FACT Presentation and Dara Shikoh

10 11 2007

FACT Presentation Video

Dara Shikoh
A Forgotten Hero of Indian Cultural Synthesis
Need of Dara’s Spirit in contemporary world against terrorism

Dara Shikoh was born on 20 March 1615A.D. at Sagartal near Ajmer. It is said that his father, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, visited the tomb of the great Chishti saint Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti and had prayed there with folded hands and down knees for a son since all his earlier children had been daughters.The prayer brought fruits and the child born had the influence of the teachings of the Sufi saint.

Dara’s was a unique and marvelous personality among the Mughal royal family. He was entirely distinct in all respects from other princes of the entire Mughal house since the establishment of the Mughal rule in 1526 till its ultimate extinction in 1764 or 1857. He had no likings for luxuries and sensual pleasures but had developed refined tastes in his life. In fact, he had combined in himself the qualities of his two great ancestors Humayun and Akbar. The habit of passing more and more time in the Library to acquire knowledge was inherites by him from Humayun who had lost his life while descending from the stairs of the royal Library, while the interest in comparative religions, universal brotherhood, humanism and peace came from the great emperor Akbar. These influences played a notable role in shaping his mind. His great mission in life was the promotion of peace and concord between the followers of Hinduism and Islam. It is true to say that at this moment when the unity of India, depends on the mutual comprehension of the two spiritual elements (Hinduism and Islam), attention can legitimately be paid to the figure of Dara Shikoh who attempted in the 17th century what Kabir and Akbar had done before him in the 15th and 16th century respectively, or what Raja Ram Mohan Roy did in the nineteenth (K.R. Qanungo).

Early Education: Formative Period of Dara:


Dara’s initiation into early education was not an exception and put like other Prices he was under the guidance of the royal teachers who taught him the Quran, Persian poetry and history. The credit goes to one tutor named Mulla Abdul Latif Saharanpuri who inculcated in him the habit of reading and unquenchable thirst for knowledge. The Sufi leanings of his tutor had great influence over young Dara. Besides this, the influence of contemporary Sufi saints had played a significant role in shaping young Dara’s mind.

Initiation in the Qadiri order and its Influence:

The prince witnessed change in his life after the initiation in the Qadiri order in 1640 A.D. and his close association with Mian Mir, Mulla Badakhashi and other saints. This was a remarkable phase of his life when he spent his major time in the royal Library busy in intensive studies in mysticism, the philosophy and the principles of the Qadiri order. This resulted in the publication of his major works on Sufism namely, the Safinat-ul-Auliya (1640 A.D.), the Sakinat-ul-Auliya ( 1643A.D.) the Risala’i Haq Numa (1647 A.D.), the Tariqat-ul-Haqiqat and the Hasanat-ul-Arifin (1653 A.D.). The first two books are biographical dictionaries of the Sufi saints and the last three contain his exposition of some of the Sufi fundamental doctrines. This was in fact a period of intellectual pursuits for Dara.

Another phase is marked by Dara’s quest for understanding of the Hindu religious systems. For this he spent many years in the study of Sanskrit and employed a large number of Pandits from Benaras. His patronage to the language brought applaud from the contemporary scholars. Prominent among them were Jaganath Mishra, Pandit Kavindracharya and Banwali Das. Jaganath Mishra even wrote a book named Jagatsimha in praise of Dara.

In his continuous search for the truth, his meeting with Baba Lal Das Bairagi proved quite enlightening. The diologues with this Hindu mendicant demonstrate his growing interest in comparative religion. Dara had compiled a summary of these teachings in Makalama Baba Lal Wa Dara Shikoh, which consists of seven long conversations between the Baba and the Prince held in 1653 A.D. This text focuses particularly on certain similarities in the teachings of Hindu and Muslim mystics.

Similarly, he found some common elements in the Qadiri ashghal and the yogic meditational exercises of the Hindus which made him translate the Yoga Vasistha into Persian in 1650 A.D. In the same vein to understand Indian philosophical thought he also translated the Bhagwatgita in the same year.

Dara’s sustained researches in comparative religions came out in the form of an extremely remarkable book known as Majma-ul Bahrain or the mingling of the two oceans. Here he employees the term ‘two oceans’ for Sufism and Hinduism. This book came to light in 1656, just three years prior to his execution. In fact it was a pioneering attempt to find out the commonalities between Sufism and Hindu monotheism. He describes this book as ‘a collection of truth and wisdom of two truth-knowing groups’. This book shows Dara Shikoh’s belief in the unity of all religions.

His spiritual quest for monotheistic strands in Hindu philosophy was a continuous process. This led him to study the Upnishads and with the help of some scholars of Benaras he translated 50 Upnishads from Sanskrit to Persian. The text he prepared, the Sirr-i-Akbar, ‘the Great Secret’ was completed in 1657. He was of the firm opinion that the ‘Great Secret’ of the Upnishads is the monotheistic message, which is identical to that on which the Quran is based.

The aim behind the translation of these Hindu religious works was to search common elements in Hinduism and Islam and he draws remarkable parallels between the concepts described in the holy Quran and the Upnishads with respect to tauhid or unity of God. The comparison led him to reach on the conclusion that the Quran and the Upnishads represented two different facts of God. In the introduction of this book he states with full boldness his speculatve hypothesis that the work referred to in the Quran as the “Kitab-al-Maknum” or the hidden book is none other than the ital. This annoyed the orthodox mullas who issued a fatwa (decree) against him. These statements were exploited by his political opponents also and provided them an execute to execute him with utmost cruelity in 1659. Though his search for the truth cost him his life, his was a pioneering effort at religious synthesis or syncretism.

The Diwan and the Quatraims of Dara:

The prince was a great poet in the eyes of his contemporary intellectuals. His Diwan known as the Iksir-i-Azam is extant which is described as “incomparable and heart-pleasing” by his spiritual guide Mulla Shah.The author of Khazinat-ul-Asfiyat remarks about his poetry that “his poetry is like the ocean of unitarianism, flowing out of his pearl scattering tongue; or like the sun of Monotheism, rising from the horizon in the manner of his luminous opening verse (matla’)”. He has expressed his Sufistic views in quatrains and ghazals. Besides his poetic accomplishments, he seems to have been very well-read in classical Persian literature.

Dara’s genius is also reflected in other fields such as fine arts, music and dancing. He patronized these artistic pursuits. His interest was also reflected in paintings. He demonstrated his genius by drawing many paintings which could be compared with those by a professional artists of his time. His album which he presented to his wife, Nadira Bano, was later deposited in the royal library.

The above description demonstrates that Dara was a gentle and pious Sufi intellectual and a true and perhaps the greatest representative of Indian cultural synthesis. It can be easily imagined as to how different India would have been had he emerged successful against his orthodox brother Aurangzeb. The defeat of Dara was in a sense, the defeat of liberal Indian ideas.

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