Wednesday, August 4

An assemblage of two cultures

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Had Dara Shukoh become Mughal emperor instead of his “pugnacious” brother, Aurangzeb, India’s history could have taken a different course. Historians, academics, fiction and non-fiction writers will continue to debate on this as the country negotiates a period of rising religious intolerance.

It was probably this debate that prompted an economics-trained-business adviser, Avik Chanda, to turn to writing a historical non-fiction, Dara Shukoh: The Man who would be King, published by Harper Collins.

The recent launch of the book in the city was followed by a discussion attended by Chanda, Shahanshah Mirza, a direct descendant of the nawabs of Oudh, and Anthony Khatchaturian, a descendant of an Armenian property developer.

To Anthony’s question “why Shukoh”, Chanda, who has published poetry, a business book and a novel, replied: “There is a resurgence of interest in history among readers. So you have biographies of Akbar, Jehangir, Aurangzeb. When you read Aurangzeb, you get a glimpse of Dara. So, I thought why not a book on Dara.”

Dara was executed by Aurangzeb in 1659 following the war of succession after Shah Jahan fell ill.

For his research, Chanda delved into Jadunath Sarkar’s translations of Persian manuscripts as well as chronicles by contemporary Europeans. Much of his research was at the National Library.

Assessing the tragic prince, who was probably ahead of his times in advocating religious syncretism, Chanda said: “He wasn’t an astute and sharp politician and diplomat that Aurangzeb was. The latter could woo the willy-nilly Rajput rulers to his side. Besides, Dara was clearly not an able military commander that Aurangzeb was.”

But Shah Jahan’s eldest and favourite son was a practising Sufi, intellectual and calligrapher, who translated the Upanishads into Persian. In his most famous work, Majma-ul-Bahrain (The Confluence of the Two Seas), Dara does not find any fundamental difference between Hinduism and Islam.

As Mirza said: “Dara was a perfect example of Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb, an assemblage of two cultures.”

 

Source: The Telegraph

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