Dārā Shikōh, Muḥammad

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DĀRĀ SHIKŌH, MUAMMAD . (According to some sources, Dara Shukōh.) Sultan Muammad Dārā Shikōh (ah 10241069/16151659 ce), the eldest son of the Mughal emperor Shāhjahān and Mumtāz Maal, was born in the city of Ajmer. Dārā's political career began in 1634, when he was given the first manşab (rank) in command of 1,200 dhāt (soldiers) and 6,000 sawār (horsemen). By 1657 the number of troops under Dārā's command had reached 100,000. Moreover, later in the same year, due to the illness of his father, Dārā was appointed as regent to look after the affairs of the empire.

Dārā was not a successful warrior, however. His three expeditions against the Persian army, in 1639, 1642, and 1653, ended in humiliation and cost him the chance of capturing Kandahar. His later career, moreover, saw two detrimental defeats in the war of succession at the hands of his brothers, who refused to accept Dārā as the new regent. First he lost against Murād and Aurangzēb in Samūgarh, and then a few months later he suffered his final defeat in 1659 at the hands of Aurangzēb in Deorai. Although Dārā was a brave warrior, his lack of diplomatic and leadership skills lost him his crown, and he was forced to flee to Dadar for refuge. There he was betrayed by his host, Malik Jīwan, and handed over to the new emperor, Aurangzēb. Finally, Dārā was paraded in disgrace through the streets of Delhi and beheaded in Dhū al ijja ah 1069 (August 1659).

Dārā was a patron of arts, architecture, and literature and was himself a skilled calligrapher, artist, poet, writer, and translator. He wrote several works on Sufism and translated a few remarkable Sanskrit works into Persian. Dārā appears to have been interested in the Qādiriyya ūfī silsila (literally, "order") from his childhood. He was formally initiated by Mullā Shāh into the Qādiriyya silsila sometime in 1639 or 1640. He remained committed to his silsila throughout his life, and as a poet he adopted "Qādirī" as his pen name.

It was his interest in Sufism that led Dārā to start writing in 1639 or 1640. His first four works were on Sufism. The first, Safīnat al-Awliyāʾ (Ship of the saints), contains more than four hundred short biographies of ūfī saints of various orders. The second, Sakīnat alAwliyāʾ (Tranquility of the saints), encompasses the lives of twenty-eight Qādirī ūfīs, mostly Dārā's contemporaries. The third work, Risāla-i aqq numāʾ (The compass of the truth), is a manual aimed at explaining the theory and practice of ūfī meditation. The fourth work, asanāt al-ʿĀrifīn (Merits of the Gnostics), is a collection of the shaţiyyāt (ecstatic utterances) of the ūfī saints from the eleventh century down to Dārā's own time. His ūfī writings show that he was an enthusiastic follower of the doctrine of wadat al-wujūd (oneness of being) and advocated an inclusive approach towards other religions.

It was Dārā's broad-minded ūfī attitude that brought him to the study of Hinduism. He held a series of dialogues with a Hindu yogi, Bābā Lāl Dās, and discussed with him various concepts of Hinduism, at times comparing them with Islam. This conversation was later compiled as Sūʾāl-o-jawāb Dārā Shukōh-o-Bābā Lāl Dās (The dialogue between Dārā Shukōh and Bābā Lāl Dās). As a result of his discussion with Bābā Lāl and other ūfīs he wrote Majmaʿ al-Barayn (The Mingling of the Two Oceans ). This work represents one of the most important attempts to reconcile Islam and Hinduism in the history of Indian thought, and specifically in the field of comparative religion. Yet despite its ecumenical nature, Majmaʿ became the most controversial work written by Dārā.

Dārā also translated fifty Upaniadsunder the title Sirr-i Akbar (The greatest veil)from the original Sanskrit into Persian. Later, Anquetil Duperron, a French scholar, translated the Persian rendering of Dārā into French and Latin and introduced his work to Europe. In his preface to the Sirr-i Akbar, Dārā assigned the Upaniads the status of kitāb-i maknūn (a well-guarded book)a status previously assigned by Muslim scholars only to the Qurʾān. For Dārā, the Upaniads and the Qurʾān represented two facets of the same truth. Dārā's other scholarly efforts in the field of Hinduism include a translation of the Bhagavadgītā and his commission of a translation of the Jōg Bāshist, also known as Mināj al-Sālikīn (The path of the wayfarers). In the preface to Jōg, he praises the prophet Muammad and admires the Hindu avatar Ramchand. This also demonstrates that, for him, both personalities were guides of the same stature. Dārā Shikōh's efforts to forge a new relationship between Hinduism and Islam was the most remarkable ecumenical achievement in the history of Mughal India.


Chand, Tārā. "Dara Shikoh and the Upanishads." Islamic Culture (1943): 397413.

Dārā Shukōh. asanāt al-ʿĀrifīn. Edited by Sayyid Makhdoom Rahīn. Tehran, Iran, 1973.

Dārā Shukōh. Majmaʿ-ul-Bahrain, or, The Mingling of the Two Oceans. Edited and translated by M. Mahfuz-ul-Haq. Calcutta, 1929.

Dārā Shukōh. Risāla-i aqq-numāʾ, Majmaʿ al-Barayn, Upanikhat Mundak. Edited by Sayyid Muammad Rizā Jalālī Nāʾīnī as Muntakhabāt-i Āthār. Tehran, Iran, 1956.

Dārā Shukōh. Safīnat al-Awliyāʾ. Kanpur, India, 1900.

Dārā Shukōh. Sirr-i Akbar: The Oldest Translation of Upanishads from Sanskrit into Persian. Edited by Tārā Chand and Muammad Rizā Jalālī Nāʾīnī. Tehran, Iran, 1957.

Dārā Shukōh. Sakīnat al-Awliyāʾ. Edited by Sayyid Muammad Rizā Jalālī Nāʾīnī and Tārā Chand. Tehran, Iran, 1965.

Ernst, C. W. Words of Ecstasy in Sufism. Albany, N.Y., 1985.

Göbel Gross, Erhard. Sirr-i Akbar: Die persische Upanişadenübersetzung des Moġulprinzen Dārā Šukoh. Marburg, Germany, 1962.

Hasrat, Bikrama Jit. Dārā Shikūh: Life and Works. Allahabad, India, 1953; 2d ed., New Delhi, 1979.

Huart, Clement, and Louis Massignon. "Les entretiens de Lahore (entre le prince impérial Dārā Shikūh et l'ascète hindou Baba La'l Das)." Journal Asiatique 208 (1926): 285334.

Karim, Arshad Syed. "Muslim Nationalism: Conflicting Ideologies of Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb." Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society 33, pt. 4 (1985): 288296.

Narain, Sheo. "Dārā Shikoh as an Author." Journal of the Punjab Historical Society 2 (19131914): 2138.

Qanungo, Kalika-Ranjan. Dara Shukoh. 2d ed. Calcutta, 1952.

Shayegan, Darius. Les relations de l'Hindouisme et du Soufisme d'après le Majmaʿ al-Bahrayn de Dārā Shokūh. Paris, 1979.

Perwaiz Hayat (2005)