No expedition can be won single handedly. What we are going to witness in Aurangzeb’s succession is the long and most complex war of succession never ever seen in Mughal history. We are going to study about the forces that supported and helped Aurangzeb eventually succeed the throne. We all can understand how Aurangzeb would have won battles against his brothers, but it is worth analyzing some very important questions often ignored and hardly explained by anyone.

In order to answer all of the following we begin by analyzing the words of Shah Jahan and the political environment.

The Emperor Shah Jahan used to say, “At times I fear that my eldest son [Dara Shukoh] has become the enemy of good men; Murad Bakhsh has set his heart on drinking; Muhammad Shuja has no good trait except contentment (i. e., easy good nature). But the resolution and intelligence of Aurangzib prove that he [alone] can shoulder this difficult task (viz., ruling India). But there is great sickness and infirmity in his physical frame. (Verse)

Then, whom will he wish for as a friend and to whom will his heart incline?”

Political Enviroment

All the brothers Dara, Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad were power ambitious with a lot of force and money at their disposal. Therefore the political climate leading up to the illness of Shah Jahan was extremely charged. Shuja and Murad were at ease in Bengal and Gujarat while Dara was at the court in Agra. It was only Aurangzeb who was toiling in the inhospitable Deccan. Therefore a cold war existed between Dara and his faithful sister Jahanara in Agra with Aurangzeb in the Deccan because of the following reasons.

  • Shah Jahan was under the strong influence of his favourite son Dara and daughter Jahanara
  • Jahanara was all powerful at the court wielding considerable influence over the emperor and support to Dara.
  • Dara knew fully well that his arch rival to the throne was only Aurangzeb 
  • He would constantly fill the ears of Shah Jahan against Aurangzeb.
  • Aurangzeb’s Jagirs at Berar were taken back on his instigation.
  • During the siege of Bijapur the Nizam Shahi’s connived with Dara, struck a treaty with Shah Jahan and had the imperial army pulled back to the utter disappointment and frustration of Aurangzeb.
  • In vain did Aurangzeb protest at great lengths against this indignity. He wrote lengthy letters in despair to Jahan Ara hoping for some support which was not to come.
  • It is very fair to say that this uneven concentration of power in the hands of Jahanara and Dara and the inability of Shah Jahan’s to effectively handle the state of affairs in a just manner in addressing the grievances of Aurangzeb led to the series of unfortunate events.
  • For sixteen long years Aurangzeb had to endure the hostilities of Dara with patience.
  • The illness of Shah Jahan provided him the opportunity to take on Dara a moment he had long been waiting for.