'Dara Shikoh would have been as cruel as Aurangzeb'

'Dara Shikoh would have been as cruel as Aurangzeb'

Audrey Truschke speaking at JLF. (Source: Twitter/AKF_GLOBAL)

Dara Shikoh as a Mughal emperor would have been "disastrous" and every bit as "cruel and prone to violence" as his brother Alamgir Aurangzeb, claimed historian Audrey Truschke.

Truschke was speaking at the session, "The Great Mughal Debate: What did the Mughals did for us", at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF).

"Dara Shikoh would have been every bit as cruel and sort of prone to violence as Aurangzeb. He would have killed all of his brothers as well... Aurangzeb killed two of his brothers, the only reason why he didn't kill the third because he couldn't find him. And Dara, he wouldn't have been any different.

"In fact, historians think that Dara probably had plans to murder his three brothers, sort of pre-empted in the early 1600s which never came through," she said.

Dara Shikoh, the eldest son and heir-apparent of the fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, was favoured as a successor by his father and his older sister Princess Jahanara Begum.

However, he was defeated and later killed by his younger brother -- later, the Emperor Aurangzeb -- in the two years of a bitter "war of succession" for the imperial throne.

While many see Aurangzeb as a religious bigot, who was harsh against Hindus, Shikoh, on the other hand, was always seen as a more benevolent one. Also, he had a great interest in Hindu scriptures and had translated many of them into Persian and other languages.

That said, according to Truschke, Dara, beside other reasons, would have made for a "disastrous" emperor also because the man just "couldn't run military operations successfully".

"He was terrible... he could not run a military operation even to save his own life as the case turned out. That was a problem, Mughals were an expansionist dynasty, you had to conduct military operations successfully.

"So, in short, I can say Dara as an emperor would have been disastrous," said the author of "Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth".

Calling out the western observers during those days for describing the war of succession as "bloody" and "waste of lives", Truschke said they all were outsiders who had little idea of what was going on, unlike the Indians.

"Theirs (Europeans) was the classic case of cross-cultural misunderstanding.

"Indians on the ground, liberal and non-liberal alike, understood very well what was going on which was a sort of competition for the throne that allowed the best and most able man to rise," she said.

Here she made it clear that she herself has no opinion about whether it was "good or bad", because there were more "interesting questions to ask about the past rather than how do you personally feel about it".

And what were those interesting questions? For one, she said it was the very fact that Aurangzeb against all the odds defeated his father's favourite son Dara Shikoh in the war of succession.

"Shah Jahan clearly favoured his elder son Dara Shikoh above the other three and he disliked Aurangzeb.

"He sent Aurangzeb away, Dara had every advantage, he had Shah Jahan's backing, he always had more money than Aurangzeb, he had higher mansab (rank)... despite having all the advantages it was still Aurangzeb who won," she added.

Eminent historian Rana Safvi, author of recently out book 'Jahangir: An Intimate Portrait of a Great Mughal' was also part of the discussion moderated by Ira Mukhoty, author of 'Daughters of the Sun: Empresses, Queens and Begums of the Mughal Empire'.

The five-day festival will come to an end on Monday.