Skip to main content

Mughals-1: Why Dara Shikoh is remembered with great respect and no less regret

By Bharat Dogra 

Dara Shikoh (1615-1659) was a prince of Mughal Empire who made significant contributions but was deprived of the opportunity of potentially making even greater contributions as he was executed at a young age of 44.
Son of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, he was the chosen heir to be the next successor to the great empire but was captured and killed by his younger scheming brother Aurangzeb, bringing much distress to people.
A great scholar and man of many-sided accomplishments and capabilities, like his great grandfather Akbar he had a strong yearning for exploring the common message and essential unity of various faiths and religions. This brought him particularly close to pursuing the unity of Hinduism and Islam which was of greater significance to him and to his times. In spiritual and scholarly pursuits he enjoyed a close and supportive relationship with his sister Jahanara who was the First Lady of the empire after the death of their mother. His wife Nadira Begum was also helpful and encouraging in these efforts.
As a scholar he pursued this theme for many years, helped by the great library he created in Kashmiri Gate area of Delhi, probably having several hundred thousand books, manuscripts and other documents. He obtained the help of many holy persons and scholars in this effort, contributing also to the translation of the Upanishdas into Persian. He wrote many books on spirituality, mysticism and inter-faith unity, perhaps the most important of which is a treatise on the integrity of Vedantism and Sufism, titled the Confluence of Two Seas.
He was a patron of artists and scholars, extending his generous help without any discrimination. As a disciple of Sufi saints Mian Mir and Mullah Shah he helped to spread their message of tolerance, harmony and compassion being central to religion and spirituality. He was a friend of the Seventh Sikh Guru Har Rai. A messenger of peace and reconciliation, he used his influence with his father to prevent bloodshed in Mewar and Garhwal.
He contributed to the creation of several beautiful buildings including the shrine of Mian Mir in Lahore and Pari Mahal in Kashmir.
Dara was announced to be his heir by Emperor Shah Jahan, but his brothers did not accept this and a younger brother Aurangzeb was particularly hostile. He managed to defeat the combined army of Dara and Shahjahan. Shahjahan was imprisond till his death in 1666. Dara was executed in 1659 after having been first humiliated and insulted very badly.
There was a lot of distress among common people due to this and they almost revolted. This testifies to the great affection the common people, Hindus and Muslims, had for Dara Shikoh. Hence if he had become emperor in place of Aurangzeb, as per the desire and even the declaration of his father, then the history of India would have turned out to be quite different.
Aurangzeb took several measures against the religious majority community of Hindus which alienated the Hindus, particularly the leading warriors among them like the Rajputs and the Marathas. There were prolonged conflicts with them ( as well with the Jats, the Satnamis and the Sikhs) which could have been avoided. In addition he entered into prolonged battles with several Muslim kings as well due to his rigid policies based on conquests rather than on diplomacy with little room for reconciliation and making friends. He had an aptitude for craftiness, deception and cunning ways which made others wary of seeking peace.
As a result the unity of various faiths and kingdoms which India badly needed at this juncture was denied, making the response to foreign aggression much weaker. On the other hand, Dara Shikoh would have been much more capable of achieving unity and strength by following a policy of peace, trust and reconciliation. However his execution at an early age resulted in the denial of these promising possibilities. Hence his historical legacy is remembered with respect for his realized potential (which was significant) but also with regret for his unrealized potential (which would have been even greater).
---
The writer is Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include 'A Day in 2071', 'When the Two Streams Met' and 'Planet in Peril'

Comments

TRENDING

'Modi govt's assault on dissent': Foreign funds of top finance NGO blocked

By Rajiv Shah  In a surprise move, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has cancelled the foreign funding license of the well-known advocacy group, Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), known for critically examining India's finance and banking sectors from human rights and environmental angle.

'Wedding of the century': What does Mukesh Ambani want to prove by such extravaganza?

By NS Venkataraman*  Mukesh  Ambani,   a renowned Indian industrialist who is said to be the richest person in India and  one of the richest persons in the world,   has just now conducted the wedding celebration of  his son in Mumbai,   with unheard level of lavishness in India.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

'28% rise in sedition cases': Top global NGO alliance rates India's civil space 'repressed'

By Rajiv Shah Rating India's civic space as repressed , Civicus, a global civil society alliance, in its new report submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) on the state of civic space in the country has said that the use of sedition law against the Modi government’s critics continues. "Under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sedition cases have increased by 28 per cent with over 500 cases against more than 7,000 people", it says.

How US is using Tibetans to provoke conflict with China 'ignoring' India

By Lobsang Tenzin*  On July 12, US President Joe Biden signed the Resolve Tibet Act, and Tibetans cheered for it, believing that the law promotes a resolution of the dispute between Tibet and China. Is this true? First, let's look at the issue of the ownership of Tibet. 

Over 3.8 billion animals at risk: India on crossroad in animal welfare practices

By Rupali Soni*  In a collaborative effort, the India Animal Fund and Dasra have unveiled their report , "Our Shared Future | Securing Animal Welfare, Human Wellbeing, and Sustainability in India." This landscape report provides a thorough overview of animal welfare and underscores its indispensable role within India's socio-economic and ecological frameworks. It also illustrates how animal welfare is intricately intertwined with public health, labor welfare, and climate resilience.

Tribals from 60 villages observe seed festival to 'protect' diversity of indigenous seeds

By Bharat Dogra*  Nearly sixty villagers are sitting on an open floor covered by a roof for shade but otherwise open on all sides. Women and men are present in equal numbers but the visibility of women is higher because of their colorful dresses.

Misleading ads 'manipulate, seduce, lure' to market unhealthy harmful food

By Our Representative  The Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI) in its new report “50 Shades of Food Advertising” has sought to expose how seductive, luring, manipulative or deceptive these advertisements can be. Consequences of such advertising are increased intake of unhealthy food products that is associated with obesity and diabetes, it says.