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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Myanmar Village Seeks Pardon for 1871 Mizo Massacre; A Much-Needed Lesson in Forgiving Excesses of History and Forging New Political Relations

In history, we come across many instances of massacres which leave us numb and make us wonder, "How could they do this?"

We still carry those scars centuries after those events occurred and find it tough to forgive those people whose ancestors had wreaked havoc upon our ancestors, even though the people living now may not share the sentiments of their ancestors and may find it difficult to accept their actions all those years back.

Which is why this news report from the Times of India today made me sit up and take note of it. Amidst pages filled with news stories of hatred, intolerance, violence, here is a small story tucked in a corner of an inside page that can show the rest of the world how to truly live and let live; how to forgive, forget and move on.

Readers may remember that Abhay had touched upon this point in the Chittor blog series: 

"History should not be viewed with a revivalist sentiment but from a reformist approach. Revenge / retaliation for some injustice / crime committed in the medieval / ancient times is not a feasible solution. The past cannot be changed, but repetition of those mistakes in present / future can be avoided.

An interesting part of the story is that the descendants of those who perpetrated the massacre are weighed down by guilt, while those whose ancestors were almost wiped out, found it in their hearts enough love to forgive their "enemies" and enable them to overcome their feelings of guilt and shame.

Here is its link online:

Copying it down here also.

Myanmar Village Seeks Pardon for 1871 Mizo Massacre 

Aizawl: In a unique cross-border initiative, villagers of a Mizoram hamlet and their counterparts from a village in Myanmar gathered along the international border on Wednesday and prayed to erase the sins of their forefathers.

In a ritual enactment, the first of its kind in Mizoram, residents of Khuangleng village in the state's Champhai district "forgave" the residents of Laitui village, located in the Chin Hills of Myanmar, whose ancestors effected a massacre that almost wiped out the Mizo village 144 years ago.

The invasion of Khuangleng by Sukte chief Zapauva in 1871 occurred at a time the Mizo village's chief warriors, led by generals Lalburha and Thanhranga, were away on an expedition in the Assam hills.

Elderly men, women and children were left behind to bear the brunt of the attack and the defenceless inhabitants were either killed or taken as slaves to Myanmar's Laitui. The Suktes are part of an ethnic group of Kuki-Chin origin and are spread across the northeast and Myanmar.

The Suktes are part of an ethnic group of Kuki-Chin origin and are spread across the northeast and Myanmar.

Inexplicably, the incident left a deep scar in the minds of Laitui villagers over the years, with many believing that frequent accidental deaths and illnesses among youngsters in the Myanmarese village were a consequence of the terrible massacre of 1871.

The mass prayers for "forgiveness" took place on Khuangleng's playground along the Mizoram-Myanmar border and were attended by villagers from Khuangleng, as well as 90-odd people from Laitui who arrived here on Tuesday. The forgiveness ritual was followed by a community feast, the cost of which was borne by the residents of Laitui.

A Sketch Map of Mizoram 70-150 Years Back

Historical Note

Mizoram, nestling in a remote corner of northeast India, is home to several ethnic groups of Chin people, who migrated from the Chin state of Myanmar (formerly Burma). But information of this westward migration is based only on oral history and archaeological inferences, as there were no written records in this region till the British started occupying the adjoining regions around the mid-19th century. The history of the land is largely reflected by those of the Lusei, Hmar, Lai, Mara and Chakmas tribes. Following religious, political and cultural revolutions in the mid-20th century, many of these hill people agglomerated into a super tribe, Mizo and their land became known as Mizoram.

The earliest documented records of Mizoram are from the British military officers in the 1850s, when they encountered a series of raids from the native hill people, as they (the British) tried to settle in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Among other reasons for the British foray into this remote region, the fertile lime quarries around Cherrapunji was a major one. 

They referred to the land to as Lushai Hills. The British met stiff resistance from the local tribals and the internecine warfare and raids often resulted in the death of British officials and their family members. As a consequence, British rulers started subjugating the tribal chieftains. Punitive British military expeditions in 1871 and 1889 led to their annexation of the entire Lushai Hills. After India's independence in 1947, the land became the Lushai Hills district within the Indian state of Assam. In 1972 the district was separated from Assam and declared a union territory with a culturally more inclusive name of Mizoram. Ultimately Mizoram became a full-fledged state of the Indian Union in 1986.

Old Record, Deputy Commissioner's Office, Aizawl - Sketch Map showing trade routes 70-150 years back

The Suktes of Myanmar

The Suktes under Zapauva or Zapau were very powerful and the English had faced lot of trouble in subjugating them. (Pg 101, Mizo Chiefs and the Chiefdom, By Suhas Chaterjee)
The Mizos had a code of war that they should not attack during night time. But the Suktes of Myanmar did not adhere to the Mizo code of war. They moved about in a kind of guerilla warfare without compassion for children and women. As a result, the Sailos (they were local chiefs who ruled the area that is now Mizoram) suffered severe hardship throughout the war with the Suktes (around 1871).The strong determination of all the Sailo chiefs to defend their dominions and the unity they could afford to retain against outside aggression in spite of internal conflicts and feuds ultimately enabled them to protect and defend Mizoram from outside encroachment. (Pg 48, Mizoram: Society and Polity, By C. Nunthara)

Article Category: Miscellaneous

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Letter of Shivaji Maharaj to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb protesting RE-imposition of Jaziya | Mughal Emperors Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan & Rana Raj Singh of Mewar also mentioned

Many of you might be aware of the recent debate that raged regarding the 'secular' vs 'bigoted' credentials of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb after a road in Delhi, earlier named after him, was renamed after the visionary former President of India - the Late Abdul Kalam. Let's keep the debate of re-naming the road aside and focus on Aurangzeb and his personality.

Historians and researchers are at loggerheads in trying to categorize Aurangzeb, each side ready with some sets of historical references to strengthen their views.

I was following this debate very closely for a long time, and recently finished reading some of the contemporary, voluminous works on Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb & his farmans. His farmans and personal letters are also present in the Rajasthan state archives at Bikaner. We owe a lot to the tireless efforts of Late Mr. Khadgawat, former Director of Rajasthan State Archives who collected a lot of rare farmans lying unused in the private collections of the Rajas of various erstwhile princely states of Rajasthan. Very interesting perspectives about Aurangzeb emerge from those accounts. Let us reserve that story for another day.

During this reading process, my views about this Mughal Emperor oscillated a lot - one moment he appeared to be a devil who was hell bent at converting Hindustan into an Islamic state, the next moment some of his farmans were like a glimpse of sunshine in the darkness, as he had also given a FEW farmans for land grants to Hindu temples.

Confusing, isn't it? The man whose image is that of one who destroyed temples was also the one who issued some farmans giving land grants to temples! Some historians have given a reason for this - and the reason was political. According to them, he destroyed temples of his political enemies. However, one finds it difficult to agree with this (defence?) because this is ONLY one side of the coin. Even the temples of Amer were not spared. 66 temples were destroyed in Amer in a single day on his orders, though Amer was a long-time ally of the Mughal empire. Aurangzeb's own records mention a fight which took place to save a temple in Amer but the temple could not be saved. The temple was constructed in Amer during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Readers may find it interesting to read an old blog article written about the personality of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb : Aurangzeb - Personality | Assessment

However, such a defence of any debated historical character is not new. For example, even Adolf Hitler is also "praised" by some scholars for some of his "good" acts. Surprised? Just Google for the "good acts of Hitler" and you will get countless such acts of Hitler praised by a section of media. Many of them go on to claim that the life of the German people during the Third Reiche was better than under any previous regime. This does not, in any way, alter my opinion about Hitler. He may have some good deeds to his credit but his evil deeds far outweigh the good ones. We need to take into account, all the aspects. The Holocaust still sends shivers down our spine.

Mughal Emperor Akbar is another complex personality who is hard to understand. His good deeds far exceed the brutal and bad ones. Ironically, just like praise for some of the 'good' acts of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb attracts criticism, similarly the criticism of some 'bad' deeds of Mughal Emperor Akbar is equated to blasphemy!

I believe these people cannot escape criticism or praise, albeit in a varying manner.

Finally, after a lot of brainstorming and taking into view the opinions of many scholars from various schools of thoughts, i have acquired a somewhat clear understanding of Aurangzeb. But, i wanted to know how someone from the 17th century viewed Aurangzeb. 

It was then that i stumbled upon a letter which was written by Shivaji to Aurangzeb. In this letter, Shivaji has registered his protest against the re-imposition of Jazia - a tax extracted from Non-Muslims. This tax was not extracted by the Mughal Emperors before Aurangzeb.

From this letter, we get to know a lot about many things of that era, including an insight into Aurangzeb's personality. It is important to mention that this is NOT the ONLY document by which we can summarize Aurangzeb in totality, but still this document is of exceptional historic value.

Apart from Aurangzeb, this letter also throws light on the character of Shivaji. He appears to be an astute diplomat. The letter was drafted in Persian by Shivaji's Persian secretary - Nila Prabhu and is written in very courteous language, yet, it "threatens" Aurangzeb of "dire consequences". Shivaji challenges Aurangzeb to FIRST extract Jazia from Rana Raj Singh of Mewar, and if he is successful, then Shivaji will also fall in line! This shows his unique skill of riling up his opponent even before the actual attack!

Without further wait, let us see the letter --

Shivaji talks about the event of escaping from Agra without taking leave from Aurangzeb, in his own unique fashion. Thereafter, he mentions about his services. It should be noted that Shivaji had made a pact with Aurangzeb and agreed to send his officer Sona Pandit with a contingent of 500 horses to Aurangzeb in September 1657, to which the latter agreed.
Shivaji's reminder to Aurangzeb - as the latter had spent most part of treasury in fighting. Shivaji reminds him to follow a tolerant policy and starts with the name of Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Shivaji also invokes name of Emperor Jahangir - as he also continued with the policies of his father. Shah Jahan is also mentioned as no Jazia was extracted during this time.

Shivaji condemns the bigotry of Aurangzeb

Shivaji warns Aurangzeb of more damage and highlights the crumbling state of the Mughal empire and the pathetic state of its citizens.

Shivaji tells Aurangzeb - the message of Quran

Shivaji underscores the message of the Quran and tells Aurangzeb that all men are equal in the eyes of God and should be treated with humanity.

Shivaji indirectly tells Aurangzeb that the latter is interfering in God's creation through his bigotry which is tantamount to finding fault with God's design. Shivaji tells him not to use his valour for oppressing the helpless people. Instead, he challenges Aurangzeb to collect jaziya from the Mewar Rana, as Mewar had been traditionally against the Mughal empire. 

Critically discussed and Annotated letter of Shivaji by Jadunath Sarkar
Modern Review, January 1908, Page-21-23

Thanks to Radhika for her valuable contribution.
Article Category : Mughals (Akbar) , Rajputs , Miscellaneous.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Nilkanth Temple Palace of Mughal Emperor Akbar's Hindu Wife in Madhya Pradesh | With English Translation of Persian Inscriptions, Anecdote of Jahangir's BirthDay celebration with his mother in this palace & Pictures of Nilkanth Palace Temple and Shiv Linga

" The whole of life well spent we deem,
In building thus, if o'er us gleam
Some faintest hope that soul of grace
Shall find repose within this place. "  

-- English translation of the beautiful inscription on the Nilkanth Palace
Epigraphia Indo-Moslemica, 1909-10, Pg-25, 
Trans. Zafar Hasan
Published by the Superintendent, Govt. Printing, India, 1912

Nilkanth* is a charming spot named after an old shrine of Lord Shiva which once existed at Mandu in Madhya Pradesh. In this article we will read about the Nilkanth Palace and the temple which dates back to the period of Mughal Emperor Akbar. It is also related to his Hindu wifeLater, it became the favourite retreat for their son, the next Mughal Emperor Jahangir / Salim & he celebrated his birthdays in this palace in the presence of his mother.

* - For our foreign readers : Nilkanth is another name for Lord Shiva, given to Him, after He consumed the poison that arose during the churning of the milky ocean by the Gods and demons in search of nectar, to save the world from annihilation. Nilkanth literally means blue throat; Lord Shiva's throat turned blue after He drank the poison.

Nilkanth Mahal / Palace
Imarat-i-Dilkhusha (the heart-pleasing abode)

The Nilkanth palace was built by the Mughal Governor of Mandu - Shah Badgah, as recorded in an inscription on the site. The palace was constructed for Mughal Emperor Akbar's Hindu wife, remembered as Jodhabai in common memoryin the 16th century. This palace is very close to the ancient Nilkanth shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva & it derives its name from the shrine itself. Interestingly the wall of this palace has a very divine & humble inscription talking about "the futility of earthly pomp and glory " --

  Lo, the owl hath built her nest
In Shirwan Shah's high storey,
Warning nightly by her cry,
' Where now thy pomp and glory ? ' 

--- From The City of Joy - Mandu
By G. Yazdani,
Director of Archaeology in His Exalted Highness The Nizam's Dominions,
Epigraphist to the Government of India for Muslim Inscriptions
Printed for the State of Dhar, 
By John Johnson, 
Cover Page, Oxford University Press, 1929

The inscription on this palace, built of red stone and designated as the Imarat-i-Dilkhusha (the heart-pleasing abode), states that it was constructed on the orders of Jalal-ud-din Akbar Badshah in 1574 AD. The inscription was written by Faridun Husain, son of Hatim-al-Hirawi in Thuluth* calligraphy.

* - Thuluth was a large and elegant, cursive script, used in medieval times on decorations at religious places. Various calligraphic styles evolved from the Thuluth in due course. 

The main apartment in this palace is on the southern side, where a holy Shiva linga is housed. This is the most striking feature of this palace, which otherwise looks Islamic in its architecture. The palace contains an ancient Nilkanth temple dating back to the times of the Parmar Rajputs during the early 9th century. The temple suffered destruction at the hands of early invading forces. 

* - The location of the palace close to the temple precincts is explained later in the article. 

The Shiva Lingam in the Nilkanth Temple

Nilkanth Mahal / Palace was constructed on the orders of the Mughal Emperor Akbar for his Hindu wife Jodhabai, by his governor Shah Badgah. His name appears in the inscriptions on this palace, as we will see later in this article.
From The Indian Encyclopaedia, Set of 25 Volumes
Biographical, Historical, Religious, Administrative, Ethnological, Commercial & Scientific
Volume - 15, Page - 4596 , Cosmos Publications, New Delhi, 2002

From The City of Joy - Mandu
By G. Yazdani,
Director of Archaeology in His Exalted Highness The Nizam's Dominions and Epigraphist to the Government of India for Muslim Inscriptions
Printed for the State of Dhar, by John Johnson, Page- 34, Oxford University Press, 1929

The Nilkanth Palace was constructed in record time, between 23rd April,  1574 and 11th April, 1575, that is, in less than a year. See Inscription Number 250. 

From The Study Of Muslim Inscriptions with Special Reference To The Inscriptions Published In The Epigraphia Indo Moslemica

By V.S. Bendrey,
A Study of 600 Epigraphical Inscriptions, 1907-1938, Pg-129,
Printed by M.N. Kulkarni at the Karnataka Publishing House, Bombay, 1944

The architecture of the palace is a visual treat for history lovers. The palace offers a magnificent view of the valley below. The main portion of the palace is enclosed by rooms to its west, south and east, providing privacy to the inhabitants. However, the northern portion is open so that the beautiful view of the valley can be enjoyed.

The History of the Nilkantha Palace - Temple

The present structure was apparently built on the site of an ancient shrine of Lord Shiva. The original name of the building survived during the last three centuries in spite of the Muslim character of the building, as the 'palace - temple' complex was dedicated to Him. Now, this structure is used as a temple.

The palace is said to be located at the site of an ancient temple. After the 'destructive' waves of invasions of the 12th and 13th centuries, many ancient buildings suffered damage. This structure was outwardly made to appear like a Muslim building during the reign of Akbar, but actually contained both the palace and a temple. Now it is used as a temple only.
For more details, see Dhar and Mandu
By Major C.E. Luard, Page 29
Printed by Bishamber Nath Bhargava, Allahabad, 1912 

Here is a picture of the room used as a temple, with a Trishul in it.

Another Persian inscription says that after the conquest of Deccan and Khandesh, Emperor Akbar set out for Hind* (North India) in 1600 AD. This inscription was written by Masum Nami. 

* - Hind is a geographical term, not religious.

Still another Persian inscription says that His Exalted Majesty Akbar visited this place in his 44th regnal year, that is, 1600 AD, on his way to conquer Deccan. This inscription also contains a quatrain in Persian, composed and inscribed by Masum Nami. 

The inscriptions here are of great importance. One interesting verse refers in a plaintive note to the futility of earthly pomp and glory:

" At dawn I noticed an owl roosting
In the balcony of Shirwan Shah :
Plaintively it uttered this warning ,
Where all that Pomp and where all that Glory? "

The Beautiful View of the Valley from the Palace

The rooms on the eastern & western sides have semi-domical roofs & only one arched opening each towards the court; their floor being on a higher level than that of the court but on a lower level than that of the room on the southern side. In the inner room to the south is an octagonal cistern, which was fed with water from the dried-up tank on the plateau above, as can be judged from the traces of a water channel and a fine cascade on the back of the building. The outer room seems to have been an apartment of the palace, as it overlooks the court and the beautiful valley beyond it.

View of the beautiful valley from the apartment of Nilkanth Mahal

The temple is one of the most beautiful structures of Mandu and, quite naturally, one of the most popular tourist spots as well as an important pilgrimage centre of the place. It is considered to be one of the most sacred shrines in the area and devotees come here in huge numbers, even from far-off places, to perform various rituals and ceremonies. 

Spiral Water Channel at Nilkanth Palace. 
People can be seen taking water drops in their hands, considering it to be sacred. The water coming through this channel feeds the tank.

Close View of the Spiral Channel

Another Close View of the Spiral Water Channel

Architecture of the Nilkanth Palace

This building has no architectural pretensions, but its style is typical of Akbar's period. 

The palace is approached by a long flight of steps, sixty-one in all, leading down to the western projection of its court. The main portion of the court is enclosed by rooms to its west, south and east, the northern side being kept open so that the beautiful valley may be seen clearly. 

In the center of the court is a fine cistern to which water was supplied by a channel or cascade built along the plinth of the apartment on the southern side. Pictures of the channel can be seen above.

Side View of the Palace With the Tank in the Centre 
Mughal influence can be seen clearly in the construction.

Front View of the Palace. 
Construction can be seen on 3 sides - front, left and right. The 4th side from where this picture has been clicked is open and faces the valley. 
A picture showing the valley's view can be seen above.

The shrine has an ancient Shiva linga and is dedicated to Lord Shiva's Nilkanth incarnation. It is located on the edge of a steep gorge. The walls of the temple feature elegant designs. The temple is thickly surrounded by trees. The enclosure of the shrine faces a sacred pond that receives water from its nearest stream. The tree-shaded courtyards and the sacred pond fed by a stream are part of this ancient temple. 

Khirni Tree at Nilkanth Temple

An Account of the Palace by an Archaeologist

Here is a detailed description of the Nilkanth palace by an eminent archaeologist-cum-epigraphist of the Government of India, G. Yazdani, when he visited this palace in 1927, as a guest of the erstwhile royal state of Dhar.

I am simply posting the scanned pages. The pages also contain the English translation of some of the Persian inscriptions in this palace.

The information has been sourced from The City of Joy - Mandu, by G. Yazdani, Director of Archaeology in His Exalted Highness The Nizam's Dominions and Epigraphist to the Government of India for Muslim Inscriptions, Printed for the State of Dhar, by John Johnson, Page - 111 to 114, Oxford University Press, 1929.





There are more inscriptions in this palace. They can be read in the Epigraphia Indo-Moslemica, 1909-10, Inscriptions of Dhar and Mandu, Zafar Hasan, published by the Superintendent, Govt. Printing Press, India, 1912. Due to my inability to procure this source, the details of those inscriptions have not been included in this article. Readers may try to obtain this book for more information.

This is a photograph of Nilkanth Palace, used as a Hindu shrine, taken by an unknown photographer in 1902. 
This is a view of the arched entrance to the building, which was built outwardly an as Islamic structure, predominantly in the Mughal style. Mandu was the centre of an important provincial style of Islamic architecture characterised by an elegant and powerful simplicity, which is believed to have influenced later Mughal architecture at Agra and Delhi. 

Mandu was also an ancient stronghold, which first came to prominence under the Parmar Rajput dynasty, who ruled over the province of Malwa in central India with their seat at Dhar, during the 10th century.

From Curzon Collection: 'Photographs. Dhar and Mandu'.
Presented to His Excellency Lord Curzon by His Highness Udaji Rao Puar of Dhar, Nov 5th 1902
Photographs Album 430/32, Photo Number 46
Courtesy : British Library

Importance of this Palace  -
For Mughal Emperor Jahangir and His Mother Mariam-Uz-Zamani

It is on record that the Mughal Emperor Jahangir celebrated his birthday by going to the palace of his mother. Along with his memoirs, this custom has also been recorded by the foreign traveller William Hawkins who visited India during the period 1608-13. Thomas Roe (1615-19) and Edward Terry (1616-19) have also recorded the exceptional courtesies, which Jahangir reserved for his mother.

Jahangir's regard for his mother was exceptional and different from what he showed to others. He conducted almost all major ceremonies in her palace. The English traveller Edward Terry, who visited India between 1616 and 1619  records that the Mughal Emperor Jahangir used to carry the palanquin of his mother Mariam-Uz-Zamani on his own shoulders!

In 1617, Jahangir celebrated his birthday in Nilkanth Palace, which had become his favourite retreat. The English ambassador Thomas Roe was also present on this occasion, as mentioned in a scan posted earlier in this article. Jahangir's mother Mariam-Uz-Zamani was also among those present on the occasion along with some other ladies of his harem. 

As mentioned in a scan posted in the starting of this article - Jahangir went to the 'pleasant' Nilkanta Palace with his mother and other ladies of the harem in July 1617. He celebrated his birthday on 30th August - 1st September here only. This means that for approx. 3-4 months the royal entourage stayed in this palace.

Few days after the birthday celebrations, Jahangir notes in Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, Volume-1, Ed. Beveridge, Pg-401, 1914, that he sent (his mother) Hazrat Mariam-Uz-Zamani back to Agra, as he was proceeding for a hunt. Hazrat is an honourable epithet reserved for saints mostly.


Details of this celebration can be obtained from - Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, XIX, Pg-194, 195. A separate detailed blog post dealing with the conduct of Jahangir with his mother will be posted soon, where these details will also be included.

Till then, here is another article, which is written from the same perspective. The article notes some of the incidents, which Jahangir records about his mother in his memoirs. Link : Excerpts from Jahangirnama - Jahangir and his Relatives

End Note:

Mandu, also known by the name of Mandavgarh, is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Mandu was earlier known by the name of Shadiabad- 'city of joy', by the Malwa Sultans. The ancient town of Mandu is popular because of its ancient history and rocky outcrop. The town was earlier the defence capital of the Rajput Parmara rulers, who ruled over the province of Malwa.  Mandu is a celebration in stone, of life and joy, a tribute to the love shared between the poet-prince Baz Bahadur and his beautiful consort, Rani Roopmati. The balladeers of Malwa still sing of their euphoric romance.

Perched along the Vindhya ranges at an altitude of 2,000 feet, Mandu exudes a spirit of gaiety; and its rulers built exquisite palaces like the Jahaz and Hindola Mahals, ornamental canals, baths and pavilions, as graceful and refined as those times of peace and plenty.

Here is a short history of Mandu for those who are interested. This place was ruled by the Rajputs from 800 to 1310 AD, and by the Pathan Sultans of Malwa from 1401 to 1531 AD, after which it came under Mughal rule and then under Marathas.

The reference for this information is :
Dhar and Mandu, by Major C.E. Luard
Printed by Bishamber Nath Bhargava, Allahabad, 1912
Pages 1 to 6


Thanks to Radhika for her valuable contribution.
Article Category : Mughals (Akbar)

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