Thursday, September 2, 2010
The Search for the Tomb of Delhi's Most Loved Prince....
The tomb of Dara Shikoh
The graves of Dara, and his brother (s) ?? The little gravestone is whose, I wonder?
At the beginning of the 19th century, when the British attitude to India was full of arrogant contempt for the culture of India and its history, there came something which changed the European view of India: the first translations of the Upanishads from Persian to European languages. Max Mueller and others did the translations from Persian to French and Latin. The Upanishads had been translated into Persian by Prince Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan's eldest son, between 1654 to 1657. Appropriately enough, the translation was titled "Sirr-i-Akbar", or "The Great Secret", since it had to prised out from the Brahmins of Varanasi. The Prince lost out in the succession battle, and was beheaded by Auragazeb. No prince was loved more in the history of Delhi, (with perhaps the exception of Prince Khusrav, the son of Jahangir). Thus, the Upanishads reached Europe, thanks to the eldest son of Mumtaz Mahal, a Sufi of the highest quality, whose life was spent in intellectual pursuits. What infuriated the Mullahs and Aurangazeb even more was Dara's bold statement, in the preface to the translation, that this was the great book, the "Hidden Book" alluded to the Quran.
A lot of books say that he was buried in an unmarked grave within the Humayun's Tomb complex, but for many of us who are his admirers, the search for his tomb is the Holy Grail of the Mughal Empire.
Well, after years of searching, me and my brother, finally found the grave one rainy morning, on the south-west corner of the platform on which Humayun's tomb stands. The sarcophagus is a marble one, ornately carved with flowers, and bisected (Dara was beheaded, and his head was sent to Shahjahan by Aurangazeb, so the head could be interred only after the torso was).
The grave is in a line with two graves, that of Shuja and Murad, the other two brothers who lost out to Aurangazeb, and were killed by him. Notably, the other two graves, also in marble, are decorated with verses from the Quran, unlike Dara's, reflecting the view that he was an apostate, and a crypto-Hindu.
Ofcourse, in a way, these are pseudo-graves, since according to Islamic tradition, the body has to buried at ground level, in contact with the ground, in a simple cotton shroud (not a coffin), and without any name on the grave. So, with the platform of Humayun's tomb being a good 40 feet above ground level, the actual earthen grave must be exactly below where the marble sarcophagus stands. And since there are no names, in the absence of a DNA test, only oral traditions and legend can point out specific graves within reasonable limits of
And who showed us Dara Shikoh's grave, which guidebooks and historians failed to? A humble sweeper working at the Tomb. The oral tradition must have survived in him. He also told me and my brother that we were the first to ask for the tomb in all the years he had worked there...... Thus, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings shall truth be born....