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 Page 1


EIGHTEEN
Climax and Disintegration of the
Mughal Empire—I
PROBLEMS OF SUCCESSION
The last years of Shah Jahan’s reign were clouded by a bitter war of succession
among his sons. There was no clear tradition of succession among the
Muslims or the Timurids. The right of nomination by the ruler had been
accepted by some of the Muslim political thinkers. But it could not be
asserted in India during the Sultanat period. The Timurid tradition of
partitioning had not been successful either and was never applied in India.
Hindu traditions were also not very clear in the matter of succession.
According to Tulsidas, a contemporary of Akbar, a ruler had the right of
giving the tika to any one of his sons. But there were many cases among the
Rajputs where such a nomination had not been accepted by the other
brothers. Thus, Sanga had to wage a bitter struggle with his brothers before he
could assert his claim to the gaddi.
Towards the end of 1657, Shah Jahan was taken ill at Delhi and for some
time, his life was despaired of. But he rallied and gradually recovered his
strength under the loving care of Dara. Meanwhile, all kinds of rumours had
gained currency. It was said that Shah Jahan had already died, and Dara was
concealing the reality to serve his own purposes. After some time, Shah Jahan
slowly made his way by boat to Agra. Meanwhile, the princes, Shuja in
Bengal, Murad in Gujarat and Aurangzeb in the Deccan, had either been
persuaded that these rumours were true, or pretended to believe them, and
made preparations for the inevitable war of succession.
Anxious to avert a conflict between his sons, which might spell ruin to the
empire, and anticipating his speedy end, Shah Jahan now decided to
nominate his eldest son Dara as his successor (wali-ahd). He raised Dara’s
Page 2


EIGHTEEN
Climax and Disintegration of the
Mughal Empire—I
PROBLEMS OF SUCCESSION
The last years of Shah Jahan’s reign were clouded by a bitter war of succession
among his sons. There was no clear tradition of succession among the
Muslims or the Timurids. The right of nomination by the ruler had been
accepted by some of the Muslim political thinkers. But it could not be
asserted in India during the Sultanat period. The Timurid tradition of
partitioning had not been successful either and was never applied in India.
Hindu traditions were also not very clear in the matter of succession.
According to Tulsidas, a contemporary of Akbar, a ruler had the right of
giving the tika to any one of his sons. But there were many cases among the
Rajputs where such a nomination had not been accepted by the other
brothers. Thus, Sanga had to wage a bitter struggle with his brothers before he
could assert his claim to the gaddi.
Towards the end of 1657, Shah Jahan was taken ill at Delhi and for some
time, his life was despaired of. But he rallied and gradually recovered his
strength under the loving care of Dara. Meanwhile, all kinds of rumours had
gained currency. It was said that Shah Jahan had already died, and Dara was
concealing the reality to serve his own purposes. After some time, Shah Jahan
slowly made his way by boat to Agra. Meanwhile, the princes, Shuja in
Bengal, Murad in Gujarat and Aurangzeb in the Deccan, had either been
persuaded that these rumours were true, or pretended to believe them, and
made preparations for the inevitable war of succession.
Anxious to avert a conflict between his sons, which might spell ruin to the
empire, and anticipating his speedy end, Shah Jahan now decided to
nominate his eldest son Dara as his successor (wali-ahd). He raised Dara’s
mansab from 40,000 zatto the unprecedented rank of 60,000. Dara was given
a chair next to the throne, and all the nobles were instructed to obey Dara as
their future sovereign. But these actions, far from ensuring a smooth
succession as Shah Jahan had hoped, convinced the other princes of Shah
Jahan’s partiality to Dara. It thus strengthened their resolve of making a bid
for the throne.
It is not necessary for us to follow in detail the events leading to the
ultimate triumph of Aurangzeb. There were many reasons for Aurangzeb’s
success. Divided counsel and under-estimation of his opponents by Dara
were two of the major factors responsible for Dara’s defeat. On hearing of the
military preparations of his sons and their decision to march on the capital,
Shah Jahan had sent an army to the east led by Dara’s son, Sulaiman Shikoh,
aided by Mirza Raja Jai Singh, to deal with Shuja who had crowned himself.
Another army was sent to Malwa under Raja Jaswant Singh, the ruler of
Jodhpur. On his arrival in Malwa, Jaswant found that he was faced with the
combined forces of Aurangzeb and Murad. The two princes were intent on a
conflict and invited Jaswant to stand aside. Jaswant could have retreated but
deeming retreat to be a matter of dishonour, he decided to stand and fight,
though the odds were definitely against him. The victory of Aurangzeb at
Dharmat (15 April 1658) emboldened his supporters and raised his prestige,
while it dispirited Dara and his supporters.
Meanwhile, Dara made a serious mistake. Over-confident of the strength of
his position, he had assigned for the eastern campaign some of his best
troops. Thus, he denuded the capital, Agra. Led by Sulaiman Shikoh, the
army moved to the east and gave a good account of itself It surprised and
defeated Shuja near Banaras (February 1658). It then decided to pursue him
into Bihar—as if the issue at Agra had been already decided. After the defeat
at Dharmat, express letters were sent to these forces to hurry back to Agra.
After patching up a hurried treaty (7 May 1658), Sulaiman Shikoh started his
march to Agra from his camp near Monghyr in eastern Bihar. But it was
hardly likely that he could return to Agra in time for the conflict with
Aurangzeb.
After Dharmat, Dara made frantic efforts to seek allies. He sent repeated
letters to Jaswant Singh who had retired to Jodhpur. The rana of Udaipur was
Page 3


EIGHTEEN
Climax and Disintegration of the
Mughal Empire—I
PROBLEMS OF SUCCESSION
The last years of Shah Jahan’s reign were clouded by a bitter war of succession
among his sons. There was no clear tradition of succession among the
Muslims or the Timurids. The right of nomination by the ruler had been
accepted by some of the Muslim political thinkers. But it could not be
asserted in India during the Sultanat period. The Timurid tradition of
partitioning had not been successful either and was never applied in India.
Hindu traditions were also not very clear in the matter of succession.
According to Tulsidas, a contemporary of Akbar, a ruler had the right of
giving the tika to any one of his sons. But there were many cases among the
Rajputs where such a nomination had not been accepted by the other
brothers. Thus, Sanga had to wage a bitter struggle with his brothers before he
could assert his claim to the gaddi.
Towards the end of 1657, Shah Jahan was taken ill at Delhi and for some
time, his life was despaired of. But he rallied and gradually recovered his
strength under the loving care of Dara. Meanwhile, all kinds of rumours had
gained currency. It was said that Shah Jahan had already died, and Dara was
concealing the reality to serve his own purposes. After some time, Shah Jahan
slowly made his way by boat to Agra. Meanwhile, the princes, Shuja in
Bengal, Murad in Gujarat and Aurangzeb in the Deccan, had either been
persuaded that these rumours were true, or pretended to believe them, and
made preparations for the inevitable war of succession.
Anxious to avert a conflict between his sons, which might spell ruin to the
empire, and anticipating his speedy end, Shah Jahan now decided to
nominate his eldest son Dara as his successor (wali-ahd). He raised Dara’s
mansab from 40,000 zatto the unprecedented rank of 60,000. Dara was given
a chair next to the throne, and all the nobles were instructed to obey Dara as
their future sovereign. But these actions, far from ensuring a smooth
succession as Shah Jahan had hoped, convinced the other princes of Shah
Jahan’s partiality to Dara. It thus strengthened their resolve of making a bid
for the throne.
It is not necessary for us to follow in detail the events leading to the
ultimate triumph of Aurangzeb. There were many reasons for Aurangzeb’s
success. Divided counsel and under-estimation of his opponents by Dara
were two of the major factors responsible for Dara’s defeat. On hearing of the
military preparations of his sons and their decision to march on the capital,
Shah Jahan had sent an army to the east led by Dara’s son, Sulaiman Shikoh,
aided by Mirza Raja Jai Singh, to deal with Shuja who had crowned himself.
Another army was sent to Malwa under Raja Jaswant Singh, the ruler of
Jodhpur. On his arrival in Malwa, Jaswant found that he was faced with the
combined forces of Aurangzeb and Murad. The two princes were intent on a
conflict and invited Jaswant to stand aside. Jaswant could have retreated but
deeming retreat to be a matter of dishonour, he decided to stand and fight,
though the odds were definitely against him. The victory of Aurangzeb at
Dharmat (15 April 1658) emboldened his supporters and raised his prestige,
while it dispirited Dara and his supporters.
Meanwhile, Dara made a serious mistake. Over-confident of the strength of
his position, he had assigned for the eastern campaign some of his best
troops. Thus, he denuded the capital, Agra. Led by Sulaiman Shikoh, the
army moved to the east and gave a good account of itself It surprised and
defeated Shuja near Banaras (February 1658). It then decided to pursue him
into Bihar—as if the issue at Agra had been already decided. After the defeat
at Dharmat, express letters were sent to these forces to hurry back to Agra.
After patching up a hurried treaty (7 May 1658), Sulaiman Shikoh started his
march to Agra from his camp near Monghyr in eastern Bihar. But it was
hardly likely that he could return to Agra in time for the conflict with
Aurangzeb.
After Dharmat, Dara made frantic efforts to seek allies. He sent repeated
letters to Jaswant Singh who had retired to Jodhpur. The rana of Udaipur was
also approached. Jaswant Singh moved out tardily to Pushkar near Ajmer.
After raising an army with the money provided by Dara, he waited there for
the rana to join him. But the rana had already been won over by Aurangzeb
with a promise of a rank of 7000, and the return of the parganas seized by
Shah Jahan and Dara from him in 1654 following a dispute over the re-
fortification of Chittor. Aurangzeb also held out to the rana a promise of
religious freedom and ‘favours equal to those of Rana Sanga’. Thus, Dara
failed to win over even the important Rajput rajas to his side.
The battle of Samugarh (29 May 1658) was basically a battle of good
generalship, the two sides being almost equally matched in numbers (about
50,000 to 60,000 on each side). In this field, Dara was no match for
Aurangzeb. The Hada Rajputs and the Saiyids of Barha upon whom Dara
largely depended could not make up for the weakness of the rest of the hastily
recruited army. Aurangzeb’s troops were battle hardened and well led.
Aurangzeb had all along pretended that his only object of coming to Agra
was to see his ailing father and to release him from the control of the
‘heretical’ Dara. But the war between Aurangzeb and Dara was not between
religious orthodoxy on the one hand, and liberalism on the other. Both
Muslim and Hindu nobles were equally divided in their support to the two
rivals. We have already seen the attitude of the leading Rajput rajas. In this
conflict, as in so many others, the attitude of the nobles depended upon their
personal interests and their association with individual princes.
After the defeat and flight of Dara, Shah Jahan was besieged in the fort of
Agra. Aurangzeb forced Shah Jahan into surrender by seizing the source of
water supply to the fort. Shah Jahan was confined to the female apartments in
the fort and strictly supervised though he was not ill-treated. There he lived
for eight long years, lovingly nursed by his favourite daughter, Jahanara, who
voluntarily chose to live within the fort. She re-emerged into public life after
Shah Jahan’s death and was accorded great honour by Aurangzeb who
restored her to the position of the first lady of the realm. He also raised her
annual pension from twelve lakh rupees to seventeen lakhs.
According to the terms of Aurangzeb’s agreement with Murad, the
kingdom was to be partitioned between the two. But Aurangzeb had no
Page 4


EIGHTEEN
Climax and Disintegration of the
Mughal Empire—I
PROBLEMS OF SUCCESSION
The last years of Shah Jahan’s reign were clouded by a bitter war of succession
among his sons. There was no clear tradition of succession among the
Muslims or the Timurids. The right of nomination by the ruler had been
accepted by some of the Muslim political thinkers. But it could not be
asserted in India during the Sultanat period. The Timurid tradition of
partitioning had not been successful either and was never applied in India.
Hindu traditions were also not very clear in the matter of succession.
According to Tulsidas, a contemporary of Akbar, a ruler had the right of
giving the tika to any one of his sons. But there were many cases among the
Rajputs where such a nomination had not been accepted by the other
brothers. Thus, Sanga had to wage a bitter struggle with his brothers before he
could assert his claim to the gaddi.
Towards the end of 1657, Shah Jahan was taken ill at Delhi and for some
time, his life was despaired of. But he rallied and gradually recovered his
strength under the loving care of Dara. Meanwhile, all kinds of rumours had
gained currency. It was said that Shah Jahan had already died, and Dara was
concealing the reality to serve his own purposes. After some time, Shah Jahan
slowly made his way by boat to Agra. Meanwhile, the princes, Shuja in
Bengal, Murad in Gujarat and Aurangzeb in the Deccan, had either been
persuaded that these rumours were true, or pretended to believe them, and
made preparations for the inevitable war of succession.
Anxious to avert a conflict between his sons, which might spell ruin to the
empire, and anticipating his speedy end, Shah Jahan now decided to
nominate his eldest son Dara as his successor (wali-ahd). He raised Dara’s
mansab from 40,000 zatto the unprecedented rank of 60,000. Dara was given
a chair next to the throne, and all the nobles were instructed to obey Dara as
their future sovereign. But these actions, far from ensuring a smooth
succession as Shah Jahan had hoped, convinced the other princes of Shah
Jahan’s partiality to Dara. It thus strengthened their resolve of making a bid
for the throne.
It is not necessary for us to follow in detail the events leading to the
ultimate triumph of Aurangzeb. There were many reasons for Aurangzeb’s
success. Divided counsel and under-estimation of his opponents by Dara
were two of the major factors responsible for Dara’s defeat. On hearing of the
military preparations of his sons and their decision to march on the capital,
Shah Jahan had sent an army to the east led by Dara’s son, Sulaiman Shikoh,
aided by Mirza Raja Jai Singh, to deal with Shuja who had crowned himself.
Another army was sent to Malwa under Raja Jaswant Singh, the ruler of
Jodhpur. On his arrival in Malwa, Jaswant found that he was faced with the
combined forces of Aurangzeb and Murad. The two princes were intent on a
conflict and invited Jaswant to stand aside. Jaswant could have retreated but
deeming retreat to be a matter of dishonour, he decided to stand and fight,
though the odds were definitely against him. The victory of Aurangzeb at
Dharmat (15 April 1658) emboldened his supporters and raised his prestige,
while it dispirited Dara and his supporters.
Meanwhile, Dara made a serious mistake. Over-confident of the strength of
his position, he had assigned for the eastern campaign some of his best
troops. Thus, he denuded the capital, Agra. Led by Sulaiman Shikoh, the
army moved to the east and gave a good account of itself It surprised and
defeated Shuja near Banaras (February 1658). It then decided to pursue him
into Bihar—as if the issue at Agra had been already decided. After the defeat
at Dharmat, express letters were sent to these forces to hurry back to Agra.
After patching up a hurried treaty (7 May 1658), Sulaiman Shikoh started his
march to Agra from his camp near Monghyr in eastern Bihar. But it was
hardly likely that he could return to Agra in time for the conflict with
Aurangzeb.
After Dharmat, Dara made frantic efforts to seek allies. He sent repeated
letters to Jaswant Singh who had retired to Jodhpur. The rana of Udaipur was
also approached. Jaswant Singh moved out tardily to Pushkar near Ajmer.
After raising an army with the money provided by Dara, he waited there for
the rana to join him. But the rana had already been won over by Aurangzeb
with a promise of a rank of 7000, and the return of the parganas seized by
Shah Jahan and Dara from him in 1654 following a dispute over the re-
fortification of Chittor. Aurangzeb also held out to the rana a promise of
religious freedom and ‘favours equal to those of Rana Sanga’. Thus, Dara
failed to win over even the important Rajput rajas to his side.
The battle of Samugarh (29 May 1658) was basically a battle of good
generalship, the two sides being almost equally matched in numbers (about
50,000 to 60,000 on each side). In this field, Dara was no match for
Aurangzeb. The Hada Rajputs and the Saiyids of Barha upon whom Dara
largely depended could not make up for the weakness of the rest of the hastily
recruited army. Aurangzeb’s troops were battle hardened and well led.
Aurangzeb had all along pretended that his only object of coming to Agra
was to see his ailing father and to release him from the control of the
‘heretical’ Dara. But the war between Aurangzeb and Dara was not between
religious orthodoxy on the one hand, and liberalism on the other. Both
Muslim and Hindu nobles were equally divided in their support to the two
rivals. We have already seen the attitude of the leading Rajput rajas. In this
conflict, as in so many others, the attitude of the nobles depended upon their
personal interests and their association with individual princes.
After the defeat and flight of Dara, Shah Jahan was besieged in the fort of
Agra. Aurangzeb forced Shah Jahan into surrender by seizing the source of
water supply to the fort. Shah Jahan was confined to the female apartments in
the fort and strictly supervised though he was not ill-treated. There he lived
for eight long years, lovingly nursed by his favourite daughter, Jahanara, who
voluntarily chose to live within the fort. She re-emerged into public life after
Shah Jahan’s death and was accorded great honour by Aurangzeb who
restored her to the position of the first lady of the realm. He also raised her
annual pension from twelve lakh rupees to seventeen lakhs.
According to the terms of Aurangzeb’s agreement with Murad, the
kingdom was to be partitioned between the two. But Aurangzeb had no
intention of sharing the empire. Hence, he treacherously imprisoned Murad
and sent him to the Gwaliyar jail. He was killed two years later.
After losing the battle at Samugarh, Dara had fled to Lahore and was
planning to retain control of its surrounding areas. But Aurangzeb soon
arrived in the neighbourhood, leading a strong army. Dara’s courage failed
him. He abandoned Lahore without a fight and fled to Sindh. Thus, he
virtually sealed his fate. Although the civil war dragged on for more than two
years, its outcome was hardly in doubt. Dara’s move from Sindh into Gujarat
and then into Ajmer on an invitation from Jaswant Singh, the ruler of
Marwar, and the subsequent treachery of the latter are too well known. The
battle of Deorai near Ajmer (March 1659) was the last major battle Dara
fought against Aurangzeb. Dara might well have escaped into Iran, but he
wanted to try his luck again in Afghanistan. On the way, in the Bolan Pass, a
treacherous Afghan chief made him a prisoner and handed him over to his
dreaded enemy. A panel of jurists decreed that Dara could not be suffered to
live ‘out of necessity to protect the faith and Holy law, and also for reasons of
state (and) as a destroyer of the public peace’. This is typical of the manner in
which Aurangzeb used religion as a cloak for his political motives. Two years
after Dara’s execution, his son, Sulaiman Shikoh, who had sought shelter with
the ruler of Garhwai was handed over by him to Aurangzeb on an imminent
threat of invasion. He soon suffered the same fate as his father.
Earlier, Aurangzeb had defeated Shuja at Khajwah near Allahabad
(December 1658). Further campaigning against him was entrusted to Mir
Jumla who steadily exerted pressure till Shuja was hounded out of India into
Arakan (April 1660). Soon afterwards, he and his family met a dishonourable
death at the hands of the Arakanese on a charge of fomenting rebellion.
The civil war which kept the empire distracted for more than two years
showed that neither nomination by the ruler, nor plans of division of the
empire were likely to be accepted by the contenders for the throne. Military
force became the only arbiter for succession and the civil wars became
steadily more destructive. After being seated securely on the throne,
Aurangzeb tried to mitigate, to some extent, the effects of the harsh Mughal
custom of war unto death between brothers. At the instance of Jahanara
Begum, Siphir Shikoh, son of Dara, was released from prison in 1673, given a
Page 5


EIGHTEEN
Climax and Disintegration of the
Mughal Empire—I
PROBLEMS OF SUCCESSION
The last years of Shah Jahan’s reign were clouded by a bitter war of succession
among his sons. There was no clear tradition of succession among the
Muslims or the Timurids. The right of nomination by the ruler had been
accepted by some of the Muslim political thinkers. But it could not be
asserted in India during the Sultanat period. The Timurid tradition of
partitioning had not been successful either and was never applied in India.
Hindu traditions were also not very clear in the matter of succession.
According to Tulsidas, a contemporary of Akbar, a ruler had the right of
giving the tika to any one of his sons. But there were many cases among the
Rajputs where such a nomination had not been accepted by the other
brothers. Thus, Sanga had to wage a bitter struggle with his brothers before he
could assert his claim to the gaddi.
Towards the end of 1657, Shah Jahan was taken ill at Delhi and for some
time, his life was despaired of. But he rallied and gradually recovered his
strength under the loving care of Dara. Meanwhile, all kinds of rumours had
gained currency. It was said that Shah Jahan had already died, and Dara was
concealing the reality to serve his own purposes. After some time, Shah Jahan
slowly made his way by boat to Agra. Meanwhile, the princes, Shuja in
Bengal, Murad in Gujarat and Aurangzeb in the Deccan, had either been
persuaded that these rumours were true, or pretended to believe them, and
made preparations for the inevitable war of succession.
Anxious to avert a conflict between his sons, which might spell ruin to the
empire, and anticipating his speedy end, Shah Jahan now decided to
nominate his eldest son Dara as his successor (wali-ahd). He raised Dara’s
mansab from 40,000 zatto the unprecedented rank of 60,000. Dara was given
a chair next to the throne, and all the nobles were instructed to obey Dara as
their future sovereign. But these actions, far from ensuring a smooth
succession as Shah Jahan had hoped, convinced the other princes of Shah
Jahan’s partiality to Dara. It thus strengthened their resolve of making a bid
for the throne.
It is not necessary for us to follow in detail the events leading to the
ultimate triumph of Aurangzeb. There were many reasons for Aurangzeb’s
success. Divided counsel and under-estimation of his opponents by Dara
were two of the major factors responsible for Dara’s defeat. On hearing of the
military preparations of his sons and their decision to march on the capital,
Shah Jahan had sent an army to the east led by Dara’s son, Sulaiman Shikoh,
aided by Mirza Raja Jai Singh, to deal with Shuja who had crowned himself.
Another army was sent to Malwa under Raja Jaswant Singh, the ruler of
Jodhpur. On his arrival in Malwa, Jaswant found that he was faced with the
combined forces of Aurangzeb and Murad. The two princes were intent on a
conflict and invited Jaswant to stand aside. Jaswant could have retreated but
deeming retreat to be a matter of dishonour, he decided to stand and fight,
though the odds were definitely against him. The victory of Aurangzeb at
Dharmat (15 April 1658) emboldened his supporters and raised his prestige,
while it dispirited Dara and his supporters.
Meanwhile, Dara made a serious mistake. Over-confident of the strength of
his position, he had assigned for the eastern campaign some of his best
troops. Thus, he denuded the capital, Agra. Led by Sulaiman Shikoh, the
army moved to the east and gave a good account of itself It surprised and
defeated Shuja near Banaras (February 1658). It then decided to pursue him
into Bihar—as if the issue at Agra had been already decided. After the defeat
at Dharmat, express letters were sent to these forces to hurry back to Agra.
After patching up a hurried treaty (7 May 1658), Sulaiman Shikoh started his
march to Agra from his camp near Monghyr in eastern Bihar. But it was
hardly likely that he could return to Agra in time for the conflict with
Aurangzeb.
After Dharmat, Dara made frantic efforts to seek allies. He sent repeated
letters to Jaswant Singh who had retired to Jodhpur. The rana of Udaipur was
also approached. Jaswant Singh moved out tardily to Pushkar near Ajmer.
After raising an army with the money provided by Dara, he waited there for
the rana to join him. But the rana had already been won over by Aurangzeb
with a promise of a rank of 7000, and the return of the parganas seized by
Shah Jahan and Dara from him in 1654 following a dispute over the re-
fortification of Chittor. Aurangzeb also held out to the rana a promise of
religious freedom and ‘favours equal to those of Rana Sanga’. Thus, Dara
failed to win over even the important Rajput rajas to his side.
The battle of Samugarh (29 May 1658) was basically a battle of good
generalship, the two sides being almost equally matched in numbers (about
50,000 to 60,000 on each side). In this field, Dara was no match for
Aurangzeb. The Hada Rajputs and the Saiyids of Barha upon whom Dara
largely depended could not make up for the weakness of the rest of the hastily
recruited army. Aurangzeb’s troops were battle hardened and well led.
Aurangzeb had all along pretended that his only object of coming to Agra
was to see his ailing father and to release him from the control of the
‘heretical’ Dara. But the war between Aurangzeb and Dara was not between
religious orthodoxy on the one hand, and liberalism on the other. Both
Muslim and Hindu nobles were equally divided in their support to the two
rivals. We have already seen the attitude of the leading Rajput rajas. In this
conflict, as in so many others, the attitude of the nobles depended upon their
personal interests and their association with individual princes.
After the defeat and flight of Dara, Shah Jahan was besieged in the fort of
Agra. Aurangzeb forced Shah Jahan into surrender by seizing the source of
water supply to the fort. Shah Jahan was confined to the female apartments in
the fort and strictly supervised though he was not ill-treated. There he lived
for eight long years, lovingly nursed by his favourite daughter, Jahanara, who
voluntarily chose to live within the fort. She re-emerged into public life after
Shah Jahan’s death and was accorded great honour by Aurangzeb who
restored her to the position of the first lady of the realm. He also raised her
annual pension from twelve lakh rupees to seventeen lakhs.
According to the terms of Aurangzeb’s agreement with Murad, the
kingdom was to be partitioned between the two. But Aurangzeb had no
intention of sharing the empire. Hence, he treacherously imprisoned Murad
and sent him to the Gwaliyar jail. He was killed two years later.
After losing the battle at Samugarh, Dara had fled to Lahore and was
planning to retain control of its surrounding areas. But Aurangzeb soon
arrived in the neighbourhood, leading a strong army. Dara’s courage failed
him. He abandoned Lahore without a fight and fled to Sindh. Thus, he
virtually sealed his fate. Although the civil war dragged on for more than two
years, its outcome was hardly in doubt. Dara’s move from Sindh into Gujarat
and then into Ajmer on an invitation from Jaswant Singh, the ruler of
Marwar, and the subsequent treachery of the latter are too well known. The
battle of Deorai near Ajmer (March 1659) was the last major battle Dara
fought against Aurangzeb. Dara might well have escaped into Iran, but he
wanted to try his luck again in Afghanistan. On the way, in the Bolan Pass, a
treacherous Afghan chief made him a prisoner and handed him over to his
dreaded enemy. A panel of jurists decreed that Dara could not be suffered to
live ‘out of necessity to protect the faith and Holy law, and also for reasons of
state (and) as a destroyer of the public peace’. This is typical of the manner in
which Aurangzeb used religion as a cloak for his political motives. Two years
after Dara’s execution, his son, Sulaiman Shikoh, who had sought shelter with
the ruler of Garhwai was handed over by him to Aurangzeb on an imminent
threat of invasion. He soon suffered the same fate as his father.
Earlier, Aurangzeb had defeated Shuja at Khajwah near Allahabad
(December 1658). Further campaigning against him was entrusted to Mir
Jumla who steadily exerted pressure till Shuja was hounded out of India into
Arakan (April 1660). Soon afterwards, he and his family met a dishonourable
death at the hands of the Arakanese on a charge of fomenting rebellion.
The civil war which kept the empire distracted for more than two years
showed that neither nomination by the ruler, nor plans of division of the
empire were likely to be accepted by the contenders for the throne. Military
force became the only arbiter for succession and the civil wars became
steadily more destructive. After being seated securely on the throne,
Aurangzeb tried to mitigate, to some extent, the effects of the harsh Mughal
custom of war unto death between brothers. At the instance of Jahanara
Begum, Siphir Shikoh, son of Dara, was released from prison in 1673, given a
mansab and married to a daughter of Aurangzeb. Murad’s son, Izzat Bakhsh,
was also released, given a mansab and married to another daughter of
Aurangzeb. Earlier, in 1669, Dara’s daughter, Jani Begum, who had been
looked after by Jahanara as her own daughter, was married to Aurangzeb’s
third son, Muhammad Azam. There are many other marriages between
Aurangzeb’s family and the children and grandchildren of his defeated
brothers. Thus, in the third generation, the families of Aurangzeb and his
defeated brothers became one.
AURANGZEB’S REIGN—HIS RELIGIOUS POLICY
Aurangzeb ruled for almost 50 years. During his long reign, the Mughal
empire reached its territorial climax. At its height, it stretched from Kashmir
in the north to Jinji in the south, and from the Hindukush in the west to
Chittagong in the east. Aurangzeb proved to be a hardworking ruler, and
never spared himself or his subordinates in the tasks of government. His
letters show the close attention he paid to all affairs of the state. He was a
strict disciplinarian who did not spare his own sons. In 1686, he imprisoned
prince Muazzam on a charge of intriguing with the ruler of Golconda, and
kept him in prison for 12 long years. His other sons also had to face his wrath
on various occasions. Such was the awe of Aurangzeb that even late in his life
when Muazzam was the Governor of Kabul, he trembled every time he
received a letter from his father who was then in south India. Unlike his
predecessors, Aurangzeb did not like ostentation. His personal life was
marked by simplicity. He had the reputation of being an orthodox, God-
fearing Muslim. In course of time, he began to be regarded as a zindapir, or ‘a
living saint’.
Historians are, however, deeply divided about Aurangzeb’s achievements
as a ruler. According to some, he reversed Akbar’s policy of religious
toleration and thus undermined the loyalty of the Hindus to the empire.
According to them, this, in turn, led to popular uprisings » which sapped the
vitality of the empire. His suspicious nature added to his problems so that in
the words of Khafi Khan, ‘all his enterprises were long drawn out’ and ended
in failure. Another set of historians think that Aurangzeb has been unjustly
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