As soon as Shah Jahan fell ill in September, 1657, it sparked a deadly war of succession among his four sons – Dara Shikoh, Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad. In this fratricidal war of succession, his two daughters Jahanara and Raushanara sided with Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb respectively. At the time of the emperor’s sickness, his eldest son Dara was at his bedside in Agra where he resided at the court. Shah Jahan was very fond of Dara and in normal circumstances the latter would have been his successor. Dara was a man of liberal persuasions and spent time in scholarly pursuits. This made him the adversary of the orthodox elements in Islam. Though intelligent and brave, Shuja, then governor of Bengal, loved the life of ease and was pleasure seeking. The youngest, Murad, was the governor of Gujarat. He was liberal but was devoid of the qualities needed for leadership. He was also addicted to hard drinking. Aurangzeb was the ablest of the brothers. Apart from being a person of intense energy, he claimed the Mughal throne as zealous champion of Sunni orthodoxy.
When Shah Jahan fell ill, the three absentee brothers suspected that their father had already died and the news had been suppressed by Dara.
Consequently, Shuja proclaimed himself emperor at Rajmahal , the then capital of Bengal and marched with an army and fleet towards Agra. He reached Benares on January 24, 1658 and was defeated by the army under Sulaiman Shikoh, son of Dara at Bahadurpu.
Murad did the same at Ahmedabad on 5th December, 1557 and ) struck coins and had the Khutba read in his own name. Aurangzeb entered into an alliance with Murad. Under the agreement the empire will be partitioned whereas Punjab, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Sindh was to be given to Murad apart form the one-third of the booty. The terms of the agreement were solemnized in the name of God and prophet.
In February 1658, Murad’s forces joined Aurangzeb near Ujjain. Their combined forces signally defeated the imperial forces, sent to contain them under the leadership of Raja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur and Qasim Khan, at the battle of Dharmat, fourteen miles south-south-west of Ujjain, on 15th April 1658. The proud wife of Jaswant Singh refused to give him shelter because he fled from the battle-field.
After Dharmat, Aurangzeb and Murad crossed the Chambal river and were on their way to Agra. As they reached the plains of Samugarh, eight miles form Agra, they were confronted with Mughal forces under Dara. In the battle of Samugarh, which took place on 29th May, Dara was decisively defeated and he fled from Agra. He was chased by the Mughal forces from place to place. At last he was executed in September 1659 on the charge of heresy and infidelity.
Soon after his victory at the battle of Samugarh, Aurangzeb marched to Agra and took possession of the Agra fort on the 8th June 1658. All efforts by Shah Jahan for an amicable settlement for accession to throne ended in vain. Shah Jahan was deprived of throne and was made a prisoner by Aurangzeb who died there on 22nd January, 1666 at the age of seventy –four.
From Agra Aurangzeb set out for Delhi on the 13th June 1658. On the way he made Murad fall into a trap. Murad was apprehended on June 25, 1658 and was kept first in the fort of Salimgarh whence he was removed to the Gwalior fort and was executed on the 4th December, 1661 on the charge of murdering Ali Naqi who was Murad’s one time Divan.
Already after Murad’s capture, Aurangzeb had crowned himself as emperor in Delhi on 21st July 1658 and assumed the title of Alamgir. But his formal coronation took place on June 5, 1659.
As motioned earlier Shuja was defeated by Dara’s son Suleiman Shikoh, it was now turn of Aurangzeb to get rid of him. Aurangzeb routed Shuja at Khajwah near Allahabad on the January 5, 1659. The defeated prince fled to Arakan where he was killed by the Arkanerese in May 1660. Prince Muhammad, Aurangzeb’s eldest son, Prince Muhammad, who sided with Shuja for a time, was imprisoned for life and died in 1676.