Rich in research and historical detail, yet narrated with a poetic touch worthy of the great Dara Shukoh himself. The Dramatis Personae, explanatory endnotes, bibliography and the lavishly printed plates enhance the reading experience.
Avik Chanda's book Dara Shukoh, The man who the world would be king was an eye opener for me at many levels. History has often fascinated me but so have many other things, and for whatever reason haven't devoted a lot of time understand our country's history beyond academics. But the history remained and amongst the many people I wished to know more about was Dara Shukoh. This is a detailed recount of the poet prince's life, not just explaining why he wasn't the king, but also why history changed because of what happened. Eventful and descriptive, this is an engrossing read. Take your time reading it, there is a lot of history in it.
I was hoping for a fictional story to tell me about the life of this ‘could-have-been-king’ prince when I picked up the book. Instead what I found between the pages was a non-fictional but well researched biography. It was my fault as I overlooked the genre mention in the review request email. However, I it turned out to be a happy mistake as I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and looking up places and people while reading it.
The author has presented the biography in a way that almost makes you feel that the stories / incidents are being told by someone who had witnessed it all first hand. Right from the first chapter ‘Rites of Passage’, there was a feel of storytelling in a way that you would expect in a fiction. It has this feel of ‘let me tell you the story of the life of this Prince’, rather than ‘here are the facts and the research to back up those facts about the life of the Mughal Prince’. As such the narrative of this biography made it a very engaging read.
Historians have often debated about the course of history and the fate of our country had Dara Shukoh prevailed and has ascended to the throne as Shah Jahan intended. The main reason for this debate is that Dara Shukoh was known to be more interested in arts and philosophy than he was in military pursuits. He was also considered to be liberal and unorthodox Muslim with an interest in religion and tolerance towards other faiths. The truth is that we will never know what could have happened as we cannot change history. However, author Avik Chanda makes a good case on his view and if you are trying to guess which way he is more inclined, then the title he uses for Dara should give you a good indication.
In addition, the author has provided detailed notes, charts and photos to supplement the readers’ experience. Even if you are someone who knows very little about the dynasty, it will be easy to follow the timeline and understand the life that Dara Shukoh lived and died.
Review: We have always read about the Mughal emperors who ruled the throne and Delhi Sultanate. We never came across the characters from the royal bloodline who could have been the right heir to the throne. The non-fictional read by Avik Chanda is the eye-opener for the history buffs about the prince, Dara Shukoh, who could have been the successor to the Emperor Shah Jahan. The book describes about the Mughal wars with the Persians and even some rulers from Rajasthan and Deccan part of the country. It is a blend of two parallel stories converging into youth and adulthood. Dara Shukoh- was the Emperor of the Soul. He was the favorite son of Shah Jahan, fought wars with the Persians and strategically executed various battles for the Mughals. "Persians were the hereditary rivals of the Mughals." Dara was also one of the learned prince of the era who brought calligraphy in the Mughal era. In the eyes of Shah Jahan, Dara could do no wrong. Different parts of Ajmer, Agar, and Delhi faced renovation during the Mughal period. With the shifting of base from one place to another, the Mughal beautified the places such as Ajmer. The real reason to shift base was to deal with the Rana of Mewar. There have been different battles described by the author to brush up with the Mughal history. The major incidents have been described by the author such as fire breakout Jahanara's chamber, which described the relationship of Emperor Shah Jahan with his daughter, and a sense of connection between Dara and Jahanara. There were incidents such as encounter with the elephant and Auranzib which described the relationship between the brothers. There are various things which you would learn about the prince Dara.