Take the two names and you will find immediately that people have taken sides. One group will eulogize Dara Shikoh and curse Aurangzeb Alamgeer as a bigot. The other group will curse Dara Shikoh and praise Aurangzeb Alamgeer. And the interesting part is that conclusions of both are not based in any way on the reality but literal media hype generated by vested interests. The father was Emperor Shah Jahan, the mother Arjumand Bano Mumtaz Mahal, and their literally thirteen children. The fourteenth one took the life of the mother. Yes, Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb Alamgeer are real brothers, with many common interests. Both are expert calligraphers, and yes, both feel that there is more to life than merely being Princes of the Mughal household. Spiritual matters affect both of them. Yes, strangely both calligraphed the Quran, and copies of the Qurans written by them are known to exist. Both are less or more obsessive readers of literature and both composed poetry and books. And both are devout husbands. Yes there are more wives, even mashooqs, but each is attached to one wife in particular. Dara Shikoh to wife Nadira Bano and Aurangzeb Alamgeer to wife Rabia Durrani. And wives of both are housed in mausoleums of their own, which exist to this day.

So how do we analyze both? Contrary to proper beliefs, the reality is very different. Take bravery for instance. When a mad elephant charged the royal enclosure, Aurangzeb only 15, stood his ground, while Dara ran away in fright. When Aurangzeb was sent on war missions, he fought tooth and nail, and brought results for his father. When Dara was sent on a mission to Kandahar, he miserably failed at his task. He hired Hindu magicians (who told him that given the blood of a homosexual boy for magic rituals they could win the war) to do magic rites so that he could become the victor.

Take courtesy for another. Aurangzeb was polite and loving to all, even to the extent that it was resented by father as for a Prince who could mix with courtiers and ordinary people. Dara was rude, arrogant and very callous to others. No one loved him for his rude behavior. He could ridicule the grandest of the courtiers. He never tolerated any alternative point of view.

Take religion and deen as a way of life. Aurangzeb could give his life for Islam and Islamic values. Dara amusingly came up with the thesis that the Holy Quran cannot be understood unless the Hindu sacred books are not studied. The Quran was not complete without the Bhagawat Puranas. Dara left prayers, fasts in ramazan and all other rituals of Islam. He started wearing the Prabhu ring on his hand,worshiping stone gods, even acted and dressed like a Hindu. In a population mostly Hanafi Muslims in Indo-Pakistan region, this was highly resented by people. And he started moving with homosexuals like Sarmad, who walked usually naked in public presence, and people made fun of his antics.

As far as his loyalty was concerned. The day Shah Jahan got sick, Dara openly took command as King and tried to eliminate all his brothers before hand. Aurangzeb resisted till the last. And only stepped forward when there was no other choice. And what a father? Blinded by his love for Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan went all the way to humiliate Aurangzeb and his way of life. The tyranny reached the extent when Shah Jahan made plans to have his son Aurangzeb killed, and the Prince only escaped the attempt by timely warning from his sister Roshan Ara Begum. One reason for his imprisonment.

Contrary to myths, Aurangzeb tried his best to keep his relation with Hindu subjects cool. He patronized them at court, gave them grants, and did his best for harmony. The temples he is reputed to have destroyed were the ones made by the STATE itself and was a political move to punish the Rajas who had rebelled against the State. Also to set them right for hampering education of Muslim children and interfering in their education. (Read Dr Ifftikhar, Dr Chaghatai, Maulana Shiblee and even Catherine Asher)

Aurangzeb did not murder his brother in any whimsical way. A war was fought and Dara Shikoh lost the war. He was presented before a proper tribunal with judges and they held him guilty of apostasy. And as a result he was sentenced to death. The accounts of Bernier, Manucci and Catrou are figments of their own petty imagination and has nothing to do with the truth. A sad thing to happen in all ways.

Aurangzeb patronized culture in all ways. The kingdom was no longer rich enough to do all things, but even then under him architecture flourished, a musavari khana (artists studio) was working, and contrary to myths the King was even fond of proper music. Miniatures exist in which he can be seen listening to song recitals with his family.

Aurangzeb did the impossible by making Fatwa-Alamgeeri, a modern text by top Muslim scholars of the time to codify Islamic laws. And he implemented the same. Only two persons had introduced the Islamic system. One Hazrat Umar, and the other Aurangzeb Alamgeer. He abolished all foolish royal customs, wore normal dress, and lived an austere life for the benefit of his people. A real dervesh King ahead of his times in all way. No small reason that our National Poet Dr Allama Iqbal had all praise for the Mughal King of the past.

(Excerpts from the forthcoming book on Dara Shikoh)

So is blood thicker than water? Yes, but ideas are thicker than any blood. When two communities lived in a region for more than 1000 years and could not reconcile to each other, then the solution became Pakistan. More on that later!


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