HAVING FINALLY made critical gains in the Deccan, Aurangzeb is keen not to let it slip out from between his fingers. It’s already been over two decades since he has moved his base to the Deccan but with the ever-attentive Maratha forces, they cannot take a single victory for granted. This obsession has taken a toll on both the Emperor and the Empire – though the Empire now stretches across the greatest geographical reach in its history, it has come at price to the treasury.
In one of his many moments of reflection, it is the memory of a food that moves him to pen a letter to a son. He is known for his simple meals and preference for vegetarian preparations especially qubooli, a unique lentil biryani. On this occasion though, it is khichdi that he yearns for. He requests his son to send over his cook, whose masterful preparation of biriyani and khichdi, still lingers in his memory.
These simple pleasures are the rare reprieves he permits himself from his grim lifelong conquest for glory. By 1705, an affliction takes a toll on his health and he never recovers. Some time before he passes on, he will tell his son, “I came alone and I go as a stranger.” He is buried in Khuldabad (in Aurangabad), close to the shrine of the Sufi Saint Shaikh Burhan-u’d-din Gharib.
With his passing, the Mughal throne will see a quick succession of eight rulers. However the cultural light of the Mughal torch has long since passed on to the Courts of Successor States, that have been enriched by the flight of poets and artists who fled the Mughal Capital since Aurangzeb’s ascension nearly half a decade ago.