The Emperor who never was

Dara Shukoh was the eldest son of Emperor Shah Jahan. Dara was, opposed to his orthodox brother Aurangzeb, a liberal-minded unorthodox Muslim. Like his father Shah Jahan, grandfather Jahangir and great-grandfather Akbar, Dara extended his interest into the other religions of the Mughal Empire, particularly Hinduism. Dara Shikoh was a follower of Sufi mystics and an advocate of the harmonious coexistence of all traditions and beliefs of the Indian subcontinent. He was also a patron of fine arts, music and dancing, and he authored the work Majma-ul-Bahrain, The Confluence of the Two Seas, a Persian writing (c 1654-55) comparing Sufi philosophy in Islam and Vedanta philosophy in Hinduism. It was one of the earliest works to explore the diversity and unity of Islam and Hinduism.

The Emperor who never was (2020) tells the story of Dara Shukoh’s life. How the four brothers—Dara, Shuja, Murad, and Aurangzeb—who with their older sister Jahanara Begum clashed during a war of succession. Dara’s death at the hands of his younger brother Aurangzeb forever changed the course of South Indian history. This excellently researched biography by Supriya Gandhi, is interesting, accessible and beautifully-written. It does justice to a very significant figure in Mughal history.