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Friday, January 23, 2015

Jodha Akbar - A Tale of Natkiya RupanterS | NR at it's Worst - III

Hi Friends,

Welcome to the third installment of this series > "NR at it's worst" written in the praise(!?!) of Jodha Akbar show. NR means "Natkiya Rupanter" alias "Dramatization".

JA - NR at it's Worst - I
JA - NR at it's Worst - II

Statutory Warning(Haha..not to be taken seriously:-P) > This post is NOT the usual calm post which i write normally. Truck loads of (hopefully constructive) criticism and complains have been made in this, as viewers do have a right to make their concerns known.

This post has been written with an objective to sum up the recent happenings in the show Jodha Akbar airing on Zee TV. The show was supposed to be a magnum opus, started by the Czarina of Indian Television, Ekta Kapoor. Zee mentioned about > employing historians and researchers for this show which really appeared in the starting. Not many of us were aware of the history of Jodha Akbar, which we began to unearth as we read more and more while watching it. Though, of late, the show has no connection with history. It has hit rock bottom, the TRP's are continuously plummeting and consequently it is out of the list of Top 10 shows. I have stopped watching the show long back, for it is miles away from history and now out on an agenda to tarnish the images of the revered historical characters.

Though, i catched up with some written updates and parts of the show online. I can not believe what is happening in this show. The show is making it's own history, in fact turning history on it's head. Well let me start with myself. To be precise, i was astonished to see the protests against this show, and there started my tryst with the story of Akbar and his Hindu Wife. History always fascinated me but the credit for my quest to know more about this historical couple, "strangely" goes to the protests against the show in 2013. That was the time, i began reading in depth about them. We all have read about Akbar in school books but how many of us decided to read about him in depth before? Due to the protests before launch, the makers even agreed to put up a 30 second disclaimer. It really looked like that the Production House is trying hard to get the show on air. The show started well. Of course, there was dramatization, but within the "acceptable confines". I have a lot of tolerance for the creative liberty taken, and many times gave a slack, but lately the show became totally fictional, and i ran out of patience when it began tampering even with the well known historical events as well.

The viewers were promised a love story of a Mughal Emperor and a Rajput princess. According to the channel, it was supposed to be a story where this lady turns her husband into a better person, or as i put it, she(her love) was supposed to be a catalyst in the transformation of Akbar. Before i elaborate further, i quote the description of this show, below, as given on the website of Zee. Click here to read on Zee's website..

Jodha Akbar is a sixteenth century love story about a political marriage of convenience saga between a Mughal emperor, Akbar, and a Rajput princess, Jodha. But much more then that it's the marriage of contrasts.

Jalal-ud-din Mohommad (Akbar) who had inherited his father, Humayan's Mughal Empire at the age of 13, after his father's death, had been brought up almost like a trained assassin by Bairam Khan, his father's supreme commander. Hard-nosed, rough, tough and heartless... and priding himself on the each of those facets of his personality, the only thing Akbar had learnt was to expand his empire - at the cost of others lives - at the cost of emotions - at the cost of love - the word he was never familiar with.

Whilst Jodha, the daughter of Raja Bharmal, the Rajput King of Amer (one of the most affluent Rajput Kingdom's of its time) valued each of those emotions - valued the life of even the birds and bees of her kingdom - she only hated the Mughal's whom she felt were intruding upon her land, and wanted to oust them from Rajputana, along with their Emperor Jalal-ud-din, whom she hated with her heart.

Little did Akbar know at the time of his marriage to Jodha, the fiery Rajput princess, in order to expand his empire into Rajputana, the land of the Valiant Rajputs, he would in turn be embarking upon a new journey - the journey of true love - he would discover the heart which he never felt he had - and it would throb for its rightful lover - Jodha.

Well, after reading this, lets come to terms with the reality. The issue is NOT how many of us agree or disagree with the tag line, but the fact that the channel has itself forgotten what it promised to the viewers. The show which was supposed to highlight the Love story of Jodha Akbar(JA), is now thriving on the the romance(!!!) of their son Salim with a commoner girl called Anarkali(a character whose identity is not even "established" in history). Soon, we may see Nur Jahan also, after the departure of Anarkali. The show has reduced Man Bai(alias Manbhavati Bai/Shah Begum) and Manmati(Jagat Gosain/Jodh Bai/Biqlis Makani) to virtually non-existent characters and promoting Anarkali as the main lead. In between all this, the actors playing Jodha and Akbar have been reduced to side characters in a show which is meant for them, which runs in their name, which was to be about THEIR Love, not that of Salim Anarkali(SA) or anyone else, for that matter.

I think this single paragraph(above) is enough to make one think where the show is heading. The story of Jodha and Akbar has been reduced to an irreparable mess, thanks to a lackadaisical script.! I won't be surprised if the show takes another leap(as it keeps taking now a days) to start the story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz also. :-P

From the written updates of the episodes, it's clear that Jodha and Akbar's love story has run its course. The creatives have run out of ideas. The administration is running by itself, as Jodha and Akbar of this show have nothing to do except running after Salim. The Emperor whose name commands authority in history has been reduced to a mere caricature, who cries and begs for the life of his son from a petty tribal chieftain. The otherwise practical and shrewd Shehenshah is shown begging pleading with a tribal chief, screaming, and behaving in the most insensible manner, thereby belittling and insulting himself. A sense of sheer disdain has taken over the hardcore viewers of this show. 

One of my friends put it well > "Since the production house is only capable of showing the love story of a lead pair(which seems to have been already achieved as per the creatives), unlimited plots against Jodha and presence of new girls in Akbar's life in the form of Benazir and Atifa(also achieved), they ran out of ideas and introduced Salim where they can show another love angle(their comfort zone) of Salim and his lady/ies again and again. They aren't capable of showing the political growth of Akbar and Jodha. "

Remember that MUZ was a smart businesswomen carrying out International Trade in 16th Century and the Empress of Mughal Sultanate with great powers, and Akbar was a strong willed-Emperor, who had brought forth reforms which later formed the basis of British edifice in India. But the lament is that > Here we have a helpless MUZ who gets bettered by Ruqayya(her character has been made really pathetic, why can't the writers come up with a simple 'ethical grey shaded' character) in every game, and a non-violence activist in place of the Emperor with a holier-than-thou approach, so much so that, he has to beg, cry and shiver in front of a tribal chief. Even his friend Raja Bhagwan Das was shown with an 'attitude' of a king but not Akbar. Such a presentation is beyond belief. We all have seen how the administration runs. Same way, kings are not saints. In fact, they can not be saints. They need to rule with a certain degree of strong hand.

After seeing the characterization of Salim, i think even Mahachuchak Begum and her teenage husband Haider Qasim was much better. Forget Mahachuchak! Even Khyber was not so "irritating"... Salim reserved so much respect for the elders in his family, especially for his mother, but here he is shown completely opposite of that.!
Post : > Relations of Salim with HIS Relatives & Mother

I think the show has broken all possible records set previously by any other Production House by taking leaps after leaps in this show. Let me sum up in brief. The blunder started with the death of twins - Hasan and Husain. Historically, the death happened in late 1564. See this post, for the details on twins. > The Twins of Akbar and Mariam-Uz-Zamani

After this death, Akbar and Jodha went on pilgrimages together, Akbar even took Jodha with him on a war immediately after the death of the twins. But the makers wrongly presented the subsequent events in the show.
So many tracks could have been shown. See here. > Missed Historical Tracks in Jodha Akbar

Let me tell in brief that right now the show should be running around 1585. According to this timeline, Salim is 15-16 years now, and many important events have been missed. :
1. Salim is nearly 15-16 years old.
2. Aram Bano Begum was born on 22 December 1584, the daughter of Akbar and MUZ, but she is shown wrongly as a "grown up" girl.
3. By this time, Akbar had finished conducting the religious debates in his capital Fatehpur Sikri, and moved his court to Lahore. By the way, on a funnier note, the creatives/writers have forgotten to even show us Fatehpur Sikri, a landmark event in the history of Akbar. The Fatehpur Sikri was mentioned at the end of Benazir track but NEVER mentioned after that. Right now, Akbar's court should be in Lahore, but even that is missing.
4. His famous Navratans make a 'guest appearance' in a few episodes and then they also go missing from the Mughal Darbar, that too in order to discuss ONLY and ONLY Salim.!!
5. Tauhid-e-Illahi(called Din-e-Illahi also) was introduced in 1582-83, but according to timeline it has not been shown to us. {Despite conveying to the writers/CV's endlessly to show it.}
6. Well, i can go on and on with the lament, but.............

Coming back to the show, the part where Maan Bai, Jagat Gosain and Anarkali were introduced as friends got me wondering if I'm actually watching a supposed royal, 16th century story of Jodha Akbar and family or a spoof made of the show by a person with a "not so good" sense of humor with a grudge against the show. The show is climbing new heights of ridiculousness.

The story of Jodha and Akbar is magical and, loved by huge masses. I would have liked the show to be centered around them till the end with Salim's story being a "part" of it rather than being the exclusive limelight/focus of the story.

Another point worth mentioning is about an episode where Salim gives an "ultimatum" to Akbar about not allowing him to marry Bela, a tribal princess. Well friends, for those who are aware of the strict degree of mannerism maintained by Akbar must be cursing themselves for watching that non-sensical scene. Had it been ""REAL AKBAR"", Salim would have been given some REAL medicine by Akbar......Well all this was a deliberately created nuisance of the CV's. The tribals in Rajputana live in the Mewar region and they were the allies of Akbar's most famous rival Maharana Pratap, not of Akbar. Infact, they were his rivals. But, in the show, the tribal chief was showed as living under protection of Akbar. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The clothing of the tribals was straight out of some ancient history documentary, and i was getting ready to watch a "Jhinga La La Hu Hu type" marriage ceremony of Akbar. Thankfully, the marriage did not happen.

Com'on! Even tribals had better clothes, it is evident from the paintings in Udaipur, for those who have visited the palace there. So, all that was another piece of "creativity" courtesy - NR. {Tribals lived in Mewar hills in territory of Maharana Pratap(Link1 Link2) NOT in Amer in Raja Bhagwan Das's territory!}

One thing i want to know, how come Anarkali stays out of her home every night to meet Salim.?. Weren't girls supposed to stay in home those days ? How is this possible ? Well, our writers have a track record of creating such scenes, as we saw in the Sujamal-Jodha track.

None of this interests me anymore. The Creatives have messed up the storyline beyond repair, and the new actors have to bear the brunt of a hopeless plot and direction. These newbies are trying to establish themselves in a new project with a 'supposedly' mega PH. They are in no way responsible for a mess which has been created in this show, as they have to act according to what is required of them. A major credit for making this show a success goes the lead pair Rajat and Paridhi, who are adored by a large range of masses across India and abroad. Kudos to the actors for a dhamakedaar performance.! Really wish for a better project for these guys.!

Maharana Pratap show of Sony also does dramatization, but it is sensible, not overly dramatic and blends in with both the situation and history. The characterization of Akbar shown there commands a "class". The court proceedings of Akbar is a treat to watch. Each and every character, induces an interest. But, Jodha Akbar's Agra is a looney house where NO decorum is followed, and anyone can walk into the Diwan-e-Khas/Diwan-e-Aam while the assembly is in session.

If the CV's HAD TO GO for a Big Leap, they could still have retained the charm and quality of the show and retained the importance of JA. The SA story could have been narrated from the JA perspective. This way the focus would have stayed on the leads and the leap could have been effected too (for whatever reason it was needed). 

Secondly, if the CVs go for a leap, they must have the courage to go through with it completely, including aging their popular (former) leads - Akbar and Jodha. It is absolutely silly to make the parents look the same as they did on their wedding day even after they have celebrated their silver wedding anniversary. I don't mind if they show Salim-Anarkali. After all, we have tolerated Atifa / Khyber and what not, in the past. But some quality, some dignity, some maturity isn't too much to ask for. Or is it? The amount of screen space and the importance given to the new characters is making it very hard to carry on with the show. The issue is also that, many tracks in the life of Jodha Akbar have been missed to take this leap. Missed Tracks

Most likely, SA has been introduced to keep pace with a rival show started recently, as the makers ran out of ideas/research material(?). But I would say the destruction had started even before the leap with the Atifa/Khyber track, the Chittor war, deaths of Hasan Hussain...Nothing clicked for JA after Atifa and Khyber entered the show and especially after Maham died. The CVs couldn't drag Maham's role forever. And they couldn't get another villain to replace her successfully. Mahachuchak Begum didn't get anyone's vote. Adham and Atga Khan were dead. The CVs didn't know what to do with Sharif-ud-din beyond showing him as a luster. They tried hard with Ruqayya Begum and they got everyone to hate her and want to see her punished. But a successful villain needs strong positive characters to act as counterfoil and needs to be shown to meet his/her nemesis. Neither of these factors was included by the CVs in the script. 

Looking beyond villains, the CVs needed to develop the relationship between Jodha and Akbar further into a strong bond, which they couldn't. The makers of this show are well capable and know how to handle mature relationships among married people, as this was not the first show they made. But, what the CVs had showed, it looked liked they have absolutely no clue what to do with the hero and heroine once they had confessed their love and had become parents too. Result --> pathetic blame games and Misunderstandings.

Sticking to history required a massive budget both for research and for authentic sets / war scenes etc. Hence the makers refused to move out of the harem or show anything which required a new set or extra money to be spent. Research(which was evident earlier) was replaced by fantasy which was quite easy since they already had a disclaimer. 

A new love story means that they don't need expensive sets, historical research or major villains. The father (Akbar) can be turned into the villain and the mother can be made a typical daily show lead caught up between the husband and son. And the show can go on, riding on the success of the initial product. Rajat and Paridhi are still continuing and that too in silence, they must be aware how the fans feel by the changed storyline. There were reports(i don't know how much true) that Rajat complained about the less, lesser and least screen space given to him now-days. Perhaps, the CVs have become arrogant, flushed with the success of the show. And can issue any statement and dish out anything in the name of JA. The makers are accountable for the show to the audience.

Since the death of Hussein the quality of JA was deteriorating but at least Jodha Akbar were the focus and main leads. One feels cheated by the makers of JA that they decided to focus on SA rather than JA. I read few posts regarding new actors, but the problem is not the actors but the characters they play. It was JA and THEIR journey not SA. Yes, showing Salim was inevitable but they could have showed so many tracks of Jodha Akbar's life before Salim than show Salim growing up and his important parts of life from JA's POV. Why the rush to show SA.? They could have ended it before ruining JA's story. If they had gracefully ended JA and then showed SA as new show, I am pretty sure many viewers would have given chance including hardcore JA viewers.

It's really disheartening to see how CVs have turned a very successful show from gold to garbage. There was a time when many i know, used to spend hours watching JA, even the repeats, waiting for promos, discussing each and everything about JA and the actors, reading all brilliant analysis on the episodes everyday. There was a time when weekends were hated by many, as was was no Jodha Akbar those days.

Now, all that is a thing of past. JA has changed and moved on, so has life.......All the Best to the actors who made this show a success, for their future.....

The article has been posted under the Jodha Akbar section of history_geek's Blog.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Akbar visits Ajmer | Ist time gets married to MUZ | also after Salim's birth

Hi all,

This post talks of two important events in the life of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Both of them are related to Akbar's visit to Ajmer Sharif. And, both of them are related to the date today - 20th January.!

1st - 453 years Back...

The main incident i am going to talk about is of 20th  January 1562. Here's the background. It was the first time Akbar visited Ajmer. It so happened that one night, Akbar was hunting near Agra in a village called Mandarkar. There, he heard praises of the Sufi saint Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chisti from some Indian minstrels and made up his mind to visit the Dargah/Shrine. Despite the fact that it was not safe for him to visit Ajmer at that time of the year, Akbar showed an inward inclination to visit Ajmer. 

Says Abul Fazl - "...he showed a desire for enlighten­ment, conceived a strong inclination to visit the Khwaja's shrine. The attraction of a pilgrimage thither seized his collar....though his followers urged that he should not go to remote places, and spoke of the dangers of them and the numbers of refractory persons there, he did not give heed to them, for his mind was set upon going, and only became more determined to make the expedi­tion..."

Akbar proceeded to Ajmer and the first thing which reached his ears was the trouble which Raja Bharmal was facing at the hands of Sharif-ud-din, Mughal Subedar. Chugtai Khan introduced Raja Bharmal to Akbar, and that historic meet took place on 20th January 1562.!. Acc. to Abul Fazl, the marriage of Akbar with the Princess of Amer was due to a divine vision he had at Ajmer Sharif.

{Acc. to Abu'l Fazl, Hamida Bano Begum's great grandfather was a great seer, and Hamida inherited the visionary blood from him, which was later inherited by Akbar.}

I will be soon posting a separate post about the marriage of Akbar with Harka Bai/MUZ .

2nd - 445 years Back..
The is about the details of Akbar's pilgrimage to Ajmer Sharif, which he started on 20th January 1570.

Akbar had vowed that if he is blessed with a son, he would walk to the shrine of the founder of the Sufi Chishti order, Sheikh Muin-ud-Din Chishti, at Ajmer to offer his prayers. Then, Salim was born on 30th August 1569 to his first Hindu wife, Mariam-Uz-Zamani. In order to fulfill his vow, he left Agra on 20th January 1570, and swiftly covered the 370 kilometers on foot, in 16 phases. He is depicted here in this painting, accompanied by servants carrying emblems of royalty.  


Abul Fazl, notes that whenever the emperor went out in a formal context, five standards would be carried next to him, as well as the qur, a collection of flags and other insignia. These were all wrapped in red cloth, the colour of royalty.

The aftabgir, a shade held over the emperor's head and seen here, was also on Abul Fazl's list of royal emblems. While in Ajmer, Akbar distributed alms at the shrine, visited other local sacred places, and ordered the construction of new mosques.

Painted in opaque water colour and gold on paper, Akbar is at the centre of the composition, dressed in white, walking across a landscape during his pilgrimage on foot to Ajmer in thanksgiving for the birth of Prince Salim. Servants follow him, bearing emblems of royalty including a sunshade. 

In the  Ain-i-Akbari, following details are given about the royal symbols:

1. The Aurang, or throne, is made of several forms; some are inlaid with precious stones, and others are made of gold, silver, &c. 

2. The Chatr, or umbrella, is adorned with the most precious jewels, of which there are never less than seven. 

3. The Saiban is of an oval form, a yard in length, and its handle, like that of the umbrella, is covered with brocade, and ornamented with precious stones. One of the attendants holds it, to keep off the rays of the sun. It is also called Aftabgir. {See the picture above}

4. The Kaukabah, of which several are hung up before the assembly hall. {it is a crook from which a steel ball was suspended}

5. The 'Alam. When the king rides out, not less than five of these are carried along with the Qur(collection of flags carried with the king where ever he goes), wrapped up in scarlet cloth bags. On days of festivity, and in battle, they are unfurled. 

6. The Chatrtoq, a kind of 'Alam, but smaller than it, is adorned with the tails of Tibetan yaks. 

7. The Tuman toq is like the Chatrtoq, but longer. Both insignia are flags of the highest dignity, and is bestowed upon great nobles only. 
We discussed in an old post that Akbar gave Tuman Toq to Khusrau, son of Salim.
Link: Khusrau - The Unfortunate Mughal Prince - Struggle for Power-I

Alam, Tuman Togh and Chatrtoq are similar(not same) looking standards.

8. The Jhanda is an Indian flag. The Qur necessarily contains a flag of each kind; but on great occasions many are displayed.

Akbar had also vowed to visit the Dargah of Ajmer if he wins Chitor War, and after winning it also he paid a visit there. I will update it in the Chittor War series only, when i post about it.

Till then, the blog has 2 parts on Chittor battle...
Preparation of Rajputs - Battle of Chittor | II -  Click HERE to Read  
Why did Akbar attack Chittor - I  Click HERE to Read

This article has been posted under the Mughals(Akbar) section of this history BLOG.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Remembering Maharana Pratap | A Tribute

" The magnitude of the peril confirmed his fortitude, who vowed " to make his mother's milk resplendent " ; and he amply redeemed his pledge ; at one time carrying destruction into the plains, at another flying from rock to rock, feeding his family from the wild fruits of his native hills, and rearing the nursling hero Amar^ , amidst savage beasts and scarce less savage men, a fit heir to his prowess and revenge. The bare idea that "the son of Bappa Rawal* should bow the head to a mortal man" was insupportable ; and he spurned every overture which had submission for its basis, or the degradation of uniting his family with the Tattar, though lord of countless multitudes...."

^ - Son of Maharana Pratap, talks about the days when he was living in exile in forests.
* - He founded Mewar dynasty in 734 A.D., ancestor of Pratap.

-----  Annals of Mewar

Single-handed, for a quarter of a century [1572-97] did he withstand the combined efforts of the mightiest empire of his times under one of the mightiest sovereigns to have ever walked this earth. The story of the struggle between Pratap and Akbar, which is crowded and too replete with incidents, produces the impression that it was a prolonged struggle and involved the Mughals in useless sweat and toil. The repeated attempts of the Mughal commanders were nullified by the repeated counter-assaults launched by Pratap's army, and ultimately brought much misery and sufferings on the invading forces. For a long time the Mughal interest had to suffer in Bengal and North- West Frontier provinces on account of the major resources of the Mughal empire being utilized against the Rajputs in Mewar.

Scene from the Battle of Haldighati - Maharana Pratap on Chetak attacking Man Singh on his Elephant

As a general and leader of men in war, Pratap was a person suited to the need of his own time and also "his conditions". At the Battle of HaldiGhati, it is true - his army, initially,  had destroyed the Mughal army which " started to flee(not retreat) from the battle-field after the Pratap army's onslaught**", but they committed a sad error by subsequent engagement in the frontal attack against the numerically much superior Mughal army with reinforcements, where four hours of action brought disaster and ruin to them; but equally true is the fact that he made amends, by subsequently following the policy of abandoning a post and rallying his strength in the hilly strongholds. Cutting the enemy's communications, surprise attacks and retreat, the new tactics applied scientifically to his advantage against heavy odds, were legacies which he gave to the generations following him. His defensive mountainous warfare became a technique in itself. The application of Bhil Tribal infantry for dash and sudden attacks added a novelty to his system of warfare which no one can ignore.

** - The flight of Mughal Army at the Battle of Haldighati(1576), after the onslaught of Pratap's army has been recorded in many records, both Mughal(in brief) and Rajputana.. I list some of them here :

1. Al-Badaouni - Persian, Volume-2, Pg-232
2. Tabaqat-i-Akbari, Persian, Pg-333
3. Akbarnama, Persian, Vol-3, Pg-152

4. Amarkavya Vanshavali, F-43(b), 44(a)
5. Raj Ratnakar, Canto-7, VV-19/20
6. Sanskrit Inscription inscribed at the Jaganath Rai Temple at Udaipur. Scan. >

It is said that expeditions to Mewar were given up by Akbar about 1584-85 A.D. , and were never seriously taken up again till 1597, the year Pratap died. Pratap re-organised his power and undid all that was done by the Mughal forces after so much of hard struggle and loss of men and money. Though, it seems, Akbar did not leave Pratap at ease during this period and he was monitoring Pratap's actions. To support my statement i mention the following facts:

1. Raja Jagannath, brother of Raja Bhagwan Das of Amer & son of Raja BharMal, was appointed the incharge of Mughal Forces in 1584, with orders to "get Pratap" , as his activities were becoming very dangerous ("khatarnaak"). He was also made the Governor of the important Suba of Ajmer..... From Akbarnama(Persian), Volume-3, Page-440.

2. For complete one year, Raja Jagannath and Pratap were at continuous odds/clashes, and Pratap was pursued relentlessly by Mughal Forces from all sides. But the task of capturing him was not successful. Here is a famous incident. While Jagannath attacked Mewar, Rajput forces engaged him here but Pratap was not found . He was in Kumbhalgarh, knowing about which, Jaganath proceeded there but Pratap by then, was "busy attacking the Mughal forces in neighbouring districts of Kumbhalgarh". Such swift were Pratap's moves that, before Raja Jagannath could catch Pratap in neighbouring Kumbhalgarh, Pratap had already left for Chittor.....From Akbarnama(Persian), Vol-3, Pg-440.

3. Raja Jagannath was in no mood to leave his pursuit for Pratap. On October 8, 1585 the Mughal Forces had very nearly captured the Rana. They scoured the countryside and left no stone unturned to get him. Even in his retreat Pratap was surprised by the Mughal Forces, but finally "a faithful Rajput and Pratap got away"....From Akbarnama(Persian), Vol-3, Pg-468.

4. Rumor spread that Rana Pratap had gone to Gujarat, and Mughal forces went after him with great speed. But Pratap made himself "scarce" to be found. The armies came back. Almost same time another rumor hastened that Pratap was planning a junction with the Rai of Dungarpur(south-east Rajputana), but Mughal forces were present there beforehand , before the Rai could take any position dangerous to them. The Rai paid a huge money as tribute before the Mughals departed from there....From Akbarnama(Persian), Vol-3, Pg-468.
{ This ruler had a track record of giving shelter to many Mughal rebels/enemies before entering the service of Akbar in 1573. He had also given shelter to Baz Bahadur of Malwa and also to Chandra Sen of Marwar. It is interesting to note that, this king was a father in law of Akbar, as his daughter was married to Akbar in 1577. She was childless.}

Kumbhalgarh Fort at Night

5. The skirmishes continued for two more years till July 1587 when Raja Jagannath was called & sent to Kashmir expedition. His task of subjugating / bringing Pratap to Akbar was not completed.....From Akbarnama(Persian), Vol-3, Pg-523....
It is interesting to see the timeline here. > By 1588, Pratap and Rana Amar Singh had thrown off 36 Mughal garrisons, and Pratap was giving land grants(from copper plate inscription number 368 at Udaipur Commisioner's Office) to his loyal supporters for reconstruction of Mewar economy, despite the presence of Raja Jagannath in Mewar till July 1587.

6. Appointment of Raja Gopal Jadon to Ajmer in 1589.......From Akbarnama(Persian), Vol-3, Pg-575....
(His son, Sanwal Das was a personal trusted soldier, who remained in the company of Akbar.....From Akbarnama(Persian), Vol-3, Pg-434...}

7. Appointment of Sheroya Khan to Ajmer in 1594.......From Akbarnama(Persian), Vol-3, Pg-655....
{ He was the son of Sher Afghan, Nur Jahan was his (step?)mother........From Maasir(Persian), Vol-2, Pg-573....}

8. Appointment of Bharti Chand Diwan to Ajmer in 1595.......From Akbarnama(Persian), Vol-3, Pg-670....

9. Appointment of Rustum Khan as the Faujdar of Chittor in 1595.......From Akbarnama(Persian), Vol-3, Pg-696....

Kumbhalgarh Fort

Akbar had not lost hold of happenings in Mewar even in these years. We can see from the happenings above. The issue with Mughal accounts(which are easily available) is that, they conceal uncomfortable defeats in their writings. Hardly any win of Pratap has been mentioned in the Mughal accounts. One wonders after reading them, if Pratap did not win against Mughal forces, then how come he re-gained entire Mewar back(except Chittor and Mandal).? For example : No Mughal account mentions the 4 continuous sieges/fights to take Kumbhalgarh Fort, against the Rana where the Mughal forces were defeated 4 times between October 1577 to April 1578. On April 3, 1578 the fort was left due to extinction of the fighters after continuous fight and drying up of food provisions. Hence, finally, Kumbhalgarh Fort was taken. This news of taking the fort has been recorded in all the Mughal accounts but NOT the previous 4 defeats.!!

As late as 1595, were Pratap's advancement checked - One of the last persons to accept Mughal authority in 1595, after continuous battles, was a son of the late King of Gwalior, Raja Ram Shah Tanvar, who was an ally of Rana Udai Singh and Maharana Pratap. Despite being singled out from every side, Pratap remained free. 

I mentioned in the last post that Akbar wanted to remove Salim from Mughal court in 1597, but that was not successful. Finally, he was made to go against Mewar in 1599 A.D.

Whatever may be the case, but only Chittor and Mandalgarh remained in the hands of Akbar, at the end. The facts as explained above make us think that the right course for Akbar after Haldgi-Ghati War(1576) would have been to stop the useless carnage in Mewar, to be content with the results already acquired, to hold the captured forts fast, and rally the population of that part to the standard of the principles followed in the Mughal dominion. It is a strange irony of history that Akbar began his career of the conquest in Mewar with the possession of the Forts of Chittor and Mandalgarh after the Battle of Chittor(1567-68), and ended up retaining these two only at his death(1605). !! 

Fort of Chittor - An Old Painting

As regards Pratap it must be said that for 25 long years, he spent the prime of his life in hardships, and stood to the might of the mightiest person of not only Hindustan but possibly the most powerful empire of that time. Pratap had played an important part upon the political stage, and represented with remarkable fidelity the views of the great majority of his subjects. He was a great ruler by virtue of his being a good man, with homely virtue, simple life, dauntless courage, untiring industry, generosity and kindness which won him great affection and respect. *

* AmarsarYashVarnan, Verse 73, F-7(a).....See scan below>

The wear and tear of many years of almost continuous campaigning and fighting had naturally affected Pratap's nerves, while the many wounds he had received may have undermined his iron constitution and he fell ill due to an injury sustained by his leg, while striking the bow. The blow was fatal. After some days ill ness he died at Chavand on January 19, 1597. He was cremated on the bank of a stream near the village of Bandoli, 1.5 miles near his capital Chavand. - Veer V., Vol.2, Pg-164

Even after Pratap's death, Bandoli continued to be the burning place of the Mewar Royal House which is clear from an inscription dated 1601 AD. This inscription is about the date of death of a sister of Pratap, but i could not get her name.

Maharana Pratap's Chattri at Bandoli near Chavand - Place of Cremation

Pratap's death did more than close an epoch .It removed from the stage of Rajput politics it's most striking and most attractive personality. Often Akbar brought Pratap's relations against him, but Pratap indomitable spirit could not be surpassed. The princes of Marwar, Amer, Bikaner, and even Bundi, late his firm ally, was on side of Akbar. Even his own brother, Sagar(second son of his step-mother DheerBai Bhatiyani), deserted him, and joined Akbar after not being able to sustain the hardships, in 1583. DheerBai's first son, Kunwar Jagmaal had already joined Akbar long before. Pratap employed the same strategy against Akbar. By the feats of his political foresight he made alliances with some of his neighboring states and cleverly diverted the attention of Akbar to undo them. In the mean time, Pratap was ready with another task for the Mughal Forces. Abu'l Fazl notes the actions of Akbar and Pratap in Volume-3 of Akbarnama as follows > "If Akbar was a diplomat, Rana Pratap was ready to provide enough work to imperial forces."

This device of making alliances often succeeded and Mewar had to face "divided strength" of the Mughal army dispatched for Rajputana. As an eternal optimist he took the blows of adverse fortune with equanimity, and he never bore a grudge against it. By his spirit and success the soldiers were taught to act, the subjects to hope and the enemies to fear and respect.

Great warrior as Pratap was, it is to be admitted that Akbar was a master strategist who brought almost everyone into his fold whatever may be the means, except Pratap. Pratap's remaining aloof from that hold was an impediment to his task(as Abu'l Fazl says). Had Pratap joined the service of Akbar, his country could have been saved from the plunder, continuous destruction and ruin. But Pratap's name is immortal in the history of this land as a great soldier of liberty who concentrated his attention on this moral aspect of the struggle he had to wage without caring for material advantage or losses involved. He upheld the pride of his race and as long as this race lives, it will cherish with pride the memory of one who staked his all in a fight against the person "who wanted to imperialize him". As a great warrior of liberty, a devoted lover of noble cause and a hero of moral character, his name is to millions of men even today, a cloud of hope by the day and a pillar of fire by the night..

Fort of Chittor - Situated on a Hill
The court historians of Akbar, dazzled by the commanding talents and his unlimited means which enabled him to gratify his soaring ambition, seldom have a word of sympathy to spare for the gallant foes whose misery made his triumph possible. Yet they too, men and women BOTH, are worthy of remembrance. The vanquished, it may be, were greater than the victor......~~

" Thus closed the life of a warrior whose memory is even now idolized by everyone in Rajputana. Had Mewar possessed her Thucydides or her Xenophon, neither the wars of the Peloponnesus nor the retreat of the " ten thousand " would have yielded more diversified incidents for the historic muse than the deeds of this brilliant reign amid the many vicissitudes of Mewar. Undaunted heroism, inflexible fortitude, that which " keeps honour bright ", perseverance -with fidelity such as no nation can boast, were the materials opposed to a soaring ambition, commanding talents, unlimited means, and the fervour of religious zeal ; all, however, insufficient to contend with one unconquerable mind - Pratap.   "      

-----  Annals of Mewar

Such was the story of Pratap...
The MAN whose name resonates in the sands of Rajputana, even today....

The post is a tribute to this warrior. Today is 19th January 2015. 
It happens to be the 418th death anniversary of Maharana Pratap.


Article Category : Rajputs.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Khusrau | The unfortunate Mughal Prince - Struggle for Power - 1

This post is about an unfortunate Mughal Prince, Khusrau, the son of Jahangir and Maan Bai, who became a victim of the political propaganda ; in the game to capture the power - the throne of Hindustan.

The series had 2 articles. This is Part-1 of the same.

Power, then as now, brings its own price. Neither life nor death was kind to this unfortunate son of Jahangir. Recounting one of the most tragic yet inspiring stories to come out of Mughal India…

The Fort of Agra, October 27/28 1605. Inside the gilded chambers of the Royal Quarters a man lay on his bed, dying. Select queens of the zenana and senior courtiers were gathered around, as was a younger man of royal countenance in his mid-thirties. It was upon him that the gaze of the sinking man finally rested. He was not to know, even if he was in any position to reflect on it, that the prince had been smuggled into the room in the nick of time. 

He raised his head painfully and nodded, beckoning the prince forward. With a servant supporting him reverently, the sick man placed the robes and turban in the younger man's hands in a formal yet curiously tender gesture. Then he fell back on the cushions; his eyes roved around the room one last time before glazing forever.

The wails of the women from the anteroom began, marking the end of one of the defining reigns in the annals of Hindustan. For almost half a century, Jalal-ud-din Mohammed Akbar had been master of one of the largest empires. He was the greatest of the Mughals , an empire-builder of genius, whose name shines undimmed through the passage of centuries not just for what he achieved by force of arms, but for the brilliant administrative edifice through which he governed, and for the religious syncretism and tolerance that he brought to polity.

Prince Khusrau ( the son Jahangir and Maan Bai), in red turban, with his brother Parvez(behind) meeting Jahangir. Khusrau is giving a drink to his father and Parvez is serving dishes. | 1605-06

Akbar was a man far in advance of his time. So potent was his persona that only those most gifted and possessed of a strong sense of self-worth could stand up to him. It was a trait that was to have fateful consequences for his heirs. 

Akbar had three surviving sons: Salim, Murad and Daniyal, born to him in 1569, 1570 and 1572 respectively. Yet, by 1605 only Salim still lived; the other two had self-destructed through addiction to opium and alcohol. At the time of his father's death, Salim too had become over-fond of stimulants and subject to the most capricious mood swings when in the grip of arrack and opium. Between 1599 and 1605 he also led a series of revolts against Akbar, and war between father and son was averted only through the intervention of Akbar's senior begum - namely Salima Begum and his mother Hamida Bano Begum, and by Salim's own realization that he was militarily no match for his father. {Link}

In despair over the succession, Akbar's mind turned to one who, by widespread consent, had all the requisite qualities to succeed him: Salim's eldest son Khusrau. Khusrau was born in 1587 to Salim and Man Bai, a Rajput princess from Amer, the daughter of Raja Bhagwan Das and sister of Raja Man Singh. Khusrau soon grew up to be a court favourite.

A European clergyman writes of Khusrau : “He had a pleasing presence and excellent carriage, was exceedingly beloved of the common people, their love and delight”. At 18, Khusrau was everything his father was not: personable, brave, and a talented battlefield commander.

"1. Following details have been collected from Akbarnama(Persian), Vol-3, Page-651

On 28th March 1594, Akbar made a decision, which had no precedent, and neither it saw a feat of this kind being repeated in the future, in Mughal Empire. He granted Khusrau, a high imperial rank (mansab) of panz hazari, i.e., 5000, even though Khusrau was only six years old at the time.!

In the Akbarnama, Abu'l Fazl praises Khusrau, as possessor of "great khird(wisdom) with a khurd(small)" , meaning "a small/young kid with great wisdom".

Along with the high ranking mansab, Akbar assigned the financial resources of the newly conquered province of Orissa to Khusrau. The emperor also appointed his maternal uncle and Salim’s brother-in-law - Raja Man Singh, as his ataliq (guardian). 

Simultaneously, Raja Man Singh was  made the governor of the neighboring province of Bengal. Not only this, Khusrau was placed as incharge of the seasoned Rajput and Afghan troops to his command. Thus, political and military muscle was added at the hold of Khusrau.

This was Khusrau at the age of 6.!.He was everything his father was not at this age, in his lifetime. Further, he insisted that Prince Khusrau was to remain under his exclusive charge. He also proclaimed - "I love my grandchildren more than sons."

2. 16th August 1604 was a very important day, as many important decisions were taken. 
Scan from Akbarnama is given below.

 Akbarnama tells us before his death, Akbar made Khusrau a commander/mansabdar of 10,000 forces (he was already a commander of 5000 in 1594 at the age of 6), which was the highest Imperial rank existing that time. Now, after receiving this rank, his status was equal to his father Salim, despite he being a grandson, and not a direct/natural claimant in the succession to throne. But, further, his status was raised over Salim when, along with this dus-hazari mansabdari, Akbar also assigned him drum and a tuman-togh(yak tail fixed at the end of long staff, normally we see this in Gurudwaras to honor Shri Guru Granth Sahib, Sikh readers might be knowing.)

Drum - This was a symbol of authority, and the honor reserved ONLY for The Emperor. This honor was rarely given to anyone, once it was bestowed upon Raja Bhagwan Das after the Battle of Gujarat in 1573, for his exceptional bravery in guarding Akbar's life.

Tuman-togh - Akbarnama, Vol-2, Pg-182 tells us that, after the death of Bairam Khan, Akbar had given "Drums and tuman-togh" to Ataga Khan - raised him to an authority just under him. Note that, now these imperial standards were given to Khusrau.!


 Akbar further secured the interests of Khusrau by assigning him under the guardianship of Raja Man Singh. Along with that, Raja Man Singh was made a mansabdar of 7000/6000. Mirza Aziz Koka, the father in law of Khusrau was assigned the province of Bihar. The young grandson of Raja Man Singh, Maha Singh, who was his preferred choice for the throne of Amer, was assigned a mansab of 2000. Raja Man Singh already had the province of Bengal, and as we saw earlier Khusrau was having the command of Orissa since the age of 6.!

Raja Man Singh was already called as his Farzand(son) by Akbar. For Mirza Aziz Koka, Akbar used to say - "There flows a river of milk between the two of us, which i can never cross." After reading the above facts, it can be understood, what was Akbar trying to do, while bestowing one honor after another on Khusrau and his supporters.

In 1599(the year Murad died), Akbar granted the use of red-tents to Danial. Red-tents(apart from drums and tuman togh) were a symbol of "Imperial authority", which only Akbar used till then. This act of Akbar was very offending to Salim, as he was the eldest son, still Akbar gave this authority to Danial. But, Akbar knew who was more able to succeed him.

It is worth noting that, after the death of Danial, Akbar openly started bestowing favors on Khusrau and his supporters. These crucial steps were taken just after the death of Prince Danial(1604). He was considered a good successor of Akbar, if not for his alcohol addiction. But after his death, Akbar's bet was on Khusrau.

Akbar was a man of vision. He never opened his cards before anyone. No one could read his mind. He had groomed Khusrau since his young days to be a ruler, and now, when Daniyal also died, he began to execute his plans silently for Khusrau.

Akbar's policy was one of "action and pacification", rather say of "carrots and sticks", with Salim. On one hand, he wanted him to mend his ways , on the other hand he was placing Khusrau on the way to throne. Here are 3 more steps taken by him. 

a. Akbar decided, in 1597, to remove Salim from the Imperial court, despite his resistance. Salim argued that he should remain at court in light of the Emperor’s advancing age, and this drew support from Salim’s own circle(see point b. below). But, in 1599, Akbar made Salim to accept command of an expedition against the recalcitrant Rajput state of Mewar and to subjugate it by going against Rana Amar Singh, after the death of Maharana Pratap. {It may be noted that in his lifetime Maharana Pratap{To read More details : Click here} had gained entire Mewar back except Chittor and the Fort of Mandal.} This(1599) was the same time, when Danial was granted the use of red-tents, while Salim was away, as we saw earlier. This opened the tensions between the father-son and in 1599 Salim rebelled against Akbar.

b. We saw in point-a, that Salim had many supporters. Akbar's daughter Shakr-un-Nissa Begum was a very strong supporter of her brother Salim, since starting. {See more here at #10:Children of Akbar and Mariam-Uz-Zamani} In order to contain the force from her side, Akbar played a masterstroke. He made her husband, his son-in-law Mirza Shahrukh a mansabdar of 7000/5500, just below the rank of Raja Man Singh(7000/6000), on 16th August 1604.

c. Such calculated were moves of Akbar that he knew how to proceed with caution at every step, "carrot and stick". An example : Before granting the huge favors to Man Singh, Khusrau, Mirza Aziz Koka, Mirza Shahrukh, and others on 16th August 1604, he went to the quarters of Salim, mounting on a boat without informing anyone, and spent one pahar in his quarters. Akbarnama notes that Salim "received him with the step of devotion and made the dust of Akbar's feet his eye salve, and opened his lips in thanks giving for the visit." 

Akbar came back and after granting favors on everyone, Akbar made a concession for Salim by announcing that the diwans should manage the affairs of the kingdom in accordance with the "advice" of Salim , and that his seal should be affixed to the grants of the officer's mansab. To me, this appears to be a gimmick of Akbar to contain Salim, because the real powers were being given to Khusrau and his supporters. It is worth noting that Salim's seal, perhaps, was to be used to grant an equal mansab to his son and his supporters, as moments back Akbar had elevated their position.

 Note that, all imperial court members have seals, and they worked as modern day signatures at the end of a document, and Salim's powers were merely "advisory" in nature. "
This year of bestowing all these favors on the nobles and Khusrau is also said to be 1605, not 1604. But that can be verified only after reading the Persian text, not from the English translation.

Struggle for power

Inevitably, in the years just prior to Akbar's death his court was a political cauldron, “a snake-pit of intrigue” between the rival camps of Salim and Khusrau. So distressed was Man Bai at the vicious infighting that she committed suicide by an overdose of opium in May 1605, according to the accounts present with us.{Link}

By October, the succession was poised on a knife-edge. Khusrau was backed by the duo of Raja Man Singh, the Raja of Amer, and Mirza Aziz Koka (Khusrau's uncle and father-in-law respectively), and by Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khana. These 3 were amongst the most influential nobles in the Mughal durbar and Khusrau's star seemed clearly in the ascendant. 

Khusrau himself was convinced that he was destined to be the next ruler of Hindustan, addressing his father in terms of equality as ‘Bhai' or brother rather than as a father. {From, Masir-i-Jahangiri of Husaini, Alavi Bombay edition, 1978, Persian, Pg-53} This had complete backing of Akbar. An alternate view is that - Akbar was pitting Khusrau against Jahangir in order to contain the latter, since 1594.!

No sooner was Akbar laid to rest than events began to move at breakneck speed. At a meeting of the senior umra(nobles) called to decide the succession, Akbar's handing of the robes to Salim tipped the scales in favour of the Salim faction, which carried the day. But, Akbar had not declared him as the next ruler, but only asked him to return to his quarters, until he asks him to come back again. Finally, In November, 1605, Salim ascended the Mughal throne as Nur-ud-din Mohammed Jahangir Padshah Ghazi. One of the first acts of the new Emperor was to have Prince Khusrau confined to his quarters in the fort, with only his wife to keep him company. Also, he was denied his governorship of Bengal, which was promised to him earlier.

Chroniclers at Jahangir's court record dismissively Khusrau's descent into melancholy at this time. But this was a young man who had been offered a giddy vision of power afforded to very few, encouraged by many, including his illustrious grandfather - The great Akbar himself, to believe in his manifest destiny — only to have it crushed in the space of just hours.

Whatever be the reason, Khusrau's character now underwent a shift as the disappointment ate into him like a cancer. One of the acts which alarmed Khusrau was, when he came to know - Jahangir was being guided by one of the nobles to blind him. Goaded on by a wide network of informants and sympathizers, he made his move in April, 1606. During a visit to the tomb of his grandfather Akbar at Sikandra, he slipped past his guards and, with a small band of soldiers faithful to him, struck out northwest towards Lahore.

The rebellion

The news of Khusrau's flight sped through the country like wildfire. Malcontents of every kind — disaffected nobles of many clans and several frontier tribes — flocked to his banner as did some senior loyalists of his grandfather.

However, Khusrau did not foresee the swiftness of the Mughal response. For once, Jahangir acted with speed and decision. The newly appointed governor, Dilawar Khan, raced from Agra to Lahore in just 11 days and strengthened and sealed the defences before Khusrau's army could reach the city. Simultaneously, a punitive force of over 50,000 was assembled at Agra and launched towards the enemy. Unable to break Lahore's defences, Khusrau had no option but to turn and fight. 

The armies met on the north bank of the Ravi on April 27, 1606. Fighting in heavy rain, which turned the battlefield into a mud soup, the rebels were routed and Khusrau captured and brought before his father in chains. Jahangir's retribution was ruthless. The rebel soldiers and their commanders were impaled alive on stakes by the hundreds, and Khusrau forced to ride between the screaming men to witness their agony up close. 

A more fateful outcome was the summary execution of the Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev, whose only fault was to bless Khusrau on his way to Lahore; an act dictated purely by the canons of hospitality, and which in no way could be construed as supportive of the rebellion. The result was a scarring of the Sikh psyche that would reverberate for centuries. {Note that, accounts contest it was NOT Jahangir who got the Holy Saint executed.}

Khusrau's life was spared, but he was condemned to a fate almost as terrible. Either immediately after the rebellion or a year later, holding him complicit in a further plot against him, Jahangir ordered Khusrau blinded.
Part-2 of this series will be posted soon. It will analyze the events which ultiamtely resulted in the murder of Prince Khusrau, along with the tussle between Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum and Nur Jahan Begum and Co. regarding Khusrau.

This article has been posted under the Mughals(Akbar) & Miscellaneous topics section of this history Blog.

Brief contents in this writeup have been borrowed from Mr. Aron R, and my friend Radhika who contributed to this.

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