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Dara Shikoh

Dara Shukoh
Shahzada of the Mughal Empire
Dara Shukoh
Born (1615-10-28)28 October 1615
Ajmer, Rajasthan, India
Died 30 August 1659(1659-08-30) (aged 44)
Delhi, India
Burial Tomb of Humayun, Delhi
Spouse Nadira Banu Begum
Issue Sulaiman Shikoh
Mumtaz Shikoh
Sipihr Shikoh
Jahanzeb Banu Begum
Full name
Dara Shikoh
دارا شكوه
House Timurid
Father Shah Jahan
Mother Mumtaz Mahal
Religion Islam

Dara Shikoh (Urdu: دارا شِكوه‎), (Persian: دارا شكوه ‎‎) M 28 October 1615 – 30 August 1659 [Julian]/9 September 1659 [Gregorian]) was the eldest son and the heir-apparent of the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. His name دارا شكوه in Persian means "as magnificent as Dara". He was favoured as a successor by his father and his sister Princess Jahanara Begum Sahib, but was defeated by his younger brother Prince Muhiuddin (later the Emperor Aurangzeb) in a bitter struggle for the imperial throne.

The course of the history of the Indian subcontinent, had Dara prevailed over Aurangzeb, has been a matter of some conjecture among historians.[1][2][3]


  • Early life 1
  • The struggle for succession and death 2
  • Intellectual pursuits 3
  • Patron of art 4
  • In art 5
  • Full title 6
  • Works 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Early life

Dara's brothers (left to right) Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh in their younger years, ca 1637

Dara was born near Ajmer on 28 October 1615, the eldest son of Prince Shahab ud-din Muhammad Khurram (Shah Jahan) and his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal. When he was 12, his grandfather, Emperor Jahangir, died, and his father succeeded as emperor.

On 1 February 1633, Dara married his first cousin, Nadira Banu Begum, the daughter of his paternal uncle Sultan Parvez Mirza. By all accounts, it was an extremely happy and successful marriage. Both Dara and Nadira were devoted to each other, so much so that Dara never contracted any other marriage after marrying his cousin Nadira. The couple had eight children, of whom two sons and two daughters survived to adulthood.

As was common for all Mughal sons, Dara was appointed a military commander at an early age, receiving an appointment as commander of 12,000-foot and 6,000 horse in October 1633[4] (roughly equivalent to a modern division commander or major general). He received successive promotions, being promoted to commander of 12,000-foot and 7,000 horse on 20 March 1636, to 15,000-foot and 9,000 horse on 24 August 1637, to 10,000 horse on 19 March 1638 (roughly equivalent to lieutenant general), to 20,000-foot and 10,000 horse on 24 January 1639, and to 15,000 horse on 21 January 1642.[4]

Brooklyn Museum – The Nuptials of Dara Shikoh and Nadira Begum

On 10 September 1642, Shah Jahan formally confirmed Dara as his heir, granting him the title of Shahzada-e-Buland Iqbal ("Prince of High Fortune") and promoting him to command of 20,000-foot and 20,000 horse.[4] In 1645, he was appointed as Subadar (governor) of Allahabad. He was promoted to a command of 30,000-foot and 20,000 horse on 18 April 1648, and was appointed Governor of the province of Gujarat on 3 July.

As his father's health began to decline, Dara received a series of increasingly prominent commands. He was appointed Governor of Multan and Kabul on 16 August 1652, and was raised to the title of Shah-e-Buland Iqbal ("King of High Fortune") on 15 February 1655.[4] He was promoted to command of 40,000-foot and 20,000 horse (roughly equivalent to general) on 21 January 1656, and to command of 50,000-foot and 40,000 horse on 16 September 1657

The struggle for succession and death

Dara Shikuh with his army[5]

On 6 September 1657, the illness of emperor Shah Jahan triggered a desperate struggle for power among the four Mughal princes, though realistically only Dara and Aurangzeb had a chance of emerging victorious.[6] Shah Shuja was the first to make his move, declaring himself Mughal Emperor in Bengal and marched towards Agra from the east. Murad Baksh allied himself with Aurangzeb.

At the end of 1657, Dara was appointed Governor of the province of Bihar and promoted to command of 60,000 infantry and 40,000 cavalry.[4]

Despite strong support from Shah Jahan, who had recovered enough from his illness to remain a strong factor in the struggle for supremacy, and the victory of his army led by his eldest son Sulaiman Shikoh over Shah Shuja in the battle of Bahadurpur on 14 February 1658, Dara was defeated by Aurangzeb and Murad during the Battle of Samugarh, 13 km from Agra on 30 May 1658. Subsequently Aurangzeb took over Agra fort and deposed emperor Shah Jahan on 8 June 1658.

Humayun's Tomb, where the remains of Dara were interred in an unidentified grave.

After the defeat, Dara retreated from Agra to Delhi and thence to Lahore. His next destination was Multan and then to Thatta (Sindh). From Sindh, he crossed the Rann of Kachchh and reached Kathiawar, where he met Shah Nawaz Khan, the governor of the province of Gujarat who opened the treasury to Dara and helped him to recruit a new army.[7] He occupied Surat and advanced towards Ajmer. Foiled in his hopes of persuading the fickle but powerful Rajput feudatory, Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Marwar, to support his cause, the luckless Dara decided to make a stand and fight Aurangzeb's relentless pursuers but was once again comprehensively routed in the battle of Deorai (near Ajmer) on 11 March 1659. After this defeat he fled to Sindh and sought refuge under Malik Jiwan (Junaid Khan Barozai), an Afghan chieftain, whose life had on more than one occasion been saved by the Mughal prince from the wrath of Shah Jahan.[8][9] However, the treacherous Junaid Barozai tittle Bakhtiyar Khan betrayed Dara and turned him (and his second son Sipihr Shikoh) over to Aurangzeb's army on 10 June 1659.[10]

Dara was brought to Delhi, placed on a filthy elephant and paraded through the streets of the capital in chains.[11] Dara's fate was decided by the political threat he posed as a prince popular with the common people – a convocation of nobles and clergy, called by Aurangzeb in response to the perceived danger of insurrection in Delhi, declared him a threat to the public peace and an apostate from Islam.[12] He was assassinated by four of Aurangzeb's henchmen in front of his terrified son on the night of 30 August 1659 (9 September Gregorian).

Intellectual pursuits

A page from Majma-ul-Bahrain (a book on comparative religion by Muhammad Dara Sikoh) in the manuscripts collection at the Portrait Gallery of Victoria memorial, Calcutta.

Dara Shikoh is widely renowned[13] as an enlightened paragon of the harmonious coexistence of heterodox traditions on the Indian subcontinent. He was an erudite champion of mystical religious speculation and a poetic diviner of syncretic cultural interaction among people of all faiths. This made him a heretic in the eyes of his orthodox brother and a suspect eccentric in the view of many of the worldly power brokers swarming around the Mughal throne. Dara was a follower of the Persian "perennialist" mystic Sarmad Kashani,[14] as well as Lahore's famous Qadiri Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir,[15] whom he was introduced to by Mullah Shah Badakhshi (Mian Mir's spiritual disciple and successor). Mian Mir was so widely respected among all communities that he was invited to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by the Sikhs.

Dara Shikoh (with Mian Mir and Mullah Shah Badakhshi), ca. 1635

Dara subsequently developed a friendship with the seventh Sikh Guru, Guru Har Rai. Dara devoted much effort towards finding a common mystical language between Islam and Hinduism. Towards this goal he completed the translation of 50 Upanishads from its original Sanskrit into Persian in 1657 so it could be read by Muslim scholars.[16] His translation is often called Sirr-e-Akbar (The Greatest Mystery), where he states boldly, in the Introduction, his speculative hypothesis that the work referred to in the Qur'an as the "Kitab al-maknun" or the hidden book, is none other than the Upanishads.[17] His most famous work, Majma-ul-Bahrain ("The Confluence of the Two Seas"), was also devoted to a revelation of the mystical and pluralistic affinities between Sufic and Vedantic speculation.

The library established by Dara Shikoh still exists on the grounds of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Kashmiri Gate, Delhi, and is now run as a museum by Archaeological Survey of India after being renovated.[18][19]

Patron of art

A Prince in Iranian Costume by Muhammad Khan. Dara Shikoh Album, Agra, 1633–34.

He was also a patron of fine arts, music and dancing, a trait frowned upon by his sibling Aurangzeb. The 'Dara Shikoh album' is a collection of paintings and calligraphy assembled from the 1630s until his death. It was presented to his wife Nadira Banu in 1641–42[20] and remained with her until her death after which the album was taken into the royal library and the inscriptions connecting it with Dara Shikoh were deliberately erased; however not everything was vandalised and many calligraphy scripts and paintings still bear his mark.

Dara Shikoh is also credited with the commissioning of several exquisite, still extant, examples of Mughal architecture – among them the tomb of his wife Nadira Banu in Lahore,[21] the tomb of Hazrat Mian Mir also in Lahore,[22] the Dara Shikoh Library in Delhi,[23] the Akhun Mullah Shah Mosque in Srinagar in Kashmir[24] and the Pari Mahal garden palace (also in Srinagar in Kashmir).[25]

In art

The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the marriage procession of his eldest son Dara Shikoh. Mughal-Era fireworks and bamboo rockets were utilised to brighten the night.

The issues surrounding Dara Shikoh's impeachment and execution are used to explore interpretations of Islam in a 2008 play, The Trial of Dara Shikoh,[26] written by Akbar S. Ahmed.[27] Dara Shikoh is also the subject of a 2010 play called Dara, written and directed by Shahid Nadeem of the Ajoka Theatre Group in Pakistan.[28] Dara Shikoh is the subject of the 2007 play Dara Shikoh, written by Danish Iqbal and staged by, among others, the director M S Sathyu in 2008.[29] Dara Shikoh is also a character played by Vaquar Sheikh in the 2005 Bollywood film Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story, directed by Akbar Khan.

Dara Shikoh is also the name of the protagonist of Mohsin Hamid's 2000 novel Moth Smoke, which reimagines the story of his trial unfolding in contemporary Pakistan. The novel concludes with these words: "It is perhaps between hope and memory, in the atomized, atomic lands once Aurangzeb's empire, that our poets tell us Darashikoh, the apostate, called out to God as he died."[30]

Gopalkrishna Gandhi has written a play in verse titled Dara Shukoh on his life. Bengali Writer Shyamal Gangopadhyaya also wrote a novel on his life Shahjada Darashuko. Noted Assamese writer and first Education Minister of Assam Omeo Kumar Das wrote a book Dara Shukoh: Jeevan O Sadhana. An Assamese novel Kalantarat Shahzada Dara has been written by author Nagen Goswami.

Poet-diplomat Abhay K's poem Dara Shikoh raises the issue of neglect of the planners of New Delhi to name a street after the scholar prince while they have named a major street after his murderous brother Aurangzeb.[31]

Full title

Padshahzada-i-Buzurg Martaba, Jalal ul-Kadir, Sultan Muhammad Dara Shukoh, Shah-i-Buland Iqbal[4])


  • Writings on Sufism and the lives of awliya (Muslim saints):
    • Safinat ul- Awliya
    • Sakinat ul-Awliya
    • Risaala-i Haq Numa
    • Tariqat ul-Haqiqat
    • Hasanaat ul-'Aarifin
    • Iksir-i 'Azam (Diwan-e-Dara Shukoh)
  • Writings of a philosophical and metaphysical nature:
    • Majma-ul-Bahrayn (The mingling of Two Oceans)[32]
    • So’aal o Jawaab bain-e-Laal Daas wa Dara Shikoh (also called Mukaalama-i Baba Laal Daas wa Dara Shikoh)
    • Sirr-e-Akbar (The Great Secret, his translation of the Upanishads in Persian)[33]
    • Persian translations of the Yoga Vasishta and Bhagavad Gita.

See also


  1. ^ "India was at a crossroads in the mid-seventeenth century; it had the potential of moving forward with Dara, or of turning back to medievalism with Aurangzeb." Eraly, Abraham (2004). The Mughal Throne : The Saga of India's Great Emperors. London: Phoenix. p. 336.  
    "Poor Dara!....thy generous heart and enlightened mind had reigned over this vast empire, and made it, perchance, the garden it deserves to be made". William Sleeman (1844), Rambles and Recollections of an Indian OfficialE-text of p.272
  2. ^ Dara Shikoh
  3. ^ Dara Shikoh Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia, by Josef W. Meri, Jere L Bacharach. Routledge, 2005. ISBN 0-415-96690-6. Page 195-196.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "delhi6". 
  5. ^ unknown (17th century). "Dara Shikuh with his army". 17th Century Mughals & Marathas. 
  6. ^ Sarkar, Jadunath (1984). A History of Jaipur. New Delhi: Orient Longman. pp. 113–122.  
  7. ^ Eraly, The Mighal Throne : The Saga of India's Great Emperors, cited above, page 364.
  8. ^ Junaid Khan Barozai also known as Malik Jiwan tittle Bakhtiyar Khan
  9. ^ Francois Bernier Travels in the Mogul Empire, AD 1656–1668.
  10. ^ Junaid Khan Barozai received the tittle of Nawab Bakhtiyar Khan for this act of treachery
  11. ^ "The captive heir to the richest throne in the world, the favourite and pampered son of the most magnificent of the Great Mughals, was now clad in a travel-tainted dress of the coarsest cloth, with a dark dingy-coloured turban, such as only the poorest wear, on his head, and no necklace or jewel adorning his person." Sarkar, Jadunath (1962). A Short History of Aurangzib, 1618–1707. Calcutta: M. C. Sarkar and Sons. p. 78. 
  12. ^ Hansen, Waldemar (1986). The Peacock Throne : The Drama of Mogul India. New Delhi: Orient Book Distributors. pp. 375–377.  
  13. ^ The Hindu see for example this article in The Hindu.
  14. ^ Katz, N. (2000) 'The Identity of a Mystic: The Case of Sa'id Sarmad, a Jewish-Yogi-Sufi Courtier of the Mughals' in: Numen 47: 142–160.
  15. ^ Dara Shikoh The empire of the great Mughals: history, art and culture, by Annemarie Schimmel, Corinne Attwood, Burzine K. Waghmar. Translated by Corinne Attwood. Published by Reaktion Books, 2004. ISBN 1-86189-185-7. Page 135.
  16. ^ Dr.  
  17. ^ in The Sikh ReviewDara Shikoh – The Prince who turned SufiGyani Brahma Singh 'Brahma', "the reference in Al Qur’an to the hidden books – ummaukund-Kitab – was to the Upanishads, because they contain the essence of unity and they are the secrets which had to be kept hidden, the most ancient books."
  18. ^ "AsiaRooms - LateRooms - Last Minute Hotel Deals & Cheap Hotels". 
  19. ^ Dara Shikoh's Library, Delhi Govt. of Delhi.
  20. ^ Dara Shikoh album British Library.
  21. ^ Nadira Banu's tomb A view of Nadira Banu's tomb
  22. ^ Mazar Hazrat Mian Mir entertaining description of the monument and its history
  23. ^ Dara Shikoh Library description of Dara Shikoh library
  24. ^ "Google Image Result for". 
  25. ^ "Google Image Result for". 
  26. ^ ‘The Trial of Dara Shikoh’ – A Play in Three Acts Text of the play with an Introduction by the author.
  27. ^ Published as Akbar Ahmed: Two Plays. London: Saqi Books, 2009. ISBN 978-0-86356-435-2, ‘The Trial of Dara Shikoh’ – A Thought-Provoking Play A review of the play.
  28. ^ Ajoka’s Dara – an ancient story of modern day proportions, Daily Times (Pakistan), 19 April 2010
  29. ^ "For king and country". The Hindu. 
  30. ^ Hamid, Mohsin. (2000). Moth Smoke. p. 247.
  31. ^ Dara Shikoh and Other Poems The Caravan, May 2014
  32. ^ MAJMA' UL BAHARAIN or The Mingling Of Two Oceans, by Prince Muhammad Dara Shikuh, Edited in the Original Persian with English Translation, notes & variants by M.Mahfuz-ul-Haq, published by The Asiatic Society, Kolkata, Bibliotheca Indica Series no. 246, 1st. published 1929. See also this book review by Yoginder Sikand,
  33. ^ See the section on his Intellectual Pursuits.


  • Eraly, Abraham (2004). The Mughal Throne: The Saga of India's Great Emperors. Phoenix, London. ISBN 0753817586.
  • Hansen, Waldemar [1986]. The Peacock Throne: The Drama of Mogul India. Orient Book Distributors, New Delhi.
  • Mahajan, V.D. (1978). History of Medieval India. S. Chand.
  • Sarkar, Jadunath (1984). A History of Jaipur. Orient Longman, New Delhi.
  • Sarkar, Jadunath (1962). A Short History of Aurangzib, 1618–1707. M. C. Sarkar and Sons, Calcutta.

External links

  • Upanishad Ganga Episode on Dara Shikoh Story [4], [5]
  • Bernier, Francois Travels in the Mogul Empire, AD 1656–1668
  • Gyani Brahma Singh, Dara Shikoh – The Prince who turned Sufi in The Sikh Review
  • The Hindu, A forgotten symbol of composite culture
  • Manucci, Niccolo Mogul Stories'' or Storia de Mogor
  • Mittal, Aditya The Battle of Samugarh
  • Sleeman, William (1844), Rambles and Recollections of an Indian OfficialE-text of
  • Srikand, Yoginder Dara Shikoh's Quest for Spiritual Unity
  • Dara Shikoh Library
  • Nadira Banu's tomb
  • Mazar Hazrat Mian Mir
  • by Ram Chandra KakAncient Monuments of Kashmir
  • British Museum Online GalleryThe Dara Shikoh Album
  • Majmaul Bahrain by Dara Shikoh English translation with original Persian text [6]
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