Friday, July 7, 2017

Fakir Dara Shikuh


(~45 minutes of reading when the mind is calm. ~7000 words. Part 1 is here)


Second Turn

Death was high. There was no food, water, shelter and safety. 

Dara Shikuh, wife, daughter, son, some soldiers & attendants made their way through the desert of Kutch. It was the peak of summer. People and animals died of heat and hunger. 
At the edge, Dara walked to the outskirts of a village and asked for help from a farm hand. The farmhand listened and ran away. Exhausted, Dara sat there, unable to go back without food. Then the farmhand came back, bringing the entire village with him, with food.

Dara’s group went to Thatta and more west, where they halted at a village Dadar, with a tribal chief, Malik Jian1. Dara was hoping to make his way as a refugee to Persian Kandahar via the Bolan Pass. Humayun went to Persia as a refugee before and Akbar (Aurangzeb’s son) would go later. 

Then, Nadira, Dara’s wife of 25 years died from exhaustion. The pursuers had given no scope to stop and rest.
She fainted at arrival and Dara was in tears the whole night by her side. She died in his arms in the morning. 

He had written in MuB (Majma-ul-Bahrain):
Every heart-attracting face that thou beholdest,
The sky will soon remove it from before thy eyes;
Go, and give thy heart to one, who, in the circle of existence,
Has remained always with thee and will so continue to be.

In a room at the house of Malik Jian where Nadira lay, Dara Shikuh tore off his princely robe, threw his turban on the ground and put on a coarse, common garb of blue. "It is only now," said Dara, "I have found that I am alone”. In his grief, he sobbed to the point of fainting. Finally, he let her body be taken. Her last wish was to be buried in Hindustan.  

Here we see something small happen. Blink and you will miss it. Dara was being different. 
As if, he had further transformed with the suffering. He was no longer being a prince. We see it in his actions: his self-interest guided his motives even lesser than before: 
-Muhammed Gul, his loyal trooper with all remaining 70 soldiers was sent off to Lahore for Nadira’s burial along with trusted khoja Makul.
-Dara told his attendants to leave if they wished. He said they were under no obligation to serve him anymore. Some left.
Dara was not being afraid of imminent danger while in full awareness. His {cause, effect} window seemed different, as if his sense of self had changed. He was being more of a fakir. 

Meanwhile, Aurangzeb had a second enthronement. This time, with splendor exceeding that of Shah Jahan’s. There were weeks of glitter and celebrations.

MuB- Some fine comparisons

In Anasir or Pancha Bhutas discourse- “The first thing to come out of chidakasa was love (or ishk), which is called maya in the language of the Indian monotheists..”
[So well put! From an angle, love or ishk can indeed be seen as maya. 
Love is of two kinds- of attachment (love) and of non-attachment (Love). Maya can be seen as spun from love and we can overcome it by Love. Intense suffering or pleasure can thin-out love and if we are ripe, Love moves in.
(Maya in Advaita is self-created)]. 

In Soul discourse: “..Now, the Soul in which all the souls are included is known as Paramatma or Abul-Arwah (Soul of the Souls). The inter-relation between water and its waves is the same as that between body and soul or as that between Sarira and Atma. The combination of waves, in their complete aspect, may (very aptly) be likened to Abul-Arwah or Paramatma..”.


Now Dara had no soldiers left. He depended on the integrity of his host. A couple of years ago, Malik Jian was found guilty of oppression by Shah Jahan and dispatched for execution. He was pardoned when on the block. Why? Because Malik Jian’s brother had begged for mercy. Moved by his tears, Dara appealed to Shah Jahan for forgiveness. Apparently this pardoning happened twice.

June 9th 1659: When Dara’s group was on its way to Kandahar, Malik Jian, his brother and their men swooped on them. At first when Dara saw them at a distance he thought they were coming to accompany them on the difficult Bolan Pass. He rode back and started speaking giving his thanks when he was surrounded. 
Siphr Shikuh fought back but not Dara who let his hands be bound. He said2:“Finish, finish, ungrateful and infamous wretch that thou art, finish that which you have commenced; we are the victims of evil fortune and the unjust passion of Aurangzeb, but remember that I do not merit death except for having saved your life…”. 

Dara was taken in extraordinary security to the pursuing party of Jai Singh and Bahadur Khan (as foster brother, he was more pro-Aurangzeb than Aurangzeb). Dara’s capture was announced in Shahjahanabad by drum-beaters in July-end, 1659. 
The anxiety which had taken over Dara’s features in the past year apparently vanished. He became very quiet.

He used to compose poems extempore and recite them, bringing the guards to tears.
"My name," said he one day, "imports that I am.. like Darius; I am also like that monarch in my fate. The friends whom he trusted, were more fatal than the swords of his enemy.”

So Aurangzeb had the good news of capture and, bad news: his son Sultan Muhammed had defected to Shuja! Dara and Shuja’s oldest sons had stood by them in defeat while Aurangzeb’s oldest left him after winning. Later, Sultan Muhammed was sent back by Shuja and was held in prison by his father for life. 

MuB- Some more fine comparisons 

In Hawas or Panchendriya discourse- “..Now, the internal senses also are five in number… but in the Indian system, however, they are four in number, namely, Buddhi, Manas, Ahamkara and Chitta - a combination of which is called Antahkarana and this, in its turn, may be looked upon as the fifth. Now, the Chitta is possessed of a characteristic called Satprakriti which is like its leg and, if cut, Chitta is prevented from running..”
And then he describes each of the above- “..Ahamkara attributes things to itself.. and possesses maya..”
He goes on describe how a body is created from the Paramatma (Abul-Arwah) who has tied himself by his own will to the limitation (of a body).

“..that before its creation, this world of ours was concealed in His Self and now His Holy Self is concealed in the world.”

[The 4-level system he described would be compatible with Dvaita. However, that Chitta can depend on Sattva-Guna (this Chitta is different from Chit from Sat-Chit-Ananda) and that Maya comes from Ahamhara is Advaita. Dara had amazing teachers! Also it casts light on the fusion between Dvaita and Advaita in that time period]

49 years

Aurangzeb enjoyed his father’s set-up for ~decade except for a famine in 1661 and then a sickness in 1663 when he nearly died. He recovered and took a massive pleasure trip to Kashmir. By then, all foreign Islamic nations acknowledged his rule and their ambassadors were given enormous gifts. Then, Shivaji. In 1667 there was war threat with Persia. All Persian-origin nobles in Delhi were nearly executed for suspicion of treason.

Dara was referred as Dara be-Shikuh (Dara without grace) in official documents and his artwork was selectively vandalized to obliterate his contribution7.

10 years in, Aurangzeb’s brand of puritanism and bigotry set in8. For his devotion to his faith, he was called ‘Zinda Pir’ by his supporters.  

23 years in, with Rajput support, Aurangzeb’s favorite son Akbar (23 years old) rebelled, citing misgovernment. It failed. Aurangzeb's oldest daughter, Zeb-un-nissa (42 years old), poetess, was imprisoned for life for supporting Akbar. She wrote under the title Makhfi. 
“..But, Makhfi, tell me where the feast is made?
Where are the merry-makers? Lo, apart,
Here in my soul the feast of God is laid,
Within the hidden chambers of my heart.”

Akbar fled to Marathas in the south. Aurangzeb, shaken to core, followed. The imperial camp moved in extreme splendor to shake-off the disgrace. Aurangzeb wrote to his son to come back; Akbar replied: “.. how happy would it be if…your majesty seeks.. a pilgrimage to the holy cities. ..What good did you do to your father, that you expect all these (services) from your son?..” 

Aurangzeb henceforth lived mostly in large tent cities in the south. Giovanni Careri, a visitor in March 1695 reported that the Moghul camp at Galgala was 30 miles in circumference, with half a million people. The royal compound three miles wide had imperial apartments hung with silk and gold and a throne. 
Careri’s physical description of Aurangzeb: “..his shoes were after the Moorish fashion..he was of a low stature- slender, stooping with age, and with a large nose. The whiteness of his round beard was more visible on his olive-colored skin..”

MuB- Time

The discourses on World, on Day and Night, Resurrection and the intense discourse on Salvation were from monotheistic/Dvaita view (as in world being real). 

Dara Shikuh appealed in Day and Night (Ruz wa Shab), where he investigated Time: 
“O my friend whatever I have recorded in this chapter is the outcome of much painstaking and considerable research and is in accordance with my own inspiration..if this falls heavy on the ears of certain defective ones, I entertain no fear on that regard..”
[Time and space are easy for us now to understand, because of science in the last hundred years: we know of the universe, of billions of galaxies, of our sun’s age at 5 billion, with earth going around it at 67,000 miles/hour with humans evolving in Africa about 5-7 million years ago.
Dara didn’t have that information. He built his own- that he thought he should build a sense of space and time into this endeavor is interesting.]

Letter Battles 

Shah Jahan wrote letters from his prison. We don’t have Shah Jahan’s letters to Aurangzeb, but have the replies. They had not met after December 1654. 

A(1659): “…After presenting the customary offering of duty and affection, I represent to the sublime audience…that supposing your majesty did not at present feel pleasure in music, and there being no singers here, whose performances gratify my taste; I wrote to the eunuch Phul, that having informed your majesty, he should send me the female singers of my late eldest brother, who are now idle and useless in the harem. It does not appear to me, why this should have hurt your gracious mind…
…As the affairs of the empire were fallen into disorder, the subjects of every rank ruined by innovations, and the canons of our religion disused; impelled by providence, I with anxiety gave up myself to this important office…May the happiness of avoiding future punishment attend your majesty!

A: “…The seal was placed upon your wardrobe solely on account of Mamoor’s having sacrificed his life…”
(Shah Jahan’s clothes were locked up after the attendant died or was killed in a scuffle).

A: “…the sacred pages written in your gracious hand..made their honoring descent, and also what you wrote through the eunuch Wooffa out of extreme anger...I have written concerning Mohirrum, that he be not prevented from entering your apart­ments; but if he too, under color of fidelity, should act treacherously, he shall speedily be silenced. 
….Respecting the charge of your kitchen, I have already written that another be placed in it, in room of Mamoor, who has sacrificed his life...
(Only approved eunuchs could serve Shah Jahan and something shady happened in the old kitchen)

A: “…Whenever the eunuch is wanted to write letters, issue orders, that he may attend to your sacred commands.” 
(Shah Jahan’s pens and ink were taken away, he could only dictate letters which might be sent if approved). 

Aurangzeb asked Shah Jahan in 1663 to surrender his personal jewels and give Dara’s daughter in marriage to his son Azam. Shah Jahan wrote: “Your insolence is equal to your crimes” and Dara’s daughter threatened to kill herself if forced4
Shah Jahan said: “…equity and clemency are the only jewels that can adorn a throne. I am weary of his avarice. Let me hear no more of precious stones. The hammers are ready which will crush them to dust, when he importunes me for them again.” (He did send some, later, telling Aurangzeb to make some amends to his family). 
Over years, the letter duel died. Shah Jahan suffered his imprisonment by turning devout.


MuB- Some interesting asides

In the section on Divisions of Earth, Dara used a visual: “.. They do not consider the seven spheres (Saptadvipa) as the layers of an onion, rather, they conceive them, as the steps of a ladder..”

In discourse on Air (Bad), he describes the 5 types of vata, which is curious. Maybe he did because of breathing exercises in Qadiri Sufism. Usually we don’t see discussion of doshas but only see a discussion of gunas in philosophical context. 

In the discourse on Inter-world (Barzakh, Sukshma Sarira), he talks of Paradises, one being a High Paradise and compares it with Vaikunta, which he says is the highest salvation for Hindus [indeed]. 

Death- Suleiman Shikuh

Suleiman Shikuh was given refuge in Garhwal hills by Raja of Srinagar, Prithvi Singh. But in December 1660 was betrayed by prince Medini Singh, who was lured by Jai Singh with promises5. Suleiman was wounded and captured by troops of Ram Singh, son of Jai Singh and taken to Delhi in January 1661.

Aurangzeb: “I am not a cruel man, just cautious. Your father died because he was a kafir, you have nothing to fear”. Said to Suleiman, now brought in chains to court. Many in the packed court started weeping, with the women weeping behind screens. 
The gallant, sensitive son of Dara replied after raising his fettered hands as high as he could, eyes downcast: "If my death is necessary for the safety of Aurangzeb, let me presently die, for I am reconciled to my fate. But let me not linger in the means of draughts…”Aurangzeb assured him that there was no design on his life and no draught (poust) would be given. 
[Poust was an oil extract from opium given by force to royal prisoners to turn them into addicts and hence, a non-threat].

Suleiman was sent to Gwalior jail, where he was given poust. But he wasn’t showing visible signs of wasting away: Aurangzeb had a procedure of inspecting portraits of his prisoners, and Suleiman, despite a gradually increased dose of poust to 3 Shahjahani pounds, wasn’t deteriorating. An investigation revealed that Suleiman was going to his private quarters after taking the poison. And there, was throwing up. 
The jailers were ordered to hold him back for 4 hours after the drink. Suleiman died of overdose the same day, in May, 1662.  

(As an aside, Suleiman, Siphr, Murad, his son Izad and Sultan Muhammed were all at Gwalior fort prison in 1661-626.) 

MuB- Differences

In Attributes of God discourse though, Trimurti were discussed as real, outside of us and comparisons made with Sufi angels. 
[Maheshwara and Vishnu in Dvaita can be seen as personal. In Advaita, they are not (like, the destruction referred to Shiva is of ignorance- daridra dukha dahana). ShivaNarayana in Advaita are, and leading to, Brahman (which IS, without any attributes). So the similarity to angels doesn't fit. Though I have to say I don't know the context and nature of the angels in Sufism]

Death- Shah Jahan

Shah Jahan died on January 22, 1666, when he 75. He had been imprisoned by Aurangzeb in the mahal of Agra fort for 8 years. When dethroned, zero nobles came to his rescue. They simply moved on. Jahanara Begum stayed with him. 
When Dara died, at first, Shah Jahan’s people tried to keep the news from him. When he heard, he raged. He drew out his sword, ran to a door and stopped- it was shut. When he heard of Shuja’s flight he didn’t eat for 2 days. At news of Suleiman Shikuh, his grandson’s death: “Will the wretch not leave anyone to avenge me on him?”

He was often heard to say that all his other children were not half so dear to him as Dara. He wrote after Dara’s defeat at Ajmer-

O thou heart of my heart, light of my eye,
O jewel more precious than any kingdom could buy:
                                             Dara Shikoh, my son.
They call me a king of the east and west,
But in the walls of these dungeons I rest:
                             Dara Shikoh, my son.
My Dara is gone, my beloved is fled,
And Hind, is to me like the land of the dead:
                                  Dara Shikoh, my son…

The prison walls of the mahal in the fort were broken at dawn and Shah Jahan’s body was quietly taken by river to the Taj Mahal and quickly buried. The most splendored Shehenshah of the Mughals had a stranger’s funeral. People mourned him after the news spread. His rule was looked up with nostalgia in later years when Mughal rule went bonkers. When emperor, he used to frequently join in to sing in private performances- “..many Sufis and holy men…lost their senses in..his singing”.

You see, the Taj Mahal is a story of two loves- of Shah Jahan’s love for Mumtaz, for whom he poured the people’s wealth and built a marble mausoleum. And of his love for Dara, for whom he lost the empire and his freedom.
Because of the later love, he himself lies buried in an asymmetrical, un-Shahjahani tomb beside his wife, telling the story of his last years.

MuB- A Fine Point in a Difference

In Four Worlds, Dara says- “..According to Indian divines the Avasthatman, which term applies to these four worlds, consists of four, namely, Jagruti, Swapna, Susupti and Turiya.”
[In Advaita, Turiya is underlying in the other three states and the more we break through maya, the more we see that Turiya/Self is the only state].

But then in the same section he quotes-
“If thou desirest to find Him, then do not seek for a moment,
(And), if thou wishest to know Him, then do not know for a moment..”
“Tasawwuf consists in sitting for a moment without an attendant.” (..which means finding without seeking and beholding without seeing..)

[That Dara quoted the verse about Tasawwuf in 3 of his works, dating back to his 20’s, says much of his intrinsic instinct towards the delicate paradox in Truth, which we have to cross to begin to experience god in the slightest. When that happens, we change, and for one, our functioning {cause, effect} window starts becoming different. This window is key. Dara must've been at this window. 

The same riddle is present in Taoism
~“One who speaks does not know. One who knows does not speak”

Kena Upanishad, on the enigma: “If you think you know well the truth of Brahman, know that you know little.” “…he who thinks he knows, knows not. The ignorant think that Brahman is known, but the wise know him to be beyond knowledge.”] 


Death- Aurangzeb

Aurangzeb died on February 21, 1707 when he was almost 89. He had fallen ill a year earlier and was in bed from which he wrote sad letters to his sons. He died in Ahmednagar fort. 
“…I am unconscious about myself as to who I am and of what use I am. Time passed away without any devotion (to God)… I was devoid of administrative (tact) and care for the welfare of the people. (My) dear life has been spent in vain. God is present in this world but I do not see Him…fever has left me, only the skin is left…I am restless like mercury…Though I have strong hope in the favors and mercy (of God), I am afraid on account of my actions…”
Even on death bed Aurangzeb would never cease talking of Dara, referred as “the unfriendly elder brother

Aurangzeb left a will at his death. And a plan dividing the empire into 3 parts for his sons under his pillow, imploring them not to fight. 
“…you should also accept my last will. It should not be that the Mohammedans be killed (by fighting)…” 

He left specific instructions for his burial. “The dead are in the hands of survivors” (he said he is not answerable to the practices at his burial). Aurangzeb asked that money from hand-made caps (4 rupees and 2 annas) be spent on his shroud. He left three hundred and five rupees from copying of holy books to fakirs. He had guidelines for his sons on how to control the Turanis, the Iranis, the Sayyids, and the Hindustanis (who, he declared, are crassly stupid). 

His regret- was the escape of Shivaji (referred as the wretch Shiva) because of which he had to labour hard (against the Marathas) to the end of his life.
He cautioned his sons to never trust their sons. “If emperor Shah Jahan had not treated Dara Shikuh in this manner (be intimate), his affairs would not have come to such a sorry pass…”.

MuB- Disclaimer

In the Introduction of MuB, Dara shows his characteristic directness-
“..So one who is just and discerning will at once understand that in ascertaining these points how deeply I had to think. It is certain that discerning, intelligent persons will derive much pleasure from this tract, while persons of blunt intelligence, of either side, will get no share of its benefits. I have put down these researches of mine, according to my own intuition and taste, for the benefit of the members of my family and I have no concern with the common folk of either community.”
[By common folk he meant the people across all classes mostly transfixed with the affairs of preserving their superior nests and not amenable to introspection in their hearts.]


Aurangzeb’s sons warred two months after his death in 1707. His son Azam lost and was beheaded, and his 4 sons were killed, including Bidar Bhakt, Aurangzeb’s favorite grandson. The winner Bahadur Shah’s sons warred after his death 5 years later. Jahandar Shah became emperor. For fun, he had boats of people in the Yamuna toppled while he watched from the fort’s balcony with his wife. In 11 months he was killed. By this time the nobles controlled the emperor. A domino of emperors happened. 

Self-worth had been stripped away in the decades of petty meanness, now only the violent shell remained with greed and drivel inside. In 1724, Asaf Jah broke away with the Deccan, vexed with Mughal debauchery and lewdness. In 1739, Nadir Shah of Persia invaded due to a slight. Delhi was burnt, wealth amounting to crores was taken3. In 1754, Alamgir-II (Jahandar Shah’s son) was appointed to the throne and his progeny continued till 1857. Long before then, the subahs had become independent with their own Mughal-style Nawabs and Rajas. The East India Company steadily took over as new conquerors starting with Bengal. They brought a new religion, new culture and colonialism. India broke free from British occupation in 1947. 

[I grew up in Hyderabad, in a somewhat typical atmosphere for the ’80's: a Hindu Dvaita religion at home and went to colonial-era schools housed in converted Nizami mansions. The mansions whispered some stories of the past. I listened]

Dara- Profile 2

Alexander Dow, historian: 
Dara, the eldest son of Shah Jahan, was polite in his conversation, affable, open and free. He was easy of access, acute in observation, learned, witty and graceful in all his actions. He pried not into the secrets of others; and he had no secret himself..Active, lively, and full of fire, he was personally brave; ..Though elevated with success, he never was dejected by bad fortune..Self-sufficient in his opinions, he scarce could hear advice with patience..he was in his disposition humane and kind; for though he was often passionate, his rage was not destructive; and it passed suddenly away without leaving a trace of malice behind. In his private character..was an indulgent parent, a faithful husband, a dutiful son..he was naturally virtuous; and he filled up his leisure time with study..”

[Two points: Dara must have been impatient with hypocrisy and court-tedium, which must have marked him amongst nobles as being haughty for his directness and energy. But how could Dara have been self-sufficient in his opinions? Don’t we have record after record of him seeking saints and pirs with questions? More likely he was averse to advice from many-tongued nobles].

Implosion of Mughal Raj under Aurangzeb(1658-1707)

4 reasons: Alamgir’s policies in Religion, Administration, Economy and Wars caused bankruptcy of money, meaning and management. 

Like many medieval rulers of monotheism, Aurangzeb believed in spreading his faith. He was good at it. He squeezed the non-muslim population in body and spirit with an assortment of hardships and offered immediate rewards with conversion9,10,11 
On April 2nd, 1679, Jaziya tax was re-imposed after 115 years. The next Friday, imperial-elephant trampling of weeping protestors on his way to Jama Masjid. 
Jaziya was an extra 1/3 of non-muslim’s annual income, which had to be hand delivered with a verbal statement and a pose before a seated tax collector. In 1682 in Burhanpur, Jaziya increased revenue from Rs. 26,000 in a year to 4 times more, in 3 months in 1/2 the population. 
For legal decisions, in addition to 4 Sunni codes, a Fatawa-i-Alamgiri was followed, which was a code prepared per order of Aurangzeb so that ‘control of the kingdom is not lost’. Then there was the censor of morals or Muhtasib, an officer appointed to see that the rules of Islam were strictly observed in private life.

About 2000 of his letters exist. Some excerpts-
-To Firuz Jung who asked for a region to be excused from jaziya for increasing the grain supplier population there, Aurangzeb wrote: “I do not accept helpers from among the infidels.. your upsetting the command… ‘chastise them till they pay jaziya from the hand because they are humbled’… is remote from obedience…”
-To his general Nusrat Jang: “Why should a fertile land be given to an ungrateful kafir-i-harabi?…”
-“Razavi Khan and the Hindu are not on good terms. These are two enemies; they are quarreling… You should write a threatening letter to the Hindu.”

Micromanagement. Groups had their own-religion-sized bins to live. Each bin had a separate carrot-stick system. If followed well, hard work and loyalty were rewarded. Spying was state-of-the-art. 
All imperial i’s were dotted and many puritanical t’s were crossed across the empire. All heads were immersed in dotting and crossing even as the text stopped making sense. 

In letters to individuals in various corners of the country:  
-“Happy son, (Muazzam, heir)…I came to know…that you attend the court with a saffron-like turban on your head and ‘palvani’ robe on your body…Bravo!…you put on a gaudy dress.”
-“I came to know that Allah Khan…passed his time, from evening till morn, in drinking and in enjoying the dance…”
-“Happy son, (Azam)… It seems that the son of the superintendent of your palace gambles in the drummery…”
-“Why have you dismissed these heirs of Shujahat Khan for (their) slight offense..? To dismiss a Mohammedan for the sake of a Hindu is an unreasonable act.”
-“Today Marhamat Khan came into my presence, hav­ing put on a rich dress. The skirt of his robe was so long that his feet were not visible. I ordered…to curtail two inches of the skirt of that foolish Khan. You should say to him- the skirt must be of the same length that has been fixed by the court custom”
-When he learned that Shah Alam (Muazzam) was sitting on a platform while holding court, he wrote: “Two strict mace-bearers should be sent to make him get down from his seat in open court, and to dismantle the platform…” 
(Aurangzeb was ever suspicious of his sons and grandsons, and nano-managed their affairs, even their harem issues. He used to say Shah Jahan was too lenient with his sons and that was what led to his downfall)

Aurangzeb punished a violator if in court if someone came too close and touched his cushions by accident. Even by 1654, he was controlling his teen son’s schedule by the minute, like, “wake up 72 minutes before sunrise, take a 48 minute shower”. 

The mansabdari-jagirdari system ended its life-cycle. The nobles, now descendants of original immigrants, lived longer. They wanted to be jagirdars and settle on the land. Aurangzeb gave out mansabs without enough jagirs to go along. The lifeline of the Mughals, the mansabdari system got overburdened and fell. There was no money.

-Inayetullah Khan (secretary, in 1692): “The retinue of the officers who are daily paraded before your majesty is unlimited, while the land for granting as jagirs is limited..”
-Ruhullah Khan (paymaster, in ~1704) petitioned: “The fort of Islampuri is weak and your majesty will soon march [to it]. It requires repair. What order on this point?” Aurangzeb replied: “God pardon us! It was improper for you to write the word Islampuri in a context speaking of weakness. Its old name was Brahmapuri, which you ought to have used…” (There was no money for repair). Similarly, a request of a Mansur Khan, governor, to repair the fort of Aurangabad was answered: “Write of Ahmadnagar as my journey's end.

Later wars were in Deccan: Golconda, Bijapur, Maratha land. Aurangzeb did not return to Delhi, he would rage at the suggestion of going back. He invaded fort after fort of the Marathas with large forces. Deccan was devastated by war, disease and famine. Countless died, a lakh died of plague alone. 

-To a general: “We are still in debt. I have heard that in the Karnatic large and old treasures are hidden and buried under the ground…Why don’t you take possession of this kingdom?…”

In 1690 the maximum Mughal empire area was 4,000,000 sq km. This was 20% less than ancient Maurya empire of Ashokavardana (perhaps based on pillar location). But more importantly, with no change in heart towards pacifism. All wars involved manipulating factional intrigues and pitting his overwhelming imperial army against smaller forces with lesser resources. No war was against an equal or bigger uniform force, like say, Skandagupta against the Huns. Aurangzeb had characteristically dissed one of the legendary kings of India as the 'accursed Vikramaditya', while in complete contrast Chandragupta's reign had prosperity and held charity as virtue.  

Jadunath Sarkar, a historian who researched Aurangzeb for decades, summarized in 1925: “...he was the worst ruler imagin­able of an empire composed of many creeds and races, of diverse interests and ways of life and thought...(he) utterly lacked sympathy, imagination, breadth of vision, elasticity in the choice of means, and that warmth of the heart which atones for a hundred faults of the head. These limitations of his character completely undermined the Mughal empire, so that on his death it suddenly fell in a single downward plunge".


MuB- Light

Sublime observations around Oneness come in the 4 discourses on Light, Beholding, Apostleship and Infinity of Cycles. In these sections Dara writes almost exclusively of his faith. This is where his inward journey took him. His heart was in his faith. Because, he wrote with gentle delight whenever he was able to unravel even a small abstruse subtlety. 

Light: Dara breathlessly writes of the Light (Nur, Jyotiswarupa) which is independent of being perceived by the senses. He says, overcome with emotion, “.. O my friend, reflect on what I have said, as it is a matter of discernment and meditation.”

He explains ".. by the Hindus, which (the Light) is always effulgent by itself, whether appearing in the world or not.. Sufis have explained Nur by the word Munawar". Then he quotes a verse and explains its symbolism in incandescent detail, "But, what this fakir has understood, is that Mishkat (niche) applies to the world of bodily existence, Misbah (lamp)..." and continues, connecting Shisha, Sacred Tree, and Zait from the verse, converging on "light upon light" which he refers as Nur-un-ala-Nur or the "light of His unity".

[In Advaita, the one who sees with inner eye, (which is not the senses) is said to have Jnana dhrusti. Only with Jnana can Oneness (“I am”) = Light/Self/ParamJyotiSwarupa be perceived, whose nature is silent bliss (Ananda)].

Opposite in an Opposite

The entourage with prisoner Dara made its way to Shahjahanabad with extra-royal security but with no usual royal-prisoner privileges for Dara. For, he was in the same clothes. And seemed to have been fixing his own food.

In the afternoon of 29th of August 1659, a commotion started in the hot streets of Delhi- it was when people recognized that the man in chains on an elephant was Dara Shikuh with his son. Bahadur Khan preceded him on a imperial elephant and imperial troops were by the sides, with weapons raised out. A Nazir Beg was behind Dara, with a drawn sword aimed at Dara’s neck. This was to dissuade any rescue attempt by anyone, like a gun to head.

Dara was in worn-out clothes, on a wooden platform on a small female unwashed elephant, along with his son Siphr. All this was opposite of Mughal honor. Such a show was to humiliate Dara. Aurangzeb wanted Dara to be mocked and laughed at. And erase his honor in the past and in future.

Seeing Dara in such a state: melancholic, his face worn, with wisps of gray locks showing from his ragged turban, the crowds went into shock. The scene broke and had the opposite effect. 
People saw grace instead of dishonor. There was something majestic in Dara’s dejected acceptance. They started weeping, beating their chests as if a calamity had personally fallen on them. He meant something to the common people irrespective of religion. 
Streets came to a standstill with loud wails, anger and curses on Aurangzeb. The trip into the court was canceled, Aurangzeb who wanted Dara to be brought inside in chains was dissuaded by Shaista Khan. Dara and son were sent to Khizirabad, a village four miles away where they were imprisoned.


Beholding: In this section (Ruyat, Saksatkara) Dara described different states of beholding of pure-Self. He starts by drawing that all faiths (Judism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam) agree on being able to have a vision. He draws a distinction between beholding the holy-Self (which he passionately argues is possible, and puts forth views of Sunni Ulama, the Mutazila and Shia doctors). Beholding the pure-Self in the same way, he says is not possible because this is elegant and undetermined. 
Towards the end he describes there must be 5 states of beholding, the last being a state of perfect Ruyat where the “..beholder and beheld had merged in one..” 
[I think, in this section Dara wrote the answers to his own questions which likely originated from his Sufi-dhikr related mystical-trance experiences. Here, he may be setting apart real beholding (perfect Ruyat) from mysticism beholding]

The Next Day

The next day, a nervous Aurangzeb called a hasty meeting with select nobles and clergy. Dara, even in prison, remained a big threat: he was very popular with the people. For in the afternoon there was a riot at Lahore gate when people spotted Malik Jian. They attacked him, killing 7. Even the kotwal and his men had to flee the mayhem. The leader of the riot, Haibat, a trooper, was caught and be sawn alive into halves. With civic insurrection looming, Aurangzeb became fearful of an rescue attempt, which seemed imminent.
Many nobles were of the opinion to send prisoner Dara to Gwalior under extra guard. One hakim, however, disagreed. Aurangzeb agreed to this lifeline: “The thing is determined. I might have forgiven injuries done to myself; but those against religion I cannot forgive”. A sentence of death was given.
Many nobles were dissatisfied and Aurangzeb was afraid that the word would get out to the army and the people before it was executed. So, he did not allow the night to pass- an order was signed off and assassinators were secretly dispatched the same evening while he remained in anxiety.

Maathir-i-Alamgiri (official biography) lists the indictment as such: “The pillars of canonical law and faith apprehended many kinds of disturbances from his life. So the emperor, both out of necessity to protect the holy law and also for reasons of state, considered it unlawful to allow Dara to remain alive any longer as the destroyer of public peace.”

MuB: Apostleship

Dara discussed 3 types of Apostleships. Pure, Resembling, and a combination of Pure and Resembling. 
He described the 3 apostles of his faith in this section to explain. He also gave a list of saints of his faith to further explain (51). (Bawa Lal Bairagi, his teacher, was the 52nd and last saint in his list).
[In this section Dara wrote his extremely perceptive understanding of Apostles and why differences are perceived within messengers. It shows that he transcended not just religions but also nuances within]

Death- Dara Shikuh 

Dara died on August 30, 1659. He was 44.

In the afternoon, Dara appeared at the window of the house where he was jailed in Khizirabad (in the suburbs of old Delhi) and asked the guards if they heard anything. He had no news. Restless, he wrote a letter to Suleiman.
In the evening, when Dara and Siphr were cooking a meal of masur dal, they heard footsteps. It was Saif Khan with Nasir Beg and a few men. (Saif Khan had been a personal friend of Shah Jahan).
Were they going to blind him? Maim him in some other way? Kill him? What about Siphr? 

Am I to die then?” 
Saif Khan: “Those are the emperor’s orders. I have come to carry out his orders.

Siphr, whose status was not clear was forcibly separated, pushed into another room and bound. Not before Dara held him around his neck and said: “My dear son, this separation is more afflicting than that between soul and body, which I am this moment to suffer…I leave you to the protection of God. My son, remember me." 
A tear started in Dara’s eye watching Siphr being forced away. Then, he raised his eyes up in silence. The assassins forgot their work.
Urged by Nazir, they fell on Dara and began strangling him. Dara felt this was an infamous way to die; he managed to free on hand, pull out the pen knife he used for sharpening his quill pen and strike one man. 
It was somewhat poetic justice. The pen knife was small, it went deep and wanted to stay there. The others withdrew, terrified. But as Dara was raising from the floor, they fell on him with their swords.
Siphr forced his way back to see his father’s lifeless body being cut at the neck. Siphr was pushed back until the job was done and then, left for the night. 

Next day Dara’s body was buried12 and Siphr was sent off to Gwalior prison. 
People learned slowly of Dara’s death. Some were relieved that his suffering had ended. 
People kept his memory alive by singing songs. Then an order was passed to cut off the tongues of those who sing, for the songs had sarcasm at the emperor. They sang at home. 

Thus died Dara Shikuh, who at the height of his prosperity as heir-apparent wrote:

“Not for a sovereign’s diadem my heart hath framed a fond desire,
To shoeless freedom of the foot like vagrant beggar I aspire.
This message, breeze of morning, to Sikandar and Sulaiman bear: 
Mine be the realm of indigence, the pomp of empire yours to share.”

Where he Was 

[Having found his answers, Dara could have played it safe and not written the MuB. He didn’t not write. He stood up for those who were oppressed by Sunni supremacists of his time, by just being himself. 
He didn’t win the wars, not because he wasn’t good enough as painted by partisans but because he was good. The oppressive juggernaut that was the Mughal empire wasn’t conducive for such goodness. 

There is so much beauty in his quest and vision of the Truth, even a 1,000 Taj Mahals do not offer a match.  For an art structure is of external beauty and hence, however majestic, limited. Love of Truth is of internal beauty and is limitless. 

In a nation that for >3 millennia has honored in its memory not wealth or art or architecture or wars or objects, but those who ventured to Truth with unusual perspicacity and devotion; be it commoner, sage, royal or tribal, it is not surprising that Dara Shikuh’s story stayed behind as a seed for 3 centuries after his death, until conditions in early 20th century turned a bit].

MuB- Infinity of Cycles

The last discourse is on Infinity of Cycles, termed as Adwar or Anadi Pravaha. 

Dara quotes: 
“There is no end to my story, or to that of the beloved,
For, whatever hath no beginning can have no end.”

[This is how the fine third layer, the story, ends. 
The narrative began with a pair of opposites which adorn the Truth. The middle of the story, is how this pair of opposites in an individual uniquely evolves in the lifespan between birth-to-death. An infinity of this cycle is, The End].


  1. The name written by most is Malik Jiwan. It is an odd name. I changed it to Malik Jian (Bernier said- Jian Khan). Malik Jiwan was honored with the title “Bhaktiyar Khan” by Aurangzeb. Malik Jiwan did not live to enjoy his reward. He was identified and killed on his way back home by villagers. 
  2. If we analyze this simple quote we can glimpse the fine intellect of Dara. There are many versions of what he said then, all of them have the element where he says he deserves to be punished for getting a pardon for Malik Jian- “heaven has avenged your crimes on my head”. It is a strange thing to say! A regular royal would get furious and then have self-pity or try to cut a deal. My take: he knew that Malik had committed oppression. But he chose forgiveness for true repentance as opposed to b&w law of the land, that is, heart over mind. But in the process, justice for the victims was not met per law. That burden rested on him. This says his discrimination of nuances in right and wrong was acute even in such difficulty. There is another quote which he said at Bhakkar that stands out. While I believe that it must be true, I refrain from mentioning it because the source most likely was Manucci who was present there. 
  3. Tazkira of Anand Ram Mukhlis (eyewitness) “..The Chándní chauk, the fruit market, the Daríbah bázár, and the buildings around the Masjid-i Jáma' were set fire to and reduced to ashes. The inhabitants, one and all, were slaughtered…Since the days of Tímúr, who ordered the inhabitants to be massacred, the capital had been free from such visitations…For a long time the streets remained strewn with corpses…All the regal jewels and property and the contents of the treasury were seized by the Persian conqueror (more than 100 crore of rupees, including the peacock throne)… In short, the accumulated wealth of 348 years changed masters in a moment.” (Nadir Shah actually repeatedly asked the Mughal emperor for attention to a matter before attacking, but Muhammed Shah was preoccupied with pleasure stuff and ignored)
  4. The marriage happened later, after Shah Jahan died and Jahanara, who was the guardian of Dara’s daughter, made up with Aurangzeb. 
  5. In 1660, Jai Singh’s daughter was married to Aurangzeb’s son. Grandson Jahandar Shah, was born in 1661. (In 1655 Jai Singh’s niece was married to Sulieman Shikuh)
  6. All were most likely served poust. Survivors Siphr and Izad were released after 15 years perhaps after their spirit was extinguished. They were married to their cousins- Aurangzeb’s younger daughters. And probably given a pension. For the women, it was their only chance of getting out of the zenana. (princesses could only likely marry their equal cousins). 
  7. Dara’s history was written by partisans for more than the first 100 years after his death. They adopted Aurangzeb’s view and tone, and he was obsessed with spinning the past to suit his narrative.  The partisans and those who later took the tone without much examination generally don't try to understand the Sufi side of Dara. 
  8. Memoirs of Delhi and Faizabad, Muhammad Faiz Baksh: “ 22 subahs, where ever there was a Hindu temple, he erected a mosque over it…In this time the Hindus…dared not insult a Mohammedan of the lowest degree or salute a Hindu prior to a Mohammedan…(the) mendicants.. who do not wear trousers..(were) ordered to put in tight drawers…those who (did not) comply…(were) directed to be killed, and he sent thousands of them to hell… (In) the Shia sect.. not one was bold enough to pray in public view..”.
  9. Maasir-i-Alamgiri (official biography): In 1669, Kashi Vishwanath temple in Benaras and a temple in Mathura (to which Dara had donated a railing which was removed in 1666) were razed to the ground, with mosques built on top. Mathura’s name was changed to Islamabad. (The temple in Somnath was pulled down per 10). “..the support given to the true faith was a severe blow to the arrogance of the Rájas, and, like idols, they turned their faces awe-struck to the wall”. The richly-jeweled idols taken from the pagan temples were trans­ferred to Ágra, and there placed beneath the steps leading to the Begam Sáhib's mosque, in order that they might ever be pressed under foot by the true believers.” In 1679, Bahadur Khan returned from Jodhpur with cartloads of idols, taken from razed temples. In January 1680, temples were leveled in Udaipur near the palace by direct orders from a visiting Aurangzeb. “ was here that some twenty Máchátor Rájpúts had resolved to die for their faith. One of them slew many of his assailants before receiving his death-blow. Another followed, and another, until all had fallen..”. 122 temples in neighboring districts were destroyed. In Chitor, 63. In Amber, three-score and six…(Incidentally, when Shah Jahan was out of favor with Jahangir, he had been given refuge with his family in Udaipur, at GulMahal, now called JagMandir. Aurangzeb must have been 6 or 7.)
  10. Sarkar: By another ordinance (March, 1695), “all Hindus except Rajputs were forbidden to carry arms or ride elephants, palkis, or Arab and Persian horses. With one stroke of his pen he dismissed all the Hindu clerks from office. Custom duties were abolished on the Muslims and doubled on the Hindus.” Diwali and Holi were restricted. Religious heads were persecuted: Uddav Bairagi was jailed and Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed with his followers after torture. Sarkar gives a list of creative incentives offered for conversions.  On Shias- "To him the Shia was a heretic (rafizi);...In another letter he tells us how he liked the naming of a dagger as the ‘Shia-slayer’ (Rafizi kush), and ordered some more of the same name to be made for him. In his correspondence he never mentions the Shias without an abusive epithet: ‘corpse-eating demons’ (ghul-i-bayabani), ‘misbelievers’ (batil mazhaban) are among his favourite phrases". (Sarmad, a street fakir whom Dara had met and corresponded with, was executed).
  11. Rajasthan through the ages: Rajputs could not be subedars or faujdars. When Jai Singh II was nominated as deputy subedar by Bidar Bakht, Aurangzeb vetoed with a “Jaiz Nist” (opposed to religion). Jai Singh II could only sit on a cloth on the floor, not on a cushion in court. (Jai Singh II would survive Aurangzeb. Later, he rebuilt an empire. Jaipur city was founded by him.)
  12. Dara’s body was said to be buried in the same clothes he was wearing in Humayun’s mausoleum, in a tomb on which the text “Ye who have eyes to see, take warning” was inscribed. I find it curious that the burial was in Humayun’s tomb. Why would Aurangzeb give directions for the burial to be in Humayun’s tomb? Wouldn’t it violate something? (given that Dara was declared an apostate two days earlier?) Also, the tales of Dara's head being sent to Shah Jahan all came from Manucci. (They cannot be true). Aurangzeb kept defending himself afresh over his lifetime against a long dead and buried Dara. 

References in addition to those listed in Part-1: 
Tazkira of Anand Ram Mukhlis
Jadunath Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb, Studies in Moghul India, History of Jaipur.
Later Mughals, William Irvine
The Upanishads, by Swami Prabhavananda and Manchester


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