The sixth Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, ruled from 1658–1707, and was widely regarded as the last of the great Mughal emperors. It was during his reign that the Mughal Empire reached its greatest extent, and his rule held sway over nearly all the Indian subcontinent, a population of over 158 million subjects. India in this era surpassed China, becoming the world’s largest economy. Aurangzeb lived modestly, holding India’s vast wealth in trust for its citizens. He abandoned his predecessors’ policies of pluralism and religious tolerance, adhering instead to strict Islamic codes of behaviour, with an emphasis on sharia law. Politically and religiously conservative, Aurangzeb was a ruthless leader. He rose to the throne by eliminating his three brothers, having his main rival, his eldest brother Prince Dara Shikoh executed, and confining his frail father, Shahjahan, to the Red Fort at Agra. Further executions of his rivals followed. Renowned as a great military leader, Aurangzeb eliminated opposition and asserted his control throughout his reign. He extended Mughal rule far to the south: in 1685 he besieged Bijapur fort, and after eight days was victorious against the ruler of Bijapur. In addition, he supressed a number of rebellions, including uprisings by the Hindu Jats and the Sikhs of Punjab, as well as waging war for two decades against the Marathas, at the cost of over 2 million Mughal lives. He died, aged 89, of natural causes, to be succeeded by a series of weak emperors, their power depleted by wars of succession and uprisings amongst the nobility. The heyday of the Mughal Empire had passed.
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