The thinking mughal prince
A three-day conference and exhibition titled Aurangzeb and Dara Shukoh: A Tale of Two Brothers emphasised how the latter’s syncretic vision of Islam is the need of the hour. By TEAM VIVA
A story of enmity between two brothers against the backdrop of an empire naturally had consequences that extended beyond the immediate family. The fight between Aurangzeb and Dara Shukoh, which ended in the beheading of the latter, had the former President of the Iranian Parliament Dr Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel placing it in contemporary context and using it as a metaphor for extreme religious polarities that refuse to tread middle ground and hold the world to ransom. Said he, “We witness a similar group of inhuman and rude people calling others infidels and mercilessly eliminating followers of other religions. Humanity should not witness hatred, violence and terrorism or the thought of eliminating others. I hope the ideas of Dara Shukoh spread far and wide to enlighten the world and bring it to a path of peace and love.”
He was speaking at the inaugural session of the three-day conference and exhibition titled Aurangzeb and Dara Shukoh: A Tale of Two Brothers that is being held at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts. Haddad-Adel chose to speak in Persian as it was the mother tongue of Dara; his parents Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan spoke to each other in Persian. “Dara Shukoh did not believe in just building magnificent palaces but he actually believed in spreading the magnificence of the knowledge of Hinduism. He spent his times as a youth not in battles and conflicts but spent in spreading the message of peace and tolerance. He excelled as a translator of knowledge, borne out of his reading of Hindu texts, to Persian. He should be acknowledged as a pioneer of the comparative study of religions.”
Haddad-Adel likened Dara Shukoh to a possible “philosopher king” — the embodiment of an ideal ruler which had been envisaged by Greek philosopher Plato. He further pointed out, “India is a country of miracles and Dara Shukoh was a great personality of this country. Instead of contemplating wars and bloodshed to expand the Mughal empire, Shukoh engaged in dialogue with people of different faiths and produced scholarly works. He promoted peace and co-existence.”
As is well known Dara Shukoh translated the Upanishads in Persian, held religious discussions with holy men from different religions and worked towards creating a more secular atmosphere in times when the concept was not even known.
At the conference, the founder of Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT), Francois Gautier, said, “I started journalism 30 years ago in India as a Catholic French. I was innocent but when I went to cover Kashmir, I saw a beautiful Kashmir — a land of peace, tranquility, beauty and Sufism. The last Sufi place Charare-e-Sharif was razed down after Benazir Bhutto’s instigative Azaadi speech. This introduced me to the history of India and I started reading about Dara Shukoh and Aurangzeb, the two brothers who were opposite to one another.” Since Aurangzeb went on to rule India, people know more about him than Dara Shukoh. “This symposium is about two brothers. One, Aurangzeb, who razed temples, proselytized people and forced religious taxes on non-Muslims. The other was a pacifist, who spent a lot of time with scholars of other religions.”
East Delhi MP Maheish Girri was felicitated with Award of Courage for initiating the renaming of Aurangzeb Road to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Road by FACT. Girri said, “I used to feel sad seeing a road named after Aurangzeb. Hence, I pledged to rename it and finally, it has been renamed as Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam road.”An exhibition that gives insights into the life of Dara Shukoh too was inaugurated on the occasion which will be on display till February 21 at the venue.
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