Results and Causes of War of Succession Fought during Shah Jahan Reign!

War of Succession (1657-1658):

Why war of succession?

There was no law of succession among the Mughals. Usually the ‘strength of the sword’ determined the successor.


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Novelty of the war of succession during Shah Jahan’s reign:

The war of succession which took place among the four sons of Shah Jahan had one novelty. While previously, wars were fought after the death of the emperor, this war was fought when Shah Jahan was yet alive. Besides, all sons and daughters of Shah Jahan participated in it. While the four sons Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Bux fought against each other, the sisters allied themselves with one or the other brother. Jahan Ara supported Dara Shikoh, Roshen Ara supported Aurangzeb and Gauhan Ara sided with Murad Bux. Likewise the nobles and army commanders sided with one or the other contestant of the throne.

Special reasons of the war of succession during Shah Jahan’s reign:


1. Rumours of Shah Jahan’s death:

Early in September 1657, Shah Jahan fell ill. There was practically no hope of his recovery. He failed to attend the court for a long time. The rumour spread that he was dead. The death of an emperor was always an occasion of internal disruption and disturbance of peace. The probability of his death created rival groups in the court and empire. ….

2. Dara’s appointment as successor:

Shah Jahan decided to appoint Dara, his eldest son as his successor. His other sons and several staunch Muslim Ulemas and nobles did not like Dara on account of his liberal religious views.


3. Selfish interests of courtiers:

The courtiers had their selfish motives to gain power by siding with the one or the other son.

4. Desire of each prince to succeed:

All the four princes had been trained in the art of warfare and administration. They were working as governors and had their own desires to occupy the throne. They were all working as governors in various provinces—Dara of Punjab and Northwestern Province, Shujah of Bengal and Orissa, Aurangzeb of Deccan and Murad of Gujarat. Each had vast resources at his command.

5. ‘Takht’ or ‘Takhta’:

There was no love lost among the four princes. Each knew that only one would get the throne and others will be killed by the victor.

6. Kingship knows no Kinship:

This was the general attitude of the princes.

7. Lack of definite law of succession:

Sword was the determining factor to become the emperor.

Chief events of the war of succession:

(i) Declaration of being the emperor:

Prince Murad declared himself independent in Gujarat, Shah Shuja in Bengal and Murad in Gujarat.

(ii) Diplomacy of Aurangzeb:

Aurangzeb kept his plans secret. He won over Murad by promising to give the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Kabul and Kashmir.

(iii) Battle of Bahadarpur:

Shah Shuja reached Banaras with his army. Dara sent an army to check him. Shah Shuja was defeated and ran away towards Bengal,

(iv) Battle of Dharmat:

Aurangzeb and Murad advanced towards Agra. Dara also sent an army to fight but the army faced defeat.

(v) Battle of Samugarh:

Dara without waiting for his victorious troops who have defeated Shuja, advanced toward Samugarh a place at a distance of about 13 km. from Agra. Initially Dara had an upper hand but he committed a blunder. He got down from his elephant and mounted a horse. Seeing him missing, commotion and disor­der ensued in his army. Dara fled from the battlefield. Battle of Samugarh proved to be decisive.

(vi) Besiege of Agra:

The combined forces of Aurangzeb and Murad reached Agra and besieged the fort. The royal army opposed them. After a few days of struggle, the royal army surrendered.

(vii) Imprisonment of Shah Jahan:

Shah Jahan was imprisoned and died there in a pathetic situation after six years i.e. January 1666.

(viii) End of Murad and Shah Shuja:

Aurangzeb did not adhere to the agreement arrived at with Murad. He used devious methods and got him murdered in Gwalior fort.

Shah Shuja had to run away from India and died outside in obscure circumstances.

(ix) Sad end of Dara and his sons:

After his defeat, Dara wandered from place in different parts of India but was hotly chased and ultimately fell into Aurangzeb’s, hands. He was paraded in dirty clothes in the city and awarded death punishment. His two sons were also given death punishment. In this way the war of succes­sion ended with the victory of Aurangzeb.

Causes of Aurangzeb’s success:

1. Personal qualities of Aurangzeb:

Aurangzeb was a more able commander than his brothers.

2. Diplomacy of Aurangzeb:

He kept his plans secret and very diplomatically made Murad as his ally and afterwards in the same manner got him murdered. Murad was called at a feast at Mathura. There he was heavily drunk and in a state of unconsciousness taken to Gwalior fort where he was killed.

3. Lack of unity in Dara’s camp:

It is said that Aurangzeb was successful in creating division among the officers of Dara’s army. Even Jaswant Singh, his faithful commander did not join him in his final struggle with Aurangzeb.

4. Superior artillery of Aurangzeb:

Aurangzeb had appointed several Europeans in his artillery division. Dara’s artillery and his soldiers could not compete with the superior artillery of Aurangzeb.

5. Weakness of Shah Jahan:

In spite of the fact that Shah Jahan had declared Dara as his successor, he remained a silent spectator. Had he taken some interest, his loyal officers and army would have worked for the success of Dara. He also did not try to stop the rumour of his death.

6. Unlucky Dara:

Fate was against Dara. When victory was just within his reach, his getting down from the elephant and riding the horse gave a wrong signal to his army. His army thought he was missing and lost the courage to fight.

Results of the war of succession:

Aurangzeb won the war of succession and with his becoming the emperor of India, a new chapter of intense religious antagonism is said to have begun. Dr. Surjit Man Singh has described the situation in these words, “Some modern historians ascribe to Aurangzeb the intention of ruling India as an Islamic country. …Some go further in tracing the seeds of partition in 1947 to him. Far-fetched though such judgements may be, it is certain that Aurangzeb died in his own words, “forlorn and destitute” and soon after that his empire disintegrated.”