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Dara Shukoh – An apostle of Hindu Muslim unity

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Subham Mondal
Subham Mondal
Ministry of culture Awardee '23. Ministry of Science and Technology ( CSIR CGCRI ) awardee . Deccan education society awardee. Budding author. Ex NMMS scholar (2016) . Alumnus - Visva-bharati university.

If leaving the democracy, the culture, the foods, the stories of sacrifices and valours, the beauty of Varanasi and Taj Mahal anything that attracts foreigners to know and read about India it’s the UNITY IN DIVERSITY of India. Dara Shukoh was the representative of that UNITY IN DIVERSITY of INDIA centuries ago. Dara Shukoh is a bridge that connects principles of Sanatan Hindu Dharma to ideals of Islam. Dara Shukoh isn’t a noun but an adjective that describes what India stands for and what the idea of India is.

“For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these—It might have been” –John Greenleaf Whittier once famously commented. Dara Shukoh unfortunately lost in battle of succession (battle of samugarh , dated May 1658), which could have changed the fate of Bharat, to his brother Aurangzeb and history is seldom kind to royal princes unsuccessful in their quest for the throne.Here, one might frown and think, “What did he achieve exactly?”.

Not much, when it comes to court politics and winning some war. But his achievements lie far away from the field of war, in his works on identifying Hindustan’s religious diversity and further working towards strengthening it. He was hungry not for power but for learning about the people of India, culture of India, the real Indianness of India. And this is the same reason why Dara Shukoh is more than relevant in 21st century India.

Dara Shukoh was ‘murdered‘ twice; first in the hand of barbaric and monster Aurangzeb and later in the hands of narrow minded historians who intentionally omitted Dara Shukoh while documenting Indian history. While Aurangzeb was the ‘icon of terroism‘, Dara Shukoh was ‘identity of nationalism‘.

Aurangzeb stands for brutality and Dara Shukoh on the other hand symbolizes the multiplicity, richness of India and her composite culture of Ganga jamuni tehzab. Dara Shikoh was a man with profound interest in scholarship and mysticism. He undertook the pursuit of finding oneness in the cultures of Islam and Hinduism in the country. In this pursuit, he went on to assimilate learnings from yogis and saints from all sects.

In order to know Dara Shukoh, we have to first know about his mentor – Hazrat Mian Mir. Mian Mir Sufi was friend of Pancham Patshah Shri Guru Arjan Dev Sahib ji. The Foundation stone of Sri Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar was laid by Sufi saint Mian Mir. Dara Shikoh began construction of Mian Mir’s tomb, but was assassinated by Aurangzeb before it was completed. The tomb/shrine was completed during the reign of Ranjit Singh. Sufi Mian Mir spent his whole life connecting the threads of principles of Sufism with ideals of Sikhism and Hinduism. Dara Shukoh being his disciple followed the footsteps of mentor later.

Connecting Sufism with Vedanta : Wading through the songs of sages born on holy riverbanks, Dara discovered striking similarities in Vedic verses with his beloved Sufi stanzas. Dara attempted to bridge Indian and Arab minds to not only bring material peace to communities in strife but also achieve inner peace by uncovering a quintessential spiritual unity. Dara Shukoh probably penned down his most famous views on religion in his ‘Majma-ul-Bahrain’ (The Confluence of the Two Seas/Samudra Sangamah), a work that made an orthodox section of society raise their eyebrows. In it, Dara put forward his argument for the harmony of Islam’s Sufi philosophy and Hinduism’s Vedanta philosophy.

In this book, Dara makes an analytical comparison of Islam and Hinduism and finds several similarities in their core values. German scholar Annemarie Schimme, in her The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture, describes Dara’s efforts to find a convergence between the two religions like this – In Dara Shikoh’s view, the Upanishads were among the works alluded to by the Quran, which makes a number of references to the fact that no race of people is ‘without the book’ (Sura 17:16; 53:22; 57:25).

Also wrote – His efforts to effect a rapprochement between Vedanta and Sufism were astutely titled “Majma al-bahrayn (Majma-ul-Bahrain, Confluence of the two Seas)” (i.e. of salt and sweet water) (Sura 18:60)

Translating Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita: Varanasi is the home of Hindustan classical music .Music of Varanasi is a tradition that is linked to the ancient times of the puranic legends. Lord Shiva, who is the residence of this city, was credited with developing music and dance forms. Legend also says that Renu, son of sage Vishwamitra and Mahagobind, was the precursors of music tradition in Kashi (Varanasi) at the time when nymphs (Apsaras), Gandharvas and Kinnaras were the traditional practitioners of this art form, and saint Chaitanya and Vallabhacharya were the pioneers in spreading this music in Varanasi. Iconic sitar player Ravi Shankar, and the Shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan took birth in the same city.

Coincidentally, Varanasi is the same land where Dara Shukoh went to find the music of Hindu Muslim unity . In a work which will probably surprise many, the Mughal crown prince also translated all the chapters of the Upanishads, with the help of the pandits and monks from the holy city of Varanasi. Known as ‘Sirr-i-Akbar’ (the Great Secret), the work was finished in 1657 and remains a testament to Dara Shikoh’s respect for the Upanishads and Hinduism.Perhaps, the single biggest contribution made by Dara Shukoh was the translation of the Upanishads into Persian as “Sirri-i-Akbar” (The Great Secret), further translated into Latin by the French writer Anquetil du Perron, nearly a century and a half later, which provided an unbridled access to the richness of the cultural heritage of our nation to the western societies. One of the greatest European thinkers of all times, Schopenhauer read this Latin translation and went on to call the Upanishads “the production of the highest human wisdom.”

Thus we can say if Mark Twain through his words depicted the beauty of Varanasi, Dara Shukoh through his actions showed the world the message of unity Varanasi has to offer. According to some historians, Dara also translated the ‘Bhagvad Gita’, the revered scripture in the Hindu religion which compiles the teachings of Lord Krishna parted to Arjuna during the great war of the Mahabharata.

Devotee of Indian culture : It is said that once Sage Vasistha and Lord Rama appeared in the dream of Dara Shukoh, which led to the commission of the translation of Yoga Vasistha’. The translated version was named ‘Jug-Basisht’ and has found popularity in Persia among those dealing with Indo-Persian culture.He also ordered the compilation of some refined artwork into an album known as the ‘Dara Shikhoh Album.’

Later, many inscriptions of the album connecting it to Dara were erased deliberately, be the surviving inscriptions bear his mark. Famously, in the album, there are two facing pages with the paintings of two ascetics in yogic postures probably drawn by the artist Govardhan. Possibly, they mean a pair of yogis, Vaishnava and Shaiva.

Spent times with Hindu Scholars and Hindu Saints : Dara Shukoh ‘s patronage of Sanskrit 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 Shukoh. In his quest to seek the truth, Dara came in contact with Baba Lal Bairagi, a Hindu gnostic, who left a deep impact on his life. His conversations with Baba were recorded by him in a book titled Mukalama Baba Lal wa Dara Shikoh.

This book comprised the queries of the author regarding Hindu religion, including questions such as the manner of recitation of Om as well as the relation between the Aatma (soul) and the Paramaatma (God). Makalama Baba Lal Wa Dara Shukoh, which consists of seven long conversations between the Baba and the Prince held in 1653 A.D.

Gifted railings to Keshva Rai temple: The Keshav Dev temple or Krishna Deo temple is a Hindu temple situated besides the main Krishna Janmabhoomi complex, the birthplace of Lord Krishna in Mathura; it is the place where, it is said, that Lord Krishna appeared. It was built in Mathura over the prison which was believed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna.

Dara shukoh back on 14th ocgo, 1666 gifted railings to Keshva Rai temple as a symbol of Hindu Muslim unity. Upon learning that Aurangzeb in 1670 gave orders for the complete destruction of of this temple. Farsi newsletter fm Aurangzeb’s court, dated 13th Oct, 1666, that says Aurangzeb ordered the demolition of a railing donated to the Keshavrai Temple in Mathura by Dara Shukoh. This incident once again shows us that Dara Shukoh was an icon of Unity, Eatablishment where Aurangzeb was just a barbaric hooligan who wanted to create an environment of terror.

Practitioner of Yoga: Yoga is rapidly gaining popularity as a means to achieve ultimate physical and mental wellbeing in world. This Hindu culture is India’s gift to the world. I found a photo from Timurid Mughal archives (1640-55)which shows that Dara Shukoh with a bare torso and lungi practicing Yoga asana named Gomukhasana. At a time when radicals of Islamic society are waging war against Yoga practice, Dara Shukoh even after taking birth as a Muslim practiced Yoga centuries ago.

Abraham Eraly in Emperors of the Peacock Throne: The Saga of the Great Mughals correctly wrote – “While Dara cultivated culture, Aurangzeb sharpened his sword.” Vice President of India Jagdeep Dhankhar once called Dara Shikoh “a torchbearer of social harmony and religious unity”, someone who strove for harmony among religions.

When some propaganda spreaders masquerading as journalists and historians throw current Indian government under the bus tagging Anti Mughal , we have to remember it’s the same Indian government that renamed Central delhi’s Dalhousie road after the name of India’s own son Dara Shukoh. We have to remember that this is the same government that is on a mission to search to grave of Dara Shukoh.

Under the supervision of this government’s wing of ministry of external affairs- ICCR published the Arabic translation of Majma Ul Bahrain (of Dara Shukoh) by Shri Amar Hasan. Our fight is to uproot the trace of barbaric names like Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan who destroyed our temples, tried to demolish the bharatiya culture, language at the same time it’s our job and responsibility to establish the legacy of forgotten prince Dara Shukoh.

Hindu Dharma stands of four pillars – Temple, Sanskrit, Yoga, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita. India’s own son, the icon of Unity Dara Shukoh has worked tirelessly to made those four pillars stronger. At a time when our country is working towards drawing outline for 2047 India we all have to instill the ideals of Dara shukoh in ourselves irrespective of caste, creed, gender, state. At the end of the day we have to remember the stronger our bond is, the stronger India as a force will be.

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Subham Mondal
Subham Mondal
Ministry of culture Awardee '23. Ministry of Science and Technology ( CSIR CGCRI ) awardee . Deccan education society awardee. Budding author. Ex NMMS scholar (2016) . Alumnus - Visva-bharati university.
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