This book with 216 pages can be read at one go, unlike most historical texts, without any interruption created by confusing facts or complicated sentences. It gives an avant-garde perspective on Aurangzeb, who was the sixth Mughal Emperor held responsible for igniting the collapse of the Mughal Empire in India. The author, Audrey Truschke is an assistant professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University in New Jersey who focuses on the cultural, imperial and intellectual history of early modern and modern India. In her first book titled, ‘Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court’, she investigates the role of Sanskrit in Persian speaking Islamic Mughal courts.
Since I have not read history as a subject after high school, I recognise that I am not in a position to give any comment regarding the authenticity of the content of this book. Since I have not read any standard reference history text on this subject, I am ignorant about the other plausible factual historical narratives. But I adore the author for her intelligent arguments and objective treatment of the subject. With the precision of writing a scientific paper, the author has made her postulation against the popular notion of Aurangzeb as a perpetuator of violence and utmost cruelty. But her language and writing style is not monotonous and boring, making it an interesting read even for a fiction lover. Truschke tries to provide a realistic view about the human being Aurangzeb was, by maintaining a neutral tone throughout. She makes another significant argument that, to judge a ruler of an ancient era by the standards of modern society is nothing but illogical.
This book is important in this era where fanatics find fault with Kareena and Saif Ali Khan for naming their son as Taimur(Timur was a Turco Mongol conqueror and great-great-great grandfather of Babur). This book needs to be circulated in our country where people feel ‘Aurangzeb road’ is ‘cruel’ and has to be renamed. (This happened in 2015, when Aurangzeb Road in New Delhi was renamed as APJ Abdul Kalam Road). This book should be discussed in our country where it has been proposed to rename Dalhousie road in New Delhi after Dara Shikoh, brother of Aurangzeb, who is supposed to be ‘kind hearted’ and a better human being. (Fact is that all four sons of Shah Jahan were involved in the dirty war to climb the Peacock Throne). Portrayal of Mughal rulers especially Babar and Aurangzeb as ‘Muslim traitors’ is nothing but distortion of historical facts and seasoned politicians are using it for political gains by inciting hatred among citizens of this country . Truschke does not attempt a one-to-one argument against the existing beliefs. Instead she approaches it with the earnestness of an inquisitive enquirer and comes up with an alternate narrative which would help us to view Aurangzeb in a different light. The two star rating on Amazon and the 3.5 star rating on Goodreads that this book has got, reflects the tolerance level and understanding of our people who never leave a chance to boast about the ‘all-encompassing , tolerant and non violent Hindu culture’! This book is a must read to appreciate the techniques historians use to substantiate their arguments and to reaffirm the fact that history is not only about the past but also essentially about the present.