Dramatic justice overtook the scheming Princess at last. In 1664 Aurangzib fell dangerously ill, and, while he was unconscious, Rushanara, believing him to be dying, abstracted the signet ring from his finger and issued letters, as under the royal seal, to the various Viceroys and Governors, setting aside the succession of the Emperor’s eldest son by a Rajput Princess in favour of another son, a boy of six, by a Muhammadan sultana. She hoped by this means to keep the supreme power in her own hands during the long minority of the new Emperor. Aurangzib unexpectedly recovered, and became suspicious of his dangerous sister. The host of enemies she had created at court were not slow in taking advantage of the situation, and Rushanara soon afterwards disappeared—removed, it is said, by poison.
Aurangzib ruled with a firm hand, and in strict justice according to the law of Islam, but though a man of great intellectual powers, of marvellous energy and indomitable courage, he was wanting in imagination, sympathy, and foresight, the highest qualities of a really great ruler. He checked the dissolute conduct of the nobles, and set an example of industry and devotion to duty; but his narrow, bigoted disposition inclined him to distrust even his own ministers, so that, unlike his three predecessors, he was badly served by the lieutenants in whose hands the administration of the provinces rested. He surrounded himself with religious bigots of the Sunni sect of Muhammadans, who aided him in bitter persecution of the Hindus. Hardly anything of artistic or architectural interest was created under his patronage. Most of the great artists who attended Shah Jahan’s court were dismissed as unorthodox or heretics, and many noble monuments were mutilated by the Emperor’s fanatical followers on the ground that they contravened the precept of the Koran which forbids the representation of animate nature in art.
He died in 1707, eighty-nine years of age. The Mogul empire, surrounded by hordes of the enemies his bigotry and intolerance had created, was already tottering to its fall, and the star of the British raj was rising. Seventeen years before his death he had granted to Job Charnock a piece of land at Sutanati, the site of the future capital of our Indian empire.
Agra and the Later Mogul Emperors
Agra played a very small part in the history of the weak-minded and dissolute successors of Aurangzib. Firokhshiyar, who reigned from 1713 to 1719, resided occasionally there. After his death disputes between various claimants to the throne led to Agra Fort being besieged and captured by Husein Ali Khan, a partisan of one of them, who looted the treasury of all the valuables deposited there during three centuries. “There were the effects of Nur Jahan Begum and Mumtaz Mahal, amounting in value, according to various reports, to two or three crores of rupees. There was in particular the sheet of pearls which Shah Jahan had caused to be made for the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, of the value of several lakhs of rupees, which was spread over it on the anniversary and on Friday nights. There was the ewer of Nur Jahan and her cushion of woven gold and rich pearls, with a border of valuable garnets and emeralds.” (Elliott.)