DĀRĀ SHUKOH, PRINCE (1615-1659), the eldest son of Prince Khurram (later Emperor Shāh Jahāṅ), was born on 30 March 1615 at Ajmer. Following the failure of his father's rebellion against his grandfather, Emperor Jahāṅgīr, Dārā and his brother, Auraṅgzīb, were sent to the Emperor as hostages. They arrived at Lahore in June 1626 and rejoined their father only after the latter's coronation on 4 February 1628. Educated under eminent Muslim scholars and trained in the affairs of State, Dārā was given his first military rank or mansab and assigned a jāgīr at the age of 18. He was appointed, at different times, sūbahdār of Allāhābād, Punjab, Gujarāt, Multān and Kābul. At Allāhābād he came in contact with the famous Chistī saint, Shāh Muhibullāh and, while in the Punjab, he developed particular attachment to the Qādirī saints, Miāṅ Mīr and Mūllā Shāh. According to Sikh chroniclers, he was also acquainted with Gurū Har Rāi (1630-61). Not very successful as a military commander or civil administrator, Dārā Shukoh was more interested in philosophical and literary pursuits. A predominant influence upon him was that of Upaniṣadic and Sūfī thought. Among his literary works is Sirr-i-Akbar, the great secret, which, completed in 1657, is a translation in Persian of 50 Upaniṣads. He possessed considerable knowledge of Sanskrit, and kept several Sanskrit scholars in his employ. Another work associated with him is Mukālmah Bābā Lāl wa Dārā Shukoh. Compiled by Munshī Chandra Bhān Brāhmaṇ, it records a dialogue between the prince and Bābā Lāl Dās, a Bairāgī sādhū. Popular with the commonalty for his liberal outlook, Dārā was also the most favoured son of his father. Highest honours were showered on him. He was granted the mansab of 60, 000 zāt and 40, 000 sowār, a command greater than even the combined commands of all his younger brothers. On 3 February 1655, he was given the title of Shāh-i-Buland Iqbāl and a seat on a gold throne by the side of the Emperor's throne. This excited the jealousy of the other princes who started conspiring against him. In September 1657, Shāh Jahāṅ fell ill with strangury. Despairing of his life, he made his last will appointing Dārā as the heir apparent. As the news reached the brothers - Shujā' in Bengal, Auraṅgzīb in the Deccan and Murād in Gujarāt - Auraṅgzīb, the ablest as also the most ruthless of the three, at once won over the pleasure-loving and indolent Murād to his side and made preparation to advance on the imperial capital. Auraṅgzīb marched from Burhānpur on 20 March 1657 and was joined by Murād and his army on 14 April. An imperial army sent to check the advance of the rebel princes was routed at Dharmat, near Ujjain, on 5 May. In a decisive battle fought on 29 May 1657 at Sāmūgaṛh near Āgrā, Dārā, who was personally in command, was defeated. He fled towards the Punjab. Auraṅgzīb sent a strong army in pursuit. According to Sarūp Dās Bhalla, Mahimā Prakāsh, Dārā, after crossing the River Beās, called on Gurū Har Rāi, then at Goindvāl. Gurū Har Rāi in order to delay the pursuers, deployed his warriors along the river and blocked the ferry for about six hours. Dārā's cause was, however, hopeless. He assembled an army of 20, 000 men in Lahore, but fled to Multān on 18 August 1657, without giving a fight. Pursued from place to place through Sindh, Rājasthān, Gujarāt and Balūchistān, he was eventually captured and brought to Delhi, where he was put to death on the night of 30-31 August 1659.
K. A. Nizāmī