The King is Dead. Long Live the King! : The Ill-fated Dawar Baksh

Today in History ( 21st January 1628) occurred an event which had far reaching consequences on the ultimate fate of the Mughal Empire.

It was today that the ill-fated Dawar Baksh was slain on orders of Shah Jahan, and thus set a precedence for intrigues and a war of succession of which his son Aurangzeb took full advantage, thereby changing the course of history. Jahangir himself had also quelled a bid for succession to the throne after Akbar’s death by his own son Khusrau, the father of Dawar Baksh.

Many wonder at what India would have been had Dara Shikoh succeeded to the Mughal throne instead of Aurangzeb.

Dawar or Dawar Bakhsh, which means “God Given” was the ruler of the Mughal Empire for a short time between 1627-1628, immediately after the death of his grandfather Jahangir (r. 1605-1627). It was the title given to ‘Bulaki’ on his accession to the Moghul throne. He was the grandson of Jahangir, the son of Prince Khusuru.

In Iqbal Nama, Mutamad Khan , the  historian writing in Jahangir’s reign describes the entire sequence of events in a chapter called “Death of an Emperor”

When Jahangir died on 7 November 1627, on the way back from Kashmir near Sarai Saadabad.He was accompanied by Nur Jahan’s brother Asaf Khan. Asaf Khan was the father in law of ShahJahan and thus interested in ShahJahan’s accession to the throne. Shahjahan was then in the Deccan. Nur Jahan herself espoused the cause of another of Jahangir’s sons Shahryar who was her son in law.

To prevent Nur Jahan from prevailing, Asaf Khan ignored her messages and

“Ásaf Khán, the chief personage in the State, in concert with Khán-i ‘azam (Irádat Khán), brought Dáwar Bakhsh, son of Khusrú, out of confinement, and held out to him the prospect of his becoming king. But he did not believe them, and placed no confidence in their proposals till they had bound themselves with stringent oaths. Then they placed him on horseback, raised the royal canopy, and proceeded towards the royal quarters. ”

He then sent off a fast runner, Banarasi, with his signet ring for authentication to Shah Jahan to apprise him of the death of the Emperor.

“Next day the royal retinue came down from the mountains to Bhimbar. There the funeral ceremonies were performed, and the corpse was sent on under escort to Lahore, where it was interred in a garden which Núr Jahán had made.”

When the nobles and officers of the State became aware that Ásaf Khán had resorted to the stratagem of proclaiming Dáwar Bakhsh, in order to secure the accession of Sháh Jahán, and that Dáwar was, in fact, a mere sacrificial lamb, they gave their support to Ásaf Khán, and the khutba was read in Dáwar Bakhsh’s name near Bhimbar, and then they started for Lahore.

79001504 5 rupee coin of Dawar Bakhsh.  Lahore mint. Dated AH 1037 (AD 1627). Kalima and mint formula in six lines across field; AH date to right / Name and title of Dawar Baksh, and RY formula in five lines across field; “ahd” to left.

Ásaf Khán  kept watch over Nur Jahan, and refused to communicate with her. Meanwhile, Shahriyár was in Lahore when he heard of the Emperor’s death, and, urged on by his intriguing wife, he assumed the royal title. He seized upon the royal treasure and everything belonging to the State which was in Lahore. To secure troops and supporters, he gave to every one what he asked for, and in the course of one week he distributed seventy lacs of rupees among the old and new nobles, in the hope of securing his position. He was joined by his cousin ,Mirzá Baisinghar, son of the late Prince Dániyál.

Asaf Khan, with the puppet Dawar Baksh seated on an elephant, met the forces of Shahryar and defeated them. Shahryar fled from the battlefield and was later captured, imprisoned and blinded.Tahmúras and Hoshang, sons of Prince Dániyál, were also taken and confined. Ásaf Khán wrote to Sháh Jahán, informing him of the victory.

“Banárasí, the runner, left Jangazhatí, in the mountains of Kashmír, and in twenty days, on the 19th Rabí’u-l awwal, 1037 A.H., he arrived at Junír, on the frontiers of Nizámu-l Mulk. ” The runner was recieved by the Prince who gave him the news along with the signet ring of Ásaf Khán. After observing the proper rites and term of mourning, ShahJahan commenced his journey and proceeded by way of Gujarát.

“Sháh Jahán sent a farmán to Yamínu-d daula Ásaf Khán, to the effect that it would be well if Dáwar Bakhsh the son, and (Shahriyár) the useless brother,* of Khusrú, and the sons of Prince Dániyál, were all sent out of the world. * * On the 2nd Jumáda-l awwal, 1037 A.H., agreeing with 10th Bahman, in the twenty-second year of the reign of Jahángír, by general consent Sháh Jahán was proclaimed at Lahore, and the khutba was read in his name. Dáwar Bakhsh, whom the supporters of Sháh Jahán had deemed it advisable to set up in order to prevent disturbances, was now cast into prison. On the 26th Jumáda-l awwal, Dáwar,* his brother Garshásp, Shah-riyár, and Tahmúras and Hoshang, sons of the deceased Prince Dániyál, were all put to death.”

“On reaching the boundaries of the Ráná, Sháh Jahán was waited upon by Ráná Karan at Kokanda, who, as well as his father Ráná Amar Singh, had shown great loyalty. He offered his tribute, and received great gifts and honours. The new Emperor now celebrated his thirty-eighth birthday (solar reckoning). On the 19th Jumáda-l awwal he reached Ajmír, and, according to the practice of his great ancestor, paid a visit on foot to the tombs of the saints. Mabábat Khán, commander-in-chief, solicited and obtained Ajmír in jágír. On the 26th Jumáda-l awwal, Sháh Jahán reached Ágra, and encamped outside in the gardens. Next day he entered the city, and was universally recognized as King.”

Nur Jahan retired from public life hereafter.

indexEmperor Jahangir

440px-Portrait_of_the_emperor_Shajahan,_enthroned.Emperor Shah Jahan

asaf-khanMirza Abul Hasan Jaafar Beg son of Itimaduddaula Mirza Ghiyas Beg, entitled by Emperor Jahangir with the court title of Asaf Khan was the father of Arjumand Banu Begum, also known as Mumtaz Mahal

All passages in quotes are from Mutamad Khan’s Iqbal Nama : Death of an Emperor

Comment List

  • farrukh 21 / 01 / 2015 Reply

    You have produced facts of History very well ….. its sad that Shahjan’s hands were as tainted with blood as of his son and successor Aurangzeb.

    • Rana Safvi 21 / 01 / 2015 Reply

      The lack of any sharia law regarding succession (since Islam recognised Khilafat not kingship) meant there were no rules . It was the succession of the fittest

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