Mughal prince Murad Bakhsh, the youngest son of Taj Mahal builder Shah Jahan, was executed on December 14, 1661.*
There’s blood in the stones … (cc) image from Vil Sandi.
Despite writing into stone a love to transcend time, Shah Jahan had the monarchy’s eternal managerial challenge: succession.
This ought not have surprised him. Jahan himself had been a third son, who took his own power by rebellion and clinched it by fratricide. And through the empress to whom Jahan would dedicate the Taj, Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan had four sons who all thought they like their illustrious dad deserved the helm of the wealthy Mughal state.
In descending order of age, those rivalrous brothers were: Dara Shikoh,** Shuja, Aurangzeb, and our man Muhammad Murad Bakhsh. As we open the scene, each governs a portion of the father’s empire; by the end of this post, Aurangzeb will be emperor — his reign to span nearly a half-century — and his brothers will be all be dead.
The oldest boys had the first go, with Dara Shikoh’s power as the officially designated regent of the incapacitated Jahan challenged quickly by Shuja, who was governor of Bengal. Shuja decared himself emperor and marched on Dara Shikoh, who turned little brother aside.
The two were soon forced to come to terms with one another as the younger brothers, Aurangzeb and Murad, had combined their own forces — and the youth had their say in May 1658, smashing Dara Shikoh at the Battle of Samugarh. Murad is credited in this watershed battle with a decisive charge, personally slaying the enemy second-in-command using a composite bow. This fight made Aurangzeb emperor; Dara fled for Afghanistan but was caught and killed a few months later. (Shah Jahan, still living, was confined comfortably but sorrowfully by Aurangzeb.) In January of 1659, Aurangzeb put down Shuja’s challenge at the Batte of Khajwa.
Having wagered the Peacock Throne in battle twice for the honor of supplanting his elders, Aurangzeb had a more expedient solution to sweep away his last potential rival.
On arriving at Muttra (Mathura) Aurangzeb threw off the veil that he had worn with Murad. That brave but savage Prince was arrested while suffering from the effects of a carouse, and sent in all secrecy, a prisoner, to Dehli, where he was confined in the Salimgarh, a fort near the palace.
Murad would be put to death a couple of years later via the instrument of a murder charge supplied by the family of a courtier whom Murad had previously killed.
* The equivalent date on the Julian calendar, December 4, is also sometimes reported.
** The name means “as magnificent as Darius,” which is the sort of conceit destined to set a body up for disappointment.