Centre planning series of plays about Dara Shikoh

Centre planning series of plays about Dara Shikoh, the 'tolerant' Mughal prince

Talks are ongoing with prominent writers and directors for showcasing the life and contributions of the prince

Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that Shikoh’s place in Indian history as a cultural icon was ignored. Credit: PTI Photo

Continuing its efforts to build the image of Mughal prince Dara Shikoh, the Centre is planning a series of plays on his life and spiritual legacy. 

The plays will be on the lines of the minority affairs ministry’s Hunar Haat plays on Mahabharata, wherein actors such as Puneet Issar and Gufi Paintal from BR Chopra’s much-celebrated series on the epic essay key roles onstage, and will run for two hours. Talks are ongoing with prominent writers and directors. 

Minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told DH that Shikoh’s place in Indian history as a cultural icon was ignored. “Dara Shikoh translated the Upanishads in Persian. He took along the Sikh dharma gurus, and built a bridge between different religions based on strong religious and cultural ties,” said Naqvi. 

On Tuesday, Naqvi was also part of a conference on the life of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s eldest son at the Aligarh Muslim University. The conference, 'Why Dara Shikoh Matters Today: Remembering His Works and Personality', was attended by RSS Joint General Secretary Krishna Gopal as well. 

Also Read — Fact check: Did Shah Jahan chop off the hands of Taj Mahal workers?

Also present at the conference were AMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Tariq Mansoor, Jamia Millia Islamia University Vice-Chancellor Prof Najma Akhtar, Maulana Azad National Urdu University Vice-Chancellor Prof Ainul Hasan, and Cultural Counsellor of Iran Dr Mohammad Ali Rabbani.

At the conference, Naqvi said that “prejudice politics” created a “misconception on the legacy” of Shikoh. “Dara Shikoh remained the torchbearer of social harmony and religious unity his entire life,” Naqvi said during the conference. 

The Aligarh Muslim University had in 2019 instituted a chair, the Dara Shikoh Centre for Interfaith  Understanding and Dialogue, on Shikoh’s name to research on peace studies. 

These efforts are part of the BJP and RSS’s attempt to build the idea of Dara Shiloh as a good Muslim, and place him in contrast to his brother Aurangzeb. Four years after he was named the Crown Prince in 1655, his younger brother Aurangzeb assassinated him in 1659. 

The RSS has, for long, attempted to draw a binary between the lives of the brothers, painting Dara as the tolerant Muslim and his brother as an Islamic oppressor. 

As part of these efforts, the ministry of culture had constituted a seven-member committee in December 2020 to locate his grave, a quest that has confounded experts, archaeologists and Mughal history enthusiasts. 

In March this year, the committee submitted in its report to the government supporting the findings of an engineer of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation who said that he combed through 150 graves in Delhi’s Humayun Tomb Complex and found it between the graves of princes Murad Mirza and Daniyal Mirza, both sons of Mughal emperor Akbar, grandfather of Shah Jahan.

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