Son of Shah Jahan-Shah Shuja-in a futile Battle for Power

Defeat and the Price Paid for Defeat………….

Prince Shah Shuja was the second son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his queen Mumtaz Mahal. Shuja was born on 23 June 1616, in Ajmer. Died 7 February 1661 (aged 44) near Mrohaung (Mrauk-U), Arakan.

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Shah Shuja was brother to Jahanara Begum, Dara Shikoh, Roshanara Begum, Aurangzeb, Murad Baksh, Gauhara Begum and others. He was appointed by Shah Jahan as the Subahdar of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

After the illness of Shah Jahan in September 1657, a power crisis occurred among his sons-Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh.

Shah Shuja proclaimed himself as Emperor, but Aurangzeb ascended the throne of Delhi and sent Mir Jumla to subjugate Shah Shuja.

Shah Shuja signed a treaty with his elder brother Dara Shikoh, after being defeated by him and gave him control of Bengal, Orissa and a large part of Bihar, 17 May 1658. Meanwhile, Aurangzeb defeated Dara Shikoh twice, caught him, executed him on a charge of heresy and ascended the throne.

Aurangzeb had in the meantime imprisoned his father-Emperor Shah Jahan and put him in ‘House Arrest’ at Agra Fort.

Shah Shuja marched again to the capital, against Aurangzeb. A battle took place on 5 January 1659 at the Khajwa (Fatehpur district, Uttar Pradesh, India) where Shuja was defeated.

The Flight of Shah Shuja after defeat

After his defeat, Shuja retreated towards Bengal. But he was pursued by the imperial army under Mir Jumla, the new Governor of Bengal appointed by Aurangzeb. Shuja put up a stiff resistance against them. But he was finally defeated in the last battle in April 1660.

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After each defeat he had to face desertions in his own army, but the lust for power was so great that he did not lose heart and reorganized the army with a renewed vigour. However, when he learnt that he was going to be surrounded at Tandah, he decided that reorganisation of the army was no longer possible; he decided to leave Bengal for good and take shelter in Arakan (Burma).

Defeated, he retreated and headed for Arakan (Burma). This was the beginning of flight of Prince Shah Shuja, his misfortunes and ultimately death.

A heavy price to pay for defeat in a struggle for power between brothers.

Shah Shuja’s retinue left Tandah with thousand palanquins (carriers) carrying the harem ladies. He also carried two vessels of gold and silver, jewel, treasures and other royal appendages to Arakan. Shuja arrived at Chittagong and stayed for some time, from where he took the land route to Arakan which is still called Shuja Road. Shuja prayed Eid prayer at a place Edgoung (Eidgah) in Dulahzara which is still in Chittagong on the way to Arakan. Shuja undertook the land journey for 13 days and 13 nights with a troubled mind on the eastern bank of Naf River, half a mile north of Maungdaw town which is still known as Shuja village.

Conspiracy of Arakan King

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Shuja took the sea route on the final day to Arakan where he was received by an envoy of Arakan king Sanda Thudhamma. He was and escorted to a separate quarter spacially designayed for the Mughal prince.

Niccolai Manucci wrote: “The date of flight (of Shuja from Dacca) was June 5, 1660 and arrived in Arakan on August 26, 1660.”

Harvey noted that Shuja came to Arakan because Sanda Thudhamma promised to provide him some of his famous ships to take him to Mecca for pilgrimage. But He broke the promise. When Shuja arrived in Arakan with half a dozen camel loads of gold and jewelry, the temptation was too great for the Arakan king.

With the treacherous response of the Arkan King, shuja’s army ran amok, nearly succeeded in firing the royal palace of Sanda Thudhamma in December 1660, while many Mughals were massacred.

After escaping from the capital, in the jungles near Mrohaung, Arakan, it is said that Shuja was killed by pursuers dispatched by King Sandathudamma, 7 February 1661.

Shuja’s three sons were captured on same day, and they were beheaded with a blunt axe at Mrohaung, ca 25 July 1663, following an abortive rescue by the Subadar of Bengal.

Another heavy price to pay for defeat

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Princess Gulrukh Banu Begum was the daughter of Prince Shah Shuja. She was molested and unable to save her honor from King of Arkan – Sanda Thudhamma. This made her and committed suicide on ca 25 July 1663, while Sultan Bang and another brother died fighting.

Princess Gulrukh Banu Begum was married to Shahzada Muhammad Sultan (29 December 1639 – 14 December 1676) also known as Sultan. He was the first son of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and his second wife Nawab Bai.

After leaving his father in Law shah Shuja, he rejoined his father 20 February 1660, and was imprisoned at Salimgarh Fort in Delhi,then transferred and imprisoned at the Gwalior Fort on the orders of his father.

He died in confinement, at Salimgarh Prison on 14 December 1676. His younger brother Muazzam became later Emperor Bahadur Shah I in 1707.

Another opinion is that the Portuguese pirates did save Shuja but robbed him of gold and jewels. These unfortunate events had a very profound critical breakdown effect on Shah Shuja. The surviving Mughals with an emotionally broken Shah Shuja escaped back to Tripura on 16 May 1661 with much difficulty and arrived in Manipur in December 1661. Tripura and Manipur kings played crucial roles in saving the life of Shah Shuja and his family.

But, Aurangzeb’s reconnaissance men were on the hunt for Shuja and for every bit of news. Conscious of this, Shuja’s men spread false news that Shuja died fighting in Arakan, while others rumored he shipped to Mecca.

There were a thousand different tales about Shuja’s fate and nothing could be conclusive.

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A painting from circa 1637 shows

the brothers (left to right) Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh in their younger years

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