6. Sanda Thudhamma’s Passion
After the subsidence of the threat from the Mughal subahdsr of, Bengal, and the suppression of the Mughal soldiers, Sanda Thudhamma found time ori his hands to indulge in his amorous propensities which, ultimately, were to seal the fates of Sultan Shuja',his family, his immediate followers and a body of Arakanese Muslims many of them innocent bystanders.
From the beginning some difficulties seem to have arisen over protocol. It would appear that Sanda Thudhamma, like any other autocratic ruler wanted that be whom he had befriended and protected, and who is said to have "hurled himself at the King's feet and acknowledged his suzerainty should at least visit the royal court and stand before the royal throne as a suppliant, a refugee or one protected."
All the chroniclers who touch upon this point, state that Shuja' did not appear in the court.
According to Bender; "I know not whether Sultan Shujah considered it beneath his dignity to associate with him, or whether he apprehended that his person would be seized and his treasure plundered, if be ventured into the palace for so the Sultan sent his son Banque to deputize for him, after apologies for his father's indisposition." But in Bernier's opinion, Banque's presents to the King in the form of "rich brocades and rare pieces of goldsmith's work, set with precious stones of great value" mollified the Arakanese King.1
Manucci's version largely tallies with that of Bernier. He says:
Some days after the arrival of Prince Shah Shuja in the kingdom of Arakan, where he had been conducted with much honour, in conformity with the customs of those kings, to a palace 2 outside the city, he was invited by the king to sit with him. But the prince, although a fugitive and in necessity, would not forsake his dignity, holding himself to be a much greater man than the king of Arakan. The latter could not compare in dignity, refinement, or pleasant habits with even a simple captain among the Moguls. Not liking to go and sit with him. Shah Shuja sent his son. Sultan Bang with the excuse that he himself was unwell.The Magh was delighted at the coming of Sultan Bang, expecting that he would offer him many jewels, stones of price, and costly pieces of cloth.
Then followed the basin of raw buffalo blood at the festive table about which mention has been made before Even though Banque "was much revolted and held his nostril" the "King appears not to have been annoyed at this breach of etiquette.3
What precipitated the crisis in which the blue blood of the Mughal royalty was lavished on the arid rocks of Mrauk-U, was the Arakanese King's mad and tempestuous passion for one of the Mughal princesses whom he wanted to wed and carry off into his seraglio.
Sanda Thudhamma's motivation in suddenly asking for the hand of a Muslim princess of the imperial Mughal family the members of which were strong believers in the tenets of the Muslim faith has been interpreted as political by certain writers, Hamilton suggests that Sanda Thudhimrna was deliberately out to provoke a quarrel with Shuja’. Says Hamilton in this regard:
The threatening letter (from Mir Jumla) wrought so far on the base Arackaner, that he contrived ways and means to pick a quarrel with his guest, to have a pretext to oblige Emirjemal. At last he found a very fair one.
Sultan Shujah having a very beautiful daughter, the King of Arackan desired her in marriage but knew very well that Sultan Shujah would never consent to the match he being a Pagan and she a Mahomedan. The father used all reasonable arguments to diswade the Arackaner from prosecuting his suit, but in vain, for the Arackaner grew daily more pressing, and Sultan Shuja at last gave him a final denial on which the base King sent him orders to go out of his dominion in three days and forbad the markets to furnish him any more with provision for his money.4
Dow, Stewart, and after them, Spearman and Phayre support this theory.
The two on-the-spot observers,Gerrit van Voorburg and Wouter Schouten are, surprisingly, quite silent about the proposal for marriage.They fail to ascribe any cause of the quarrel between Shuja' and the King, and describe in much details the actual course of the brief, if sharp, clash. Bernier, and Manucci, however, go into some details over this although they do not offer any extraneous reason for the marriage proposal other than Sanda Thudhamma's infatuation. Says the former:
"...the King, five or sn days after this interview (with Sultsn Banque), made a formal demand of one of his daughters in marriage. Sultan Shujah's refusal to accede to this request exasperated him to such a degree that the Prince's situation became quite desperate."5
Manucci's account differs on one cardinal point, viz., that the Arakanese King wanted one of the princesses as a wife for his son (and not for himself). In. Manucci's words:
The temerity of the King arrived at such a pitch that he asked for a daughter of Shah Shuja as wife for his own son.The Prince Shah Shuja awaited nothing but the monsoon season to make a start for Persia or Mecca. Its arrival was delayed, and he began to be irritated at the coarseness of the Arakan king,, and his overwhelming conceit in asking for his [ Shah Shuja's ] daughter as wife to his son.6
The Arakanese works, as expected, narrate a glamorously slanted concoction of events rationalizing the "marriage" and its aftermath. Says San Shwe Bu:
"Meanwhile, to seal friendly relations between them, Shujah [on his arrival at Mrauk-U] gave his eldest daughter [whom San Shwe Bu called Chand Bibi] in marriage to the king who celebrated the event in song and verse which, at the present day, are among the most beautiful compositions to be found in the whole range of Arakanese literature.” 7
Maha Razawin, the traditional chronicle of Arakan, as reported, differs on this point. It runs:
"Aspiring for Buddhahood Sanda Thudhamma honoured Thet Thuza's [Shah Shuja’s] daughters with his special affection granting them exalted positions in his harem, servants and maids to wait upon, food in abundance, and an immense wealth of precious metal.Thet Thuza's daughters thereby enjoyed the generous affection of the great king, powerful, righteous, and compassionate towards both the laity and the clergy.Theirs was the enviable pleasure of waiting uponsuch a glorious sovereign.” 8
At another place the chronicle goes on to say that "Soon after his arrival in Arakan...Shah Shuja presented his sister (Sabe Bee) to, the King to keep her in the palace as one of the ladies-in-waiting...." 9 In passing, San Baw U refers to the romantic version of this particular episode written respectively by Rabindranath Tagore 10 and adapted and used by George Calderon, the dramatist, in his The Maharani of Arakan. Both these authors in their romances specifically refer to unfortunate heroine as Peari Banu, "the beautiful Mophul princess."
Jadu Nath Sarkar, scrupulous historian that he was, not finding any reliable information such as records of the contemporary Dutch factors at Mrauk-U and elsewhere, makes no mention of Sanda Thudhamma's marriage to the Mugal Shahzad; but modern historians of Burma, like Harvey and Hall, weighing all available evidence which is considerable in corpus and reliable to a degree, accept the marriage, forced or otherwise, as something that did happen. 11
The identity of the princess whom the king wanted to wed is not too clearly established. The eldest daughter Peari (or Peara ) Banu is most commonly mentioned as the princess concerned although San Baw U says that it was the youngest who was named Peari Banu and who was the bride-elect. The position is more confused on account of Shuja's second wife who had accompanied him in his exile, being called Peari Banu by Dow and accepted as such by Beale in his Oriental Biographical Dictionary.12
7. "Mogh"' Vs. Mughal
The violent conflict which erupted shortly afterwards, if brief and one-sided, was a sad climax to the dramatic events of Mrauk-U of 1660 and 1661. There are two schools of opinion about the roots of this bloody clash: one holds that Sanda Thudhamma either inspired or intimidated by Mir Jumla, or excited by greed and lust or dogged by suspicion and fear, looked for a pretext to provoke Shuja' into taking up arms, thus providing the host with an excuse for finishing him off with his sons and followers and abducting his women into the walled palace of Mrauk-U, and annexing a huge quantity of loot like which Arakan had never seen before.13
The second school suggests that deprived of the succession to the imperial throne at Delhi and driven from the subah of Bengal by fear and physical danger, Shuja' came soon to nourish political ambitions in Arakan, hoping to utilize for his purpose the sympathy of the Arakanese and Bengali Muslims settled at Mrauk-U and elsewhere in that kingdom.This last point of view is held by Arakanese historians and supported, if somewhat speciously, by at least one European writer.14
The truth appears to be midway between the two theories. It was undoubtedly the frustrations that Shuja' faced, e.g., his failure to get a sea-going vessel to carry him to Makkah even afier a long wait of eight months, along with the growing consciousness of his increasingly difficult position and the threat to the physical safety and honour of himself and his family, which made him decide on gambling on a forlorn chance. Sanda Thudhamma from being a patron and benefactor had turned into a watchful hostile on the alert to pounce upon him on any pretext, inspired by the greed for gold or the lust for a beautiful woman. Sanda Thudhamma’s behaviour became insulting and insolently aggressive and it was obvious that a showdown was bound to come—and it came very soon.
The die was cast. To live; Shuja had to dare. Bowrey sums up the Mughal prince's highly critical position very appositely as below:
“At which [the refusal of Sanda Thudhamma's suit] the King was sorely displeased and could not be pacified, but sought the total destruction of the Sultan and all that appertained to him..." 15
With the support of the Muslims settled in Arakan, and particularly those in and around Mrauk-U, Sultan Snuja' dreamt of bringing off a coup by which the royal house of Mrauk-U would be exterminated and the throne would be his.
''Sultan Sujah's refusal to accede to this request [marriage of one of his daughters to the Arakanese King] exasperated him [the King] to such a degree that the Prince's situation became quite desperate. What then ought he to do? To remain inactive was only quietly to await destruction. The season for departure was passing away; it was therefore necessary to come to a decision of some kind. He meditated, at length, an enterprise which never was exceeded in extravagance, and which proves the hopelessness of the situation to which he was reduced.
... [But a little later Bernier himself agrees that] this bold attempt, which resembled more the enterprise of a desperado than that of a prudent man, had nevertheless a certain feasibility in it, as I was informed by several Mahomedans, Portuguese, and Hollanders, who were then on the spot.16
Manucci's narrative corroborates:
He (Shuja’) was afraid of some act of violence or insolence. His force of armed men was very small, but he found many dwellers in Arakan, Moguls and Pnthans, who showed themselves well inclined towards him. He therefore planned an outbreak, intending to slay the king and take the kingdom, and then advance once more to test his fortune in Bengal having thus previously made sure of a refuge in case of failure.17
Stewart mentions that:
The Raja was highly offended at the haughtiness of this answer; and repeated his orders for Shuja immediately to quit his territory. The unfortunate prince was then convinced that the mind of the Raja was actuated by the combined passions of lust and avarice, and that certain death awaited him and his sons....18
Shah Shuja' despite the gamble, had some hopes of success as has been hinted at by Bernier and others. Seventeenth century Arakan and particularly its capital Mrauk-U and the seaport towns harboured a considerable population of Muslims, both native Arakanese, and Indians among whom those from Bengal predominated.
Strong Muslim influence in lats seventeenth century Arakan has been remarked upon by a host of writers. Bernier mentions: "Although the King of Rakan be a Gentile, yet there are many Mahomedans mixed with the people, who have either chosen to retire among them, or have been enslaved by the Portuguese before mentioned, in their expeditions to the neighbouring coasts..."
Manucci also mentions, ...he (Shah Shuja) found many dwellers in Arakan, Moguls and Pathans, who showed themselves well inclined towards him..." Even San Shwe Bu agrees that "there were numerous Mohamedans settled in the country.19
The real position and strength of Muslims in Arakan of those days have been assessed by Muhammad Enamul Huq and (the late) Abdul Karim in their work, and corroborated later by Mahbub-ul-Alam.20
The authors hold that Islam began to spread from the eastern bank of the Meghna up to Arakan since the 8th and 9th centuries A. C., long before the establishment of a Muslim Kingdom in this frontier region. Since then, this influence grew fast and was consolidated fully by the seventeenth century. The authors very tightly attribute the growth and development of Muslim influence from the days of King Min Saw Mun of Arakan (1404-34) who was restored to the throne in 1430 by the intervention of his patron, Sultan Jalal al-din Muhammad Shah of Gaur. The inscription of the Muslim kalima on Arakanese coins and the adoption of many Muslim customs and terms were other significant tributes to the influence of Islam. Mosques including the famous Sandikhan mosque began to dot the countryside and Islamic customs, manners and practices came to be established since this time. For about two hundred years the Muslim domination seemed to have been complete.
From the days of the restoration, there was an influx of Muslim officials, including ministers and courtiers, physicians (hakims or tabibs ), qadis, soldiers both of the cavalry and infantry, merchants, traders, labourers and workers who were soon absorbed in the general population. In addition there was a transient population of sailors of becalmed 'Arab. Persian and Indian Muslims vessels who spent considerable periods of the year in the seaports of Arakan waiting for favourable winds.21
Haq and Karim base their claims on contemporary Bengali literature, which blossomed at Mrauk-U (Mrohaung) particularly puthis written in the 17th century by Bengali poets.
According to Huq and Karim, King Thiri Thudhamma-raza (1612-22) had as his War minister, or Lashkar Wazir, one Ashraf Khan of Chittagong. This statement is corroborated, partially, by Manrique, the Augustinian friar who visited Arakan in the days of this king and, later, yet more fully, by the Daghregister which mentions the "Lascar Zuzil" as the chief minister.
Haq and Karim also mention that in the days of King Narapatigyi (1638-45) who succeeded Thiri Thudhamma after a very short interval, the Lashkar Wazir was yet another Muslim whose son was a court official. The latter, called Magan Thakur became, in turn, the chief minister, of Narapatiey's nephew, son-in-law and successor, Thado Mintar (1645-1652). Magan is said to have been succeeded by Sulaiman as chief minister. The authors mention a number of their Muslim officials, major or minor, at the court of Mrauk-U.22
Therefore Shuja’s plan was not entirely the last desperate throw of a gambler. Had the element of surprise in his plot taken the Arakanese aback, the course of Arakanese history might well have been changed.
Shah Shuja’s attempted rebellion has been noticed by various writers. Schouten is not quite clear when he records:
"Chasausa nevertheless from time to time saw some servants to find for him a way of escape ; and to make secret use of the homeward retreat of the people of the countryside in order that after being of service he would also serve without being recognized. In fact he disappeared, and the principal members of his suite disappeared with him. He carried with him what was most precious, and the court had not been alerted to his escape in time, so it was not discovered, until he bad safely disappeared...
This narrative, disjointed and obscure as it is, continues:
"The King of Aracan had sent broadcast orders to find the Prince of Bengal and bring him there, had redoubled the frontier guards, and strongly defended what remained fortified, (put under surveillance) also Maures of the Realm, (or) what appeared to be Maure, if he had no passport. All ehese precautions tended to prevent Chasausa's invasion.
...The unfortunate Chasausa was discovered, taken and held prisoner in the village of Aracan, he was accused of infidelity and sentenced to death. His men delivered him as they found him, and those who delivered him were no less traitors than their master.23 Some mingled among the peasants of the country-side as if they were natives themselves and they saved themselves in this way. The silvers and gems fell into the King's hands"...24
The Dutch surgeon's account, suggests that Shuja' tried to escape from Mrauk-U, and indeed the Kingdom of Arakan, in fear of his and his family's lives, honour and property.
Gerrit van Voorburg's letter preserved in the Daghregister as summarized by Hall says that "the massacre of Shuja's retinue took place on 7 February 1661" and was carried out because the prince "intended to escape from the King's palaces and conquer the kingdom, of Arakan for himself." 25
Hall goes on to explain why despite their presence at Mrauk-U at the very time of the massacre of the Mughals both Gerrit van Voorburg and Schouten appear to be totally ignorant of the proceedings. For their violent counter-action to Shuja’s intended revolt, (several historians hold that it was simply action and not counter-action!) the Arakanese had taken prior precautions of having all ships including "a Dutch vessel, and some belonging to Indian Mahomedans ... moved away from the wharf. All the roads were patrolled by troops and the rivers by galiasses..." Naturally, the Dutch observers were totally in the dark until after the killings, when news began to seep in gradually.
The news was gruesome and shocking. Hall continues:
"His [van Voorburg’s] first report was that when Shah Shuja found his house attacked, he set fire to it and abandoned it by night with his three sons, his harem and about 300 followers. The Arakanese general had pursued them and captured the eldest son, Bon Sulthan, and his youngest son. These were brought before the king on February 15 and imprisoned. But Shah Shuja himself and his second son Saan [Chand] Sultan had escaped to Tippera. Later he heard that Shah Shuja had not escaped" 26
The fate of Shsh Shuja' remained a mystery even after some months when the Daghregister states:
The prince Cbasousa, of whom in the- previous Arakan advices of 22 February last it was said that he was a fugitive, and had not been found either alive or dead, is believed however, though there is no certainty therein, to have perished in the first fury, but his body was made unrecognisable by the grandees in order the better to be able to deck their persons with the costly jewels, which he wore. His three sons together with his wives and daughters have been taken; the wives and daughters have been brought into the King's palace, and the sons after being imprisoned for some time have been released and permitted to live in a iittle house. Every day the gold and silver, which the Arakanese have taken, are brought into the King's treasury to be melted down."27
Bernier, who holds that Shah Shuja' in desperation organized a revolt and who had the benefit of three or four first hand if "totally different accounts of the fate of that prince...''gives ample details:
Although the King of Rakan be a Gentile, yet there are many Mahometans mixed with the people, who have either chosen to retire among them, or have been enslaved by the Portuguese before mentioned, in their expeditions to the neighbouring coasts. Sultan Sujah secretly gained over Mahometans, whom he joined with two or three hundred of his own people, the remnant of those who followed him from Bengale ; and with this force resolved to surprise the house of the King, put his family to the sword, and make himself sovereign of the country. This bold attempt which resembled more the enterprise of a desperado than that of a prudent man, had nevertheless a certain feasibility in it as I was informed by several Mahometans, Portuguese and Hollanders, who were then on the spot. But the day before the blow was to be struck, a discovery was made of the design, which altogether ruined the affairs of Sultan Sujah, and involved in it the destruction of his family.
The Prince endeavoured to escape into Pegu; a purpose scarcely possible to be effected by reason of the vast mountains and forests that lay in the route , for there is not now, as formerly a regular road in that direction. He was pursued and overtaken, within twenty-four hours after his flight; he defended himself with an obstinacy of courage much as might have been expected and the number of barbarians that fell under his sword was incredible; but at length, overpowered by the increasing host of assailants, he was compelled to give up the unequal combat. Sultan Banque, who had not advanced so far as his father, fought also like a lion, until covered with the blood of the wounds he received from the stones that had been showered on him from all sides, he was seized, and carried away, with his two young brothers, his sisters, and his mother.
"No other particulars, on which dependence may be placed, are known of Sultan Sujah. It is said that be reached the hills, accompanied by an eunuch, a woman, and two other persons; that he received a wound on the bead from a stone, which brought him to the ground; that the eunuch having bound up the Prince's bead with his own turban, he rose again, and escaped into the woods.28
Manucci corroborates, and especially in profuse detail, the slaughter of the Mughal Prince and his family. He says:
He confided this design to some of his people, by whom it was approved. But they were not able to carry out the project with the called-for secrecy, and through the delay they made there was time for the King of Arakan to hear of the plot. He planned the assassination of Shah Shujah and all his adherents, and to this intent called to him his four principal captains, each of whom had three thousand armed men... To these he issued orders that one morning of daybieak they should all with one accord shout "Long live the King of Arakan! Death to Shah Shujah and all traitors !” Under cover of these, they were to kill everyone. The captains carried out the order of their king, killing everybody they encountered. Upon this news reaching the unfortunate prince Shah Shujah, he tried to save his life by getting on his elephant, hoping that he might thereby impose some respect for his person.
But it was grievous to see the fury with which the Maghs came on, throwing everything into disorder, with blows and shouts and cries, some saying "Death to the Prince Shah Shujah!" others, "Death to his son. Prince Bang '" others “Slay those traitorous Moguls who fied here from Bengal !" Prince Bang was taken prisoner, while Shah Shujah with a few men fied to the jungle. He made liberal use of the bags of jewels and pearls, which he scattered among these savages, attempting by the use of these valuables to mitigate the rage of the soldiers and gain a free passage for his flisht. But the Maghs paid no heed to his proffered wealth ; thev pursued the poor prince like famishing wolves, cutting his bodv into pieces, stripping it bare and plundering all his valuables... Prince Bang remained for some time a prisoner, but afterward he regained his liberty.29
As had already been stated before Bowrey believed that there was no plot fostered by Shuja' but that the suspicious nature of Sanda Thudhamma led him to set his minions to put his own place on fire and give out that the act was Shuja’s so that the city guards and natives soldiery went on a rampage for the blood (and treasures) of Shuja' and his helpless family and followers. His conclusion is: ''The Sultan fled toward the mountain and his small trains with him, but were so severely pursued that the woody mountain became their sepulchres." 30
This escape into the mountain theory is also subscribed to by Hamilton who writes:
Sultan Sujah knowing it would be death for him to go back to Bengal, resolved to pass over some mountains overgrown with woods, into the King of Pegu's dominions, which were not above 100 miles off, and so next day after summons, with his family, treasure, and attendants. Sultan Sujah began his march, but the barbarous Arackaner sent a strong party after him, who overtook him before he had advanced far into the woods, and killed most of Sultan Sujah's company, and brought it back in an inglorious triumph. What became of Sultan Sujah and his fair daughter, none could ever give a certain account; whether they were killed in the skirmish or whether they were destroyed by wild elephants and tigers in the woods, none ever knew, but the Arakanese allege they were destroyed by the wild beasts of the woods, and not by the more savage beasts in human shape. So much treasure never had been seen in Arackan before.31
In addition to Bowrey, Dow, Stewart and their followers, Spearman and Phayre, do not put any credence on the story of Shuja's attempted rebellion. They hold, albeit in more or less varying degrees, that the Arakanese King antagonized by Shuja’s haughty refusal of his suit for the hand of one of the princesses, foisted a concocted charge of rebellion on Snuja’ and used this pretext to finish off the Prince and his family. The matter was complicated by the general wave of sympathy for the distressed Mughal, not only among Muslims of all races, but the general populace as well.
Therefore to assassinate him in private was impossible from the vigilance of his party of forty friends (body-guard). A public pretence must be made to gain the wealth of Shuja and to appease his enemies by his death the report of conspiracy against the Raja was industriously spread abroad. It was affirmed that Shuja had formed a design to mount the throne of Arracan, by assassinating its monarch...
Dow opines, in continuation:
The thing was itself improbable. How could a foreigner, with forty adherents hope to rule a people of a different religion with themselves...
The Raja in a pretended terror, called suddenly together his council. He unfolded to them the circumstances of the conspiracy, and he asked their advice. They were unanimously of the opinion that Shuja and his followers should be immediately sent away from the country...The Raja was disappointed in his expectations; ... he, however ...resolved to execute his own designs...32
According to this account, SLhuja' chose to fight it out to the bitter end, taking advantage of the strategic site where his house was situated, at the foot of Bahbudaung Hill on a narrow piain which lay between a precipice and a river [Inda or Einza or the modern Lemro] which issuing from Arakan, falls into the country of Pegu...At either end of the plain a pass was formed between the rock and the river. Shuja' with twenty of his men, possessed himself of one; and his son with rest, stood in the other in arms."33
Needless to say that the small band of refugees fighting a desperate fight for their lives and honour were soon overwhelmed. According to Dow's narrative, Shah Shuja' himself with two friends was taken in a canoe which was sunk in midstream leaving them to drown in a watery but not bloody death for, according to Burmese practice, royal blood was not to be shed. His wife and daughters were forcibly rescued, led from the river into which they had jumped in attempts to escape the Arakanese and led into the royal harem.
8. Shah Shuja’s Family
Piara Banu, Shuja’s wife, when approached by Sanda Thudhamma in his seraglio, is supposed to have killed herself with a dagger while her two elder daughters took poison and died. The youngest, Amena Banu, was forcibly taken as wife by the King but languished in captivity and died. Of the sons, one of the elder, probably Bang (or Buland Akbtar) who is said to have been only 16 years of age (and who bad defended one end of the pass until he was wounded and captured ) was killed by the Maghs at the behest of .their King. Thus on foreign soil ended the family of Shuja' at the hands of his erstwhile hosts and protectors.34
Stewart's version, is almost identical except for a statement that when the Council refused to play his game by ordering the extermination of the Mughals, Sanda Thudhamma ordered his troops "to remove the Moghuls from their present residence and compel them to take the route of Chittagong; but if, in so doing, the life of one of his subjects should be lost the officer, commanding, was at liberty to satiate the revenge."35 The implication was only too obvious.
Harvey, both in his "The Fate of Shah Shuja" and Hisiory of Burma, holds that Shuja’ did plan to attempt a coup with the help of his own two hundred followers and the local Muslims but due to leakage of the plot, he and his men were overpowered: afier some of them, in desperation, had put the royal city of Mrauk-U to fire, Shuja' himself fled into the interior but was haunted out and killed. "His daughters were taken into the harem, the marriage of the eldest (Pari Banu according to Harvey) being celebrated in song and verse which are still greatly admired.36
San Shwe Bu, who claims to report the account common to Arakanese historians, dismisses the episode in the following words with not a word of regret or sympathy for the unfortunate Shah Shuja'. He tries to rationalize "the so-called cruel conduct" (italics mine) of the Arakanese King. Afier describing Shuja' as being without the philosophic calm which had stood his elder brother Dara in good stead even in the days of his dire adversity, he says:
...In a short time he conceived the idea of deposing the king his benefactor and ascending the throne of Arakan. There were numerous Mabomedans settled in the country.He practically won over all these to his cause. Preparations for a general rebellion were pushed on with feverish haste. But alas! in February 1661, the plot leaked out and Shujah and his party sought safety in flight to the hills of Northern Arakan.
King Sanda-Tbudharnma-raza was more or less stunned when be heard of this colossal act of perfidy and ingratitude. The fugitives were speedily followed and were brought before the royal presence. For a time the King looked sad; but a revulsion of feeling having set in, he forthwith commanded that Shujah, his sons and, the principal officers of his reiinue should be put to death. This was carried out with the approval of his ministers who urged that if the culprits were allowed to live there would be no peace in the country. Shujah's wife and two remaining daughters were spared and were permitted to reside with the princess he had married. The rest of the followers of the ungrateful Shujah were spared their lives for it was contended that they, as servants, merely obeyed the orders of their Master.37
However, San Baw U, another Arakanese historian, records a different view of Shah Shuja's character, the view of U Nga Me's Maha Razawin, the royally approved chronicle of Arakan. It describes the Mughal prince thus: “The Sultan Shuja, whose handsomeness, majestic bearing and striking personality that never failed to touch the heart of every person who behold him excelling even those of the Thagyamin, the King of Heaven, whose abode was Tawateimsa...38
San Baw U reproduces later the description of Shah Shuja’s revolt as below:
In the month of Tabodwe 1023 B.E.,[February 1662, A.D.] 39 Shah Shuja with the object of seizing the throne of Arakan rebelled against Sanda-Thudama. Being defeated he escaped to the source of Gachapa nadi (Kalladan river) leaving his Family and followers to their fate. The elder son (Muhammad Bank) was wounded, and some of the followers were killed by the infuriated troops of King Sanda-Thudama. When the King knew that the rebellion had failed, he at ones issued strict orders that those who remained alive should be spared.40
Jadu Nath Sarkar accepts Manucci's version and says that "European traders who had free access to Aracan were likely to be best informed, and I believe that the truth lies in what may have been recorded of Shuja's fate."41
The story of Shuja's escaping the fury of the Maghs and fleeing into the hills of Tippera or the jungles of Burma has been recorded by several chroniclers.Some of these suggest that the Mughal Prince escaped to the source of the Gachapa Nadi (Kaladan river) and thence to the Naaf side.
One reference,somewhat difficult to accept is cited by Orme whose source is Dalrymple's Oriental Repertory. He mentions the existence of a tomb in the distant island of Sulu located thousands of miles away from Mrauk-U which was pointed out to him as Shah Shujs’s tomb. Despite the visual "proof" offered, it is difficult to agree that Shuja' alone, or even with a small remnant of royal followers, crossed the Arakan Yornas into Burma and went down all the length of that country into Siam and ultimately reached. Sulu across the waters. San Baw U thinks that while the overland trek was highly improbable, for Shujs' "to reach that island by sea-route in a sailing ship was a much easier method and was not impossible even in those times." 42
However, weighing all the available evidence, there can remain no doubt whatsoever about his bloody end and even Alaol, the Bengali poet at Mrauk-U, breaks his discreet near-silence and refers briefly to Shah Shuja' and his fate. In the introduction io his xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
(Saiful Mulk Badiujjamal} written in 1669, he says:
Again in the introduction to his CT^l^H '•^'l (Sikandar Nama) written in 1673, he says :
The story of Shuja' would remain incomplete without references to the fate of his sons and daughters who survived the first onslaught of the Magh fury. The princes were kept under house surveillance in small huts, and the princesses eked out their tortured spans of life within the triple palace walls of Mrauk-U until their final release from all agonies.
After Sbuja’s cruel end, the Mughal government of Bengal tried to rescue the survivors of his family from the clutches of Sanda Thudhamma and with the reluctant assistance of the Dutch, sent Mirzs Ali Beg to Mrauk-U on this mission. From 29th September 1661 the negotiations began and went on until the beginning of 1664 when the King of Arakan completed his tally by wiping out the surviving Mughal princesses at one fell sweep.The infuriated King followed this up by organizing a great raid on Bengal which ultimately culminated in shattering retaliation by the new Subahdar of Bengal, "Sjha Estachan" (Shayista Khan), in 1665.45
The earliest news of the massacre of the halpless members of the Mughal royalty at Mrauk-U seeped out from the Dutch factory at Hugli to their headquarter at Batavia. It is recorded in the Doghregister that: "the sons of Shah Shuja and every one found wearing a beard in the Moorish fashion had been beheaded as a result on an attempt by the princes to set fire to the royal palace at Mrohaung in order to escape in the confusion."
This report was confirmed in greater detail by Gerrit van Voorburg's successor at Mrauk-U, Daniel Six. In his letter to Batavia he says:
On 25 July last, the royal palace had been fired by ten or twelve desperate "Mogolders" and burnt to the ground. Shah Shuja's three sons were suspected of having been the cause of it and bad been at once beheaded; and many Moors and Bengalis bad been plundered and murdered. Further ambassadors bad been sent (to Mrauk-U) but the king bad gone so far as to clap one of them in gaol. War was imminent...46
Bernier's version of the second Muslim revolt is:
But whatever doubts may be entertained of the fate of Sultan Sujah, there are none as to the catastrophe which befell his family. "When brought back, men, women, and children were all thrown into prison, and treated with the utmost harshness. Some time after, however, they were set at liberty, and used more kindly; the King then married the eldest princess, and the Queen-mother evinced a strong desire to be united to Sultan Banque.47
While these events were happening, some servants of Sultan Banque joined the Mahometans, of whom I have spoken, in a plot similar to the last- The indiscreet zeal of one of the conspirators, who was probably heated with wine, led to the discovery of the design on the day on which it was to be executed. In regard to this affair, too, I have heard a thousand different tales; and the only fact I can relate with confidence is that the King felt so exasperated against the family of Sujah as to give orders for its total extermination. Even the Princess whom he had himself spoused, and who, it is said, was advanced in pregnancy, was sacrificed according to his brutal mandate.Sultan Banque and his brothers were decapitated with gruesome-looking axes, quite blunt, and the female members of this ill-fated family were closely confined in their apartments, and left to die of hunger.48
Manucci is somewhat compressed but records:
Prince Bang was taken prisoner, while Shah Shujah with a few men fled to the jungle. He made liberal use of his bags of jewels and pearls, which he scattered among these savages, attempting by the use of these valuables to mitigate the rage of the soldiers and gain a free passage for his fight. But the Maghs paid no heed to proffered wealth; they pursued the poor prince like famishing wolves, cutting his body into pieces, stripping it bare, and plundering all his valuables...Prince Bang remained for some time a prisoner, but afterward he regained his liberty.Owing, however, to his attempting once more some treachery, the Magh ordered his head to be cut off with a hatchet. The women and daughters of Shah Shujah were carried off the palace of the king. But owing to the distrust aroused there among the other women of the king, he was obliged to expel them, and they moved as castaways from house to house until their miserable lives came to an end.49
Neither Dow nor Stewart mentions this second Muslim revolt. Spearman alludes to Shuja’s two surviving sons who "were subsequently drowned," and Phayre just mentions that "the remaining daughter (Amena Banu) was brought into the palace, where from grief she died". Mahbubul Alam, in passing, says: "Many of Shuja's followers died at the hands of the palace guard. Now, Amena Banu was also killed on the charge of conspiring with the rest of them (the followers)."50
San Shwe Bu gives details of the "revolt" and the dire punishment that was visited upon Shuja's surviving children, his followers and Muslims in general. His account runs:
For the space of about two years after these events, the affairs in Arakan pursued their tranquil course. But, in the year 1663 A.D., the followers of Shujah became restive once again either from greed of gain or to avenge the supposed wrongs of their defunct master they one night set fire to the palace. In the general confusion Manawthiri, the Governor of Mrauk-U, was burnt to death and the king and his family barely escaped with their lives.Their crowning act of treachery very rightly destroyed the remaining faith the king had in all those connected with the Indian prince. In his righteous indignation he first caused the arrest and execution of his Mughal archers. Then he ordered the death of Shuja's wife and daughters, not even excepting his own wife who was then in an advanced stage af pregnancy, the reason for this cruel command being based on the fact that it was considered neither fair nor expendienfc that such ungrateful people should be allowed to dwell in the society of loyal and honest subjects of the realm.51
It has been confirmed by most accounts that Amena Banu, at the time of her assassination, was pregnant; her killing was probably the crowning inequity of Sanda Thudhamma among all his other misdeeds.
And yet the Arakanese historian proudly concludes with the laudatory dictum that "King Sanda-Thudamma-Raza was one of the most enlightened of Arakanese Kings of the Mrauk-U dynasty!”
Alaol confirms the report of the second revolt in his writings referring to the wholesale killings and imprisonments of the Muslims of Mrauk-U. In the reign of terror which followed the abortive rising, Alaol himself, an innocent citizen of Mrauk-U, was incarcerated in prison for a period of fifty days on the basis of the reports of tell-tales and was only released by strong intercession on his behalf.52
The Mugnal Court appears to have received the confirmed news of the death of Prince Shuja' and his family belatedly through devious routes mainly from Dutch and European traders in Bengal. One of these sources was, however, the Waqa'i (daily news reports) of the city of Hyderabad in the Deccan.
The report for Saturday, 1st Muharram 1072 A.H (17th August 1661 A.D.) records:
"When the news was received that the ship of Khan-i-Khanan, Sipah-Salar, (Mir Jumla) sailing from Rakhang Arakan], called at Ishsq Patam the news reporter sought a written confirmation from the Ship's captain of Prince Shuja's murder.”
The report for Friday, 14t Muharram, 1072 A.H (30th August 1661 A.D) confirms the news. It ran:
"From Masulipatam, a letter was received from Mir Qssim of Khassa-i-Sharifa, reporting the arrival of the vessel Cholia, previously under the command of Khan Khanan, from the port of Rakhang.This letter also brought the news of the assassination of prince Shuja, arrest of his sons and daughters by the Raja of Arakan and slaying of the sisters by their brothers to have their good name. These tragic happenings were already reported to the Emperor by Makhshiu'l Mamalik Amin Khan."53
Since no one could definitely affirm Shuja’s death, as his corpse was never recovered, the mystery around his fate has led to a brood of rumours and, what was less innocuous, a number of pretenders.
Says Orme in this regard:
According to the prevalent report of the time, he was murdered with his family and followers by a Rajah, on the confines of Arracan: but as his head had never been produced, nor the fact vouched by any persons who knew him before bis flight, some credit was given lo other reports, that he had escaped; which is believed, as we are informed, in the island of Sooloo, far from Arracan and Bengal where his tomb is shown at this day (1805).
A number of pretenders, made their appearances. One of these was a Pathan soldier who had served in Shuja’s army and resembled him closely "in countenance and figure." He collected a band of Pathan malcontents, marched towards Delhi and probably went on to the Yusufzai country in 1674.
Orme also mentions that Shivaji in order to pique Aurangzeb appears to have mentioned during his sacking of Surat in 1664 "that he had Sultan Shujah in his camp, who is rightful emperor and had given him the town." Another report said Shuja' had escaped into Persia and still another that he led a rising near Murang (Purneah) in 1669; thirty years later a pretender claiming to be Prince Buland Akhtar was arrested near Allahbad.
Bernier mentions rumours of Shujs's being at Golkonda and Masulipatam, and passing by Surat in ships presented by either the King of Pegu or Siam. But there appears to have been no substance in any of these various tales. 54
Now that the story of Shah Shuja's tragic end has been told, it remains only to point out some remaining doubts and conflicts.
One main conflict in opinion is about the route taken by the unhappy Mug^al prince in his tlight to Arakan, liberty and death. It has been mentioned above, that some of the most reliable sources hold that Shah Snuja and his parry left by ship from Dacca ( or from the “port" on the Meghna) for Dianga or Chittagong, and that thence the party travelled by land to Mrauk-U. Of course, one or two variants are suggested, e.g., travel by ship all the way from Dacca to Mrauk-U.
However, a sizeable body of opinion holds that the route taken, was mainly overland through the hills and jungles of Tippera and Chittagong to the "Golden City of Mrauk-U." Fray Sebastien Manrique who, in 1629-30, travelled from Hughli via Dianga to Paragri in Arakan, on stop before Mrauk-U, is recorded to have taken 14 days to reach Dianga from. Hughli by sea and another 22 days from Dianga to Paragri by land.
In other words, the period of 113 days taken by Shuja viz. from 6th May to 26th August 1660 to reach Mrauk-U is more than three times the period taken by Manrique's party. However, it must be remembered that Shuja' led a big slow moving party consisting of many women and children and a considerable quantity of baggage.
The historical accounts also name varyingly the objects of Sanda Thudhamma's passion. With Shakespeare, we would say “What's in a name?" The facts remain that he was guilty of taking advantage of the helplessness of royal refugees who had thrown themselves at his mercy and that he did not stop short of force in taking one of the Mughal princesses to wife and then disposing of her in a heartless manner. In this context, the Arakanese versions that Shuja’ on his arrival at the royal city of Arakan gladly offered his daughter and his sister (or both) seem to have been based on remarkable feats of imagination.
As for the end of Shuja’ himself, while no conclusive decision can be arrived at on the basis of the information now available, the overwhelming weight of evidence indicates that he perished. Speculative theories about his escape into Tipperah or Burma and thencs to Sulu Island or Surat, Persia or Yusufzai country ail appear to be unfounded.
- Bernier, 110.
- This was only a house of bamboo.
- Manucci, I, 374.
- Hamilton, IT, 27. Sie also Dow, 329; Stewart, 278-9.
- Bernier, 110-11.
- Manucci, I. 369-371.
- San Shwe Bu. 38.
- Wa/io Ra^awin, U Ko'3 translation of extract from U Nga Me's work.
- San Baw U, 19.
- ^t^f? ", There are some songs and ballads about the lament of Pari Banu in Arakanese and the lament of Amena Banu in Chitiagong.
- Harvey, History of Burma, 138; Hall, A History of South-East Asia, 339.
- Dow 331; Beale, Thomas WIliam, The Oriental Biographical Dictionary Calcutta, 1881, 217.
- IBowrey, 141.
- Bernier, 110-11.
- Manucci, I, 374.
- Siewart, 279.
- Bernier,111;Manucci,374; San Shwe Bu, 38 ; see also Manrique,Fray Sebastien, Travels of Fray Sebaslien Manrique, 1620-43, tr. And ed. by Lt. Col. C. Ecktbrd Luard, Oxford, Hakluyt Society, 1926 reprint.
- ^it?^^ <?T^ TSt^ ^W^} ^iTf?7;";, (^£''75 'ifcOO-'^OO ^p) Bengali Literature in the Court of Arakan, 1600-1700 a.d. Calcuta,1935. 4-12; Mahbub-ul-Aiam.
- Ibid: 4-9 ; Maarique, I, 373 ; Hall, Studies in Dutch Relations, I, 9.
- Huq and Karim, 7-12
- This suggests treachery on the part of some of Shuja's followers.
- Schouten, I, 234, 236-237.
- Hail, Studies in Dutch Relations with Arakan, 24.
- Hall, Studies in Dutch Relations with Arakan, 24.
- Ibid , 23
- Bernie 111-32. To a larger extent the accoun; ie the Daghregisier and lhat of Schouien approximate.
- Manucci, 374-375.
- Bowrey, 141-142.
- Hamilton. 11, 27.
- Dow, 329.
- Dow, 329-30.
- Italics mine.
- Siewan. 280-282,
- Harvev. History of Burma. 147; The Fate of Shah Shuja. JBRS, 1922.
- San Shwe Bu, 38-39.
- Op. cit., 15 ; Dow and Stswart give very favourable readings of Shuja’s character but I have chosen to reproduce that of the Arakanese chronicle itself.
- There seems to be a discrepancy of one year in San Baw U’s chronology. However, the dates given in the Daghrsgisier are detinue.
- San Baw U, 19. Sanda Thudhamma's order to spare the surviving Mughals was not altogether altruistic for, in times to come they made very good archers for the Arakanese army and were famous as the Kamans.
- Sarkar; J. N., History of Aurangzeb, Calcutta, 1925, I & II, 611, 617.
- Orme refers to Dalrymple's Oriental Repertory, London, 1793, 49-50 of his Fragment of the Mughal Empire; San Baw U, 17. Sulu is an island lying between Borneo and the Philippines at 5° lat. and 120° e; long.
- Alaol, Saiful Muluk Bodi-uj-jamal(Dacca University Mss.Collection,Puthi No. 510). The Bengali spelling in this extract, and the one following strictly follows that in the Ms.
- Alaol. Sekandar Nama (Dacca University Mss. Collection, Puthi No. 532).
- For details of this chapter of history see Hall, Studies in Dutch Relations with Arakan, III, 24-26.
- Hall, Studies in Dutch Relations, III, 26-26.
- Italics mine. No other account mentiom this intriguing point.
- Bemier, 114-115.
- Manucci, 375-376.
- Spearman, I, 293 ; Phayre, 179 ; Mahbubui Alam, 158.
- San Sbwe Bu, 3.S.
- Enamul Haque and Abdnl Karim, 48.
- Yusuf Husain, Selected Waqai' of the Deccan (1660-1671 A-&.) Hyderabad.
- Bernier, 113-114; Orme, 49, 50, 219; Sarkar, J. N., 61&-11.