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Shah Shuja (Mughal prince)

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Shah Shuja by Balchand 1640 For other uses, see Shuja.

Mirza Shah Shuja (Persian: ????? ??? ????) (23 June 1616 - 7 February 1661) was the second son of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and Empress Mumtaz Mahal. He was the governor of Bengal and Odisha and had his capital at Dhaka, in present day Bangladesh.

Table of contents
  1. Early life and family
  2. Personal life
  3. Governor of Bengal
  4. Mughal war of succession
  5. Military promotions
  6. Asylum in Arakan
  7. See also

Early life and family

Shah Shuja was born on 23 June 1616, in Ajmer. He was the second son and fourth child of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his queen Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan's step-mother, empress Nur Jahan adopted Prince Shah Shuja upon his birth. This new responsibility was given to her due to her high rank, political clout and Jahangir's affection for her. It was also an honour for the empress as Shuja was a special favourite of his grandfather, emperor Jahangir.

Shuja's siblings were the eldest sister Jahanara Begum, Dara Shikoh, Roshanara Begum, Aurangzeb, Murad Baksh, Gauhara Begum and others. He had three sons - Sultan Zain-ul-Din (Bon Sultan or Sultan Bang), Buland Akhtar and Zainul Abidin; and four daughters - Gulrukh Banu, Roshanara Begum and Amina Begum.

Personal life

Shah Shuja first married Bilqis Banu Begum, the daughter of Rustam Mirza (son of Murad Mirza & grandson of Akbar), on the night of Saturday, 5 March 1633. The marriage was arranged by Princess Jahanara Begum. Rupees 1,60,000 in cash and goods worth one lakh were sent as sachak to the mansion of Mirza Rustam. On 23 February 1633, the wedding presents worth Rupees 10 lakhs were displayed by Jahanara Begum and Sati-un-nissa Khanum. The following year, she gave birth to a daughter and died in childbirth. She was buried in a separate mausoleum named Kharbuza Mahal, at Burhanpur. Her daughter was named Dilpazir Banu Begum by Shah Jahan,  who died as an infant.

On the death of his first wife, he married Piari Banu Begum, daughter of Azam Khan, the second governor of Bengal during Shah Jahan's reign. She was the mother of two sons and three daughters, namely, Prince Zain-ud-din Mirza, born on 28 October 1639; Prince Zain-ul-Abidin Mirza, born on 20 December 1645; Gulrukh Banu Begum (wife of Prince Muhammad Sultan), Raushan Ara Begum and Amina Banu Begum. In 1660, she fled to Arakan with her husband, sons and daughters. Shuja was murdered in 1661. His sons were put to death. Piari Banu Begum and two of her daughters committed suicide. The remaining daughter, Amina Banu Begum, was brought to the palace, where, from grief, she died an early death. According to another source, one of Shuja's daughters was married to King Sanda Thudhamma. A year later, he scented a plot and starved all of them to death, while his wife was in an advanced stage of pregnancy by himself.

His third wife was the daughter of Raja Tamsen of Kishtwar. She was the mother of Shahzada Buland Akhtar, who was born in August 1645.

Governor of Bengal

Shazada Muhammad Shah Shuja was appointed by Shah Jahan as the Subahdar of Bengal and Bihar from 1641 and of Orissa from 25 July 1648 until 1661. His father, Shah Jahan, appointed as his deputy, the Rajput prince of Nagpur, Kunwar Raghav Singh (1616-1671). During his governorship, he built the official residence, Bara Katra, in the capital Dhaka.

After the illness of Shah Jahan in September 1657, a power crisis occurred among the brothers. Shah Shuja proclaimed himself as Emperor, but Aurangzeb ascended the throne of Dehli and sent Mir Jumla to subjugate Shuja. Shuja was defeated in the Battle of Khajwa on 5 January 1659. He retreated, first to Tanda and then to Dhaka, on 12 April 1660. He left Dhaka on 6 May and boarded ships near present-day Bhulua on 12 May heading to Arakan. Mir Jumla reached Dhaka on 9 May 1660 and was then appointed by Aurangzeb as the next Subahdar of Bengal.

Mughal war of succession

When Shah Jahan fell ill, a struggle for the throne started among his four sons - Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh. Shuja immediately crowned himself the emperor and took the imperial titles in November 1657. Out of the 22 nobles in the service of the prince Shah Shuja, 10 were Barha Sayyids. Indian Shi'as were his staunchest adherents.

He marched with a large army, backed by a good number of war-boats in the river Ganges. However, he was beaten by Dara's army in the hotly contested Battle of Bahadurpur, near Banares (in modern Uttar Pradesh, India). Shuja turned back to Rajmahal to make further preparations. He signed a treaty with his elder brother, Dara, which left him in control of Bengal, Orissa and a large part of Bihar, on 17 May 1658.

In the meantime, Aurangzeb defeated Dara twice (at Dharmat and Samugarh), caught him, executed him on a charge of heresy and ascended the throne. Shuja marched to the capital again, this time against Aurangzeb. A battle took place on 5 January 1659 at the Battle of Khajwa (Fatehpur district, Uttar Pradesh, India), where Shuja was defeated.

After his defeat, Shuja retreated towards Bengal. He was pursued by the imperial army under Mir Jumla. Shuja put up a good fight against them. However, he was finally defeated in the last battle in April 1660. After each defeat, he had to face desertions in his own army, but he did not lose heart. Rather, he reorganised the army with renewed vigor. But when he was surrounded at Tanda and found that reorganisation of the army was no longer possible, he decided to leave Bengal for good and take shelter in Arakan.

Military promotions

Asylum in Arakan

En route to Arakan

Shuja left Tanda with his family and retinue in the afternoon of 6 April 1660 and reached Dhaka on 12 April. After staying for a month, they departed from the city and boarded Arakanese ships on 12 May at Bhulua (near present-day Noakhali, Bangladesh). The party first arrived at Chittagong and remained for some time. From here, they took the land route to Arakan, which is still called Shuja Road. Thousands of palanquins were used to carry Shuja's harem and he performed Eid prayers at an Eidgah in Dulahzara.

Death and aftermath

Shuja and his entourage arrived in Arakan on 26 August 1660, and were greeted at the capital, Mrauk U, with courtesy. The Arakanese king, the powerful Sanda Thudhamma, had previously agreed to provide ships for Shuja and his family to travel to Mecca, where the prince had planned to spend the remainder of his life. The half dozen camel-loads of gold and jewels that the Mughal royals had brought with them was beyond anything that had previously been seen in Arakan.

After eight months and numerous excuses, Sanda Thudhamma's promise of ships did not materialise. Finally, the latter demanded the hand of Shuja's daughter in marriage, which the prince refused. Sanda Thudhamma responded by ordering the Mughals to leave within three days. Unable to move and being refused provisions at the bazaars, Shuja resolved to attempt to overthrow the king. The prince had two hundred soldiers with him, as well as the support of the local Muslims, giving him a good chance at success. However, Sanda Thudhamma was forewarned of the coup attempt. Shuja was, therefore, forced to set fire to the city, hoping to cut his way out in the confusion. Much of his entourage was captured and though he himself initially escaped into the jungle, he was later captured and executed.

Shuja's wealth was taken and melted down by Sanda Thudhamma, who took the Mughal princesses into his harem. He married the eldest, an event that was subsequently celebrated in song and poetry. The following year however, suspicious of another coup, Sanda Thudhamma had Shuja's sons decapitated and his daughters (including the pregnant eldest) starved to death. Aurangzeb, angered by the deaths, ordered a campaign against the kingdom. After an intensive siege, the Mughals captured Chittagong and thousands of Arakanese were taken into slavery. Arakan was unable to return to its previous dominance and Sanda Thudhamma's eventual death was followed by a century of chaos.

See also

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