In city of Taj, Dara Shikoh library lies in state of neglect

Conservationists here have demanded the restoration and reopening of Dara Shikoh library that is lying in shambles in the heart of the Taj city.

“People may have forgotten about its existence but during Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s reign, it was a centre of scholarship and excellence,” said historian Raj Kishore Raje.

Dara Shikoh (1615-1659) was Shah Jahan’s eldest son and would have succeeded him but for being defeated in battle and subsequently assassinated at the instance of his brother Aurangzeb.

Mughal history and subsequent events would have been radically different had Dara Shikoh ascended the throne instead of the more fundamentalist Aurangzeb, say Mughal historians.
He set up libraries in several places, including one in Delhi. But the best known one was in Agra, also called his haveli. It was taken over by the British in 1881 to be converted into the Town Hall, according to the 1921 Agra Gazetteer.

Dara Shikoh, who was a great scholar of Persian and Sanskrit, sought to explore the commonality between Hinduism and Islam and see how the gap could be bridged. Several important works, including the Upanishads were translated into Persian. He brought thousands of books from Europe for this library.

The Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society has urged the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to acquire the building and take up restoration work before opening it to the public.

“This structure does not boast of power or royalty but symbolises the spirit of Sulah Kul, Din-e-Ilahi and the later day secularism. The library stands as a testimony to the high level of intellectualism and recognition of academic excellence. It should, therefore, be included in the tourist circuit for visitors,” the memorandum to the ASI said.

The red sand-stoned library building, which should have been conserved and protected by the ASI, is now in the possession of the Agra Municipal Corporation, which has sold parts of it to the traders of the Moti Ganj mandi, while other parts have been trespassed and encroached upon.

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