This book on Shah Jahan’s reign as seen through the eyes of two firangi’s (European travellers Niccolao Manucci and Francois Bernier) gives many insights into the personal lives of Shah Jahan, his family and close aides. It documents the incident which made Shah Jahan develop a disliking towards his son Aurangzeb even before he was born and made him groom his eldest son Dara Shikoh for the throne. It describes how Shah Jahan through his misdeeds of seducing wives of his nobleman for his humanly pleasures created enemies out of his loyalists and that lead to treachery in the decisive battle against Aurangzeb. Personality and behavioral traits of Dara Shikoh are well observed in this book, it shows why he was an able administrator but a poor warrior. Dara’s inability to identify his enemies became an advantage for Aurangzeb which he exploited well to win the war. Aurangzeb gets Dara executed publicly and brutally and that incident creates fear among the crowds and revolt in his commanders. But Aurangzeb learned from that and employed other methods while ending lives of his other brothers and a sister, either first moving them to prisons away from public eye or making use of poison.
I would suggest new readers to begin with ‘Empire of the Moghul’ series where the flow is across generations. Then take up this book which is more lucid, insightful and gives the facts and rationalizes the twists in the tale. Both books offer complimentary perspectives but yet different style of presentation on fifth emperor of The Moghul kingdom.
Now my interest is turned away from The Moghuls and I want to explore other works of Sudhir Kakar, author of this book.