Uncovering the Great Secret: Dara Shikuh, Hinduism and Politics in Mughal India
Called upon urgently, Sanskrit scholars congregated in Banaras in 1656. They had been
commissioned by Prince Dara Shikuh to help translate the sacred Hindu text, the Upanishads,
into Persian. Working at a furious pace they completed their task in a matter of six months. Dara Shikuh’s introduction to the completed translation has the quality of feverish excitement. After all, the prince believed that he had uncovered the greatest secret of all time: that the Upanishads are the fountainhead of religious monotheism. So he titled this translation Sirr-i Akbar or “The Great Secret”. Within months of the completion of the translation, however, the prince would find himself in a war of succession against his brothers and two years later, following the accession of Aurangzeb as the new Mughal emperor, he was executed. Not only did Dara Shikuh fail to fill out his case for solving humanity’s greatest secret, but his audacious claim was also used against him in accusations of apostasy.
Munis Faruqui teaches courses on Islam and the Muslim experience in South Asia. He is
currently working on a monograph that focuses on the figure of the Mughal Prince to explore
questions of state formation, imperial power, and dynastic decline in 16th and 17th Century
South Asia. Recent and forthcoming publications include an examination of the creation of the
Mughal Empire under Emperor Akbar; an investigation into the founding decades of the princely state of Hyderabad; and a study of the mystic and Mughal prince, Dara Shikoh. His other research interests include Islam’s interaction with non-Muslim religious traditions,
prosopographical approaches to studying Mughal history, and the development of Persianate
cultural traditions in South Asia.