Rambles and recollections of an Indian official!
Major-General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B.
Content for Empire between the Sons of Shāh Jahān

Under the Emperors of Delhi the fortress of Gwālior was always considered as an imperial State prison, in which they confined those rivals and competitors for dominion whom they did not like to put to a violent death. They kept a large menagerie, and other things, for their amusement.

Among the best of the princes who ended their days in this great prison was Sulaimān Shikoh, the eldest son of the unhappy Dārā.[1] A narrative of the contest for empire between the four sons of Shāh Jahān may, perhaps, prove both interesting and instructive; and, as I shall have occasion, in the course of my rambles, to refer to the characters who figured in it, I shall venture to give it a place. . . .[2]


1. 'The prisons of Gwālior are situated in a small outwork on the western side of the fortress, immediately above the Dhondha gateway. They are called "nau chaukī", or "the nine cells", and are both well lighted and well ventilated. But in spite of their height, from fifteen to twenty-six feet, they must be insufferably close in the hot season.

These were the State prisons in which Akbar confined his rebellious cousins, and Aurangzēb the troublesome sons of Dārā and Murād, as well as his own more dangerous son Muhammad. During these times the fort was strictly guarded, and no one was allowed to enter without a pass' (A.S.R., vol. ii, p. 369), Sulaimān Shikoh, whom Manucci credits with 'all the gifts of nature', was poisoned at Gwālior early in the reign of Aurangzēb, by order of that monarch, paternal uncle of the victim (Irvine, Storia do Mogor, i. 380).

The author, following Bernier, always calls Shāhjahān's eldest son simply Dārā. His name really was Dārā Shikoh (or Shukoh), meaning 'in splendour like Darius'.

2. The following twelve chapters contain an historical piece, to the personages and events of which the author will have frequent occasion to refer; and it is introduced in this place from its connexion with Gwālior, the State prison in which some of its actors ended their days. [W. H. S.]

The 'historical piece' which occupies chapters 37 to 46, inclusive of the author's text is little more than a paraphrase of The History of the Late Rebellion in the States of the Great Mogol by Bernier, as the disquisition is called in Brock's translation.

Mr. A. Constable's revised and annotated translation of Bernier's work (Constable and Co., 1891; reprinted with corrections. Oxford University Press, 1914) renders superfluous the reprinting of Sleeman's paraphrase, which would require much correction and comment before it could be presented to readers of the present day.

The main facts of the narrative are, moreover, now easily accessible in the histories of Elphinstone and innumerable other writers. Such explanations as may be required to elucidate allusions to the excised portion in the later chapters of the anthor's work will be found in the notes. The titles of the chapters which have not been reprinted follow here for facility of reference.