He is best remembered for his intricate studies of Sufistic and Vedantic cultures and tradition, and for providing an introspect into the discernment of their praxis.
The breathtaking Humayun’s Tomb, one of the progenitors of the legendary Pietra Dura, is a twenty minute jaunt from the hubbub of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi. Its voguish popularity comes from housing the mausoleum of the celebrated Emperor Humayun, who passed away in 1556, after a sudden fall from the staircase of his library at the octagonal Sher Mandal, one of the finest architectural specimens of the Sur Empire at Purana Qila.
Mughals have been known for their architectural marvels, their staunch Sunni policies propagated under Aurangzeb, the fabulous wealth they possessed and the lush compartments of their castles!
After Humayun’s demise, Akbar took over the throne of Hindustan. He was one of the earliest Mughals who preached the message of Secularistic policies, having entered into matrimonial alliances with Mariam uz Zamani, who’s also referred to as Harka Bai, and often misinterpreted as Jodha! Akbar was illiterate. However, his craving to understand the scriptures of the land he ruled, led him to set up a separate department for transliterations of the Indian Epics and the Vedas called the Maktab Khana, in 1574. He curbed the absolute autocracy of the Ulemas, propagandising the Mazhar or the “Infallibility Decree”, which enabled him to advance on his vision of a multicultural Hindustan!
Jahangir, the fourth Great Mughal went on Akbar’s policies, though at times, he entered into certain conflicts with the Sikhs whose Guru, Arjan Dev, had blessed his son Khusrau Khan, to rebel against him. Regardless of the rise of conflicts with the Northwestern Province that was dominated by the Sikhs,Jahangir was someone who’d been recognised as the epitome of justice and equality!
With his death, after a tussle, Shah Jahan ascended the imperial throne. It is after Shah Jahan’s illness that his sons, the Shahzadas of the Empire, marched against each other and duelled in what was, the most bitter of war of successions in Mughal history!
Aurangzeb, the devout Sunni marched from the Deccan. He was one of the ablest commanders of the Mughal infantry. Shah Shuja, the wasted flippant advanced from Bengal while Murad joined Aurangzeb at Gujarat.
Shah Jahan favoured his eldest son, Dara Shikoh. To reason with the cause, Dara was born during turbulent times. He had been interred in the Lahore Fort for several years, under the suspicious eyes of Nur Jahan. With Jahangir’s death and vacillation of the throne, Dara was set free. Thus, he spent initial days of his life, imprisoned.
He is best remembered for his intricate studies of Sufistic and Vedantic cultures and tradition, and for providing an introspect into the discernment of their praxis. With a Sufistic approach in his writings, we have seen how Dara Shikoh approaches his own conclusions after a strict analysis of the subject. He was never, in his writings, found to be biased towards any particular dogma or religious faith. His conclusion, that the highest truth exists in all religions was widely resented by the ulemas. Dara never faltered. He carried on wide discussions with various Sufi and Vedantic Mystics and conglomerated all his studies of the religious atmosphere of the age, into the book, “Majma Ul Bahrain” or “Mingling of Two Oceans”. He had a Sufistic background, ever since childhood. His first book was called, “Safinat ul Auliya” which highlights the life and biographies of leading Sufi saints of his age. Dara addresses them as ‘Pir i Kamil’ and believes that the Almighty has sent them to guide his people. He writes, ‘No one is more compassionate and magnanimous, erudite and practical, humble and polite, heroic and charitable than the members of this hierarchy of the saints’. Dara himself was of a Qadri Sufistic order and his second biography, ‘Sakinat ul Auliya’ deals with the life and teachings of some of the greatest saints of this order. Dara authored this book, after he came in contact with Miyan Mir, a Qadriyya. He has penned down ‘Nothing attracts me more than this Qadri order, which has fulfilled my spiritual aspirations’, which confirms that he, himself was of the Qadri order. Qadriyyas trace their descendants to the Prophet Muhammed, their first preacher being Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani of Baghdad. It must however be noted that Miyan Mir and Mulla Shah Badakshani exercised a powerful opinion over Dara Shikoh. However, Dara continued his religious discussions as earlier, with various theologians from different religious backgrounds.
With a similar interest in Hindu scriptures, like that of his great grandfather, Akbar, Dara carried mass religious discussions with leading Hindu scholars like Baba Lal Das Bairagi and Jagannath Mishra, along the banks of the Ganges in Benaras. These discussions led to his enlightenment which brought forth translations of the Puranas, the Bhagavad Gita and the Vedas.
In his book, Risala i Haq Nama, Dara states four steps to become a perfect Sufi.
The most appealing fact in it is, the stages mentioned are quite similar to those of the Hindu Tantriks. Popular historian, Yoginder Sikand says, “Further, he(Dara) suggests that the four planes through which the Sufi seeker’s journey takes him- Nasut , Jabrut, Malakut and Lahut- correspond to the Hindu concept of the Avasthanam or the four ‹states’ of Jagrat, Swapna, Shushpati and Turiya.”. This brings about the truth, how Dara contemplates an analysis of comparison between two particular religions, studying customs of each intricately, and bringing about the theory.
In his compilation of verses, named ‘Diwan i Dara Shikoh’ or the Iksir-i ‹Azam, these thoughts of the prince are highlighted through his poetic talent.
“Look where you can, All is He,
God’s face is ever face to face.
Whatever you behold except Him is the object of your fancy,
Things other than He have an existence like a mirage.
The existence of God is like a boundless ocean,
People are like forms and waves in its water.
Though I do not consider myself separate from Him,
Yet I do not consider myself God.
Whatever relation the drop bears with the ocean,
That I hold true in my belief, and nothing beyond.
We have not seen an atom separate from the Sun,
Every drop of water is the sea in itself.
With what name should one call the Truth?
Every name that exists is one of God’s names.”
This verse of Dara is taken from his perspectives on Monotheism or tauhid. Dara exemplifies his thought with a substantial point, where he defines a drop of water or even the molecules to be a part of the endless stretch of the ocean.
Things changed for Dara after Shah Jahan fell ill in 1657 AD and the commence of the war of succession between the princes. A rampage led by his younger brothers, Aurangzeb and Murad, dethroned his authority. The wandering prince set out to flee, leaving all his treasure-houses of knowledge and manuscripts, behind. Dara would contest another less documented rivalry with Alamgir, only to be captured in 1659 AD. He would be executed on charges of sedition and apostasy by the victorious Aurangzeb, under the instigation of the Mullahs.
Dara was a man of compassion. Hatred never dared to enter his region. However, he wasn’t aware of how minacious hatred could be.
Unfortunately, this great heir of the Imperial Mughals, lies unknown and forgotten, buried in a
non-descript tomb in the mausoleum complexes of the regal Emperor Humayun, having not achieved, the place he had deserved to, in the pages of history!