The Death of Dara Shukoh

Dara seemed doomed never to succeed in any enterprise. Considering it impossible to raise the siege [of Tata-bakar] with his handful of men, he was at one time resolved to cross the river Indus, and make his way to Persia; although that plan would likewise have been with nearly insurmountable obstacles: he would have had to traverse the lands of the Pathans, obstinate Rajas who acknowledged neither the authority of Persia nor of the Mogul [emperor]; and a vast wilderness in which he could not hope to find potable water. But his wife persuaded him to abandon the idea of going to that kingdom, alleging weak reason than. If he persevered in his intention, he must make up his mind, she told him, to see both her and his daughter slaves of the Persian Monarch, an ignominy which no member of his family could possibly endure. She and Dara forgot, or seemed to forget, that the wife of Humayun, when placed under similar circumstances.
Dara seemed doomed never to succeed in any enterprise.
Considering it impossible to raise the siege [of Tata-bakar] with his handful of men, he resolved to cross the river Indus, and make; his way to Persia Although. that plan of his was full of nearly insurmountable Obstacles-enroute he would have had to traverse the lands of the Pathans, Obstinate Rajas who acknowledge neither the authority of Persia nor of the Mogul emperor and a vast wilderness in which there was no trace of drinking water.
But his wife persuaded him to abandon the idea of going to Persia, she told him he must make up his mind, to see both her and his daughter slaves of the Persian Monarch, an indignity, which no member of his royal family could possibly endure.

She and Dara forgot, or seemed to forget, that the wife of Humayun, when placed under similar circumstances was treated with utmost respect in Persia.
While Dara’s mind was in this state of perplexity and indecision, it occurred to him that he was at no considerable distance from Javan Khan, a Pathan of some power and note, whose life he had been twice the means of preserving, when condemned by Shah-Jahan to be thrown under the elephant’s feet, as a punishment for various acts of rebellion. To Javan Khan Dara determined to proceed, hoping to obtain by his means forces to enable him to drive Mir-Baba from the walls of Tata-bakar. The plan he now proposed to himself was briefly this: — after raising the siege with the troops supplied by the Pathan, he intended to proceed, with the treasure deposited in that city, to Kandahar, whence he might easily reach the kingdom of Kaboul. When in Kaboul he felt quite sanguine in the expectation that Mahabat Khan [“Mohabet-kan”] would zealously and unhesitatingly embrace his cause. It was to Dara this officer was indebted for the government of that country, and being possessed of great power and influence, and very popular in Kaboul, the Prince was not unreasonable in the hope that he would find in Mahabat Khan a sincere and efficacious ally.

While Dara’s mind was in this state of perplexity and indecision, it occurred to him that he was at a distance close to Javan Khan’s home. Jawan Khan was a Pathan, endowed with power, whose life he had been twice saved by him (Dara) when condemned by Shah-Jahan to be thrown under the elephant’s feet, as a punishment for various acts of rebellion.

Dara resolved to go to Javan Khan, hoping to obtain by his forces by his influence, to enable him to drive Mir-Baba from the walls of Tata-bakar.
But Dara’s family, were agitated by dismal forebodings, and employed every means to prevent him from going to Jawan Khan for help. help His wife, daughter, and his young son Sipah Shikoh fell at his feet, with tears in their eyes, to prevent Dara Shikoh from takin Jawan Khan’s help, to drive Mir-Baba from the walls of Tata-bakar;a s they knew the Pathan, was notoriously a robber and a rebel, and to place confidence in such a character was at once to rush headlong into destruction. There was no sufficient reason, they (Dara Shukoh’s family) added, as to why he should be so bent upon raising the siege of Tata-baker; because the road to Kabul might be safely pursued without that operation, for Mir-Baba would scarcely abandon the siege for the sake of interrupting his march.Dara, as if possessed, could not perceive the urgency behind the arguments of his family,nin the contrary he remarked, what indeed was the truth, that the journey to Kabul would be full of difficulty and danger; and that he did not believe it possible he should be betrayed by a man bound to him by such strong ties of gratitude.
He departed and soon the bad news came, which proved that the wicked do not feel the weight of obligations when their interests are met and neither do they think twice before sacrificing their benefactors.
Jawan Khan, who imagined that Dara was attended by a large body of soldiers, received the Prince with apparent respect and cordiality, instructing, his men to fulfil all their requirements, and treat them as friends and brethren.
But when Javan Khan discovered that Dara’s followers did not exceed two or three hundred men, his behaviour changed. At the sight of a few mules laden with the gold, which Dara had saved from the hands of the robbers the Pathan assembled at night, a considerable number of armed men. Hr seized the gold, together with the women’s jewels, and fell upon Dara and Sipah Shikoh,
He killed the persons who attempted to defend them, and tied the Prince Dara on the back of an elephant. The public executioner was ordered to sit behind, with the instructions of cutting off his head, upon the first appearance of resistance, either on his own part, or on that of any of his supporters.
In this degrading posture Dara was carried to the army before Tata-bakar and delivered into the hands of General Mir-Baba. who then commanded the Traitor, Javan Khan, to proceed with his prisoner, first to Lahore and afterwards to Delhi.
It is still doubtful, whether he had been tutored by Aurangzeb, or whether he was suddenly tempted to the commit this monstrous crime.
When the sad and unhappy Prince Dara, was brought to the gates of Delhi, Aurangzeb,was in a dilemma whether to send Prince Dara as a prisoner directly to the fortress of Gwalior or should be made to pass through the capital. as a prisoner.

It was the opinion of some courtiers that that second thought, was by all means to be avoided, because, not only would such an exhibition be derogatory to the royal family, but it might become the signal for revolt, and the rescue of Dara might be successfully attempted.
Others maintained, on the contrary, that Dara ought to be seen by the whole city; that it was necessary to strike the people with terror and astonishment, and to impress their minds with an idea of the absolute and irresistible power of Aurangzeb.
It was also advisable, they added, to undeceive the Omrahs (nobles) and the people, who still entertained doubts of Dara’s captivity, and to extinguish at once the hopes of his secret supporters.
Aurangzeb viewed the matter in the same light.
The wretched prisoner was therefore secured on an elephant; his young son, Sipah Shikoh, placed at his side, and behind them, instead of the executioner, was seated Bahadur Khan [one of the royal generals].
This was not one of the majestic elephants of Pegu or Ceylon, pompously caparisoned, the harness gilt, and trappings decorated with figured work; and carrying a beautifully painted howdah inlaid with gold, which Dara had been in the habit of mounting, with a magnificent canopy to shelter the Prince from the sun.
Dara was now seen seated on a miserable and worn-out animal, covered with filth; he no longer wore the necklace of large pearls which distinguish the princes of Hindustan; nor the rich turban and embroidered coat.
He and his son were now in dirty clothes of the coarsest texture, and his sorry turban was wrapped round with a Kashmir shawl or scarf, resembling that worn by the meanest of the people.
Such was the appearance of Dara when led through the Bazars and every quarter of the city, whose dreadful execution was about to take place. A Prince confessedly popular among the lower orders, as there was no armed force. T
The people had for some time thought bitterly against the unnatural conduct of Aurangzeb who had imprisoned his father,his son Sultan Mahmud, and his brother Murad Bakhsh, and were filled with horror and disgust.
The crowd assembled for this disgraceful occasion and everywhere the people weeping and lamenting the fate of Dara in the most touching language. This was observed from horse back from the most conspicuous parts of the city, in the midst of the largest bazar; by a person accompanied by two servants and two intimate friends.
From every quarter sounds of piercing and distressing shrieks, were heard. Men, women, and children wailing as if some mighty calamity had happened to themselves. Javan Khan rode near the wretched Dara; and the abusive and indignant cries vociferated as the traitor moved along were absolutely deafening. It was observed some Fakirs and several poor people throw stones at the infamous Pathan, but not a single movement was made, no one offered to draw his sword, with a view of delivering the beloved and compassionated Prince.
When this disgraceful procession had passed through every part of Dehli, the poor prisoner was shut up in one of his own gardens, called Haidarabad.
Aurangzeb was immediately informed of the impression which this spectacle produced upon the public mind, the indignation manifested by the populace against the Pathan, the threats held out to stone the perfidious man, and with the fears entertained of a general insurrection.
A second council was consequently convened, and the question discussed, whether it was wiser to conduct Dara to Gwalior, agreeable to the original intention, or to put him to death without further delay, it was ultimately decided that Dara should die, and that Sipah-Shikoh should be confined in Gwalior.
At this meeting Raushanara Begam betrayed all her enmity against her hapless brother, combating the arguments of Danishmand Khan, and instigating Aurangzeb to this foul and unnatural murder.
The charge of this atrocious murder was intrusted to a slave of the name of Nazir [“Nazer”], who had been educated by Shah-Jahan, but experienced some ill-treatment from Dara.

The Prince, apprehensive that poison would be administered to him, was boiling lentils with Sipah Shikoh, when Nazir and four other ruffians entered his apartment. ‘My dear son,’ he cried out, ‘these men are come to murder us!’ He then seized a small kitchen knife, the only weapon in his possession.
One of the murderers having secured Sipah Shikoh, the rest fell upon Dara, threw him down, and while three of the assassins held him, Nazir decapitated his wretched victim. The head was instantly carried to Aurangzeb, who commanded that it should be placed in a dish, and that water should be brought. The blood was then washed from the face, and when it could no longer be doubted that it was indeed the head of Dara, he shed tears, and said, “Ai Bad-bakht……… ” ‘(Ah wretched one! let this shocking sight no more offend my eyes, but take away the head, and let it be buried in Humayun’s tomb)’.
Dara’s daughter was taken that same evening to the saraglio, but afterwards sent to Shah-Jahan and Begam-Sahib; who begged of Aurangzeb to let the young Princess grow up in their care.
Dara’s wife, foreseeing the calamities which awaited her and her husband, had already put an end to her life by swallowing poison at Lahore. Sipah Shikoh was immured in the fortress of Gwalior.
Soon after these tragic events Javan Khan was summoned before the council, and then dismissed from Delhi with a few presents. He did not escape fate, however, as he was waylaid and assassinated in a forest, within a few leagues of his own territory.

Source:
Francois Bernier. Travels in the Mogul Empire, AD 1656-1668, trans. by Archibald Constable on the basis of Irving Brock’s version, ed. by Vincent A. Smith. Delhi,

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