The Holder of the World

by Bharati Mukherjee

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I need to know the relationship between Emperor Aurangzeb and the Great Mughal. Did the Mughal inherit the throne and the Emperor's Tear?

Quick answer:

Emperor Aurangzeb was the last of the Great Mughals. He claimed the throne and everything that went with it, including the diamond "the Emperor's Tear," upon hearing of the death of his father, Shah Jahan. However, Shah Jahan was not actually dead, and Aurangzeb kept him imprisoned in Agra Fort until he died, more than seven years after Aurangzeb seized power.

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In The Holder of the World, the diamond called “the Emperor’s Tear” once belonged to the Emperor Aurangzeb, who lost it in one of his all-too-frequent battles with Hindu leaders in the Deccan (the South of India, which Aurangzeb spent the latter half of his reign in subduing).

Aurangzeb himself was the Great Mughal, which is to say the supreme ruler of India. The Mughal empire was founded by the Emperor Babur in 1526, and the first six Mughal Emperors (Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb) are commonly called the Great Mughals. Aurangzeb, therefore, was the last great Mughal.

The question of whether Aurangzeb inherited the throne and the diamond is an interesting one. He would probably have said that he did, but it would be more accurate to say that he seized them. The Mughal empire had no rule of primogeniture—that is to say, any son of the emperor could claim the throne after the emperor’s death. This inevitably led to a bloodbath, with the empire going to the son who could most efficiently murder his brothers. Aurangzeb was the third son of Shah Jahan and by no means his favorite. During a brief illness of Shah Jahan’s, rumors circulated about his death, and his sons began to fight among themselves for the throne. Aurangzeb won, then found that his father was not in fact dead. He imprisoned Shah Jahan in Agra Fort for his last years and claimed the throne anyway.

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