Select from the drop-down MENU & READ the Blog in your PREFERRED Language


Akbar & Harka Bai | Maharana Pratap | Mauryans | Razia Sultan | Miscellaneous | Jodha Akbar | FolkLore | Suggestions

5300+ comments registered on over 165 active posts, till now.
Plagiarism is a serious ethical offense amounting to copyright infringement. ZERO tolerance for Plagiarism.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The sacrifice for "Communal Harmony" at Bakr-Id - Chronicles of Old Delhi

Hi friends,
Here is an interesting topic considering that recently we had observed the festival of Id
The topic deals with Old Delhi..

Although there are no records to substantiate it, Qurban Ali’s efforts towards opening the doors of Fatehpuri Masjid for Bakrid celebrations survive in oral accounts


During the last years of his reign, Bahadur Shah Zafar had imposed a complete ban on cow slaughter in keeping with the tradition set by his ancestor Akbar the Great. The order may have been flouted in the villages around but in the year preceding the Great Revolt of 1857 the ban was strictly enforced in the urban area to strengthen communal harmony. Zafar may have heard rumours about the gathering storm that was to strike north India but his subjects knew more about it even before the lotus and the chapati began to make their rounds over hundreds of miles. It was Hakim Ahsanullah Khan who had cautioned the emperor that things were not as calm as they appeared (“Fiza kharab hai” were supposed to be the actual words) according to Munshi Turab Ali. His kinsman Maulvi Rajab Ali was maligned following the murder of the emperor’s sons and grandson by Lt. William Hodson, who claimed to have got wind of Zafar’s presence at Humayun’s Tomb on 21st September, 1857, through him. The descendants of the Maulvi and Munshi however, refute this vehemently.

When the British regained control over Delhi they were told by their spies during Bakrid 158 years ago (when Zafar was being sent into exile) that though the prominent Muslim families had been banished from the city, the rural areas, where they had found shelter, were still seething with unrest and that it would be better if only sheep and goat slaughter was allowed to prevent communal clashes which may have repercussion in Delhi proper where the big Hindu families had been allowed to remain. Ghalib, says Dr. Narayani Gupta, lamented that upto 1869 there were mostly Hindu Sahukars and the Muslim merchants who could be compared to them were not more than three. Bakrid was not as gay as it used to be although the Parsi and other shops were well stocked. The main celebrations were, according to contemporary accounts, limited to areas like Nizamuddin, Qutub Minar and Purana Qila. The Punjabi Muslim Katra, demolished to make way for the railway station, was virtually relocated in Kishenganj. However, considering that the trade in hides and skins was still centred in Delhi it is quite feasible that enough animals were being slaughtered once again.

Lala Chunna Mal was the wealthiest merchant, but his riches mostly came from the piecegoods business. At least this is what the controversial Bholanath Chunder made widely known even though it was more of a generalisation than a fact. It was about that time that Qurban Ali, a Punjabi Muslim merchant, approached the Khatri Lala Chunna Mal with the request to relinquish control of Fatehpuri Masjid so that Bakrid could be celebrated with joy once again. Chunna Mal took an assurance from him that there would be no slaughter of cows. Qurban Ali, with great bravado, promised that it would be so though the butchers who had a side business in big hides told him in no uncertain terms that such a promise would hit their business. Thereupon Qurban Ali gave his word of honour that he would compensate them for the loss they might suffer. This was taken with the proverbial pinch of salt by the butchers but Qurban Ali kept his word though he suffered a big financial setback in the process. Chunna Mal gave up possession of the mosque and Id namaz was held in it again in 1877. However, Qurban Ali did not survive long after that and died of the shock that the slump in his business and the taunts of his wives and many children. Qurban Ali’s sacrifice is part of oral history and there are no records to substantiate it. But many in the Walled City up to 50 years ago swore that he had lived up to his name, for “Qurban” means sacrifice. In the mid-1880s when there was intense Hindu-Muslim rivalry, culminating in clashes before Bakrid, the Tarwala Id-Milan mela in Kishan Dass Gurwala’s bagh was discontinued but resumed when peace between the two communities was restored.

Communal harmony was disturbed again in the 1920s and all the pleadings by even Hakim Ajmal Khan went in vain. Some think that the legendary Hakim’s death in 1926 at the age of 63 was the result of the blow he had suffered to his prestige. One more thing associated with Bakrid or Id-uz-Zuha (now more popular as Id-al-Ada) was that most of the qurbanis performed were on the hilly area surrounding the Idgah built in Aurangzeb’s reign. Some are still carried out there but Qurban Ali’s soul must be resting in peace now that no cows are slaughtered in the Capital. Even for goat and sheep sacrifice policemen take an inventory by making a house-to-house check. Ironically Lala Chunna Mal’s name survives while Qurban Ali is almost forgotten......!!!!.

I would like to read your views on this topic, if you have any such interesting anecdote, dealing with the festival. 

This article has been posted under the  Historical accounts and FolkLore section of history_geek's Blog.

Share this article :


  1. Thanks fr that valuable information, history-geek, n timely one.So many great people lived in the bygone era.But fr ur research n sharing, we would not hv known this
    Qurbaan Ali's soul must be smiling on u today.:).

    1. Geeta, if you have any such anecdote to share you are welcome. :)

  2. Thanks, Abhay! You are bringing out nostalgic stories from the past :) And making us more aware in the process.

    Fatehpuri Masjid was built in 1650 by Fatehpuri Begum, wife of Shah Jahan. :)

  3. Lovely post and so informative. Opens a new way to see Delhi in. Visionaries existed in every age.

    We were far more open-minded in 16th century then now. I read a article in TOI on friday, it talked about the high status and respect African people acheived in India, despite being sold as slaves here by Arabs. They formed a part of the army and personal bodygaurd of Nobles too! One also rose to the status of Amir ul-umara in Razia Sultan's court and was also her lover ;-)

    Even in Delhi Sultanate era, they were treated as humans and not criminals, the most obvious way we look at them today. Their was recent case of Nigerians being attacked in Delhi metro by a mob. Shocking.

    Western civilization and ideas have destroyed Indian tolerance for different religions and cultures. I hope i don't sound like a RSS pravachak here :-\

    1. Agree about India being more tolerant and unbiased before Europeans came here and brought their notions of fair skin being better than dark skin.

      That article about Africans' contribution to Indian history was very informative. :)

    2. i know, right?? It was brilliant and was timed perfectly. It had photos and mughal miniatures too, to prove it's point. That truly was the golden age of india.

      English female writers had to write under false male names to get published, and here we have Gulbadan begum, a princess, writing the memoirs of her brother, a king.

      Mariam makani, MUZ, Nur Jahan, Jahanara etc had armies under them. Very little evidence to completely conclude the destroying some of our tolerances by westerners, but still a start.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Well, we cannot compare writers and queens. Europe too had its share of powerful queens.

    I was only referring to tolerance for skin color. Foreigners of all hues were accepted. Even Indians with dark skin were accepted. This penchant for fair skin started late, perhaps due to western ideals of beauty, akin to slim and tall figures.


  5. @savtruth and radhika...

    Indians were quite tolerant in old ages, compared to now. There are cases of Abyssinian Ministers attaining high position in Hindustan in 16th Century. We should not forget the Slave Dynasty in this regard.

    Another interesting case is of an Eunuch general, Malik Kafur of Ala-ud-din Khilji, and the black general Malik Amber of a South Indian kingdom.