Dara Shikoh: A Learned And Gifted Scholar Or Doomed Prince?

By: Dr. Mohammad Aleem, Editor-ICN Group 

NEW DELHI: It is often a debatable issue that who among the four sons of the great Mughal king, Shahjahan was the most gifted and learned and true to his expectations. He had four sons, Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja, Murad Baksh and Aurangzeb and three daughters Jahanara, Roshanara and Gauharara. Had the great king erred in judging the true capabilities of his sons? Had he assigned the task of his kingdom according to the qualities to rule the country, the violent skirmishes which had taken place among the brothers could be avoided? Was it destined?

These are several questions which cropped up in my mind while watching the play, Darashikoh, penned by Prof. Danish Iqbal, a very well-established and known playwright these days. Dārā Shikōh (1615–59), was a Sufi thinker and a writer who tried to set up a common ground for Muslims and Hindus in India.  This play was directed by the famous filmmaker, M.S Sathyu, (known for his classic film, Garam Hawa) though it could not come up to the expectations of the audience as we had believed and expected before watching the play. The reasons were many and I don’t want to go into the details of those technicalities. I want to discuss here the main protagonist, Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of the maker of the iconic Taj Mahal in undivided Mughal India.

The hardcore Muslim religious scholars believe that Aurangzeb was the best among all brothers because he practiced Islam and tried to follow the basic ethics of the religion. He was a great warrior and knew the war tactics which was very much needed at that time to survive as the king. But, his critics see him otherwise. For them, he was an anti-hero of Dara Shikoh and a villain of the great Mughal empire from where the decline of the kingdom started fast. What was true and what was wrong can easily be judged by the learned historians only.

Most of the secular minded Indian and liberals, both Muslims and Hindus like Dara Shikoh who has always been viewed in India as a great secular icon. No doubt, he was, and should be duly praised for that. He was a scholar of Upnishads, Vedas and Islamic books. He tried to propagate the Sufi thoughts of Islam, which is very much accepted in the subcontinent as the most lenient version of Islam.

But the question arises naturally that what had made Darashikoh a weak ruler? Can a scholar deserve to be a great ruler? Had he truly possessed the real power to rule the country? What makes the scholarship of a person apart from the ruling capabilities of a man?

The experiences and precedents show that great scholars hardly could prove themselves as an effective and influential ruler. Had the Mughal king Shahjahan mistaken in choosing Dara Shikoh as his true successor? He did not love to wage war and going to the battlefields. He loved music, dance, literature, Sufi thoughts and religious books.

Was the fight among the four princes was natural as we often see in such cases? Who gained what after the bloody battle between the brothers?

However, the play has succeeded in inculcating the value of peace and love among the viewers. India has always been a great abode of secular culture and every such attempt should be duly admired and praised seeing the volatile situation in this country today.

I do hope that it will instigate people to read much more about this most enigmatic son of the king, Shahjahah.

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