Source: Francois Bernier. Travels in the Mogul Empire, AD 1656-1668, trans. by Archibald Constable on the basis of Irving Brock's version, ed. by Vincent A. Smith. Delhi: Low Price Publications, 1994 [1934]. Slightly edited, and some spellings modernized for classroom use, by FWP.

[The Death of Dara Shukoh]

But Dara seemed doomed never to succeed in any enterprise. Considering it impossible to raise the siege [of Tata-bakar] with his handful of men, he was at one time resolved to cross the river Indus, and make the best of his way to Persia; although that plan would likewise have been attended with nearly insurmountable obstacles: he would have had to traverse the lands of the Pathans ["Patans"], inconsiderable Rajas who acknowledge neither the authority of Persia nor of the Mogol [emperor]; and a vast wilderness interposed in which he could not hope to find wholesome water. But his wife persuaded him to abandon the idea of penetrating into that kingdom, alleging a much weaker reason than those I have mentioned. If he persevered in his intention, he must make up his mind, she told him, to see both her and his daughter slaves of the Persian Monarch, an ignominy which no member of his family could possibly endure. She and Dara forgot, or seemed to forget, that the wife of Humayun ["Houmayon"], when placed under similar circumstances, was subjected to no such indignity, but treated with great respect and kindness.

[95] While Dara's mind was in this state of perplexity and indecision, it occurred to him that he was at no considerable distance from Javan Khan ["Gion-kan"], a Pathan of some power and note, whose life he had been twice the means of preserving, when condemned by Shah-Jahan to be thrown under the elephant's feet, as a punishment for various acts of rebellion. To Javan Khan Dara determined to proceed, hoping to obtain by his means forces to enable him to drive Mir-Baba from the walls of Tata-bakar. The plan he now proposed to himself was briefly this: -- after raising the siege with the troops supplied by the Pathan, he intended to proceed, with the treasure deposited in that city, to Kandahar, whence he might easily reach the kingdom of Kaboul. When in Kaboul he felt quite sanguine in the expectation that Mahabat Khan ["Mohabet-kan"] would zealously and unhesitatingly embrace his cause. It was to Dara this officer was indebted for the government of that country, and being possessed of great power and influence, and very popular in Kaboul, the Prince was not unreasonable in the hope that he would find in Mahabat Khan a sincere and efficacious ally.

But Dara's family, agitated by dismal forebodings, employed every entreaty to prevent him from venturing in Javan Khan's presence. His wife, daughter, and his young son Sipah Shikoh ["Sepe-Chekouh"], fell at his feet, endeavouring, with tears in their eyes, to turn him aside from his design. The Pathan, they observed, was notoriously a robber and a rebel, and to place confidence in such a character was at once to rush headlong into destruction. There was no sufficient reason, they added, why he sould be so pertinaciously bent upon raising the siege of Tata-bakar; the road to Kaboul might be safely pursued without [96] that operation, for Mir-Baba would scarcely abandon the siege for the sake of interrupting his march.

Dara, as if hurried away by his evil genius, could not perceive the force of these arguments; remarking, what indeed was the truth, that the journey to Kaboul would be full of difficulty and danger; and that he did not believe it possible he should be betrayed by a man bound to him by such strong ties of gratitude. He departed, notwithstanding every solicitation; and soon afforded an additional and melancholy proof that the wicked feel not the weight of obligations when their interests demand the sacrifice of their benefactors.

This robber, who imagined that Dara was attended by a large body of soldiers, received the Prince with apparent respect and cordiality, quartering his men upon the inhabitants, with particular injunctions to supply all their wants, and treat them as friends and brethren. But when Javan Khan ascertained that Dara's followers did not exceed two or three hundred men, he threw off all disguise. It is still doubtful whether he had been tampered with by Aureng-Zebe, or whether he were suddenly tempted to the commission of this monstrous crime. The sight of a few mules laden with the gold, which Dara had saved from the hands of the robbers, by whom he had been constantly harassed, very probably excited his cupidity. Be [97] this as it may, the Patan having assembled, during the night, a considerable number of armed men, seized this gold, together with the women's jewels, and fell upon Dara and Sipah Shikoh, killed the persons who attempted to defend them, and tied the Prince on the back of an elephant. The public executioner was ordered to sit behind, for the purpose of cutting off his head, upon the first appearance of resistance, either on his own part, or on that of any of his adherents; and in this degrading posture Dara was carried to the army before Tata-bakar and delivered into the hands of General Mir-Baba. This officer then commanded the Traitor, Javan Khan, to proceed with his prisoner, first to Lahor and afterwards to Dehli.

When the unhappy Prince was brought to the gates of Dehli, it became a question with Aureng-Zebe, whether, in conducting him to the fortress of Gwalior ["Goualeor"], he should be made to pass through the capital. It was the opinion of some courtiers that this was by all means to be avoided, because, not only would such an exhibition be derogatory to the royal family, but it might become the signal for revolt, and the rescue of Dara might be successfully attempted. Others maintained, on the contrary, that he ought to be seen by the whole city; that it was necessary to strike the people with terror and astonishment, and to impress their minds with an idea of the absolute and [98] irresistible power of Aureng-Zebe. It was also advisable, they added, to undeceive the Omrahs [=nobles] and the people, who still entertained doubts of Dara's captivity, and to extinguish at once the hopes of his secret partisans.

Aureng-Zebe viewed the matter in the same light; the wretched prisoner was therefore secured on an elephant; his young son, Sipah Shikoh, placed at his side, and behind them, instead of the executioner, was seated Bahadur Khan [one of the royal generals]. This was not one of the majestic elephants of Pegu or Ceylon, which Dara had been in the habit of mounting, pompously caparisoned, the harness gilt, and trappings decorated with figured work; and carrying a beautifully painted howdah inlaid with gold, and a magnificent canopy to shelter the Prince from the sun: Dara was now seen seated on a miserable and worn-out animal, covered with filth; he no longer wore the necklace of large pearls which distinguish the princes of Hindoustan, nor the rich turban and embroidered coat; he and his son were now habited in dirty cloth of the coarsest texture, and his sorry turban was wrapt round with a Kashmir ["Kachemire"] shawl or scarf, resembling that worn by the meanest of the people.

Such was the appearance of Dara when led through the Bazars and every quarter of the city. I could not divest myself of the idea that some dreadful execution was about to take place, and felt surprise that government should have the hardihood to commit all these indignities upon a Prince confessedly popular among the lower orders, especially as I saw scarcely any armed force. The people had for some time inveighed bitterly against the unnatural conduct of Aureng-Zebe: the imprisonment of his father, of his son Sultan Mahmud, and of his brother Murad Bakhsh, filled every bosom with horror and disgust. The crowd assembled upon this disgraceful occasion was immense; and everywhere I observed the people weeping, and lamenting the fate of Dara in the most touching [99] language. I took my station in one of the most conspicuous parts of the city, in the midst of the largest bazar; was mounted on a good horse, and accompanied by two servants and two intimate friends. From every quarter I heard piercing and distressing shrieks, for the Indian people have a very tender heart; men, women, and children wailing as if some mighty calamity had happened to themselves. Javan Khan rode near the wretched Dara; and the abusive and indignant cries vociferated as the traitor moved along were absolutely deafening. I observed some faqirs ["Fakires"] and several poor people throw stones at the infamous Pathan; but not a single movement was made, no one offered to draw his sword, with a [100] view of delivering the beloved and compassionated Prince. When this disgraceful procession had passed through every part of Dehli, the poor prisoner was shut up in one of his own gardens, called Haidarabad ["Heider-Abad"].

Aureng-Zebe was immediately made acquainted with the impression which this spectacle produced upon the public mind, the indignation manifested by the populace against the Pathan, the threats held out to stone the perfidious man, and with the fears entertained of a general insurrection. A second council was consequently convened, and the question discussed, whether it were more expedient to conduct Dara to Gwalior, agreeably to the original intention, or to put him to death without further delay.... it was ultimately decided that Dara should die, and that Sipah-Shikoh should be confined in Gwalior. At this meeting Raushanara Begam ["Rauchenara-Begum"] betrayed all her enmity against her hapless brother, combating the arguments of Danishmand Khan ["Danech-Mend"], and exciting Aureng-Zebe to this foul and unnatural murder....

The charge of this atrocious murder was intrusted to a slave of the name of Nazir ["Nazer"], who had been educated by Shah-Jahan, but experienced some ill-treatment from Dara. The Prince, apprehensive that poison would be administered to him, was employed with Sipah Shikoh [102] in boiling lentils, when Nazir and four other ruffians entered his apartment. 'My dear son,' he cried out, 'these men are come to murder us!' He then seized a small kitchen knife, the only weapon in his possession. One of the murderers having secured Sipah Shikoh, the rest fell upon Dara, threw him down, and while three of the assassins held him, Nazir decapitated his wretched victim. The head was instantly carried to Aureng-Zebe, who commanded that it should be placed in a dish, and that water should be brought. The blood was then washed from the face, and when it could no longer be doubted [103] that it was indeed the head of Dara, he shed tears, and said, 'Ai Bad-bakht ["Bed-bakt"]! Ah wretched one! let this shocking sight no more offend my eyes, but take away the head, and let it be buried in Humayun's tomb.'

Dara's daughter was taken that same evening to the saraglio, but afterwards sent to Shah-Jahan and Begam-Sahib; who begged of Aureng-Zebe to commit the young Princess to their care. Dara's wife, foreseeing the calamities which awaited her and her husband, had already put a period to her existence, by swallowing poison at Lahor. Sipah Shikoh was immured in the [104] fortress of Gwalior; and soon after these tragical events Javan Khan was summoned before the council, and then dismissed from Dehli with a few presents. He did not escape the fate, however, which he merited, being waylaid and assassinated in a forest, within a few leagues of his own territory. This barbarian had not sufficiently reflected, that though tyrants appear to countenance the blackest crimes while they conduce to their interest, or promote a favourite object, they yet hold the perpetrators in abhorrence, and will not scruple to punish them when they can no longer be rendered subservient to any iniquitous project.

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