Why was Dara Shikoh not pardoned? 

The number of opportunities presented to Dara was enormous compared to Aurangzeb.

  • He was fortunate from the beginning with the love of his father and elder sister at court.
  • He was mostly retained at court while his other brothers were sent away to govern troubling provinces and put down rebellions.
  • He did not have to toil and win wars in the battlefield in order to gain imperial favors from his father.
  • Therefore he was not as experienced a warrior and military commander compared to his other siblings.
  • After Samugarh’s defeat and on reaching Ahmedabad he managed to raise another army this time surprisingly with the betrayal of Aurangzeb’s own father in law Shah Nawaz Safavi who was the newly appointed Viceroy of Gujarat.
  • He planned an alliance with Raja Jaswant’s army near Ajmer to take on Aurangzeb at Deorai 4 miles from Ajmer.
  • However he was betrayed by his Hindu friend Raja Jaswanth Singh who had now switched sides to Aurangzeb.
  • He put up a good fight due to geographic advantage of the pass of Deorai.
  • However Aurangzeb emerged victorious yet again and Dara had to flee.
  • He now had no where to go except outside the Mughal Dominions to Persia.
  • His ambition was to reach Qandahar and with the support of a Persian army come back to fight Aurangzeb.
  • Even this dream would not materialize for this time he was betrayed by the treachery of Malik Jiwan.
  • It is said Dara had intervened with Shah Jahan to have the life of Malik Jiwan forgiven and rushed to the execution platform of the Kotwal to stop his execution with him strapped up and ready to die.
  • Malik Jiwan in hopes of rewards handed him over to Aurangzeb.

Another troubling aspect for Dara had been his heterodox religious ideas. In the eyes of the ulema Dara was indeed an apostate. Not just Aurangzeb but all of his brothers called him a Mulhid (Apostate). Therefore as a prisoner Dara was not executed without due process. He was given a trial where he had a chance to denounce his ideology. However being a Mughal prince his ego would not allow him to bargain his life over principle. Thereafter the Qazi (judge) pronounced his death sentence. There are two important events which shaped the fate of Dara at the final moments of his life.

  • The public support for Dara in the city of Delhi was enormous.
  • Since he used to stay mostly at court he was in constant touch with the city dwellers and through his enormous charities had solidified a good support base.
  • When he was paraded in humiliation through the streets the huge outpouring of public support alarmed Aurangzeb and his nobles.
  • Immediately thereafter he was put on trial where he was sentenced.
  • In the hope of mercy Dara finally petitioned to Aurangzeb asking that his life be spared.
  • Looking at the history of relations between the two I find it very strange that Dara would even expect to gain mercy from a brother whom he bitterly opposed from the beginning and left no stone unturned to defeat him unsuccessfully.
  • Aurangzeb again was not a man of emotions to get carried away. He wrote with his own pen on the margins of his petition in Arabic that

 “You first acted as a usurper and you were a mischief maker”

  • There was a period of time when it may have been possible that Aurangzeb toyed with the idea of imprisoning him instead of an execution.
  • Amongst the nobles Danishmand Khan pleaded for his life but Shaista Khan, Muhammad Amin Khan, Bahadur Khan and Daud Khan demanded his death for the good of Islam and the state.
  • The allegation that Roshanara Begum played a key role in convincing Aurangzeb to execute him is doubtful. She may have offered her advice since she alone was the witness to all the acts that happened in the court while but the ultimate decision was made by Aurangzeb.
  • However the outburst of public anger and the possible lynching of Malik Jiwan who was mounted on a procession in the city made Aurangzeb extremely insecure and all but certain to have Dara executed as soon as possible without delay.
  • Whatever be the case the end of Dara was not surprising.
  • He had never courted the support of important nobles
  • He had totally alienated the Islamic orthodox lobby which cost him dearly. 
  • He had relied about the selfish Rajputs thinking his pro Hindu views would win them over.
  • He did not realize that politics is devoid of religious views or outlook.