shikoh. EDIT- It's actually Maratha ruler Sambhaji and the poet Kavi Kulesh.

Demolition of the Somnath Temple in Gujarat. Normally old age brings with it the blessing of wisdom; but in his old age Aurangzeb remained an obstinate old fool while his empire crumbled around him

Writing a letter in the last decade of his reign, Aurangzeb asks his officers, "The temple of Somnath was demolished early in my reign and idol worship put down. It is not known what the state of things there is at present. If the idolators have again taken to the worship of images at that place, then destroy that temple in such a way that no trace of the building may be left."