DARA SHUKOH, PRINCE (1615-1659), the eldest son of Prince Khurram (later Emperor ShahJahan), was born on 30 March 1615 at Ajmer. Following the failure of his father`s rebellion against his grandfather, Emperor Jaharigir, Dara and his brother, Aurarigzib, were sent to the Emperor as hostages. They arrived at Lahore in June 1626 and rejoined their father only after the tatter`s coronation on 4 February 1628. Educated under eminent Muslim scholars and trained in the affairs of State, Dara was given his first military rank or mansab and assigned a.jagir at the age of 18. 

He was appointed, at different times, subahdar of Allahabad, Punjab, Gujarat, Multan and Kabul. At Allahabad he came in contact with the famous Chisti saint, Shah Muhibullah and, while in the Punjab, he developed particular attachment to the Qadiri saints, Miari Mir amd Mulla Shah.According to Sikh chroniclers, he was also acquainted with Guru Har Rai (1630-61). Not very successful as a military commander or civil administrator, Dara Shukoh was more interested in philosophical and literary pursuits.

A predominant influence upon him was that of Upanisadic and Sufi thought. Among his literary works is Sirri Akbar, the great secret, which, completed in 1657, is a translation in Persian of 50 Upanisads. He possessed considerable knowledge of Sanskrit, and kept several Sanskrit scholars in his employ. Another work associated with him is Mukalmah Baba Lal wa Dara Shukoh. Compiled by MunshI Chandra Bhan Brahman, it records a dialogue between the prince and Baba Lal Das, a Bairagi sadhu.

Popular with the commonalty for his liberal outlook, Dara was also the most favoured son of his father. Highest honours were showered on him.He was granted the mansab of 60,000 zat and 40,000 so war, a command greater than even the combined commands of all his younger brothers. On 3 February 1655, he was given the title of Shahi Buland Iqbal and a seat on a gold throne by the side of the Emperor`s throne. This excited the jealousy of the other princes who started conspiring against him.

In September 1657, Shah Jahari fell ill with strangury. Despairing of his life, he made his last will appointing Dara as the heir apparent. As the news reached the brothers Shuja` in Bengal, Aurarigzib in the Deccan and Murad in Gujarat Aurarigzib, the ablest as also the most ruthless of the three, at once won over the pleasure loving and indolent Murad to his side and made preparation to advance on the imperial capital. Aurarigzib marched from Burhanpur on 20 March 1657 and was joined by Murad and his army on 14 April.

An imperial army sent to check the advance of the rebel princes was routed at Dharmat, near Ujain, on 5 May. In a decisive battle fought on 29 May 1657 at Samugarh near Agra, Dara, who was personally in command, was defeated. He fled towards the Punjab. Aurarigzib sent a strong army in pursuit. According to Sarup Das Bhalla, Mahima Prakash, Dara, after crossing the River Beas, called on Guru Har Rai, then at Goindval.

Guru Har Rai in order to delay the pursuers, deployed his warriors along the river and blocked the ferry for about six hours. Dara`s cause was, however, hopeless. He assembled an army of 20,000 men in Lahore, but fled to Multan on 18 August 1657, without giving a fight. Pursued from place to place through Sindh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Baluchistan, he was eventually captured and brought to Delhi, where he was put to death on the night of 3031 August 1659.

References :

1. Bhalla, Sarup Das, Mahima Prakash. Patiala, 1971
2. Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, vol. I. Princeton, 1963
3. Sharma, Sri Ram, Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors. Bombay, 1962
4. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983