Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dara Shukoh __A Philosopher and Athiest !

Dara Shukoh __A Philosopher and Athiest !  
Dara shukoh was a unique and marvelous personality among the Mughal royal family. He was entirely distinct in all respects from other princes of the entire Mughal house since the establishment of the Mughal rule in 1526 till its ultimate extinction in 1764 or 1857.

                                                        Dara with Shah jahan
His great mission in life was the promotion of peace and concord between the followers of Hinduism and Islam. It is true to say that at this moment when the unity of India, depends on the mutual comprehension of the two spiritual elements (Hinduism and Islam), attention can legitimately be paid to the figure of Dara Shikoh who attempted in the 17th century what Kabir and Akbar had done before him in the 15th and 16th century respectively, or what Raja Ram Mohan Roy did in the nineteenth (K.R. Qanungo).
                                                              Dara as a child with Shah jahan
Dara was born on 20 March, 1615. at Sagartal near Ajmer. It is said that his father, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, visited the tomb of the great Chishti saint Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti and had prayed there with folded hands and down knees for a son since all his earlier children had been daughters.The prayer brought fruits and the child born had the influence of the teachings of the Sufi saint.
Early Education: Formative Period of Dara:
Dara’s initiation into early education was not an exception and put like other Prices he was under the guidance of the royal teachers who taught him the Quran, Persian poetry and history. The credit goes to one tutor named Mulla Abdul Latif Saharanpuri , who developed in the young Dara an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and the speculative sciences, including Sufism. In his youth, Dara came into contact with numerous Muslim and Hindu mystics, some of whom exercised a profound influence on him. The most noted among these was Hazrat

Miyan Mir (d.1635 C.E.), a Qadri Sufi of Lahore whose disciple he later became. Hazrat Miyan Mir is best remembered for having laid the foundation-stone of the Golden Temple of the Sikhs at Amritsar.
Dara was the eldest son of Prince Khurram (later Shahjehan), the heir apparent of the emperor Jehangir.. Dara  was very handsome, with perfect features, an elongated face, and a fine, slightly crescent nose, and he wore a well-groomed beard, longer than demanded by the criteria of Shariah. Shah Jahan was so proud of him that he had many miniatures made of him. To keep him close to himself in Agra, he gave him the fictitious post of governor of Kashmir, Lahore, and Kabul, granting him excessive privileges such as being preceded by bearers carrying ceremonial gold and silver maces when he entered the royal presence.
He had no likings for luxuries and sensual pleasures but had developed refined tastes in his life. In fact, he had combined in himself the qualities of his two great ancestors Humayun and Akbar. No courtier dared criticize him or point out his faults to him. The Emperor favoured him implicitly, and it was fully expected that he would be the one to succeed his father. He was conscious of this fact and behaved quite scornfully towards his brothers. However, Dara wasted his opportunities and did nothing to build his position. He mocked the nobles and courtiers. Aurangzeb nicknamed him `the kafir` and denounced his impiety.

He was, however, about twelve years old when along with Aurangzeb (three years younger) he was sent as a hostage to his grandfather after the failure of Shahjehan’s revolt.

When Shahjehan took over the throne in 1628, he made no secret of his desire for Dara to inherit the throne from him.

 He got married in 1637, he immediately developed an obsession for his wife that was to last till her death shortly before his own.
He was formally initiated in to Qadiriyya ?ufi silsila by Mulla Shah into the Qadiriyya silsila sometime in 1639 or 1640.

In 1640 he initiated formally into the Qadiri Order of Sufism, and the same year he came up with his first book,
Sakinatul Auliya. It was a collection of biographical sketches of notable Muslim saints.
 Dara’s intellectual pursuits took a steep turn upon his meeting Baba Lal Bairagi, a Hindu Gnostic. Dara has recorded his conversations with Baba Lal in a short book titled, Mukalama Bab Lal wa Dara Shikoh.
In pursuit of this aim, Dara now set about seeking to learn more about the religious systems of the Hindus. He studied Sanskrit, and, with the help of the Pandits of Benaras, made a Persian translation of the Upanishads, which was later followed by his Persian renderings of the Gita and the Yoga Vashishta
                                                                          Farman of Dara

                                                  Pari Mahal Built by Dara ,kashmir

                                                                 Dara Library ,Delhi
 Accordingly, says Dara, he travelled to Benaras in 1067 A.H., where he assembled several leading Sanskrit Pandits to translate the Upanishads, in an effort to draw out from the scriptures of the Hindus the hidden teachings on monotheism which are, he says, 'in conformity with the Holy Qur'an'. Having explored the teachings of the Upanishads, he writes that they are 'a treasure of monotheism', although, he notes, 'very few are conversant with this, even among the Hindus'. Hence, he says, there is an urgent need to bring to light this 'Great Secret' so that the Hindus can learn the truth about monotheism as contained in their own scriptures and, in addition, Muslims, too, can be made aware of the spiritual treasures that the Upanishads contain. He goes so far as to accord the Upanishads, in their original forms, the status of divinely revealed scriptures, claiming that the Qur'anic verse which speaks about a 'protected book', which 'none shall touch but the purified ones' [Qur'an:LVI, 77-80] literally applies to them, because some of the verses of the Qur'an are to be found in their Sanskrit form therein. Throughout this endeavour, his fundamental concern was the quest for the discovery of the Unity of God (tauhid), seeking to draw out the commonalities in the scriptures of the Hindus and the Muslims.
Dara expresses this concern in his Persian translation of the
Upanishads, the Sirr ul-Akbar ('The Great Secret') thus:

And whereas I was impressed with a longing to behold the Gnostic doctrines of every sect and to hear their lofty expressions of monotheism and had cast my eyes upon many theological books and had been a follower thereof for many years, my passion for beholding the Unity [of God], which is a boundless ocean, increased every moment. [...] Thereafter, I began to ponder as to why the discussion of monotheism is so conspicuous in India and why the Indian [Hindu] mystics and theologians of ancient India do not disavow the Unity of God, nor do they find any fault with the Unitarians.

Dara's works are numerous, all in the Persian language, only some of which are readily available today. His writings fall into two broad categories. The first consists of books on Sufism and Muslim saints, the most prominent of these being the Safinat ul- Auliya, the Sakinat ul-Auliya, the Risala-i Haq Numa, the Tariqat ul-Haqiqat, the Hasanat ul-'Arifin and the Iksir-i 'Azam. The second consists of writings such as the Majma ul-Bahrain, the Mukalama-i Baba Lal Das wa Dara Shikoh, the Sirr-i Akbar and his Persian translations of the Yoga Vashishta and the Gita.

Failed attempt invasion of Qandahar in 1655, where Shahjehan finally agreed to allow Dara to lead an army In 1657, Dara Shikoh was 43, Shah Shuja 41, Aurangzeb 39 and Murad 33. All of them were governors of various provinces: Dara was the governor of Punjab, Murad of Gujarat, Aurangzeb of the Deccan and Shah Shuja of Bengal. Two of them emerged as clear frontrunners in the race: Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb.

                                                         Courtiers taking funeral Shah jahan
In 1658, Shahjehan fell ill and Dara took over as the acting emperor, just as was expected of him. Aurangzeb quickly made a coalition with Murad and defeated Dara Shikoh at the famous Battle of Samogarh.
Once, Dara Shikoh (the eldest son of emperor Shah Jahan), came to Guru Har Rai asking for help in the war of succession with his brother the Murderous Aurangzeb. The Guru had promised his grandfather to use the Sikh Cavalry only in defense. He, never the less,helped him to escape safely from the bloody hands of Aurangzeb’s armed forces by having his Sikh warriors hide all the ferry boats at the river crossing used by Dara Shikoh in his escape.
 HERE , One hot summer afternoon in August 1659, Prince Dara Shikoh was executed by his younger brother Aurangzeb

Two months after his coronation in June 1659, Aurangzeb enacted a speedy trial of Dara Shikoh where the judges declared him a heretic and the unfortunate prince was condemned to death in August 1659.
It is said that when Dara saw his executioners approaching him he declared that a prince must never die without putting up a brave fight. A kitchen knife was all he could lay his hands on, and he went ahead fighting the swords of his aggressors with this pitful weapon. He was eventually assassinated and it is said that the city of Delhi was shrouded in official mourning when the body of Dara Shikoh was displayed in its streets. He was later laid at rest, quite aptly, inside the premises of Humayun mausoleum.

    Dara touching Feet of Shah jahan

Why was Dara Shikoh not pardoned? 

The number of opportunities presented to Dara was enormous compared to Aurangzeb.
He was fortunate from the beginning with the love of his father and elder sister at court. 

He was mostly retained at court while his other brothers were sent away to govern troubling provinces and put down rebellions. 
He did not have to toil and win wars in the battlefield in order to gain imperial favors from his father. 
Therefore he was not as experienced a warrior and military commander compared to his other siblings.  

After Samugarh’s defeat and on reaching Ahmedabad he managed to raise another army this time surprisingly with the betrayal of Aurangzeb’s own father in law Shah Nawaz Safavi who was the newly appointed Viceroy of Gujarat.
  • He planned an alliance with Raja Jaswant’s army near Ajmer to take on Aurangzeb at Deorai 4 miles from Ajmer.
  • However he was betrayed by his Hindu friend Raja Jaswanth Singh who had now switched sides to Aurangzeb.
  • He put up a good fight due to geographic advantage of the pass of Deorai.
  • However Aurangzeb emerged victorious yet again and Dara had to flee.
  • He now had no where to go except outside the Mughal Dominions to Persia.
  • His ambition was to reach Qandahar and with the support of a Persian army come back to fight Aurangzeb.
  • Even this dream would not materialize for this time he was betrayed by the treachery of Malik Jiwan.
  • It is said Dara had intervened with Shah Jahan to have the life of Malik Jiwan forgiven and rushed to the execution platform of the Kotwal to stop his execution with him strapped up and ready to die.
  • Malik Jiwan in hopes of rewards handed him over to Aurangzeb.
Another troubling aspect for Dara had been his heterodox religious ideas. In the eyes of the ulema Dara was indeed an apostate. Not just Aurangzeb but all of his brothers called him a Mulhid (Apostate). Therefore as a prisoner Dara was not executed without due process. He was given a trial where he had a chance to denounce his ideology. However being a Mughal prince his ego would not allow him to bargain his life over principle. Thereafter the Qazi (judge) pronounced his death sentence. There are two important events which shaped the fate of Dara at the final moments of his life.
  • The public support for Dara in the city of Delhi was enormous.
  • Since he used to stay mostly at court he was in constant touch with the city dwellers and through his enormous charities had solidified a good support base.
  • When he was paraded in humiliation through the streets the huge outpouring of public support alarmed Aurangzeb and his nobles.
  • Immediately thereafter he was put on trial where he was sentenced.
  • In the hope of mercy Dara finally petitioned to Aurangzeb asking that his life be spared.
  • Looking at the history of relations between the two I find it very strange that Dara would even expect to gain mercy from a brother whom he bitterly opposed from the beginning and left no stone unturned to defeat him unsuccessfully.
  • Aurangzeb again was not a man of emotions to get carried away. He wrote with his own pen on the margins of his petition in Arabic that
 “You first acted as a usurper and you were a mischief maker”
  • There was a period of time when it may have been possible that Aurangzeb toyed with the idea of imprisoning him instead of an execution.
  • Amongst the nobles Danishmand Khan pleaded for his life but Shaista Khan, Muhammad Amin Khan, Bahadur Khan and Daud Khan demanded his death for the good of Islam and the state.
  • The allegation that Roshanara Begum played a key role in convincing Aurangzeb to execute him is doubtful. She may have offered her advice since she alone was the witness to all the acts that happened in the court while but the ultimate decision was made by Aurangzeb.
  • However the outburst of public anger and the possible lynching of Malik Jiwan who was mounted on a procession in the city made Aurangzeb extremely insecure and all but certain to have Dara executed as soon as possible without delay.
  • Whatever be the case the end of Dara was not surprising.
  • He had never courted the support of important nobles
  • He had totally alienated the Islamic orthodox lobby which cost him dearly. 
  • He had relied about the selfish Rajputs thinking his pro Hindu views would win them over.
  • He did not realize that politics is devoid of religious views or outlook. 
  • Dara's next book on Islamic Sufism is the Hasanat ul-'Arifin or 'The Aphorisms of the Gnostics'. It consists of the sayings of 107 Sufis of various spiritual orders. Explaining the objective behind writing the book, Dara says in his introduction: 
  • I was enamoured of studying books on the ways of the men of the Path and had in my mind nothing save the understanding of the Unity of God; and before this, in a state of ecstasy and enthusiasm, I had uttered some words pertaining to sublime knowledge, because of which certain bigoted and narrow-minded people accused me of heresy and apostasy. It was then that I realised the importance of compiling the aphorisms of great believers in the Unity of God and the sayings of saints who have, hitherto, acquired knowledge of Reality, so that these may serve as an argument against those who are really imposters.
In the Hasanat ul-'Arifin, Dara bitterly criticises those self-styled 'ulama who, ignoring the inner dimension of the faith, focus simply on external rituals. His critique is directed against mindless ritualism emptied of inner spiritual content, and he challenges the claims of the 'ulama who would readily trade their faith for worldly gain. Thus, he says:

May the world be free from the noise of the Mulla
And none should pay any heed to their fatwas.

As for those 'ulama who claim to be religious authorities but have actually little or no understanding at all of the true spirit of religion, Dara writes that, 'As a matter of fact, these are ignoramuses to themselves and learned to the ignorant', and adds the following couplet:
Every prophet and saint suffered afflictions and torments,
Due to the vicious and ignominious conduct of the mulla.

Two short, yet important, works of Dara on the various stages and practices associated with the Sufi path are the Tariqat ul-Haqiqat and the Risala-i Haq Numa. The former consists of both prose as well as poetry. It begins with a prologue containing the praises of God and His Omnipotence and His All-Pervasiveness. Thus, Dara says, referring to the Divine:
You dwell in the Ka'aba and in Somnath [a famous Shaivite Hindu temple]
And in the hearts of the enamoured lovers.

The text goes on to discuss the thirty stages (manazil) on the Sufi path, the first of which is detachment from the materialistic world and the last of which is realisation of the Truth. Broadly the same theme is discussed in the Risala-i Haq Numa, where the seeker (salik) is shown as starting from the Alam-i Nasut or 'The Physical Plane', and, passing through various stages, finally reaching the Alam-i Lahut or 'the Plane of Absolute Truth'. Some of the physical exercises employed by the Sufis that are described in the Risala-i Haq Numa are shown by Dara to be similar to those used by the Hindu Tantriks and Yogis. These include astral healing and concentration on the centres of meditation in the heart and brain. Further, he 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.
One of the most intriguing works of Dara's is his collection of poems, the Diwan, also known as the Iksir-i 'Azam. Some of the verses from the Diwan, given below, suggest the train of Dara's mystical thought:
On Monotheism [tauhid]
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.

On Divine Love
O Thou, from whose very name rains Love abundant!
And from your message rains Love!
Whoever passes through Your street realises
That indeed from the very door to the terrace of Your house rains l love!

On the Mystical Path
Turn to none except God,
The rosary and the sacred thread are but only a means to an end.

All this piety is conceit and hypocrisy,
How can it be worthy of our Beloved?.

Kingship is easy, acquaint yourself with poverty,

Why should a drop become a pearl when it can transform itself into an ocean?.

Hands soiled with gold begin to stink,
How awful is the plight of the soul soiled with gold!

Day and night you hear of people dying,
You, too, have to die. How strange is your behaviour!

The more a traveller is unencumbered,
The less he feels worried on his journey.
You, too, are a traveller in this world,

Take this as certain, if you are wakeful.
Drive egoism away from you,
For, like conceit and arrogance, it is also a burden.

So long as you live in this world, be independent,
The Qadri has warned you!
Whoever recognised this, carried the day,
He who lost himself, found Him.
And he who sought Him not within his own self,
Passed away, carrying his quest along with him.

The Qadri found his Beloved within his own self,
Being himself of good disposition, he won the favour of the Good.

To whatever object you may turn your face, He is in view,
Are you blind, for why do you assign Him to yourself?

Dara Shikoh`s patronage of Arts

Dara Shikoh was a patron of fine arts, music and dancing. In fact many of Dara Shikoh`s paintings are well detailed and well compared to a professional artist of his era. The `Dara Shikoh album` is a unique collection of paintings and calligraphy gathered during the 1630s until his death. It was presented to his wife Nadira Banu in 1641-42 and she kept them in her care until her death.


No comments:

Post a Comment