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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Begum Ka Bagh : Princess Jahanara's Garden in Chandni Chowk | Now Lost Forever .. With RARE paintings

Hi Friends,

Continuing the series on Mughal Princess Jahanara, after a long hiatus. This article aims to take a look at some of the beautiful buildings and gardens she left behind as her legacy.

More can be read about Princess Jahanara in the earlier blog articles:
Jahanara : Her Father's Daughter
Farman of Sahibat-uz-Zamani Padshah Begum Sahib Jahanara

Portrait of a young lady, recently identified as Jahanara and attributed to the painter Lalchand c. 1631-3 (Losty and Roy, p. 132).


The Mughal princesses, Jahanara and Raushanara, daughters of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (who himself built several beautiful monuments including the glorious Taj Mahal), laid out many gardens in Agra, Delhi, Kashmir and other places. Jahanara built, rebuilt or completed quite a few beautiful gardens such as Bagh-i-Jahan Ara, Bagh-i-Safa, Bagh-i-Nur Afshan, Bagh-i-Aishabad and Bagh-i-Shahara. These gardens had many canals and a variety of trees. 

Line Drawing of a Map of Agra Inscribed in Devanagari Script. Early 18th Century. Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, cat. no. 126, Jaipur.
3. Bagh-i-Nur Afshan (Ram Bagh)  4. Bagh-i-Zahara (Jahanara Bagh)

But what was remarkable about these gardens was that they eventually became typical of the riverfront garden of Agra and, more importantly, influenced all Mughal; palace gardens built later. In this garden plan, the main building was not at the centre of the garden, as in the classical Mughal char bagh, but was arranged on terraces lining the riverbank. The riverfront buildings were framed by the corner towers of the enclosure wall of the garden. On the landward side of the terrace was a char bagh. This shift towards the riverfront provided the main garden pavilions with the climatic advantages of running water and a carefully composed front to those who saw it from a boat or from across the river.  

The Jamiʻ Masjid, Agra, built for Jahanara and completed in 1648. Photographed by W. Caney in the 1880s for the Archaeological Survey of India (Photo 1003/(512)

We have already seen in the earlier post* that Princess Jahanara used her personal allowance to build the Jami Masjid in Agra (1648) and a mosque cum religious centre (khanqah) dedicated to Mulla Shah at the foothills of the Koh Maran hills in Srinagar (1650). She also laid out the main market square known as Chandni Chowk and a lovely garden known as Begum Ka Bagh in Shahjahanabad. 

* - Farman of Sahibat-uz-Zamani Padshah Begum Sahib Jahanara

Her teacher, Mulla Shah was so fond of Jahanara that he renamed the Chashm-i-Shahi gardens as the Chashm-i-Sahiba gardens.

When Mullah Shah died in 1666 AD, he was buried close to the tomb of Mian Mir in Lahore. Jahanara had a red sandstone mausoleum built over his grave, adding a beautiful garden in the compound. 

Shahjahanabad, 17th Century

Red Fort at Delhi [Lahori Gate]; from 'Amal-i Salih, by Muhammad Salih Kanbu, 1700's

Our main focus in this post is on the Begum Ka Bagh, which is now sadly lost to us.  This garden also enclosed the Begum Sarai, which was her gift to travelers. This exquisite garden was located just outside Chandni Chowk at Delhi.

The former "Begum Samru's house" on Chandni Chowk was made into a bank. The painting, from the 1820's, is in the Aga Khan Museum. This house was present in the Begum ka Bagh. This is possibly the ONLY painting which depicts the splendour of that garden built by Jahanara Begum. Full size painting is present at the end of this article.


Shahjahanabad, the new capital of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan which took nine years to complete (1639-1648), was occupied by the royal family in 1648. The whole palace was conceived as a garden. The pavilions and the halls for the emperor and the zenana stood on terraces (kursi) threaded along a canal that ran along the riverbank. There was a fresh and verdant garden (baghcha) in front of each pavilion (nashiman), clearly influenced by the waterfront garden of Agra. 

Red Fort, Delhi, Completed in 1648. Plan shows gardens described in contemporary texts.

Jahanara and Roshanara, the two princesses, laid out gardens, market squares and serais (rest houses) which were among the most beautiful creations within the new walled city. It was Jahanara, Shah Jahan’s favourite daughter on whom he had conferred the title of Begum Sahib, who laid out Chandni Chowk, the main market square, and the garden known as Begum ka Bagh.

The Moonlit Market Square

We find descriptions of Begum ka Bagh in many history books and in the accounts of travellers who saw it then. All of them agree that it was indeed a thing of beauty. Before we proceed further, here is a brief look at Chandni Chowk, one of the most flourishing and aesthetically appealing market places in the Mughal era.

"If there is any street in the East where the splendors of the Arabian Nights are still credible, it is Chandni Chowk. For here are emeralds as big as turkey's eyes, palaces with golden roofs, female slaves who sing like nightingales and enchanting princesses,'' records a historian of the Mughal days. 

The name Chandni Chowk itself is illustrative of the lovely street that reflected moonlight in a central pool. How artistic and aesthetic must have been the sensibilities of the sufiana poetess and author Jahanara to imagine and execute such a breathtaking market square! 

Inside Red Fort, 1840's

View of Chandni Chowk(left) from the Red Fort. 1840's

View of a garden in Old Delhi from Red Fort, 1840's

Chandni Chowk, Principal Rue de Delhi, From l'Illustration, 1867
l'Illustration was a weekly French newspaper published in Paris from 1843 to 1944. 

At each end of Chandni Chowk were ornamental gates that led to the Begum ka Bagh and Begum Serai. Another gate gave the common people access to the city of Shahjahanabad.

A wood engraving from Illustrated London News, 1857 

On one side of the chowk in a half-moon shape, a market came up, which soon became a prosperous trading center. The choicest fruits, jewelry, weapons, wines, and clothes were sold here. Most shopkeepers specialized in specific wares such as hookahs, birds or perfumes. The elite gentry of Shahjahanabad spent long, leisurely hours here selecting goods.

Dargah Quli Khan, a chronicler of life in Delhi in the mid-18th century, called Chandni Chowk in his treatise muraqqa-i-Dehli as the most decorated passage in Delhi. He described the excellent rubies of Badakshan, the glassware of China and the exquisite perfumes and weapons that were sold here. He also mentioned a large number of qahwa khanas (equivalent to modern-day coffee/tea houses) where poets would enchant others with their verse.

Chandni Chowk, 1900

Here is how Carr Stephen, a British administrator turned antiquarian, described Chandni Chowk in his book, Archaeology and Monumental Remains of Delhi (1876), pp. 246-47 ::

Of the two streets described by Bernier, the longer extended from the Lahore Gate of the city to the Lahore Gate of the citadel, and the other from the Delhi Gate of the city to the Lahore Gate of the fort. Both these streets were divided into several sections, each of which was known by a different name.

Prince of Wales visits Chandni Chowk in 1876

The section between the Lahore Gate of the fort and the entrance of the street called the Dariba, known as the Khani Darwazah, was called the Urdi or the Military Bazaar; owing, very probably, to the circumstances of a portion of the local garrison having been once quartered about the place. Between the Khani Darwazah and the present Kotwali, or the Head Police Station of the city, the street has the name of Phul ka Mandi or the flower market. The houses in front of the Kotwali were built at a short distance from the line of the rest of the houses in the street, so as to form a square.

Between the Kotwali and the gate known as the Taraiah, was the Jauhari or the Jewellers' Bazaar; between the Taraiah and the neighbourhood known as Asharfi ka Katra, was, par excellence, the Chandni Chauk. There was a talk in the centre of the Chauk the site of which is now occupied by the Municipal Clock Tower, and beyond this to the Fateypuri Masjid was the Fatehpuri Bazaar. The houses round Chandni Chauk were of the same height, and were ornamented with arched doors and painted verandahs. To the north and south of the square there were two gate-ways, the former leading to the Sarai of Jahanara Begam, and the latter to one of the most thickly populated quarters of the city. Round the tank the ground was literally covered with vegetable, fruit, and sweetmeat stalls. In the course of time the whole of this long street came to be known as the Chandni Chauk.

Chandni Chowk, Plate 10 from H. H. Wilson's Portfolio, 1841, British Library

This grand street was laid out by Jahanara Begam, daughter of Shah Jahan.... From the Lahore Gate of the fort to the end of the Chandni Chauk the street was about 40 yards wide and 1,520 yards long. Through the centre of this street ran the canal of 'Ali Mardan, shaded on both sides by trees. On the eastern end of the Chandni Chauk stands the Lahore Gate of the Fort, and on the opposite end the handsome mosque of Fatehpuri Begam.

Chandni Chowk was 1520 yards long and 40 yards wide. It extended from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Mosque.

Coming back to the main theme of this post - Begum Ka Bagh, it is worth remembering that Jahanara 
is the same person who planted a garden of 30,000 trees -- Tis Hazari (Garden of 30,000 Trees) -- at the place where the Tis Hazari sessions court (near Kashmiri Gate) is now located. Some say the garden, which was full of neem trees, was gifted to her by her adoring father. Later, she bequeathed it to her favorite niece, Zeb-un-Nissa (Aurangzeb's daughter), who built a library here.

The Garden That Jahanara Built

Begum ka Bagh, laid out by Princess Jahanara in 1650, was enclosed within high stone walls on all sides. It extended from the present National Club to Lajpat Rai Market. 

It had pools and channels for running water. There were fountains and chattris (canopies) supported on 12 pillars of red sandstone (called baradari). These provided cool resting places for the women and children who came to the garden. The water in the channels came from a special canal system (also called Faiz Nahar and designed  by Ali Mardan Khan) and helped irrigate the trees, grass and plants in the garden. There were many varieties of flowering and fruit trees, like jamun, amla and mango. 

From the top of Lahore Gate of Red Fort - the canal running down the middle can be clearly seen. Sita Ram, 1814-1815, British Library

Some of these trees were set up with swings. It was the favorite resting place of the princesses and the ladies of the palace. It was also visited by the wives and daughters of the nobles. This garden was open only to women and children and no man could enter it. 

Many festivals were celebrated within the Begum ka Bagh. The most important among them was called Pankhon ka Mela. It was a fair meant exclusively for ladies and was celebrated for a whole week. There were stalls for lovely embroidered kurtas and dupattas, colourful bangles and other jewelery, toys and all kinds of delicious food, gleaming utensils and sparkling crockery, paintings, clay figures and every kind of beautiful objects that you can think of. There were songs, poetry readings, other festivities and games as well. Everyone had a wonderful time during the mela, as can be well imagined.

Jahanara also got a two-storeyed caravan-serai built near Begum ka Bagh. This  sarai was built in the style of Shah Abbas’s caravan serai in Isfahan. Meant for travellers from far-off lands, Jahanara’s caravan serai, known as Begum Serai, was popular with the rich Persians and Uzbeks. It contained a beautiful mosque, living quarters and a huge courtyard. The area came to be known as Sahibabad (after her name Begum Sahib). When Shahjahan visited Sahibabad after its completion, he proudly remarked that it was "paradise on earth". Today the building of the Municipal Corporation stands here.

A View by Samuel Bourne, 1860s
Bourne is perhaps the most famous British Indian photographer. His work emphasizes classic Raj photography.

An Unexpected Encounter with a Poet

There is an interesting story about Begum ka Bagh, where only ladies and children were allowed to enter, as mentioned earlier. There was a Persian poet in the court of Shah Jahan, who was very curious about the place and wanted to see it. He was equally (or perhaps more) keen to catch a glimpse of the princess who had set out this garden and the beautiful Chandni Chowk. The poet wore a burkha over his clothes and sneaked into the garden one day. He saw the royal ladies laughing and joking with each other. Some were having a merry time on the swings.

The poet was dazzled by Jahanara’s beauty and dignity and started composing a poem about her on the spot. (It must have been a most romantic period in history when people could compose poetry in an instant, a glimpse of their 'muse' being reason / inspiration enough!) He was just writing it down when Jahanara caught sight of him. She walked up to the poet and asked him what he was doing. While she threatened to punish him, he pleaded with her to hear his poem first. As he recited his poetry, Jahanara and the other ladies in the garden were enchanted by his words. With a little encouragement from the ladies to present the poet with an award instead of punishment, Jahanara handed him a purse filled with money and exhorted him: “Please don’t stay here another moment. Run as fast as you can! You should never have come here, you know.”

The poet saluted her and left the garden immediately. But Emperor Shah Jahan got word of the incident somehow and he banished the poet from his kingdom forever. 

A Dream is Lost

Begum ka Bagh, like many other historical places, has a history of its own. It remained a garden for the royal ladies until the reign of Shah Alam II. When Begum Samru came to his aid during his battle with the Rohillas, he gave her a piece of land within this garden. Later, Begum Samru built her palace here. 

The former "Begam Samru's house" on Chandni Chowk was made into a bank. The painting, from the 1820's, is in the Aga Khan Museum.

Begum Samru's Palace in Begum ka Bagh

Begum Samru's Palace [which faced onto Chandni Chowk], by Mazhar Ali Khan; from the Metcalfe album, 1840's


Today Bhagirath Palace, a market for electrical goods, stands in place of Begum Samru's palace.

Begum ka Bagh came to be called Company Bagh during the early British regime and was thrown open to public.  The name of this much beleaguered garden was changed once again to Queen’s Garden in 1857 after Queen Victoria was proclaimed the Empress of India. 

Having passed through so many hands and being modified so many times, there is no trace of the beautiful garden any more. What remains of it is known to us today as Gandhi Maidan.

A View by Francis Frith, 1870s
He was another famous commercial photographer.


Begum ka Bagh, Raushanara Garden, Tees Hazari Garden and Qudsia Bagh together comprise the famous gardens of Shahjahanabad. 

Raushanara Garden was set up by Jahanara's younger sister, Raushanara, who is also buried here.This beautiful garden had a canal running through its centre. The British built a country club called Raushanara Club here.

Qudsia Bagh was laid by Qudsia Begum, wife of Mohammad Shah Rangeela. It was a huge garden full of flowering trees. It had sections reserved exclusively for roses and fruit trees. It also had all the essential features of a Mughal garden - cascades, waterfalls, canals and a baradari. It had 3 enormous gates.  
Of all these gardens, Begum ka Bagh is totally lost to us and we can only read about it in books now. It is such a tragedy that one of the most beautiful examples of a Mughal princess' love for architecture has been thus destroyed.

Looking forward to your views here.
Article Category : Miscellaneous. 

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Why Maharana Pratap Chose to Resist Akbar || With comparison of Rajput & Mughal Accounts of "Divine Intervention" of Akbar in 1578

" A man does not live by bread alone. 
He lives by his self-respect too. " 

I am back with a new post that is a pre-cursor to the Battle of Haldighati series.

Sometime back, there was a debate on social media about the relative merits and demerits of Mughal Emperor Akbar and Mewar King MahaRana Pratap and who between them was the greater of the two. Articles of differing viewpoints were posted passionately. But they all missed the crucial point --> 

" Why there was a struggle between them"

After all, fighting persistently with a very powerful enemy over a long duration is not what anyone with a reasonable amount of sense would choose to do. 

The debate was centred around the notion of Greatness in relation to the two mighty contemporary personalities. 

{I had penned my views on the same in a blog post and had received some interesting responses. The link to this post is : What is the BASIS of GREATness?}

In this post, I am going to present my views on the possible reasons why MahaRana Pratap resisted the suzerainty of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Understanding the relations between the two and the reasons why the MahaRana continued his life-long struggle against Akbar in spite of acute hardships to his people and family, is essential to understanding why the Battle of Haldighati was fought and what its aftermath was.

The Battle of Haldighati was fought between the forces of Mughal Emperor Akbar and the Rajput King of Mewar MahaRana Pratap on 18th June, 1576. At present, 3 articles related to the famous battle have been posted on the blog, out of which the first one is part of the Battle of Haldighati Series. The links to the 3 articles are -

Calm Before the Storm - Efforts for Peace Between Akbar & Maharana Pratap | Prelude - Battle of Haldighati | Part-I

Rare Stone Inscription about the Battle of Haldighati Discovered near Udaipur this year
Chetak and Maharana Pratap | Eternal Legend ~ An Unforgettable Tale | With Pictures from Haldighati Museum

Background to This Post

I tried to delve into the "contemporary conditions" prevailing in the late 16th century in northern Hindustan in order to understand the reasons for MahaRana Pratap's opposition to Emperor Akbar. One thing which everyone would agree with - life could not have been a bed of roses for the MahaRana during his continual struggle against Akbar, who is often considered to be the most powerful Emperor on Earth during his times. 

The MahaRana's fierce resistance to Mughal suzerainty seems all the more incredible as his territory was surrounded by Mughals on all sides. In the south by Gujarat, in the North by the Mughal subas of Ajmer / Nagore, in the West by the other allies of Akbar, and in the East by the Mughal capital of Agra and other Mughal provinces.

While i was puzzling over this, i came across a research paper by the noted historian Dr. Dashratha Sharma, whose major area of interest was the history of Rajasthan. In his research paper, he presented strong reasons for MahaRana Pratap's aversion to the idea of submitting to Akbar and not wishing to become his vassal. Obviously, we all love our independence and so did the MahaRana. But this was not the only factor. The paper by Dr. Sharma raises some other pertinent points.

Among other reasons, Dr. Sharma mentioned how a Rajput noble was treated (read "punished") by Akbar. A little known fact about Akbar is that he was prone to lose his temper suddenly over small things. And there are many instances, such as the one covered in this post, when Rajput nobles suffered great humiliation due to his erratic mood swings.

This post explains the incident mentioned by Dr. Sharma in detail. This incident has been sourced from a contemporary Rajasthani chronicle written between 1571 and 1611, known as Dalapata Vilasa. The scans of Dr. Sharma's research paper, published in 1969, are included at the end of this post.  I have also tried to include some scans from this rare chronicle.

Those who have read old blog posts will relate to this incident, which occurred in 1578. In Mughal records, it is referred to as a "divine intervention" that affected Emperor Akbar. In other words, according to Mughal records, the Emperor was under a divine spell. But, the Rajasthani source gives a different interpretation of the same. Let's see what this is.

Contemporary Rajput Description of the "Divine Intervention" of 1578

Let's read the incident from the Dalapata Vilasa. The relevant scans are included at the appropriate places.

The following content is shocking and uses explicit words, which were used by Akbar during the episode when he was said to be under a divine spell by the Mughal chroniclers. No offence is meant towards any community and reader discretion is advised while reading about the incident.

Akbar traveled to Bhera, Punjab in 1578. There, animals for the hunt had been collected near Girjhak. Such a hunt is called 'Qamarga',  where the animals are collected in a big area & surrounded by troops from all sides. While Akbar went for deer hunting, the nobles played a game of 'kabaddi'. 

Upon returning from the hunt, the Emperor did not join the game but went to the tent of Sheikh Jamal. All the nobles dressed and went to pay their respects to Akbar. After some time, Akbar went to bathe in the river (the Jhelum). Akbar’s son, Salim, who was aged 9, was hesitant to enter the river. Akbar, therefore, dunked Salim in the river a few times. 

{Note : Recently, a TV series wrongly showed that Salim was sent away to the warfield in his childhood. Salim grew up in the Mughal capital and was never sent to exile.}

Image from Akbarnama {Copyright  : IS.2:56-1896 . } View of the hunt. 
It can be clearly seen that the animals are being hunted in a closed enclosure.

Now we come to the main incident. Rajput nobles were expected to pay their respects to the Emperor as soon as he arrived. Read the scans , whose translation is given below, to see what happened to a Rajput noble Dhanji when he arrived late in the Emperor's presence.

Scan mentions that the Rajput noble Dhanji got 4 to 5 lashes from Akbar's whip when he said that he could not report to court on time as he was dressing up. In this scan, the Rajasthani word "Paatisah Ji" is a corruption of the word "Badshah Ji" which means the "Emperor".

The Rajput noble, Dhanji, received four to five lashes from Akbar’s whip as he was "late" in paying his respects to the Emperor! Dhanji had explained that he had got late in dressing up. 

A young Rajput prince Prithidip, who was playing nearby with his advisers/attendants with the permission of his uncle, also received lashes from Akbar’s whip, possibly because he had not stopped play to offer obeisance to the Emperor. (See the scans below.)

The Emperor even ordered the killing of those advisers. 

Randhirot (Prithidip’s uncle) also received lashes on the orders of the Emperor, as it was found that he had detained Prithidip (from going to offer obeisance to Akbar). In fact, Randhirot had simply asked Prithidip to play on the side, as he was young, and his uncle did not think it was necessary for a child too to pay homage to Akbar. 

Upon being whipped, the Rajput noble Randhirot, unable to bear this insult to himself at the hands of the Emperor's servant, repeatedly stabbed himself in his stomach and killed himself before Akbar.

Instead of being shocked by the act, Akbar was further enraged seeing the 'audacity' of this Rajput, and ordered the dying Randhirot to be trampled to death by an elephant, saying - "Kill this b**t**d".!

The words as mentioned in the account are - "H*r**z**e ko maro".

However, it appears from the text that this order could not be carried out as the elephant was reluctant to move towards Randhirot. 

Scan mentions that the young prince Prithidip was playing with his advisers/attendants ; the young prince was also given 7 to 8 lashes by Akbar from his whip. Then, Akbar got his advisers killed for the "offence".

Scan mentions that Akbar called Prithidip's maternal uncle - Randhirot and asked him why he did not allow Prithidip to pay his respects to him (Akbar).

Scan mentions that Randhirot replied to Akbar - "My intention was not to stop him from paying his respects to you". Hearing the answer, Akbar ordered his servant to whip Randhirot. Unable to bear this insult, Randhirot - a self-respecting Rajput, then took his dagger and stabbed himself - once, twice, and then thrice, in front of Akbar,which further enraged Akbar who then ordered - "Kill the b*s***d (h*r**mz**a)". He called for an elephant to trample the dying Rajput.

At this juncture, the irritated Akbar went to the company of his wife (name of wife not given). The nobles also returned to their respective tents. Raja Man Singh of Amer arrived at the camp in the afternoon, after this incident, and went to pay his respects to the Emperor. (See the scan below for original text.)

After ordering the trampling of the Rajput, the irritated Akbar went to his tent. The nobles also returned to their respective tents. Raja Man Singh arrived at the camp in the afternoon and went to pay his respects to Akbar.

Akbar, who had cooled down by then, said to Raja Man Singh - "Did you see that b**t**d Rajput? He dared stab himself in front of me. Go and see if he is dead or alive. If he is alive, then look after him, and if dead, then cremate him". However, when Raja Man Singh saw him, the Rajput was in great pain and hanging between life and death. He died soon afterwards, despite the best attempts of Raja Man Singh and Madhav Singh (Man Singh's brother) to revive him. (See the scan below for original text.)

Here is an old blog article about Madho Singh (also called Madhav Singh) :
Madho Singh - Maharana Pratap - Akbar - Salim/Jahangir | Few Observations

Akbar asked Raja Man Singh to check on the Rajput. When Raja Man Singh and Madhav Singh went to see him, the Rajput was in great pain. Man Singh told his brother that they had to save him by any means.

Raja Man Singh, Madhav Singh and others went to see Akbar after the cremation of the Rajput. But Akbar was again found to be in a foul mood; and he was heard shouting as if he were not in his senses - "The Hindus should eat cows and the Muslims should eat pigs. And if they refuse to eat it, go and get a male sheep (ram lamb) and put it in a cooking pot. If it changes into a pig, give it to Muslims. And, if it changes into a cow, give it to Hindus. Surely, your "Devi" will do some magic." And he kept on rambling in this inexplicable mad manner. (See the scan below for original text.)

The Rajput died soon afterwards. Raja Man Singh, Madhav Singh and others went to see Akbar after his cremation. But Akbar was again found to be in a foul mood and rambling in an inexplicable manner.

He took off his turban and asked for a barber to shave his head. The panic-stricken barbers ran away in fear and Akbar started to trim his own hair with his sword!! Seeing this act of Akbar, which almost appeared to be madness, Shah Fatahullah Shirazi intervened and took the weapon from Akbar’s hand with the help of 2 other attendants. (See the scan below for original text.)

Akbar asked for a barber to shave his head. The panic-stricken barbers ran away in fear and Akbar started to trim his own hair with his sword. Shah Fatahullah Shirazi intervened and took away the weapon from Akbar’s hand. All the assembled nobles were then ordered to take off their turbans too. Akbar had his hair cropped.

Seeing the illogical behaviour of Akbar, Raja Man Singh asked the attendants of his colleague and friend, Prince Dalpit of Bikaner, to take him away from the place as soon as possible. He said - "The Emperor has gone mad, and you know what has already happened till now. I do not know what he will do or order next. You are the sole heir of your clan and quite young. For your safety, i request you to leave this place. I will manage the Emperor somehow." Despite the requests of Raja Man Singh, the prince refused to leave the place. (See the scan below for original text.)

Seeing the illogical behaviour of Akbar, Raja Man Singh asked the attendants of Prince Dalpit of Bikaner to take him away from the place as soon as possible. The prince refused to leave the place. Just then, Akbar again started shouting in an inexplicable manner. 

All the assembled Muslim and Rajput nobles were then ordered to take off their turbans. The Emperor then had his hair cropped. But he started shouting again, much to the surprise of those present. He praised the Rathores* and the Rajawats* of Rajputana but called the Shekhawats* mere Jats. He shouted this many times, much to the shock of the people present there. With great difficulty, Shah Fatahulla took Akbar to the sleeping quarters and stopped his rantings.


Rathores - They were Rajputs from Jodhpur.
Rajawats - Descendants of Raja Bhagwan Das of Amer. They were Kachwaha Rajputs.
Shekhawats - These Rajputs originally belonged to Amer. But, they formed a separate ruling family in 1471.

Next day, in the morning, the Rajput nobles prayed to their deities and waited. Akbar had his beard shaved and saying that he would invade Firang, (probably referring to the hills of Mewar, as the next campaign was here only) he permitted the nobles to leave their beards intact. 
(See the scan below for original text.)

Shah Fatahulla took Akbar to the sleeping quarters and stopped his rantings. Next day, Akbar had his beard shaved, while ordering the nobles to leave their beards intact.

Akbar then took off his turban and tore it into strips. Each Hindu chieftain was given a strip from the turban and had Gangajal (water from the holy Ganges) placed on his palm. Akbar announced - "All of you are required to preserve this water and the strip of my turban without fail, till we accomplish our campaign in Firang. I will ask these things from all of you when we reach Firang.(See the scan below for original text.)

Akbar tore his turban into strips and gave one strip each to every Hindu chieftain along with Gangajal. Akbar told them to keep these things safely till he asked for them back upon reaching Firang.

Such actions of Mughal Emperor Akbar have been strongly criticized by various scholars who have accused him of "believing in his Own Divinity" and forcing others to accept him as their Divine master. 

The animals which had been captured for the hunt were then released and Akbar rested for five days in his tent. On the sixth day, the Emperor had his beard shaved and all the nobles also had their beards shaved. The Emperor then proceeded towards Fatehpur Sikri,
stopping at various places on the way as mentioned in the scanMany days passed since that incident.

Akbar rested for five days. On the sixth day, he proceeded towards Fatehpur Sikri. 

En route, the party camped near Ramgarh after crossing the Chahnal river. Raja Bhagwan Das of Amer came to meet Akbar at the encampment. Akbar firmly admonished Raja Bhagwan Das, (and even his son Raja Man Singh) for abandoning the siege of Kumbhalgarh against Rana Pratap 

News came in the camp that the Mughal forces had sustained heavy losses and were on the run from Kumbhalgarh due to the ferocious onslaughts of MahaRana Pratap. Their supplies had finished due to continuous fighting with the forces of the MahaRana. Akbar was particularly angry because he had spent a lot of money on this campaign and yet the Mughals had faced defeat and had to run away from Kumbhalgarh (See the highlighted portion in the scan below; the words mentioned in the scan are in old Rajasthani - "Mari Chhadhi, Tuti, Ghano Bekhrak hui, Tuti Mari, Bhukha Mari, Khar Nisriya Huta").

When Raja Bhagwan Das came to meet Akbar at the encampment near Ramnagar, Akbar firmly admonished him and even his son Raja Man Singh for abandoning the siege of Kumbhalgarh against MahaRana Pratap of Mewar. 

Here ends the extract from the contemporary Rajputana text, which is in old Rajasthani language. This is an account by an eye witness, who was an ally of Akbar. A native Rajasthani would understand these scans easily. 

I have refrained from adding my own views here, but have simply described Emperor Akbar's behaviour, as recorded in the Rajput chronicle. As usual, readers are free to interpret it, and we can have the discussion in the comments.

A noteworthy point is : Akbarnama says - Mughal general Shahbaz Khan was suspicious of Raja Bhagwan Das and Raja Man Singh and did not approve of their presence during the siege against MahaRana Pratap. He suspected that Raja Bhagwan Das and Raja Man Singh 'secretly' held MahaRana Pratap in respectful terms.


Contemporary Mughal Description of the Divine Intervention of 1578

It is interesting to note that this incident of 1578 is also mentioned in the Akbarnama by Abu'l Fazl. But, he mentions this incident in glorious terms. This has been described as a stroke of madness or an epileptic fit by some historians, like Vincent Smith and Abraham Eraly, who opine that Akbar used to suffer from such spells. But, the same is called a "Divine Vision" over the Emperor by Abu'l Fazl and in the court histories of the Emperor's reign. Abu'l Fazl, Badayuni and Kandhari have considered this to be a DIVINE intervention

In Kandhari's words ->"A divine intervention had fallen on the emperor which hazed him."

Abu'l Fazl says --> "A sublime divinity took possession of his body."

Badayuni says --> "A strange state and frenzy fell upon the Emperor and the precedence was unaccounted for."

I have described this event from both Rajput and Mughal records because it is important to consider both versions here. Official Mughal records neither clearly describe any kind of madness nor do they record the degrading treatment given to that young Rajput chief and his maternal uncle just for the small "folly" of not paying his respects on time. But the actions of Akbar as mentioned in the Rajput records certainly appear strange. The Rajput record mentions the event clearly, without any decorative language, as present in the court histories of Mughal Emperor Akbar.



Dr. Dashrath Sharma's Research Paper

Finally, here is the research paper of Dr. Dashratha Sharma, where he has raised several points regarding Maharana Pratap's non-submission to Mughal Emperor Akbar. 

Dr. Dashratha Sharma, a well known figure in the field of history, served as the Director of the Rajasthan Oriental Research Institute in Jodhpur. He also served as the President at the Indian History Congress, Ancient History in 1967 and as the President of the Rajasthan History Congress, General History in 1969. He died in 1976.

Here is the paper.. 

Dr. Sharma has mentioned the degrading treatment given by Mughal Emperor Akbar to his Rajput noble. 

But, it is also true that some of his Rajput nobles were really 'powerful', holding considerable clout. The following are some examples :

1. In 1575, Raja Man Singh of Amer gave a "tight punch to Akbar" when the latter was hell bent on giving up his life in a moment of "madness". Raja Man Singh saved Akbar's life, though the latter was not in his senses and engaged in a fist fight with Raja Man Singh. Here is the link to this  little known but interesting historical anecdote : Akbar tries to fatally stab himself in his madness but Raja Man Singh Saves Him ; Followed by Angry Akbar Charging on Raja Man Singh . 

Here is an Akbarnama miniature showing the incident :

Here, Akbar's sword can be seen at some distance after it has been taken from Akbar's hands and thrown away by Man Singh. Akbar is angry and has thrown Man Singh to the ground. He is literally pressing Man Singh into the ground. All the courtiers are in shock, and appear to not know what to do. This is a scene from a drinking party where Akbar tries to injure himself with a sword in order to prove his valour at par with Rajputs and acts in a mad manner to almost kill himself by placing his sword on his chest and beginning to pierce it, but is saved by Man Singh.

Note that no one else could even dare 'touch' the Emperor, out of fear for his life and remained mute spectators. But Raja Man Singh went to the extent of fighting with Akbar to save his life. In the present post also, we saw Raja Man Singh confident enough of handling the 'madness' of Akbar, when he asked the young Rajput prince of Bikaner to leave the camp for his safety.

See the above-mentioned link for details

Here are the scans from Akbarnama. For more details, see the above link.

2. Raja Bhagwan Das of Amer refused to go into the fold of Din-e-Illahi when asked by the Emperor and said - "I would willingly believe that Hindus and Mussalmans have each a bad religion, but only tell us what this new sect of yours is, and what opinion they hold, so that I may believe in your sect." {Tarikh-i-Badouni, Low, Pg-323}


3. The same precept was followed by Raja Man Singh when he refused to attend the council called by Akbar, when the latter wanted Raja Man Singh to join his new order, Din-e-Illahi. 4 years later, Akbar again made an attempt to make Man Singh join his new order. Badayuni writes about this encounter of Akbar and Raja Man Singh in Tarikh-i-Badouni, Low, Pg-375,  as follows...

" His Majesty brought up the subject of " Discipleship ", and proceeded to test Raja Man Singh. 

But, Raja Man Singh said 'without any ceremony' :- " If your Discipleship means willingness to sacrifice one's life, I have already carried my life in my hand always for you : what need is there of further proof ? If, however, the term Discipleship has another meaning and refers to my Faith, I tell you i am certainly a Hindu. If you order me to do so, I will become a Mussalman, but I do not know the existence of any other religion than these two.."

4. We know that, just after marriage with Harka Bai, Akbar directly made her father, Raja Bharmal a mansabdar of 5000, which was the highest available mansabdari at that time. 

5. Akbar also got a Rajput princess of Amer married to another Rajput prince. He had adopted that princess of Amer as his own daughter and got her married as his own responsibility. Here is the link to that post, along with relevant scans from research papers and Rajput records which mention this : Akbar arranged marriage of a Princess of Amer with a Rajput Prince

Howeverwe need to keep in mind that such special position and authority was ONLY exercised by the Kachwaha Rajputs of the House of Amer during the reign of Akbar. I do not know what the exact reasons were, but it is true that Akbar was always close to the Rajputs from the House of Amer. 

In contrast, the relations of the Mughals with the Rajputs of Mewar were sour since the beginning. Babur and Rana Sanga were the grandfathers of Akbar and Maharana Pratap respectively. They fought the Battle of Khanua in 1527. The scars were not forgotten. The Mughal policies of empire expansion in the initial phase, which included forcible religious conversions, were not acceptable to Mewar. After winning the IInd battle of Panipat, the 80-year old father of Samrat Hemachandra/Hemu was captured along with many others and asked to embrace Islam, and, on refusal, he was beheaded. Although, Akbar was a child at this time, this conduct of the Mughal camp does have a bearing on the relations of Mughals with the Mewar Rajputs. 

Abu'l Fazl makes no mistake in proudly recording the details. This is from Akbarnama, Volume-2, Pg-71/72, English translation, ASB, which reads as follows --

" It came to His Majesty's ears that a slave of Sher Shah Suri - Haji Khan, who was distinguished for courage, prudence, and skill in collecting troops, was acting independently in Alwar, and also that the father and the wife of that ill-fated Hemu, and his goods and chattels were in that province. Nasir-ul-Mulk was appointed to that service along with a number of trusty and devoted followers. Haji Khan was frightened by the strength of the victorious army and fled before its arrival, and Alwar and the whole of province of Mewat came into the possession of the imperial servants.

From there they proceeded to Deoti, where was the residence and family of Hemu. The place was strong and there was much fighting, and a great resistance was offered by a handful of Rajputs. The father of Hemu was captured and brought alive before Nasir-ul-Mulk. The latter called upon him to change his religion. The old man answered, "for 80 years I have worshipped my God, according to my reli­gion. Why should I change it at this time, and why should I, merely from fear of my life, and without understanding it, come into the way of worship you desire?"

Pir Muhammed treated his words as if he heard them not, and answered him with the "tongue of the sword". After being victorious there, he came away with much plunder and 50 elephants and did homage at the Royal Court, and was the recipient of the royal favours of His Majesty

Badayuni tells us  - The wife of Hemu was able to escape the Mughal army, and went towards Bajwara in Punjab for shelter. More details can be seen below from his account Tarikh-i-Badauni, Vol-2, Pg-9/10.  "

Further, Akbar's policy of matrimonial alliances was not acceptable to the House of Mewar. Tension reached its peak when there was a proposal for a matrimonial alliance with the House of Mewar, which was refused by the Rajputs. This was followed by the brutal Siege of Chittor of 1567-68, ending in one of the most horrible massacres & shameful events in the history of mankind.

MahaRana Pratap's struggle was one against 'foreign' domination and, more importantly, a fight to maintain self-respect and independence from imperialism. It is famously said of the Rana that he bent his head only before his deity Eklingji and his parents. 

We have seen above that power is not everything. There is also "self-worth & self-respect". We have read the 'autocratic' treatment given by Mughal Emperor Akbar to the nobles, such as --

a. "Permission" even to let the beard remain intact.!
b. Orders to take off the turbans and get them shaved. {For some this is great dishonor.}
c. Preserving a strip from Akbar's turban along with Ganga Jal (water of Holy Ganges).
d. Getting admonished / whipped at any stage, subject to the mood, whims and fancies of the Emperor.

In the light of this whimsical and arrogant behaviour, Maharana Pratap's fight appears justified. He did not fight merely for his land but, more for the sake of ideals. He was very well aware of the legacy of his clan, both from the side of his father and his mother (a daughter of the Songara Chauhan clan), that he carried on his shoulders.  

In this struggle, he was completely & ably supported by the people of his kingdom and the tribals of the hills of Mewar. We rarely get to see such devotion where the people of a kingdom are ready to suffer along with their king rather than crossover to the "enemy" for "material gains" - a quality acknowledged in the Akbarnama also.!

I would like to hear the views of the readers. Do remember that it is important to evaluate historical events from a contemporary perspective and not with a modern insight. 

Thanks to Radhika for her inputs.
Article Category : Rajputs & Mughals(Akbar).

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