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Chapter II – The Fight for the Throne

The inevitable destiny of a prince who had displayed such ability and energy in the campaigns in Afghanistan was to govern the ever-disturbed province of the Deccan. The record of what Aurangzib did there in 1655–7 will find its place in a later chapter9; here it suffices to say that his dealings with the Muhammadan kingdoms of Golkonda and Bijapur added greatly to his renown both as a general and as a diplomatist. In the midst of his successes, he was called away to face the crisis of his life. In the autumn of 1657, as has already been related, his father, Shah-Jahan, was reported to be sick unto death. A fratricidal struggle for the crown at once began, in which Aurangzib took the principal part. It was no child’s play, for all the four brothers were mature men of fixed characters and definite aims, and each had had experience in the art of war and in the government of provinces. Their father, remembering his own contumacy towards Jahangir, and ever

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fearful of civil war and unfilial ambition, had endeavoured to minimize their jealousy and power for mischief by appointing them Viceroys of provinces as distant as possible from the capital and from each other. Shuja was away to the east, Governor of Bengal; Aurangzib was down south in the Deccan; Murad-Bakhsh was in the west, making merry in the capacity of Viceroy of Gujarat. Dara, the eldest, was assigned the government of Multan and of distant Kabul, but had become so necessary to his father that he deputed his functions to others, and himself remained at Delhi attached to the King’s person. Each of the princes behaved more like an independent sovereign than a lieutenant of the Emperor. They had the command of large revenues, which they devoted to the formation of large armies in preparation for the struggle which they knew to be inevitable.

Dara, was apparently the favourite, and as the Emperor grew older his eldest son’s influence increased. After the last desperate assault upon Kandahar, the prince had received many marks of his father’s regard. He was given the title of Shah Baland Ikbal, ‘Lord of Exalted Fortune,’ and invested with a robe of honour studded with diamonds and pearls, said to be worth 50,000 rupees (£5600), and a splendid ruby for his turban, besides other jewels and money to the value of a third of a million. Most significant of all, a golden couch had been placed for him below the imperial throne, and Dara, alone of all the royal family, was allowed to be seated in the presence of the King. No clearer sign

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was needed to show the Court that Shah-Jahan intended his eldest son to succeed him. When the King’s dangerous illness withdrew him from the management of affairs, it was naturally Dara, who took his place. In so doing he was within his rights as eldest son and presumptive heir to the crown of Delhi. But he knew he had to reckon with three brothers, each at the head of an army and in command of a province, and the measures he took to prevent the news of his father’s illness reaching them show that he dreaded the consequences of his assumption of royal functions. A singular light is cast upon the instability of the imperial organization when it is remembered that no Mughal king dared to absent himself from the public levees for more than a day or two, for fear of a general rebellion. The people were satisfied only if they could see their king: if he were not seen he must be dead. Even Jahangir, after his nightly debauch, had to ‘pull himself together,’ coûte que coûte, and make his punctual appearance at the levee window. Shah-Jahan’s absence from his accustomed seat overlooking the great Hall of Audience could not fail to arouse suspicion, and the rumour that he was dead, in spite of Dara’s assurances, spread rapidly throughout the provinces, and every man looked to his weapons and made ready for the fray. Bernier describes the tumult of this anxious time:–

‘The Mughal’s illness filled the whole extent of his dominions with agitation and alarm. Dara collected powerful

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armies in Delhi and Agra, the principal cities of the kingdom. In Bengal, Sultan Shuja; made the same vigorous preparations for war. Aurangzib in the Deccan and Murad-Bakhsh in Gujarat also levied such forces as evinced a determination to contend for empire. The four brothers gathered round them their friends and allies; all wrote letters, made large promises, and entered into a variety of intrigues . . . Meanwhile the King’s distemper increased, and it was reported that he was dead. The whole Court was in confusion; the population of Agra was panic-stricken; the shops were closed for many days; and the four Princes openly declared their settled purpose of making the sword the sole arbiter of their lofty pretensions. It was, in fact, too late to recede: not only was the crown to be gained by victory alone, but in case of defeat life was certain to be forfeited. There was now no choice but between a kingdom and death.’

Shah Shuja, the second son, was the first in the field. He at once announced that his father had been poisoned by Dara; proclaimed himself Emperor; engraved his name on the coinage of Bengal, and set out to march upon Agra. Shah-Jahan hastened to reassure him on the score of his health: but Shuja declined to believe the good news. Almost at the same moment Murad-Bakhsh caused his coins to be struck at Ahmadabad and the Prayer for the King to be recited in his own name, and displayed his lordly instinct by immediately assaulting the city of Surat and extorting six lacs of rupees from its luckless merchants. Aurangzib, alone of the four brothers, assumed no royal function. Whatever his designs may

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have been, he kept them to himself. It is possible that as yet he did not know them, but was led on by the hazard of events. At any rate he played a waiting game. He knew the impetuosity of Dara, the sluggish inertness of Shuja, and the careless, happy-go-lucky disposition of his truculent youngest brother. He let them push themselves forward, and waited for the upshot. He did not declare himself even when he heard that Dara had seized his house and imprisoned his agent at Delhi. But he must have known that the accession of any of his brothers meant death or captivity for himself, and his mind must soon have been made up. In self-defence he was bound to make his bid for power, and once this was determined, it only remained to choose the line of action. Others, like Murad-Bakhsh and Shuja, might strike boldly at their quarry: Aurangzib ever loved to stalk it by circuitous paths. His genius lay in diplomatic craft, and his approach to the throne was made by roundabout curves and zigzags.

Dara was prompt in asserting his authority. He lost no time in sending out the imperial armies to chastise Shuja and Murad-Bakhsh. In December, 1657, he despatched his own son, Sulaiman Shukoh, under the tutorship of Raja Jai Singh, to suppress Shuja; whilst the Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Marwar, assisted by Kasim Khan, marched to meet the advance of Murad-Bakhsh, with instructions to cut the line of communication between the rebel viceroy of Gujarat and his wary brother of the Deccan. Dara was

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more anxious about Aurangzib’s movements than the others, but he feared to let Shuja approach the capital and possibly seize the person of Shah-Jahan, who was the key of the situation. His forces were so large that he thought he might safely divide them. The result proved that he had committed a false move. He had better have left Shuja alone for a while, and concentrated all his resources upon the task of crushing Aurangzib. Shuja, it is true, was easily repulsed. Jai Singh surprised him at his camp near Benares, and attacked before sunrise, while the careless bon vivant was yet heavy with wine. After a brief contest the rebels gave way, and the dazed Prince, hardly awake, hastily took to flight, leaving his camp and treasure, artillery and ammunition, in the hands of Dara’s officers. The pursuit was merely perfunctory, for Shah-Jahan had strictly enjoined leniency towards his rebellious son.

Meanwhile Aurangzib pursued his policy of playing a strictly subordinate part. He wrote to congratulate Murad-Bakhsh on his successful capture of Surat, and added, ‘Whatever course you have resolved upon in opposition to the shameless and unrighteous conduct of our abandoned brother, you may count on me as a staunch ally. Our father is still alive, and we two are bound to come to his aid, and punish the presumption and pride of the apostate.’ He threw out hints, quite after his puritan ideas, that after restoring order, they should try to reclaim the malignant and send him on a pilgrimage to Mecca. He urged an

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immediate advance against ‘that presumptuous infidel Jaswant Singh,’ promised to join the army of Gujarat on the north of the Narbada, and ended by invoking ‘the Word of God as his bail for this compact.’ Still more to the purpose, he sent a lac of rupees10 as earnest of his sincerity. Aurangzib’s policy was actuated as much perhaps by hatred of Dari and the dread of his tyranny, as by personal ambition. The eldest Prince had used his influence with Shah-Jahan to thwart his brother’s plans in the Deccan, had restricted his powers, countermanded his campaigns, and placed the Persian Jumla, formerly a distinguished officer of the King of Golkonda, in supreme command of the army of the south. Fortunately for Aurangzib, the Amir showed himself devoted to his cause, and allowed the Prince to lead the whole Deccan army to meet the imperial host.

At the end of March, 1658, Aurangzib left Burhanpur on his progress to the capital. His younger brother joined him near the Narbada, and towards the close of April the combined forces came upon the enemy near Dharmatpur in the territory of Ujjain. The invalid Emperor at Agra had sent repeated messages to Aurangzib, assuring him of his convalescence, and commanding him to retire to his government in the south. But the brothers knew it was too late to go back; they pretended, or perhaps really

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believed, that the Emperor’s letters were forged by Dara; they declared that their father was either dead or dying, and they announced their determination, if he were still living, to throw themselves at his feet and deliver him from the tyranny of ‘the apostate.’ In accordance with this resolve, which may have been genuine, Aurangzib sent a Brahman orator to the Maharaja Jaswant Singh with a message to this effect: ‘I desire to visit my father. I do not wish for war. Either come with me, or keep out of my way, that no blood be shed.’ The Rajput returned an insulting reply, and both sides made ready for battle.

The accounts of the engagement of the 25th of April are in many respects conflicting. It is evident that Shah-Jahan’s temporizing policy, and possibly Aurangzib’s promises and bribes, had divided the counsels of the generals. Some were for carrying out Dara’s furious orders and exterminating the rebels; others paid heed to his father’s command to deal gently with the misguided princes. Had Jaswant Singh attacked as soon as Aurangzib appeared on the opposite bank of the Narbada, the history of the Mughal empire might have been turned into a different channel. Dara as Emperor might have played the part of a lesser Akbar; the Hindu element might have become supreme in India; and a united kingdom, dominated by Rajput chiefs, might have offered a stubborn resistance to the encroachments of the English traders. But Shah-Jahan, in his weak desire to play off the ability of Aurangzib against the overbearing

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pretentious of Dara had ordered his troops merely to dispute the passage of the river, not to cross to the attack. The enemy was thus allowed two precious days in which to bring up his entire forces, and when Murad-Bakhsh at length rode over the ford, under a withering storm of arrows and javelins, the whole strength of the Deccan followed, and crashed into the royal army with an overwhelming shock. Kasim Khan and his Muhammadans fled from the field like traitors or politicians. The Rajputs fought desperately, till only 600 remained out of their 8000 men. The wounded remnant sadly followed their Raja back to his desert fastness in Marwar. There he was received with bitter scorn. His high-mettled wife shut the castle gates in his face, saying that a man so dishonoured should not enter her walls. ‘I disown him as my husband: these eyes can never again behold him. If he could not vanquish, he should die.’ This was the true Rajput spirit, and the fact that the princess eventually became reconciled to her husband only proves that, though a daughter of the proud house of Chitor, she was, after all, a woman.

The Mughal capital was in an uproar. All sorts of plans were devised and rejected. Shah-Jahan wished to go himself at the head of his army to confront the insurgents, and had he done so the issue might have been different; for his sons would hardly have ventured to attack him, lest their own troops should desert them for the standard of their revered Emperor. But Dara, was full of rage at the defeat of Jaswant

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Singh, and resolved to wipe out the disgrace by a victory which should glorify his own name. He wanted no one to share his coming triumph. He would not even wait for his son Sulaiman Shukoh and the victorious army of Bengal, lest he should find an ambitious partner in his exploit. He longed for a personal glory such as the mighty Rameses recorded in the proud inscription which we read on the pylons of Karnak: ‘The princes and captains joined not hands with me in fight. By Myself have I done battle. I have put to flight thousands of the nations: and I was alone!’ But there were other and better reasons for Dara’s precipitate attack. The enemy were exhausted by long marches; they had not then crossed the Chambal; and the imperial army was more than strong enough to crush the jaded invaders as they struggled across a rapid ford. Moreover, every day’s delay was an encouragement to the enemy, and an opportunity for Shah-Jahan to exercise his fatal bent for diplomacy. If the blow were not struck now, it might never be struck at all.

The Emperor was too weak to resist his son’s eager importunity. He let him go, with tears. Had he forbidden, it would have been useless, for the troops were under Dara’s orders, and knew his violent temper too well to disobey him. The lowest calculation places his army at 100,000 horse, 20,000 foot, and 80 guns; but the unpopularity of their headstrong commander, and the growing belief in the Puritan’s fortune, bred traitors in the camp. Aurangzib openly

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boasted that he had 30,000 adherents among the enemy, and the result showed at least that there were many half-hearted fighters in their ranks. The prophets were gloomy; no one presaged success for the Crown Prince; the temper of his troops was not that of men going to victory.

Heedless of these ominous forecasts, and full of the lust of personal éclat, such as he had sought and missed at Kandahar, Dara led a splendid array to the encounter. On arriving at the Chambal, he found that Aurangzib had given him the slip, and making a circuit had crossed the river on the 2nd of June, in spite of the imperial outposts. The two armies came in sight of each other on the 7th, at Samugarh, afterwards known as Fathabad, ‘The place of victory.’ For a day or more they remained observing one another. The heat was such as is only known on the plains of India. It was a true Agra summer, and the men were fainting and dying in their heavy armour. During the pause, letters came from the Emperor, announcing the near approach of the Bengal army, and urging Dara to wait for this reinforcement. His answer was characteristic: Before three days he would bring his brothers, bound hand and foot, to receive their father’s judgment.

Early in the morning, or in Persian metaphor ‘when the sun, the mighty monarch of the golden crown, with his world-conquering sword, rose brightly refulgent from his eastern bed, and the king of the starry host put his head out of the window of the

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horizon,’ Aurangzib marshalled his men. Keeping the command of the centre for himself, he placed Murad-Bakhsh in the left wing, appointed Bahadur Khan to lead the right, and sent forward his own son Muhammad with the advance guard to act with the artillery, which were, as usual, in the van. Dara meanwhile disposed his forces in a similar order. He placed his cannon in front, linked together by iron chains, so that the enemy’s cavalry might not break through. Immediately behind the cannon, he ranged a line of light artillery-camels, mounting brass pieces worked on swivels, and fired by the rider. Then came infantry armed with muskets. The mass of the army was composed, as usual, of cavalry, armed with sabres, pikes, and arrows. The last was the favourite weapon of the Mughals and Persians; the hand-pike being the special arm of the Rajputs. Khalil-Allah Khan commanded the right, Rustam Khan the left, and Dara, himself was with the centre.

The battle began, as Mughal battles always did, by an artillery engagement; cannon were fired; rockets or hand-grenades were thrown to create a stampede among the enemy’s horses and elephants; and then the infantry came into action with their clumsy matchlocks, whilst flights of arrows flew over their heads from the archers behind. Dara’s advance guard, under his son Sipihr Shukoh, then came out and drove in Prince Muhammad’s squadrons, and this advantage was immediately followed up by bringing

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the left wing to bear upon Aurangzib’s right, which wavered, and seemed on the point of breaking, when reinforcements opportunely came up from the centre. After this the engagement became general. Dara, towering high above his horsemen on a beautiful Ceylon elephant, led his centre against Aurangzib, carried the enemy’s guns, after severe loss, and routed the camel corps and infantry. With the shock of horsemen against horsemen the real struggle began. No Mughal Prince, as yet, knew the colour of the ‘white feather,’ and Dara displayed all the splendid valour of his famous blood. Emptying their quivers upon the Deccan horse, he and his men came to the sword, and fought hand to hand till the enemy began to break and fly.

It was the critical moment of the fight. The day was going against Aurangzib. The flower of his cavalry was driven back, and he was now standing with scarcely a thousand men about him, awaiting Dara’s onslaught. Never was cool courage put to a severer test: but Aurangzib’s nerve was steel. ‘Dili, Yarana, Take heart, my friends,’ he cried. ‘Khuda-he! There is a God! what hope have we in flight.? Know ye not where is our Deccan? Khuda-he! Khuda-he!’ Thereupon he ordered the legs of his elephant to be chained together, to make retreat impossible. The mere order was enough to restore the ebbing courage of the few squadrons that still stood beside him.

A fortunate distraction at this instant diverted

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Dara’s attack. Instead of annihilating Aurangzib, he went to support his own left wing which had at length been repulsed by the enemy’s right, and thus he lost the best chance that fate ever threw in his way.

Meanwhile Murad-Bakhsh was hotly engaged with Dara’s right, and was fighting like a lion and reeking with slaughter. Three thousand Uzbegs charged up to his ensanguined elephant, and arrows, spears, and battle-axes rained so thickly that the frightened animal turned to fly. The Mughal courage was again put to the test. The elephant’s legs were quickly chained. Then Raja Ram Singh, of the valiant Rantela stock, came riding up with his Rajputs, insolently shouting, ‘Dost thou dispute the throne with Dara Shukoh?’ and hurling his spear at the Prince, tried to cut his elephant’s girths. The Mughal, wounded as he was, and sore beset on all hands, cast his shield over his little son, who sat beside him in the howdah, and shot the Raja dead. The fallen Rajputs, in yellow garb, and stained with their warpaint of turmeric, were heaped about the elephant’s feet, and made the ground yellow as a field of saffron.’ In another part of the field, the Rahtor Raja Rup Singh sprang from his horse, and having ‘washed his hands of life,’ cut his way through the Mughals, and throwing himself beneath the elephant strove to cut the girths of Aurangzib’s howdah. The Prince had enough to do to hold his own without this desperate assault; but he found

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time to admire the gallant attempt with disinterested coolness, and bade his followers take the daring Rahtor alive – too late.

The cool courage of the one Prince and the fiery valour of the other daunted Dara’s division. The Rajputs had been slain in heaps, many of their chiefs were dead, and now Rustam, the commander of the imperial left wing, had fallen in rallying his men to one more spirited charge. The advantage was still on the side of the Agra army, and Aurangzib and Murad-Bakhsh were perilously hemmed in by raving Rajputs, maddened with bang, and furious at the death of their chiefs: but it needed little to turn the balance of fortune either way. It was Dara’s unlucky destiny always to turn it against himself. At this crisis he committed the most fatal error that an Indian commander could perpetrate. All the army looked to his tall elephant as to a standard of victory. Yet now, when the day seemed almost his own, he must need dismount. He may have been alarmed at the rocket which just then struck his howdah, or listened to the treacherous counsel of Khalil-Allah, the commander of the right wing, who had chosen to consider himself held in reserve, and had looked on with his 30,000 Mughal troops without stirring a finger in the fight. Whatever impelled him, Dara descended. Murad-Bakhsh was still there on his gory elephant, with his howdah stuck as full of arrows as a porcupine with quills, grimly dealing blow for blow and shaft for shaft,

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Aurangzib towered high above a seething scrimmage of Rajputs. But where was Dara?

It was as though the sun had vanished in mid heaven. Dara is dead, cried one; we are betrayed, said another: Aurangzib will have vengeance, thought all. A blind panic seized upon the all but victorious army, and every man fled for dear life. Once a panic has got hold of an Indian army, no power can save or check it. Like a river which has burst its banks, it pours over the land, and none may dam or guide its widening waves. In a brief moment the tide had turned, and the all but vanquished became the victors. For a terrible quarter of an hour Aurangzib had steadily maintained his seat on his besieged elephant, and his reward was the Peacock-Throne. A little too soon Dara had dismounted, to be ‘numbered among the most miserable of Princes,’ a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth. The unlucky Prince, ‘prizing life more than the hope of a crown,’ turned and fled. A few of his once superb host followed him to Agra. Then, and not till then, did Aurangzib descend from his elephant, and prostrating himself on the bloody field offered thanks to God for this great and glorious victory.

Nothing succeeds like success.’ The battle of Samugarh was the signal for all the world to come and tender their homage to Aurangzib, who remained for some days on the field of his triumph, busily engaged night and day in negotiating with his father’s Amirs. They required little inducement to come over

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to the side of the rising man It was an instructive and lamentable sight to behold them trooping to the new colours, totally unmindful of the old Emperor, who with all his senile faults had been a kind and generous master. Among those who offered Aurangzib their services was his uncle, the Khan-Jahan Shayista Khan, son of the late minister Asaf Khan, and brother of the Queen Mumtaz-Mahall. He had already used his great influence with the Emperor on behalf of his successful nephew, and Shah-Jahan was persuaded to mingle paternal reproof with conciliatory overtures. He sent his triumphant son a sword engraved with the auspicious name ’Alamgir, ‘world-compeller.’ The Raja Jai Singh, who commanded the army which had successfully repulsed Shuja in Bengal, was quickly advised of Dara’s fall, and gave in. his adhesion to the coming man. The Maharaja Jaswant Singh, burying the hatchet, presently followed his example, and tendered his fealty to the new power.

Fortified by these signs of support, Aurangzib turned his attention to his most dangerous rival, the still popular Shah-Jahan. Dara had already fled with a few hundred followers, and his father had sent money and 5000 horsemen to assist him. It was evident that the Emperor’s sympathies were with his vanquished son, whatever he may have written in the futile hope of throwing dust in the eyes of the very clear-sighted victor. Aurangzib was not deceived; he had taken his father’s measure with great accuracy, and never intended to give him another

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chance. Shah-Jahan had missed his opportunity when he was dissuaded from putting himself at the head of Dara’s army and compelling the submission of the opposing forces, who were still loyal to their Emperor. He missed it again when be neglected to come out in state, surrounded by his nobles and retinue, and compel the filial homage of his sons on the field of their victory. The luxurious old epicure had lost his chances, and exposed his weakness of purpose. To restore such a man to power meant the recall of Dara, and the revival of the horrors of civil war. Even to be friendly with him, and visit him in his palace, was to court assassination at the hands of the imperial guards, or the ‘large and robust’ Tatar amazons of the seraglio – so Aurangzib was warned by his faithful sister Raushan-Ara. There was but one possible course: the weak-kneed Emperor must be made a prisoner. The trap which Shah-Jahan laid, to ensnare his son to his ruin, caught the old king himself. Instead of Aurangzib coming to be murdered, his son Muhammad entered the fortress on the 18th June, 1658, overcame the guard, and turned the palace into a prison. Aurangzib pretended, in his excess of political prudence, that the detention was only temporary, and that he hoped to see his lather again restored to power as soon as the evil machinations of Dara should be finally suppressed. But this was mere talk, intended to reconcile the people to the deposition of a popular sovereign: and it must be allowed that they were very speedily consoled. Shah-Jahan

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never left the fortress of Agra during the seven years of life that remained to him. At first a bitter correspondence widened the breach between the captive and his jailor, and Shah-Jahan had the baseness to try to corrupt Prince Muhammad and induce him to raise his standard against his father. But the Prince knew Aurangzib, and did not feel sure of his grandfather, so the experiment failed. After this Shah-Jahan became gradually more reconciled to his captivity, and Aurangzib did all that was possible to mitigate his distress. He was allowed every enjoyment that his sensuous nature demanded, loaded with presents, and supplied with such amusements as most entertained him. His daughter, the Begam Sahib, and all his numerous women, kept him company. Cooks skilfully ministered to his appetite, and dancers and singing girls enlivened his senile revels. Like many another aged voluptuary, he became wondrously devout at times, and holy Mullas came and read the blessed Koran to him. Bernier, who disliked Aurangzib, says that the indulgence and respect he showed to his captive father were exemplary. He consulted him like an oracle, and there was nothing he would not give him, except liberty. The two became partly reconciled and the father bestowed his blessing and forgiveness on the son: but they never met. Shah-Jahan died11 at the beginning of 1666 at the age of

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seventy-six. The Emperor hastened to Agra to pay respect to his obsequies, and the body was laid in a tomb near the beautiful Taj, which the late sovereign had set up in memory of his wife.

The Princess Royal, who had shared his captivity with more than a daughter’s devotion, was allowed to keep her state in splendid seclusion, unmolested by the brother she bad consistently, opposed. She died with the fame of her past beauty still fresh, unmarried, at the age of sixty-seven. Her grave lies close to a saint’s and to a poet’s, in that campo santo of marble lattice work, near the Hall of the Sixty Four Pillars, beyond the Delhi walls. But only a piece of pure white marble, with a little grass piously watered, marks the Princess’s grave. “Let no rich canopy surmount my resting-place,” was her dying injunction, inscribed on the headstone. “ This grass is the best covering for the grave of a lowly heart, the humble and transitory Ornament of the World, the disciple of the Holy Man of Chist, the daughter of the Emperor Shah-Jahan12.” ’ Her public memorials are the great rest-house for travellers at Delhi, and the splendid mosque of Agra.

The fate of the other princes must be told in few words. The day after Shah-Jahan had been safely locked up, Aurangzib, who had been in camp till now, entered Agra, occupied Dara’s house, seized his treasure

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(amounting to 17 lacs of rupees), and the same day set out in pursuit of his fugitive brother. Murad-Bakhsh, who had all this time been enjoying the honours of kingship, and had revelled in the title of Hazrat, Your Majesty, which Aurangzib lavished upon him, accompanied the latter in all the glory of mock sovereignty and twenty-six lacs of rupees in his money bags. They had not put many miles between their camp and Agra, when Aurangzib connived in making his boorish brother disgracefully drunk, and, virtuously expressing his horror at the sight, and his conviction that so indiscreet a violator of the law of Islam could never be permitted to sit on the throne, threw him into chains (5th July). That night he was secretly conveyed to the state prison in the island fortress of Salimgarh, opposite Delhi. It needed all Aurangzib’s smooth eloquence and a lavish expenditure of bakhshish to ‘square’ the army, who had all the soldier’s respect for a brave officer and the seasoned trooper’s toleration of a drunken man: but it was done, and the successful diplomatist led the combined forces in the footsteps of Dara.

He went by forced marches, day and night, with his usual unflagging energy; lived the life of a common soldier; ate nothing but meal, drank bad water, and slept on the bare ground. His endurance of hardships awed his followers; but Dara’s own fatal tendency to political suicide saved his brother further trouble. The misguided prince, when aware of Aurangzib’s pursuit, instead of seeking to build up a, formidable

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resistance at Kabul, where he was sure of the support of the governor, Mahabat Khan, turned south to Sind. Aurangzib at once saw that the enemy had practically disarmed himself; and, leaving a few thousand horse to keep up the chase, he returned to the east, where Shuja had again raised the standard of civil war. To sum up many months of misfortune, Dara once more braved the army of Aurangzib in the hills near Ajmir, and, after four days’ hard fighting, was again put to flight. With his wife and daughter and a few servants he made for Ahmadabad. The servants plundered his baggage and ravished the jewels of the princesses, and, to crown his misery, when the fugitive at length reached the once friendly city, he found its gates closed against him. The Governor dared not risk his life in a hopeless cause.

I had now been three days with Dara,’ says Bernier, whom I met on the road by the strangest chance imaginable; and, being destitute of any medical attendant, he compelled me to accompany him in the capacity of physician. ... It was at break of day that the Governor’s message was delivered, and the shrieks of the females drew tears from every eye. We were all overwhelmed with confusion and dismay, gazing in speechless horror at each other, at a loss what plan to recommend, and ignorant of the fate which perhaps awaited us from hour to hour. We observed Dara stepping out, more dead than alive, speaking now to one, then to another; stopping and consulting even the commonest soldier. He saw consternation depicted in every countenance, and felt assured that he should be left without a single follower: but what was to become of him I Whither

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must he go? To delay his departure was to accelerate his ruin.’

So he took refuge among the robbers of Kachh. His wife died of hardship and misery, and he deprived himself of his scanty escort in order to send her body to be honourably interred at Lahore. His host, the Afghan Malik Jivan of Dhandar, seized the opportunity of his guest’s defenceless condition, and carried him to Aurangzib. Thus after few welcomes and many rejections, after bitter bereavement and weary wanderings, the Crown Prince and would-be Emperor of India was betrayed into the hands of his enemy. He was paraded through the streets of Delhi dressed in the meanest clothes, on a wretched elephant, covered with filth, and the tumult which this barbarous humiliation stirred up among the people nearly amounted to a rebellion. ‘Everywhere,’ says Bernier, ‘I observed the people weeping and lamenting the fate of Dara in the most touching language: men, women, and children wailing as if some mighty calamity had happened to themselves.’ They went near to murdering the Afghan who had betrayed his guest, and showed such alarming sympathy with Dara, that Aurangzib resolved upon his speedy execution. He could not feel safe while his brother lived. I council was held, in which Raushan-Ara exerted all her eloquence against her unhappy brother; he was found to be an apostate and the ally of infidels; and on the 15th of September, 1659, he was ordered to execution. When he was dead his body was carried round the city to

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prove to all men that the deed was done, and ‘many wept over his fate.’ His head was taken to Aurangzib, who had it carefully washed from blood, to make sure of its identity, and then ordered it to be buried in the tomb of Humayun.

Shuja gave more trouble than his elder brother. In response to Dara’s appeal he had again risen in arms in Bengal, (where he still held the position of Viceroy,) and even pushed his successes so far as to occupy Benares and Allahabad and annex Jaunpur. Aurangzib had turned from the pursuit of Dara to meet this new danger, and he had an admirable lieutenant in Mir Jumla, who came from the Deccan to join his ancient ally. Together they defeated Shuja, in spite of the support he received from the Portuguese of Hugli, and the treachery of the Maharaja Jaswant Singh, who put the imperial camp in confusion by endeavouring to desert to his old friend Shuja the night before the battle. Aurangzib’s coolness and Mir Jumla’s strategy and valour won the day, and Prince ‘Valiant’ was hunted away to Arakan, whither he was conveyed by Portuguese pirates, who robbed whilst they saved him (1660). The last glimpse we get of him is tragical: wounded and insulted, he fled over the mountains, with but one woman and three faithful followers – and was heard of no more.

By this time there was not a rival in the field. Death or the dungeon had accounted for all other aspirants to the throne. The gloomy fortress of Gwalior held Dara’s two sons, Sulaiman and Sipihr

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Shukoh, and Aurangzib’s eldest son Muhammad, who in a rash moment had gone over to the side of his uncle Shuja, and repented of it in prison till he died in 1676. Murad-Bakhsh, who had also been removed there, attempted to escape, and was in consequence tried on an old count of murder and executed in December, 1661. Two daughters of Aurangzib were given in marriage to the prisoners: one was allotted to the younger son of Dara, and a similar consolation was awarded to the son of Murad-Bakhsh. It seemed that old sores did not rankle with these complaisant bridegrooms.

There remained no further obstacle in the path of Aurangzib. He had already assumed the insignia of royalty. He had indeed first been hastily proclaimed Emperor in the garden of Shalimar outside Delhi, in the last days of July, 1658, without asserting the prerogatives of sovereignty, the coinage and public Prayer for the King. But on the 26th of May, 1659, he had formally ascended the throne in state.


9. See below, pp. 147–151.

10. The rupee at that time was worth 2s. 3d. The lac (lakh) is 100,000 rupees (£11,250), and the crore (karor) 100 Lacs, or 10,000,000 rupees (£1,125,000).

11. There is no foundation for Mr. Talboys Wheeler’s story of the Emperor’s having been poisoned by Aurangzib, except the insinuations of Catrou, whose evidence deserves little credit. It is inconceivable that the death should have been kept secret for more than a year, as Mr. Wheeler would have it; or that Aurangzib should have waited six years to perpetrate so obvious a political execution.

12. Sir W. W. Hunter, in ‘Nineteenth Century,’ May, 1887.

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
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