The Death of Dara Shukoh

Dara seemed doomed never to succeed in any enterprise. Considering it impossible to raise the siege [of Tata-bakar] with his handful of men, he was at one time resolved to cross the river Indus, and make his way to Persia; although that plan would likewise have been with nearly insurmountable obstacles: he would have had to traverse the lands of the Pathans, obstinate Rajas who acknowledged neither the authority of Persia nor of the Mogul [emperor]; and a vast wilderness in which he could not hope to find potable water. But his wife persuaded him to abandon the idea of going to that kingdom, alleging weak reason than. If he persevered in his intention, he must make up his mind, she told him, to see both her and his daughter slaves of the Persian Monarch, an ignominy which no member of his family could possibly endure. She and Dara forgot, or seemed to forget, that the wife of Humayun, when placed under similar circumstances.
Dara seemed doomed never to succeed in any enterprise.
Considering it impossible to raise the siege [of Tata-bakar] with his handful of men, he resolved to cross the river Indus, and make; his way to Persia Although. that plan of his was full of nearly insurmountable Obstacles-enroute he would have had to traverse the lands of the Pathans, Obstinate Rajas who acknowledge neither the authority of Persia nor of the Mogul emperor and a vast wilderness in which there was no trace of drinking water.
But his wife persuaded him to abandon the idea of going to Persia, she told him he must make up his mind, to see both her and his daughter slaves of the Persian Monarch, an indignity, which no member of his royal family could possibly endure.

She and Dara forgot, or seemed to forget, that the wife of Humayun, when placed under similar circumstances was treated with utmost respect in Persia.
While Dara’s mind was in this state of perplexity and indecision, it occurred to him that he was at no considerable distance from Javan Khan, a Pathan of some power and note, whose life he had been twice the means of preserving, when condemned by Shah-Jahan to be thrown under the elephant’s feet, as a punishment for various acts of rebellion. To Javan Khan Dara determined to proceed, hoping to obtain by his means forces to enable him to drive Mir-Baba from the walls of Tata-bakar. The plan he now proposed to himself was briefly this: — after raising the siege with the troops supplied by the Pathan, he intended to proceed, with the treasure deposited in that city, to Kandahar, whence he might easily reach the kingdom of Kaboul. When in Kaboul he felt quite sanguine in the expectation that Mahabat Khan [“Mohabet-kan”] would zealously and unhesitatingly embrace his cause. It was to Dara this officer was indebted for the government of that country, and being possessed of great power and influence, and very popular in Kaboul, the Prince was not unreasonable in the hope that he would find in Mahabat Khan a sincere and efficacious ally.

While Dara’s mind was in this state of perplexity and indecision, it occurred to him that he was at a distance close to Javan Khan’s home. Jawan Khan was a Pathan, endowed with power, whose life he had been twice saved by him (Dara) when condemned by Shah-Jahan to be thrown under the elephant’s feet, as a punishment for various acts of rebellion.

Dara resolved to go to Javan Khan, hoping to obtain by his forces by his influence, to enable him to drive Mir-Baba from the walls of Tata-bakar.
But Dara’s family, were agitated by dismal forebodings, and employed every means to prevent him from going to Jawan Khan for help. help His wife, daughter, and his young son Sipah Shikoh fell at his feet, with tears in their eyes, to prevent Dara Shikoh from takin Jawan Khan’s help, to drive Mir-Baba from the walls of Tata-bakar;a s they knew the Pathan, was notoriously a robber and a rebel, and to place confidence in such a character was at once to rush headlong into destruction. There was no sufficient reason, they (Dara Shukoh’s family) added, as to why he should be so bent upon raising the siege of Tata-baker; because the road to Kabul might be safely pursued without that operation, for Mir-Baba would scarcely abandon the siege for the sake of interrupting his march.Dara, as if possessed, could not perceive the urgency behind the arguments of his family,nin the contrary he remarked, what indeed was the truth, that the journey to Kabul would be full of difficulty and danger; and that he did not believe it possible he should be betrayed by a man bound to him by such strong ties of gratitude.
He departed and soon the bad news came, which proved that the wicked do not feel the weight of obligations when their interests are met and neither do they think twice before sacrificing their benefactors.
Jawan Khan, who imagined that Dara was attended by a large body of soldiers, received the Prince with apparent respect and cordiality, instructing, his men to fulfil all their requirements, and treat them as friends and brethren.
But when Javan Khan discovered that Dara’s followers did not exceed two or three hundred men, his behaviour changed. At the sight of a few mules laden with the gold, which Dara had saved from the hands of the robbers the Pathan assembled at night, a considerable number of armed men. Hr seized the gold, together with the women’s jewels, and fell upon Dara and Sipah Shikoh,
He killed the persons who attempted to defend them, and tied the Prince Dara on the back of an elephant. The public executioner was ordered to sit behind, with the instructions of cutting off his head, upon the first appearance of resistance, either on his own part, or on that of any of his supporters.
In this degrading posture Dara was carried to the army before Tata-bakar and delivered into the hands of General Mir-Baba. who then commanded the Traitor, Javan Khan, to proceed with his prisoner, first to Lahore and afterwards to Delhi.
It is still doubtful, whether he had been tutored by Aurangzeb, or whether he was suddenly tempted to the commit this monstrous crime.
When the sad and unhappy Prince Dara, was brought to the gates of Delhi, Aurangzeb,was in a dilemma whether to send Prince Dara as a prisoner directly to the fortress of Gwalior or should be made to pass through the capital. as a prisoner.

It was the opinion of some courtiers that that second thought, was by all means to be avoided, because, not only would such an exhibition be derogatory to the royal family, but it might become the signal for revolt, and the rescue of Dara might be successfully attempted.
Others maintained, on the contrary, that Dara ought to be seen by the whole city; that it was necessary to strike the people with terror and astonishment, and to impress their minds with an idea of the absolute and irresistible power of Aurangzeb.
It was also advisable, they added, to undeceive the Omrahs (nobles) and the people, who still entertained doubts of Dara’s captivity, and to extinguish at once the hopes of his secret supporters.
Aurangzeb viewed the matter in the same light.
The wretched prisoner was therefore secured on an elephant; his young son, Sipah Shikoh, placed at his side, and behind them, instead of the executioner, was seated Bahadur Khan [one of the royal generals].
This was not one of the majestic elephants of Pegu or Ceylon, pompously caparisoned, the harness gilt, and trappings decorated with figured work; and carrying a beautifully painted howdah inlaid with gold, which Dara had been in the habit of mounting, with a magnificent canopy to shelter the Prince from the sun.
Dara was now seen seated on a miserable and worn-out animal, covered with filth; he no longer wore the necklace of large pearls which distinguish the princes of Hindustan; nor the rich turban and embroidered coat.
He and his son were now in dirty clothes of the coarsest texture, and his sorry turban was wrapped round with a Kashmir shawl or scarf, resembling that worn by the meanest of the people.
Such was the appearance of Dara when led through the Bazars and every quarter of the city, whose dreadful execution was about to take place. A Prince confessedly popular among the lower orders, as there was no armed force. T
The people had for some time thought bitterly against the unnatural conduct of Aurangzeb who had imprisoned his father,his son Sultan Mahmud, and his brother Murad Bakhsh, and were filled with horror and disgust.
The crowd assembled for this disgraceful occasion and everywhere the people weeping and lamenting the fate of Dara in the most touching language. This was observed from horse back from the most conspicuous parts of the city, in the midst of the largest bazar; by a person accompanied by two servants and two intimate friends.
From every quarter sounds of piercing and distressing shrieks, were heard. Men, women, and children wailing as if some mighty calamity had happened to themselves. Javan Khan rode near the wretched Dara; and the abusive and indignant cries vociferated as the traitor moved along were absolutely deafening. It was observed some Fakirs and several poor people throw stones at the infamous Pathan, but not a single movement was made, no one offered to draw his sword, with a view of delivering the beloved and compassionated Prince.
When this disgraceful procession had passed through every part of Dehli, the poor prisoner was shut up in one of his own gardens, called Haidarabad.
Aurangzeb was immediately informed of the impression which this spectacle produced upon the public mind, the indignation manifested by the populace against the Pathan, the threats held out to stone the perfidious man, and with the fears entertained of a general insurrection.
A second council was consequently convened, and the question discussed, whether it was wiser to conduct Dara to Gwalior, agreeable to the original intention, or to put him to death without further delay, it was ultimately decided that Dara should die, and that Sipah-Shikoh should be confined in Gwalior.
At this meeting Raushanara Begam betrayed all her enmity against her hapless brother, combating the arguments of Danishmand Khan, and instigating Aurangzeb to this foul and unnatural murder.
The charge of this atrocious murder was intrusted to a slave of the name of Nazir [“Nazer”], who had been educated by Shah-Jahan, but experienced some ill-treatment from Dara.

The Prince, apprehensive that poison would be administered to him, was boiling lentils with Sipah Shikoh, when Nazir and four other ruffians entered his apartment. ‘My dear son,’ he cried out, ‘these men are come to murder us!’ He then seized a small kitchen knife, the only weapon in his possession.
One of the murderers having secured Sipah Shikoh, the rest fell upon Dara, threw him down, and while three of the assassins held him, Nazir decapitated his wretched victim. The head was instantly carried to Aurangzeb, who commanded that it should be placed in a dish, and that water should be brought. The blood was then washed from the face, and when it could no longer be doubted that it was indeed the head of Dara, he shed tears, and said, “Ai Bad-bakht……… ” ‘(Ah wretched one! let this shocking sight no more offend my eyes, but take away the head, and let it be buried in Humayun’s tomb)’.
Dara’s daughter was taken that same evening to the saraglio, but afterwards sent to Shah-Jahan and Begam-Sahib; who begged of Aurangzeb to let the young Princess grow up in their care.
Dara’s wife, foreseeing the calamities which awaited her and her husband, had already put an end to her life by swallowing poison at Lahore. Sipah Shikoh was immured in the fortress of Gwalior.
Soon after these tragic events Javan Khan was summoned before the council, and then dismissed from Delhi with a few presents. He did not escape fate, however, as he was waylaid and assassinated in a forest, within a few leagues of his own territory.

Francois Bernier. Travels in the Mogul Empire, AD 1656-1668, trans. by Archibald Constable on the basis of Irving Brock’s version, ed. by Vincent A. Smith. Delhi,

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Social Life In Ancient India

Here we will discuss about the social life of people in Ancient India: –

  1. Varna-System; 2. Ashramas ; 3. Sanskaras or Sacraments ; 4. Family ; 5. Marriage ; 6. Position of; Women ; 7. Dresses and Ornaments ; 8. Food Habits; 9. Amusements and Entertainments ; 10. Slavery
    The Ancient Indian society was based upon Varna and ashrams, a four-fold classification of the entire people into varnas and a fourfold division of the life of each individual into ashrams (stages). The Indo-Aryans were originally divided into three classes the Brahman, and Rajanya and Vis.
    At a later stage these three classes assumed the names of Brahman, Kshatriya and Vaisya. The fourth class—Sudras—was added from amongst the aborigines with a view to serve the other three classes
    The Brahmanas included persons who devoted themselves to the conservation of the ancient ideals, main­tenance and development of ancient rituals, probe the mysteries of the universe, investigate the relation between the Supreme Spirit and the individual soul etc.
    This section of people naturally came to occupy an important position in a society which possessed spiritual ideals, The Brahmans were considered a great divinity in human form and were given numerous privileges.
    Usually light punishments were given to the Brahmans even for very serious crimes. The Brahmans were patronized by the king or the chief and were provided with grants of tax-free land, cultivated by farmers who paid their taxes to the Brahman rather than the king.
    Brahmans were also apointed to important positions at court. The Brahmans were generally forbidden by the law books to engage in agriculture. Similarly, they were not permitted to carry on trade ill certain commodities like cattle and animals, slaves, weapons and liquor.
    The Rajanya or Kshatriya formed the second class. They were charged with the duty of protecting the people, defending them against foreign aggression. During the Vedic age they also studied Vedas and performed various types of sacrifices.
    In the earlier period the Kshatriyas claimed precedence over the Brahman. A strong king was always a check on the brahmanic pretentions, just as the Brahmans were a check on the pretentions of the king.
    It may, however, be noted that the members of the two classes often resorted to change of functions. Some Brahmin families like Jamadagnis took to fighting, while certain Kshatriyas took to meta­physical investigations.
    The Kshatriyas enjoyed certain privileges. Sometimes they continued old customs which were not in keeping with the orthodox belief, and the Brahmans were forced to give them legal sanction. The Kshatriyas were permitted marriage by capture. The third class consisting mainly of the mass of Aryan people was known as Vaisya. The general duties of the members of this class included agriculture, cattle-rearing and trade. The status of the Vaisya was quite inferior to that of the Brahmans and the Kshatriyas. One of the passages in the Aitareya Brahmana described Vaisya as “paying tribute to another, to be lived on by another, to be oppressed at will.”
    Similarly, in the early Brahmanic literature also he is described as wretched and down-trodden cultivator or petty merchant who is of no interest to his masters except as a source of profit. Their position deteriorated further in the Later-Vedic period when they were forced to mix with the Sudras for the proper regulation of their trade and commerce.
    Almost the entire burden of the society fell on their shoulders. They had to pay charity to the Brahmans, taxes to the Kshatriyas and salary to the Sudras.
    The Sudras did not belong to the Aryan stock and were not considered ‘twice-born’. The term Sudra was probably drawn from the name of the non-Aryan tribe which was subjugated by the Aryans and come to be applied to the community of the aborigines.
    Subse­quently even those people who failed to strictly observe the ortho­dox customs and practices were pushed into the ranks of the Sudras. Similarly, persons born illegitimately even when of pure high-class blood were counted amongst Sudras.
    They did not enjoy even the basic amenities of life. According to Aitareya Brahmana the Sudras is to be the servant of another, to be expelled at will and to be slain at will. The Sudra had no right of property against’ the Kshatriyas, especially the king. They did not receive education nor could they hear or learn Vedas.
    However, in actual practice the Sudras did not live the humble and wretched life prescribed for them by the Sacred Law. We learn of a number of Sudras engag­ing in manufacture and commerce. By the times of the Mauryas a large number of Sudras had become free peasants. Though the Vedas were not to be read by the Sudras, the Epics and Puranas were thrown open to them.
    At the earlier stages the, caste system was not rigid. The members of the upper classes could intermarry with the Sudras, though it was not favoured. Sukanya, daughter of a Kshatriya king, married Chyavana, a Brahmin.
    Similarly, there are numerous examples of scholarly kings (Kshatriyas) teaching Brahmins. Inter-dinning was also common. It may be noted that though son of a Brah­man, Kshatriya or Vaishya could marry a Sudra girl, but was not possible for the son of a Sudra to think in terms of marriage with the daughter of any of the upper classes.
    If a Brahmana married a Sudra girl, he lost his status. But despite these restrictions there were many instances of the members of the upper classes marrying in lower families. As a result of these marriages various new castes came into existence.
    These castes were outside the regular classes. Subsequently, number of foreigners like Greeks, Parthians, Shakas, Kushans etc. also came to India and were absorbed by the Indian, society either as Kshatriyas or as Sudras.
    Another outstanding feature of the social organisation in ancient India was the Ashtnamas. This system particularly developed during the later Vedic period. Liberally Ashrama means halting place. But in the Indian social system it implied stoppage or stage in the journey of life with a view to prepare one-self for further journey.
    The life of the individual was divided into four Ashramas. Presuming that each individual lived for roughly one hundred years, the entire life was divided into four periods of twenty-five years each, representing one Ashrama.
    The first Ashram or stage was known as the Brahmachavya Ashrama which lasted till the age of 25 years. A major portion of this Asharama was devoted to education. During this period the student stayed with the teacher, who looked after his physical, mental and psychological development.
    During this period the student had to lead a life of simplicity and chastity. He had to maintain strict control over all his organs and to avoid all pleasures and luxuries. The students belonging to all the classes had to stay together at the house of the teacher and were treated equally. Manu has described the age at which the children of different castes should start their education.
    According to him the son of Brahmana should go to school in the fifth year, the son of a Kshatriya in the sixth year and the son of the Vaishya in the eighth year. The children of the Sudras were not to go for education.
    This difference in age was suggested probably because Manu considers that the in­telligence of the son of Brahmana at five was equal to the intelli­gence of the Vaishya at the age of eight. Thus we find that the Brahmacharya Ashrama was essentially a period for the development of body and mind.
    The Grihastha Ashrama or the stage of a householder was the next stage which lasted from 26 to 50 years. The most important duties of the individual at this stage include the setting up a family and beget offspring’s.
    According to the Hindu laws the possession of a son was considered to be essential for moksha. This stage of life was considered to be the hardest stage because the person had also to devote attention to sacrifices, worship, charity etc.
    Manu has observed, “The duties of this order (grahastha), which cannot be practiced by men with weak organs of sense, must be carefully observed by him who desires imperishable bliss in heaven, and constant happiness in this life”.
    During this period the house-holder was also expected to feed the people in the other three Ashramas and perform various rites and ceremonies. The home was also considered as an important place for the practice of dharma shastras.
    The householder entered the third stage of Vanaprastha Ashrama when he saw the signs of old age coming upon him—his hair got grey or his son or daughters got children of their own. The persons entering this stage was expected to renounce the comforts of a settled home life and retire from the world. He was expected to give up all desire for children, desire for possessions and desire for the world.
    During the Vanaprastha Ashram he was to take up residence in the forests and castigate the body to purify the soul. He was to live on forest fruits and herbs. He was to avoid meat and other luxur­ious food. He was not to use new clothes and had to depend on dresses made of materials available in the woods.
    He was expected to lead a life of complete detachment and to utilise his time for the study of Upanishads, Srutis and meditation. It was believed that a person who died while pursuing Vanaprastha Ashrama attained moksha.
    The last stage in the journey of man’s life was Sanyasa Ashram. It was the final and certain means of reaching the supreme goal of acquiring a knowledge of the Self and of emancipation from the bonds of life and death. Though this stage started after 75, but provision existed for entry into this Ashrama after Brahamacharya or Grihastha ashrama as well.
    The person entering the Sanyasa Ashrama was not to possess anything and was not to depend on anybody. He was to live in the forest, wear bark and to perform five sacrifices every day. He was not to care for the living or the dead. He restrained his senses by casting away love and hatred, and by living a life of a harmlessness All these were considered to be sure means for the attainment of moksha.
    According to Vaikhanasa Dharma Sutra, the last stage or ashrama vas meant only for a Brahmana, who according, to the Kama-constitution of Indian Society, is required to pass through a more rigorous Course of self-denial and discipline than the others, and is thus better fitted to take up this life of absolute surrender to the ideal, taking into no account the severe physical endurance and hard­ship demanded of him in ripe old age.
    The Vaishyas were expected to follow only the first two stages and end his life as grihastha or householder.
    Sanskaras or Sacraments:
    Another outstanding feature of the social life in ancient India was the observance of a large number of sanskaras or personal ceremonies in the life of the individual. These sanskaras started long before the birth of the child and conti­nued until he entered grihastha ashrama.
    At least three cere­monies were performed before the birth of the child viz. garbhaadharana to promote conception, pumsavana to procure male child, and simantonnayana to ensure the safety of the child in the womb.
    Explaining the significance of these purificatory rites Manu says “With holy rites prescribed by the Veda must the ceremony on conception and other sacraments be performed; for the twice- born men, which sanctify the body in this life and after death.” At the time of the birth jatakarma ceremony was performed.
    It was performed before the cutting of the umbilical cord and included the whispering the mantras in the baby’s ear, giving him a mixture of honey and ghee. This was followed by namakarna (naming of the child) and niskramana (showing the sun for the first time.)
    In the sixth month the annaprasana ceremony was performed and the child was given meat, fish or rice mixed with curds, honey and ghee along with the recitation of the Vedic verses. The cudakarma (tonsure ceremony) took place in the third year.
    This ceremony was meant only for the boys and on this occasion child’s scalp was shaved leaving only a topknot. Another ceremony was performed when the child first began learning of the alphabet.
    It may be noted that most of the sansaars were meant for male children. It is doubtful if they were performed in the case of girls even in the higher classes. In fact, from the earliest times posses­sion of a son was considered absolutely essential for the performance of funeral rites for his father and to ensure his safe transit to the other world.
    The Indo-Aryan family organization being patriarchal, a son was also considered necessary for the continuance of family’s line.
    In the Rig-Veda we get a large number of hymns praying for a son. In one of the hymns Visvamitra prays for son to god Agni and says “May there be sons and grandsons born in our race, O Agni, and may thy goodwill be ever upon us”, The practice of adopting the sons was also in vogue but it was considered to be a poor sub­stitute for a true son.
    In one of the hymns of Rig-Veda Vasishtha speaks strongly against the adoption of a son from a stranger’s family and says:
    “That is no offspring which is begotten by another; it is only the ignorant who think so. Lead us not away from the paths of lineal male descent. A stranger, that is, one begotten of another, is certainly not to be adopted, although worthy of regard. Such a one is not to be contemplated even in the mind as fit for acceptance, for verily he returns to his own house. There­fore let there come to us a son new-born, who would strike terror into others and be victorious over foes.”
    The rite of upanayanna which signified the second birth of the person (as a number of his class), was confined to the Brahmans, Kshatriyas and vaishyas, and the sudras were excluded from it.
    The kernel of the ceremony was investing of the boy with the sacred thread (yajnopavita), which he was expected to wear continuously from that day onwards. This ceremony was also confined to boys, though in the Vedic times the girls were also sometimes initiated.
    The family was the basic unit of social organisation in ancient India. The family at that time was usually a joint family in which brothers, uncles, cousins, nephews, etc. lived under one roof as one group and were closely linked with each other.
    They even owned immovable property in-common. In addition to the blood relations the ancient Indian family also included adopted children, servants, domestic serfs etc. The family of a Brahaman included a number of students as well.
    The rite of saraddha played an important part in binding the members from the common ancestors. At the time of the perfor­mance of this rite the sons, grandsons and great-grandsons of the deceased were present, which naturally bound them together and proved to be a potent, force in keeping the family united.
    Usually the eldest male member was the head of the house and administered joint property. However, in Kerala the headship rested with the eldest female member. The head of the family usually enjoyed very extensive power. He could behave in most arbitrary manner except in so far his authority was restricted by the sacred law and custom.
    We have a number of legends stating that the father enjoyed the power of life and death over their sons and sacrificed them. However, this is not confirmed by other sources. In fact, Kautaliya in his Arthasastra looks on the killing of a son among the most heinous forms of murder.
    Marriage was considered to be a sacred bond of union between a male and a female for their eternal progress through the performance of their duties, through dharma. The martial union was considered to be a divine dispensation which none of the two parties could dissolve.
    The marriage usually took place when a person became Sanatak after the completion of education. It was considered to be a positive duty and was undertaken for three reasons—promotion of religion by performance of household sacri­fices; progeny for the continuation of the lineage; and rati or sexual pleasure.
    The marriage was generally arranged by the parents of the couple in consultation with the Brahmans taking into account the various omens, horoscopes and auspicious physical characteristics. “Usually marriages were held within the same class and caste. The marriages took place when the boy completed his education and the girl had not reached the age of puberty.
    The marriage was solemnized through very complicated ceremonies. It was quite an expensive affair and the expenses were met by the father of the girl. The bridegroom along with his friends and relatives proceeded to the house of the bride, where he was received by her father and offered madhuparka, a drink made of honey and curd.
    The actual ceremony of marriage took place in a special pavilion in the accompaniment of sacred verses. The, father of the bride formally gave the daughter to the groom, who promised to observe the principles of piety, wealth and pleasure. They took seven rounds of the mandpa together and the marriage was solemnized.
    The text books have mentioned eight types of marriages, which were named after various gods.
    These were Brahma, marriage of a duly dowered girl to man of the same class; Daiva, when a house­holder gave a daughter to a sacrificial priest as part of his fee; Arsa in which a token bride-price was paid in the shape of a cow and a bull; Prajapatya, in which the father gave the girl without dowry and without demanding bride-price; Gandharava, marriage by the consent of the two parties, this was a sort of clandestine type of marriage; Asura, marriage by purchase; Raksasa, marriage by capture; and Paisaca or seduction of a girl while asleep, mentally deranged or drunk. Of these the first four types of marriages were permissible to the Brahmans and were indissoluble. The other forms were look­ed on with different degrees of disfavour.
    As a householder a person was supposed to devote himself to the attainment of three ends of life viz. dharma, artha and kama. Dharma implied gaining religious merit through following the sacred law. Artha meant gaining wealth by honest means and Kama implied pleasures of all kinds. The three ends of life were in des­cending order of importance and in case of conflict between them the higher was to be given priority.
    According to the Sacred Law the marriage once solemnized was indissoluble, even it was not consummated. Divorce was practically impossible. A wife guilty of wrongful acts lost her rights and was not entitled to remarry.
    However, her husband was responsible to make provision for her maintenance. Though the religious law-books leave no room for divorce, Arthasastra says it was possible if the marriage had not been solemnized according to the religious rites. In such cases divorce by mutual consent could be possible. A divorce in a marriage performed according to reli­gious rites could also be possible if the husband deserted the wife.
    However, she was to wait for a period ranging between one to twelve years, according to the circumstances and the class. In the Gupta period divorce was virtually non-existent among the members of the higher classes. However, the members of the lower castes were permitted by their customs to practice divorce.
    Though the ordinary people of India were monogamous (one husband having one wife) the polygamy was not fully unknown. The kings and chiefs as well as rich members of the society were often polygamous. But the Dharma Sutras were certainly against polygamy.
    A person having more than one wife was considered disqualified to testify before the court. The polyandry, the reverse of polygamy, was also not completely unknown, although it was not practiced by the people of respectable classes. The best example of the polyandry is provided by the marriage of Draupadi to the five Pandava brothers.
    However, a person was encouraged to have second or even third wife if the first and the second were barren, so that he could have a son. Similarly, if the husband was sterile he had to take other measures.
    One of the extreme measures was that he could appoint a close relative, usually a brother, to produce offspring on his behalf. In the Epic stories we get references of the assistance being sought from the holy persons for this purpose.
    Position of Women:
    The position of women was not identical throughout ancient period. But mostly the woman could not lead a free life and she lived under the tutelage of her parents, her husband or her sons. The early law books treated the women as equivalent to the Sudra.
    However, this did not affect the position of the women in the family. Manu, who was no advocate of the rights of women, also said that gods live in joy where women are revered and if a husband abandoned the wife without sufficient reason, he should be expelled from the caste by the ruler.
    The high esteem in which the wife was held during the Vedic age is evident from the fact that she was considered the half that completed the husband. The wife assisted the husband not only in his secular duties, but also at the altar.
    The husband and wife together were supposed to keep the household fire burning so that the daily offering of the agnihotra could be carried on. If a person lost his wife, he was either expected to bring another wife to keep the sacred fire burning or else to retire and take to vanaprastha ashrama.
    No religious rites and rituals could be performed, without the wife. The Rig-Veda relates us a story of a grihapati who left his wife because of her impertinence and went away for practising penance but the God explained to him that he could not perform the penance without his wife.
    In addition to an important position in the family the women actively participated in the various social activities. This is confirmed by the ancient Indian sculptures in which women are shown with their husbands in a number of religious and secular functions. The women also took active part in the religious activities, though they could not officiate as priests. In the literary sphere also the women made valuable contribution.
    Some of the Vedic hymns and a number of Buddhist hymns are ascribed to the Buddhist nuns. In Brhadaranyaka Upanishad we are told about the learned lady Gargi Vacaknavi, who held discussions with Yajnavalkya and nonplussed him with her searching questions.
    Another scholar Maitreyi, wife of Yajnvalkya, also participated in the learned discourses. Around the beginning of the Christian era, the women were denied access to the Vedas and Vedic literature.
    Unlike the medieval and modern times women were encouraged to learn singing, dancing and other arts like painting and garland- making. Dancing was not merely the profession of the low-caste women and prostitutes, but ladies from respectable families also took keen interest in it.The Rig-Veda tells us that young men and un­married girls mixed freely and we do not find any instances of unnecessary restrictions on the married women. However, Arthasastra says that the kings kept their womenfolk in seclusion. It gives details regarding the antahpura or royal harem, and the measures taken to guard it effectively.
    But it can certainly be said that the women were not secluded to the extent as in Muslim communities. In the Tamil literature also we get a number of references to show that girls of good class and marriageable age visited temples and took part in the festivals without guardians.
    The early sculptures also confirm this impression. The sculptures at Bharhut and Sanchi show wealthy ladies, naked to the waist, leaning from their balconies and watching the processions. Similarly we find scantily dressed women in the company of men worshipping the Bodni Tree. In short we can say that though the freedom of the women was considerably restricted, it was not completely denied to them.
    One of the chief duties of the woman was to bear children and to rear them up. In view of the other duties the women were exempted from duties concerning moral purification or spiritual advancement. It was believed that a woman attained purification and reached the goal by associating herself with her husband in the religious exercises, in the worship through sacrifices and vows etc.
    Manu says “The women- destined to bear children as they are possessed of the highest excellence, are worthy of worship, and brigh­ten up the household with their radiance; in the homes the wives are variable goddesses of fortune, with no difference whatsoever. The begetting of offspring, the nurture of those born, and the carrying out of the daily duties art possible because of the wife, as we see before our eyes. Offspring, the due discharge of religious duties, faithful service, highest conjugal happiness, and besides, heavenly bliss for the fathers and for one’s own self, all these things are absolutely dependent on the wife.”
    However, the women were too much dependent on men for protection and were not supposed to take any initiative.
    The women observed a high standard of morality. The wives were expected to follow the path adopted by her husband, even if it meant the path of death. Even after the death of her husband a widow did not remarry and led a very pure and chaste life.
    Manu says “A faithful wife who desires to dwell after death with her hus­band, must never do anything that might displease him who took her hand, whether he be alive or dead. At her pleasure let her emaciate her body by living on pure flowers, roots and fruits, but she must never even mention the name of another man after her husband has died. Until death let her be patient of hardships, self- controlled and chaste, and strive to fulfil that most excellent duty -which belongs to wives who know but one husband only.”
    Widow remarriage was not favoured and it was considered a sacrilege and adultery.
    The Sati system was probably also in vogue. The Greek writers have recorded the incidents of widows burning themselves alive along with the dead pyre of her husband. It was considered to be a matter of great honour and the various wives weighed with each other for this privilege.
    We get a number of historical examples of the widows burning themselves with their dead husband viz. the queens of Kshemgupta and his predecessor Yashkar of Kashmir. Most probably during the rule of the Chola king Parantak I, the practice of Sati was in vogue.
    The women were permitted to have personal property in the form of jewellery and clothing. The Arthasastra permits a woman to have money up to 2,000 silver panas. The amounts in excess of this limit were held by the husband as a trust on behalf of the wife.
    The property of a woman could be used by the husband only in case of dire necessity. He could also exercise check on his wife if she wantonly gave away her property. After the death of a woman the property passed to the daughters (not to the husband or the sons). When there were no sons, the widow inherited the property of the husband.
    Thus we find that the position of women in ancient India was not that bad as is depicted in the Smritis.
    She was at once a goddess and a slave. Her honourable position has been brought out in a number of couplets thus:
    “The wife is half the man, the best of friends he roots of the three ends of life, and of all that will help him in the other world. With a wife a man does mighty deeds. With a wife man finds courage
    A wife is the safest refuge…Even a man in the grip of rage will not be harsh to a woman, remembering that on her depend the joys of love, happiness and virtue”.
    The women were to be well fed and cared for and provided with all possible luxuries according to the means of the husband. The wives were not to be beaten or maltreated for the god did not accept the sacrifice of a man who bets his wife.
    Dresses and Ornaments:
    The people of ancient India paid sufficient attention to their dresses and decorations. The dresses used by the people during the various periods of history did not fundamentally differ. The garments were used mainly to cover the body and usually consisted of lengths of clothes draped around the body and over the shoulders fastened with a belt.
    The lower garment known as paridhana or vasana was tied round the waist with a belt or string known as mekhala or rasana. The upper garment known as uttariya was draped like a shawl over the shoulders. This garment was used only when a person went out of house. The upper classes used it even at home. A third garment known as pravara was also used. It was like a mantle or cloak and was used only in cold seasons.
    Though the garments used by the people were unstitched, the art of sewing was not unknown to the people. We get depiction of women wearing jackets or bodices (kolaka or kancuka). With the arrival of the Sakas and Kushanas the dresses of the people under­went changes. The trousers from Central Asia were introduced and were commonly used by the members of the ruling class up to the Gupta period.
    The Gupta kings are shown as wearing them on their coins. During the Kushan period the long quilted coats, quilted trousers and boots of special type were used by the members of the ruling class. This is evident from the headless statute of Kanishka. However, this sort of dress did not suit the people living in hot areas and was most common in medieval Kashmir and North­west.
    The clothes were made mainly of cotton although woolen and silken clothes were also used. The woolen clothes were mainly used by the people of north in winter. Silks and muslins were used during summer and in those areas which had moderate climate.
    These clothes were so thin that the limbs of the wearer were visible. The people were fond of embroidered or dyed clothes. The paintings of Ajanta and Bagh show the dyed or otherwise patterned clothes were in use. Skin was also used as clothing.
    The people used head dresses. The turbans were the most common head-dress. It was fastened in numerous patterns. The women also wore complicated head-dresses. However, by the times of Guptas these complicated head-dresses were replaced by simple tiara-like head-dresses.
    Most of the people, with the exception of the Brahamans, grew long hairs. The orthodox Brahmans, however, shaved the whole head with the exception of the topknot, which was never cut.
    The footwear’s were also used. These were mainly used to protect the feet against the scorching earth. The most common foot-wears were shoes and sandals. In the Himalayan regions where the cold was rather bitting the boots of Central Asian pattern were used. It may be noted that the dresses of men and women were identical and the difference existed only in the manner of their wearing.
    Both men and women used ornaments. Although we have not come across any ornaments on the basis of the various archaeologi­cal excavation s, but the sculptures and paintings show that they were commonly used and the Indian jewelers had attained a very high standard in the art of making ornaments.
    The various literary works also make reference to a variety of ornaments used by the people. The ornaments were made of gold, silver, precious stones and other metals. The jeweled ornaments were used by the women of rich classes on their foreheads along the partings of their hair. Certain ornaments like ear-rings, necklaces, bracelets and anklets were worn by both men and women.
    Cosmetics were used by both men and women. The most common cosmetic was the paste made of finely ground dust of sandalwood. It was mixed with different colours and smeared over the whole body or applied in patterns.
    It was believed that this exercised cooling effect on the skin during the hot season. Eye-salva or anjana made of black powdered antimony was also popular with the people. It was not only used to enhance the beauty of the eyes but was also considered good for preventing ophthalmia.
    Vermilion (sindura), lac (laksa) and yellow pigment called gorocana were also used for ornamental purposes, especially for making tilaka on the forehead. The tips of the fingers and toes as well as lips were dyed red with lac. The practice of oiling and combing the hair was also in vogue.
    Food Habits:
    The food habits of the people of ancient India kept on changing. While during the Vedic period people took meat and meat preparations with great delight, with the spread of Jainism and Buddhism more and more people became vegetarian. This was quite natural because the two religions laid too much of emphasis on non-violence and were opposed to the killing of the animals.
    During the times of Ashoka the king not only gave up meat-eating but encouraged vegetarianism by imposing a ban on killing of animals. However, the meat-eating also continued to be practiced. Kautilya in his Arthasastra says that meat-eating was quite normal. He also lays down rules for the management of slaughterhouses and maintenance of purity of meat’.
    It was only with the growth of Mahayana Buddhism and the spread of new Hinduism that Vege­tarianism was once again entrenched in India. But it is doubtful if complete vegetarianism was universally practiced in all parts of the country.
    The most common dishes taken by the people were Apupa, a cake made of rice, barley, ghee-rice cooked with milk and with beans. Milk continued to be a popular drink with the people and milk products like ghee, butter, cream, curd etc. were commonly used.
    People in ancient India knew about drinks. Soma, a juice from a plant was the most popular drink. Another popular drink was the Sura, a brandy of grains. There were no moral objection to the taking of these drinks because the edicts of Ashoka which dis­couraged meat-eating make on reference to the drinking. How­ever, the Hindu law books condemned drinking and the respectful Indians did not take them.
    The Buddhist laws count the drinking of spirits as one of the five cardinal sins. Despite these religious taboos drinking vas quite common. Arthasastra gives a description of the various types of alcoholic drinks.
    Some of the prominent drinks mentioned are medaka (rice-beer), prasanna (spiced beer made of flour), asava (wood-apple wine), maireya (liquor made of raw sugar), sahakarasur (mango wine) etc. In the South, toddy, the fermented sap of the coconut was the most popular alcoholic liquor and is quite frequently mentioned in the early Tamil literature.
    A large number of private breweries and taverns existed during the Mauryan period. Arthasastra refers to the appointment of superintendent of liquor, to control the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks. It also recommends control over the manu­facture.
    The taverns were usually located away from the place of residence and often provided shelter to the criminals. Therefore, the king was advised to keep a watchful eye on them.
    Amusements and Entertainments:
    In ancient India numerous means of amusement and entertainment existed according to the age and interest of the various sections of people. The festivals were the most important source of amusement for the people. The Hindu year was divided into various festivals. The festival of Spring, one of these festivals, was celebrated in honour of the Love-god Kama, a very popular divinity of the times.
    In the celebration of this festival even the respectable citizens freely moved out in the streets scattering red powder and coloured water. This festival still survives under the name of Holi, though Kama no more plays any part in it.
    Dances and dramas were another source of entertainment. The literature and sculpture of ancient times contains various refer­ences about the dances and dramas. Patanjali makes a mention of the dramas like Kansavadha and Balibandhan being played on the stage.
    The dramas were performed by professional entertainers, who were highly proficient in their art. The musicians, bards, acrobats, jugglers, conjurors and snake charmers also entertained the people by their performance.
    As regards the outdoor games the people of India took special delight in chariot racing, bullock racing, horse-racing etc. We also get certain references about boxing and wrestling, but these were generally the hobbies of the people of low-caste. The warrior-class took great delight in archery contests. We get a detailed and vivid descriptions about the archery contests in the Epics.
    The people amused themselves by observing the fight of the animals. The popular animal fights included that of lavaka (Indian quail), the cock and ram. We also learn about the fights between bulls, buffaloes and elephants.
    The bull-fight was particularly very popular in the South and was considered to be a test of the manhood of young men. It is said that the girls who watched the performance would choose their husbands from among the successful competitors. Thus it was a sort of Tamilian svayamvara.
    The dicing and chess were the most popular indoor games. Gambling was popular among all the sections of the society except the rigidly religious people. The discovery of the six-sides dice in the Indus valley cities and the ‘Gamester’s Lament’ of the Rig Veda testify that gambling was very popular even amongst the earliest inhabitants of India.
    The plot of Mahabharata has been woven around the gambling tournament in which king Yudhishtra lost his kingdom to his wicked cousin Duryodhana. In the story of Nala and Damyanti also gambling forms the basis of the plot. In Arthasastra emphasis is laid on the regulation and control of gambling. It also testifies that stringent fines were imposed for cheating in gambling.
    Another indoor game which was quite popular was caturanga or four crops. Initially this game was played by four players and their moves were determined by the throw of dice. As the game was played with pieces representing military forces it came to be known as caturanga.
    The Persian game of shatranj was a corrupt form of this game. They reduced it to a game of two persons, each with two armies. They also gave up the use of dice to control the moves’
    Slavery in Ancient India:
    The institution of slavery also existed in ancient India, although it operated in much milder form than in the ancient civilizations of the West. Its operation was at a such low key that foreign travellers like Megasthenes did not note it, for we do not get any reference in this account about slavery. In fact there was no caste of slaves as such, because servitude was not in the nature of the Aryans.
    The persons belonging to all castes could become slaves. For example, a free man (arya) could become a temporary slave if he failed to pay a fine or the costs of a law­suit or if he was carried off in a raid. Similarly, if a man left his caste to enter a monastic order and then left the order or never entered it, he became a slave of the King. An Aryan became a permanent slave only when he himself sold his person.
    The institution of slavery originated in India when the Aryans captured a number of dasas in the battle. According to Mahabha­rata it is a law of war that the vanquished should become slave of the victor and should serve his captor until ransomed.
    However in course of time certain other categories of slaves also came into existence. For example, children born to a slave automatically became the slaves of the same masters. A free man could sell himself and his family into slavery in times of dire distress. Similarly, a person could be reduced to slavery on account of crime or debt.
    However, in these cases the servitude was of a temporary nature. Thus we find that in later times a number of classes of slavery came into existence. We find reference in the Smriti literature and else­where about the various types of slavery. Broadly speaking there were four types of slaves—born in the house, bought, captured in raid, and inherited.
    The duties of the slaves of all the four categories were identical viz. obedience to the master and the obligation to serve him in the matter of work. The slaves generally acted as domestic servants and personal attendants, although sometimes they were- required to assist the master in agriculture or mining.
    The master looked after the slave as a subordinate member of his house­hold. The masters were expected to maintain them and even to perform the last rites of the slave if he died without leaving a son.
    The slaves were bought and sold like ordinary commodities. They could also be loaned or given away. However, the masters possessed no right over their lives. The masters had a duty to look after the-claves when they were old, and could not abandon them.
    Thus we find that as compared to other ancient civilizations the lot of the slave in ancient India was much better. It was ordained for the master that he “may go short himself or stint his wife and children, but never his slave, who does his dirty work for him”. The masters were encouraged to release the slaves and manumission of slaves was considered to be a pious act.
    The Arthasastra emphasised on the need of liberal treatment of the slaves and laid down numerous regulations for the purpose. It forbade the sale of the children as slaves, except in dire emer­gency. The slaves were to be free to inherit property and do any­thing to raise money during their spare time.
    Slave girls were assured decent treatment. A master raping slave girl was expected to free her and pay her necessary compensation. If a slave-girl got a child by her master, both the mother and the child were set free.
    According to Prof Basham “The humane regulations of Arthasastra, probably unique in the records of any ancient civiliza­tion, are perhaps survivals of Mauryan laws, and it is therefore not surprising that Megasthenes declared that there was no slavery in India. India, unlike some other ancient civilisations, was never economically dependent on slavery; the labourer, farm worker and craftsman were normally free men. Slave markets are not mentioned in early sources, and though provision was made for the sale of slaves they do not seem at first to have been a regular article of commerce.


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Kulsum Zamani Begum- A Daughter of Bahadur Shah Zafar

Zeenat Mahal and Bahdur Shah Zafar

How Bahadur Shah Zafar’s daughter had to flee from Delhi after he lost his empire.

Description of Kulsum Zamani Begum’s escape from the Red Fort.

This is the true story of a female dervish who suffered through the travails of life. Her name was Kulsum Zamani Begum, and she was the pampered daughter of Delhi’s last emperor, Abu Zafar Bahadur Shah.

Although she died a few years ago, her story is a tale of bizarre happenings.

She was a sincere devotee of Mehboob-e-Ilahi Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya and was so attached to his dargah that she would often come there. Whatever is written down here has been told either by her or her daughter, Zainab Zamani Begum, who is still alive and lives in Pandit ka Kucha, Delhi

Kulsum Zamani Begum’s story is narrated below in her own words:

“The night my Babajan lost his empire and the end was near, there was a tumult in Lal Qila. The very walls seemed to be weeping……..
“The pearly white marble palaces had been blackened by soot from the gunfire and cannon shots in the past four months. No one had eaten for a day and a half. Zainab, my daughter, was a year-and-a-half old and crying for milk. Neither I nor any of the foster mothers were lactating because of the hunger and trouble all around us. We sat disconsolately when Hazrat Zill-e-Subhani’s special khwaja sara came to call us. It was midnight and the pin-drop silence was broken by intermittent cannon shots. We were terrified, but since Zill-e-Subhani had called us, we immediately left our palace and presented ourselves before him.
“Huzur sat on his prayer mat with a rosary in his hands. I stood before him and presented three salutations. Huzur called me close to him with great affection and said, ‘Kulsum, I entrust you to the care of Khuda. If fate permits, we will meet again. Go away immediately with your husband. I am also leaving. I don’t want to separate myself from my beloved children at this stage, but I don’t want to embroil you in my problems. If you are with me, destruction is certain. Maybe if you are alone, God will open a path of escape for you.’
“He raised his shaking hands in prayer and cried out to Allah, ‘Dear god, I entrust this orphan girl into your care. Brought up in magnificent palaces, they now venture into the wilderness and desolate jungles. They have no friends or protectors. Please protect the honour of these princesses of the Timurid dynasty. Preserve their honour. The entire Hindu and Muslim population of Hindustan are my children and trouble surrounds them all. Don’t let them suffer because of my actions. Give them relief from all troubles.’ With that, he patted my head, embraced Zainab, gave a few jewels to my husband Mirza Ziauddin, and sent us off along with Nur Mahal Saheba, who was Huzur’s begum.
“We left the Qila before dawn. My husband, Mirza Ziauddin, and the Badshah’s brother-in-law, Mirza Umar Sultan, accompanied the three women: myself and two other ladies, Nawab Nur Mahal and Hafiza Sultan, whose daughter was married to one of the emperor’s sons.
“When we climbed into our bullock cart, it was dawn. Only the morning star still twinkled in the sky, and all the other stars had vanished. We cast a last glance at the royal palace. We wept and yearned for what had once been our happy abode. Nawab Nur Mahal’s lashes were laden with tears and the morning star was reflected in them.
“We left the Lal Qila forever and reached Kurali village, where we rested for a while in the house of our cart driver. We were given bajra roti and some buttermilk. We were so hungry that the food tasted better than biryani and mutanjan.
“That night was spent peacefully, but the next day jats and gujjars from nearby areas came to loot Kurali. They were accompanied by hundreds of women who encircled us like witches. They took away all our jewellery and clothes. While these coarse women snatched the jewellery off our necks, we got a whiff of their breath which smelt so foul that we felt nauseous. After this, we didn’t even have enough money to buy ourselves our next meal. We didn’t know what was in store for us now.
“Zainab began to howl with hunger. A zamindar was passing by and I cried out, ‘Bhai, please give some water to this baby.’ The blessed man brought some water in an earthen cup and said, ‘From today, you are my sister and I’m your brother.’
“He was a well-to-do person from Kurali, and his name was Basti. He brought his cart and said he would take us wherever we wanted to go. We asked him to take us to Ijara, where Mir Faiz Ali, who was the shahi hakim and a long association with our family, lived. But when we reached Ijara, Mir Faiz Ali was extremely discourteous and refused to shelter us. ‘I am not going to destroy my house by giving you shelter,’ he told us.
“We were heartbroken and didn’t know what to do. Penniless and homeless, we were scared of the British forces chasing after us. Those who were eager to follow every glance of our eyes and obey even our slightest gestures had now turned away from us.
“And then there was Basti, who didn’t leave our side and fulfilled his covenant of calling me his sister. We left Ijara and set our destination as Hyderabad.”

Kulsum Zamani Begum eventually reached Hyderabad with her family and lived there for some time. For some time, her husband made a living by making and selling calligraphic pieces and teaching the Quran but as the British influence spread to Hyderabad and they lived in fear of being arrested they were more or less housebound. Whatever jewellery had escaped loot on the way to Hyderabad had been sold off.
The son of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s spiritual master Kale Miyan Saheb Chisti Nizami Fakhri, heard of their plight and arranged finances for them. They left for Mecca to make the Hajj pilgrimage. Basti, who had stood by them like a rock, was sent home from Bombay with whatever reward they afford for his invaluable services.
“Aboard the ship, whoever heard that we were the Shah-e-Hind’s family was eager to meet us. We were all dressed in the clothes of dervishes. One Hindu, who owned a shop in Aden and had no idea who we were, asked us which sect of fakirs we belonged to. The question inflamed our wounded hearts. I replied, ‘We are the disciples of the Mazloom Shah Guru. He was our father and our guru. Sinners have snatched away his crown and separated us from him and exiled us into the wilderness. Now he longs for us, while we are restless and yearn for a glimpse of his face. That is the truth of our faqeeri.”
“The Hindu began to cry when he heard our story and said to us, ‘Bahadur Shah was our father and guru but what could we do? It was Lord Ram’s will, and an innocent man was destroyed.’

They lived in Mecca for several years before returning to Delhi.

“When we came back, the British government took pity on us and fixed a sum of ten rupees per month for us. I laughed at this pension. They had taken away my father’s empire and offered us ten rupees as compensation.
“But then I remembered, this land belongs to god and he gives it to whoever he wants and takes it as he pleases. Man can do nothing about that.”

Fate of other ladies of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s Family:

The worst sufferers were the women of all classes including the women in the Mughal royal family. In the light of the above account of the treatment and sufferings, it is surprising that history is largely silent about them.
List of the Mughal princesses who were found roaming around Delhi and other places after September 1857/58

  1. Princess Quraishiya Begum daughter of Bahadur Shah
  2. Princess Kulshum Zamani Begum daughter of Bahadur Shah
  3. Princes Gauhar Begum daughter Qudsiya Begum daughter of Bahadur Shah
  4. Princess Malka granddaughter of Bahadur Shah
  5. Princess Gul Bano daughter of Mirza Dawal Bakht son of Bahadur Shah
  6. Princess Gul Bano, daughter of Mirza Dara Bakht
  7. Princess Nargis Nazar, the daughter of Mirza Shah Rukh ibn Bahadur Shah
  8. Princess Sultan Bano daughter of Mirza Quwaish Bahadur
  9. Princess Naz Bano daughter of Mirza Quwaish Bahadur
  10. Princess Zainab daughter of Mirza Ziauddin
  11. Princess Lalah Rukh daughter of Mirza Mughal
  12. Princess Mah Jamal daughter of Khurshid Jamal
  13. Princess Ghamzah Begum daughter of Mirza Abu Bakr
  14. Princess Gauhar Ara Begum
  15. Princess Muzaffar Sultan Begum
  16. Princess Qamar Ara Begum
  17. Princess Zohra Begum
  18. Princess Qaisar Jahan Begum
  19. Princess Birjish Dulhan
  20. Princess Qamar Jahan Begum
  21. Princess Muhammad Zamani Begum
  22. Princess Ahmadi Begum
  23. Princess Ruqayya Begum daughter of Akbar Shah
  24. Queen Nawab Nur Mahal
    In Begmaat ke Aansoo, Khwaja Hasan Nizami has described the story, which he heard from the princess herself
    Her name was Sultan Bano and she was the daughter of Mirza Kavaish Bahadur. When she met Khwaja Hasan Nizami she was 66-years-old but still remembered everything vividly. He recorded it in Begmaat ke Aansoo as Shahzadi ki Bipta.

Another tale of ruin as told by niece of Bahadur Shah Zafar:

Her name was Sultan Bano and she was the daughter of Mirza Kavaish Bahadur. When she met Khwaja Hasan Nizami she was 66-years-old but still remembered everything vividly. He recorded it in Begmaat ke Aansoo as Shahzadi ki Bipta.

She tells her story to Khwaja Hasan Nizami:

“Although the ghadar took place 50 years ago I still remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. I was 16-years-old then. I was two years younger than my brother Mirza Yavar Shah and six years older than my sister Naaz Bano, who died.”
“My name is Sultan Bano. My father Mirza Kavaish Bahadur (he was appointed the Crown Prince by the British in 1856, over the claims of Zeenat Mahal’s son Mirza Jawan Bakht). He was a favourite and able son of Hazrat Bahadur Shah.”
“We sisters were very fond of our brother Yawar Shah and it was reciprocated fully.”

Aqa Bhai had a whole range of tutors who taught him every range of subject and various arts. He had expert calligraphers, Arabic and Persian scholars and ace archers teaching him.”

We learnt embroidery, stitching and other household arts from Mughlanis.”

The children that Huzur-e-Wala was very fond of would partake breakfast with him every morning. Zill-e-Subhani was very fond of me and I was always called for breakfast with him”

” We didn’t observe purdah then or now. Strangers would come and go from the zenana mahal without a problem. But I was shy and I always kept my head covered and didn’t like coming in front of strange men. But I had to obey the orders of the Huzur, even though various male cousins also came there.”
The saving grace for me was that because they were in the presence of the Emperor they all kept their gaze lowered. No one could look up or speak out of turn.”

“As per custom, Huzur-e-Moalla would offer a morsel from some special dish to a few of his children, that person whether young or old, male or female, would get up from their seat and go close to him and present three salams by bending from the waist.”
“One day I was called and Huzur gave me a portion of a special Irani dish that had been mde that day. He said, “Sultana, you only peck at your food. It’s good to be respectful but you should not go to the extent that you get up hungry from the dastarkhwan.”
“I presented three salams to him but only I know how I went there and came back. I was quaking and tripping over my feet.”

Alas! Where did those happy days go? What happened to that era?”

We would be roaming about in our palaces without a concern. Zill-e-Subhani’s shadow was on our head and we were addressed as Malika-e-Alam. Such are the ups and downs of life.”
“I remember the day clearly when Huzur-e-Moalla was arrested in Humayun’s maqbara and a gora shot my Chachajaan Mirza Abu Bakr Bahadur then Mirza Sohrab ran towards him with a naked sword. But he was shot by another gora and he fell down with an aah on chahchajaan’s corpse and died. I was standing there, still as a statue watching it mutely.”
“A khwaja Sara came and said, “Begum why are you standing here? Your Abbajaan is calling you.”

” In a state of stupor I followed him.”
“Near the river gate, my father, Mirza Kavaish Bahadur was seated on a horse, bare headed and anxious. Abbajan’s hair was covered in dust and straw. He started crying when he saw me and said, “Farewell Sultana, I too am leaving. The light of my life, my young son, who I wanted to see with a sehra of pearls and flowers hiding his face in his wedding, was killed in front of my eyes by a Sikh soldier. ” I screamed loudly and started calling out, “O my brother Yawar.”

” He dismounted and pacified naaz Bano and me and said, “Beti, now the goras are looking for me. I don’t know how much longer I can escape them or how much longer I have before my life is snuffed out. You are Masha Allah young and sensible pacify your younger sister and place your trust in God and be patient.”
“I don’t know what will happen to either of us. I don’t want to leave you both alone but one day or the other you will be orphaned. Naaz Bano is a child, look after her and live a righteous life.”
“Naaz Bano you are no longer a princess don’t throw tantrums or make demands. Just give thanks to Allah and eat whatever you can get. If someone is eating, don’t look at them or people will say Princesses are very greedy.”

“He put us in charge of the Khwaja Sara and said, “Take them to where the other members of our family have gone.”
He embraced us and spurred his horse into the jungle. That was the last we saw of him and have no idea what happened to him after that. The Khwaja Sara was an old servant of our family and he set of with us.

Naaz Bano walked for a little while but she had never walked in her pampered and protected life and soon her legs gave way.
“She started crying. I had never walked much myself but somehow I managed and pulling Bano along stumbled my way through the streets where we once rode elephants in state processions.”
A thorn pricked Naaz Bano’s foot and she fell down crying. I picked her up and tried to remove the thorn. The accursed Khwaja Sara kept watching, making no effort to help. He started pushing us to hurry up.
Naaz said, “Apajan I can’t walk anymore. Please ask the steward to send a palanquin for us.”
” I started pacifying her through my tears. My heart felt as if it would burst with sorrow.”
“The Khwaja Sara said rudely, “That’s enough. Make a move now.”
“Naaz Bano was high-spirited and was used to obeisance from servants and would always keep them in their place. She scolded the Khwaja Sara. The accursed man flew into a rage and slapped the poor orphaned princess.”
“Bano trembled with shock. No one had ever laid a hand on her. Even I started crying also with her. The Khawaja Sara walked off leaving the two of us crying there.”

Somehow the two of us stumbled our way to the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya RahmatAllah Alaihe.”
” Thousands of people from Delhi and our family had taken refuge here. Each was caught up in their own troubles and fears. No one was talking to the other or enquiring after them.”
“A wave of epidemic diseases, which spread in the wake of the ghadar, claimed my sister’s life.”
“I was now all-alone.”
“Though peace returned to Delhi, there was no peace for me.”
“The British government fixed a pension of Rs 5/pm for all of us and I still get that.”

Khwaja Hasan Nizami-A translation taken from one of the many stories collected by Khwaja Hasan Nizami about the survivors of the Mughal emperor’s family and also Begamat ke Ansoo

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What did ancient Indians eat?

Excavation of the Mehrgarh period sites around 8000-6000 BC throws some startling facts about ancient Indian food habits. The domestication of plants and animals are reported in the subcontinent during that time. Wheat, barley and jujube were among crops cultivated, sheep and goats were among the animals domesticated for food.
In the Neolithic period roughly 8000-5000 BC, agriculture products were the dominant mode of food products. Agricultural communities became widespread in Kashmir valley around 5000 BC. As early as 4530 BC and 5440 BC wild Oryza rice appeared in the Belan and Ganges valley regions of northern India.
The earliest evidence of food in ancient India comes from excavated sites in the Indus Valley Civilization. Indus Valley civilization relied on the considerable technological achievements of the pre-Harappan culture, including the plough. The farmers of the Indus Valley grew peas, sesame, dates and rice. Agricultural activity during the second millennium BC included rice cultivation in the Kashmir and in other Harrappan regions.
Several wild cereals, including rice, grew in the Vindhyan Hills, and rice cultivation, at sites such as Chopani-Mando and Mahagara, was underway as early as 7000 BC.
The picture of ancient Indian food becomes much clearer after the Aryan settlement in the Gangetic planes. The compilation of the religious scriptures gives vivid account of the food that was in vogue during that time.
The people who settled in the Gangetic plains were good farmers. They ate both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods. They cultivated barley wheat rice, melons and cotton. They domesticated cow, pigs, buffalo and sheep. They lived in banks of rivers and caught fish from river with fish hooks.
Food items mentioned in Vedic literature
The Vedic literature throws considerable light on the food and drink habits of the people of the ancient India. Among the food grains, the Rig Veda repeatedly mentions barley, particularly fried barley. Of frequent occurrence is the word anna which may not essentially mean rice; it denotes food in general.

Foods items in the age of Brahmanas

Ancient India Foods
Rice and wheat appear to have been the staple food in the age of Brahmanas. Different products of barley and rice, mentioned in the Aitareya are dhana, karambha, parivdpa, purodds`a and payasyd. These were mainly fried barley; cooked with butter, powder of dhana fried with butter, parched rice fried in butter, rice-cake, mixture of curd and milk.
Milk and various milk products that were used include clarified butter, curdled milk, dadhi (curd), karambha (porridge), ghrta (unmelted butter), navanita (cream or fresh butter), sdnndyya (mixture of curd and milk), mixture of milk and sotna, cam (milk, curd, honey, butter etc. mixed together), sara (thickened surface of milk), etc.
Udumbara (sacrificial fig), jujube and berries are some of the edible fruits mentioned in the Brahmanas. Shatapatha Brahmana mentions sugarcane. Aitareya Upanishad mentions shoots of Banyan trees and fruits of fig.
In the Kalpasutra the mentions use of various food grains, namely rice, barley, wheat, millet, sesame and pulses have been found.
Meat Eating in Ancient India
In ancient India meat was not only eaten, but was also regarded as the best kind of food. The meat of barren cows and sterile ox, goat and sheep was a delicacy. We learn from the Shatapatha Brahmana and Aitareya the vogue of beef-eating; it used to be served to a king or other highly respectable guests.
The Sutras also bear clear testimony to meat-eating. Meat, both roasted on spits and cooked in pots, appears to have been in use. It was an essential element in madhuparka offered to distinguished guests.
The Dharma sutras shed considerable light on the meat permitted and prohibited. As regards bird-meat, the Dharma sutras mention many birds permitted or prohibited. Also prohibited are the aquatic creatures called porpoise, nakra, kulira, cefa and gavaya. The Vedic texts also mention the usage of the meat of bulls, horses, buffaloes and even of dogs.
Vegetarian food, excluding animal and fish meat became the norm only after the coming of Buddhism. In the Gupta period people mostly ate vegetables, cereals, fruits, breads, and drank milk.

Fruits and Vegetables in Ancient India

Melons and Cotton
Of the fruits, mango seems to have been common. Apastamba Dhamasutra mentions it as a familiar example. Other fruits mentioned in the Sutras are kharjura (dates), variety of jujube called Badara, Karkandhu and Kuvala.
Of the vegetables and juicy substances, prohibited are karanja (red garlic), kisalaya (sprouts), kydku (mushroom), lasuna (garlic), nirydsa (substances exuding from trees; etc.
Drinks in Ancient India
Among the drinks mentioned are sura, honey, milk and fruit-juice. The Taittiriya Upanishad, mentions sura to be extracted from certain herbs or fermented from rice.
Madhu (honey) appears to have been used as an article of food. A preparation of fried rice, called laja, is mentioned. Dadhimantha perhaps means liquefied curd or clarified butter. Milk (kslra), curd (dadhi) and ghee is also mentioned. In the age of Sutras, the drinks that appear to have been in vogue besides milk are Takra (butter-milk mixed with water) and Mantha (a preparation of dry barley meal stirred in milk, curd, water or melted butter).

Intoxicating Drinks in Ancient India

The Veda also testifies to the wide prevalence of drinking wine. In the Vedic texts, among drinks that are mentioned are wine and somarasa; the latter was, perhaps, used by the upper classes, particularly in sacrifices. Somarasa appears to have been confined to the priestly class.
As regards intoxicating drinks, surd or spirituous liquor was the commonest. Surd appears to have been a very popular drink, especially at marriage and certain other rites.
Surd is condemned in Shatapatha Brahmana. The Shatapatha Brahmana also condemn Parisrut that appears to have been semi-fermented liquor. The two drinks were specifically prohibited for Brahmanas.
In certain ancient literary texts, female dancers drinking wine are mentioned. Other such drinks are madhu and maireya.

Popular Food of Ancient India

Their popular food in ancient India was products of wheat served with barley or rice along with fish and meat. Karambha seems to have been a popular food; it may mean a sort of gruel made with flour and curd or a sort of porridge prepared with unhusked, parched and kneaded barley grains.
Ksirapakvaanna, apupa (cake) appear to have been delicacies and crushed grain, mixed with curd, was also relished. Puroddsa (a kind of cake) was used in sacrificial offerings.
Among the preparations of rice are mentioned odana (cooked with water) and payasa or ksiraudana (cooked with milk), sthdlipdka (rice or barley cooked with milk or water) appears to have been a special dish meant for ceremonial occasions.
Dhanya is also mentioned, so is saktu (pulverised grain) that was commonly used.
Salt and sugar appear to have been added to food for adding to the taste. Among the condiments, Pippali (long pepper) and marica (black pepper) are mentioned. Two kinds of cakes, made of ground corn, are mentioned. Of these, Purodds was offered chiefly in sacrifices and Apupa was generally eaten by the people.
An inquisitive practice in vogue in ancient India was that certain articles, including a preparation of ground rice, barley or sugarcane-juice, were offered to serpents.

Food Items Mentioned in Ramayana

In the Ramayana it is mentioned that the Aryans were accustomed to both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.
The vanaras (monkeys) were used to vegetarian food alone, their food having been fruits, roots and leaves. The Raksasas were carnivorous. The Aryan people mainly used rice, barley, wheat and pulses.
Boiled rice appears to be the most popular food. Refined rice, mixed with curd and milk, was a favourite dish. Among milk products, curd, curd mixed with sugar and ghee was used.
Meat-eating appears to have been widely prevalent both among the Aryans and the non-Aryans. So far as drinking wine is concerned, the Ramayana condemns the practice particularly among the Brahmanas.
Wine appears to be of two main varieties, namely distilled and natural. Among other drinks mentioned are honey and madhuparka, the latter being an admixture of curd, ghee, honey, sugar and water.

Food items mentioned in Mahabharata

From certain references in the Mahabharata – Sesamum appears to be used as food. Milk and milk products like curd, ghee is mentioned. Of the sweets, cakes (apilpa), and sugarcane-juice (i.e. molasses) are mentioned.
Fruits, even some wild varieties, were eaten by people.
As regards meat-eating, the Mahabharata allows it at some places while condemning it at others. The meat of birds also appears to have been edible; their species, however, is mentioned.
Further, from certain references fish appears and used as food.
The food habit of the people in ancient India was vegetarian and non-vegetarian. While the vegetarian products were based on agricultural, that included cereals, fruits and vegetables, the non-vegetarian product came from domesticated animals and fishing.
As the economy was primarily agriculture, there was plenty of food available for everyone in ancient India.

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How did Babur die?

The circumstances leading to the death of Babur are curious.
It is stated that in 1530, Humayun fell sick and it was declared that there was no possibility of his survival. It was at this time that Babur is said to have walked three times round the bed of Humayun and prayed to God to transfer the disease of his son to him. And from that time onwards Humayun began to recover and the condition of Babur went from bed to worse and ultimately he breathed his last.
(It appears from the account of Gulbadan that Babur fell ill that very day and died soon after. But according to some historians, Babur was sickly for two or three months after the recovery of Humayun and some even claims that, the death of Babur was due to poison given to him by the mother of Ibrahim Lodhi.)
He died at age of 47 which is quite young age for person of his physique and capability as it has been said that he was incredibly strong and physically fit. As one of his exercises, he would carry two men, one on each of his shoulders, then run around and climb slopes. It is also believed that Babur swam through every major river in India, sometimes even against the current, so it is generally believed that he didn’t die a natural death rather was killed. It has been said that he was poisoned by mother of Ibrahim Lodi, whom he defeated in First Battle of Panipat. After becoming King he gave shelter to widow and mother of Ibrahim Lodi and to avenge death of his son she hatched plan to assassinate him.



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Ancient Egyptian cuisine

An early Ramesside Period mural painting from Deir el-Medina tomb
depicts an Egyptian couple harvesting crops.

The cuisine of ancient Egypt covers a span of over three thousand years, but still retained many consistent traits until well into Greco-Roman times. The staples of both poor and wealthy Egyptians were bread and beer, often accompanied by green-shooted onions, other vegetables, and to a lesser extent meat, game and fish.

Depictions of banquets can be found in paintings from both the Old Kingdom and New Kingdom. They usually started sometime in the afternoon. Men and women were separated unless they were married. Seating varied according to social status, with those of the highest status sitting on chairs, those slightly lower sat on stools and those lowest in rank sat on the raw floor. Before the food was served, basins were provided along with aromatics and cones of scented fat were lit to spread pleasant smells or to repel insects, depending on the type.

Lily flowers and flower collars were handed out and professional dancers (primarily women) entertained, accompanied by musicians playing harps, lutes, drums, tambourines, and clappers. There were usually considerable amounts of alcohol and abundant quantities of foods; there were whole roast oxen, ducks, geese, pigeons, and at times fish. The dishes frequently consisted of stews served with great amounts of bread, fresh vegetables and fruit. For sweets there were cakes baked with dates and sweetened with honey. The goddess Hathor was often invoked during feasts.

Food could be prepared by stewing, baking, boiling, grilling, frying, or roasting.
Spices and herbs were added for flavor, though the former were expensive imports and therefore confined to the tables of the wealthy. Food such as meats was mostly preserved by salting, and dates and raisins could be dried for long-term storage. The staples bread and beer were usually prepared in the same locations, as the yeast used for bread was also used for brewing. The two were prepared either in special bakeries or, more often, at home, and any surplus would be sold.
Honey was the primary sweetener, but was rather expensive. There was honey collected from the wild, and honey from domesticated bees kept in pottery hives. A cheaper alternative would have been dates or carob. There was even a hieroglyph (nedjem/bener) depicting a carob pod that bore the primary meaning of “sweet; pleasant.”

Carob Pod

Oils would be made from lettuce or radish seed, safflower, ben, balanites and sesame. Animal fat was employed for cooking and jars used for storing it have been found in many settlements.

A depiction of the royal bakery from an engraving in the tomb of Ramesses III in the Valley of the Kings. There are many types of loaves, including ones that are shaped like animals. 20th dynasty.


Egyptian bread was made almost exclusively from emmer wheat, which was more difficult to turn into flour than most other varieties of wheat. The chaff does not come off through threshing, but comes in spikelets that needed to be removed by moistening and pounding with a pestle to avoid crushing the grains inside. It was then dried in the sun, winnowed and sieved and finally milled on a saddle quern, which functioned by moving the grindstone back and forth, rather than with a rotating motion.
The baking techniques varied over time. In the Old Kingdom, heavy pottery molds were filled with dough and then set in the embers to bake. During the Middle Kingdom tall cones were used on square hearths. In the New Kingdom a new type of a large open-topped clay oven, cylindrical in shape, was used, which was encased in thick mud bricks and mortar.

Dough was then slapped on the heated inner wall and peeled off when done, similar to how a tandoor oven is used for flatbreads. Tombs from the New Kingdom show images of bread in many different shapes and sizes. Loaves shaped like human figures, fish, various animals and fans, all of varying dough texture. Flavorings used for bread included coriander seeds and dates, but it is not known if this was ever used by the poor.

Other than emmer, barley was grown to make bread and also used for making beer, and so were lily seeds and roots, and tiger nut. The grit from the quern stones used to grind the flour mixed in with bread was a major source of tooth decay due to the wear it produced on the enamel. For those who could afford there was also fine dessert bread and cakes baked from high-grade flour.


“Egyptian beer”
Stela depicting a Syrian mercenary drinking beer. Egyptian New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, Amenhotep IV. Neues Museum, Berlin.

In Egypt beer was a primary source of nutrition, and consumed daily. Beer was such an important part of the Egyptian diet that it was even used as currency.[5]Like most modern African beers, but unlike European beer, it was very cloudy with plenty of solids and highly nutritious, quite reminiscent of gruel. It was an important source of protein, minerals and vitamins and was so valuable that beer jars were often used as a measurement of value and were used in medicine. Little is known about specific types of beer, but there is mention of, for example, sweet beer but without any specific details mentioned.
Globular-based vessels with a narrow neck that were used to store fermented beer[6] from pre-dynastic times have been found at Hierakonpolis and Abydoswith emmer wheat residue that shows signs of gentle heating from below. Though not conclusive evidence of early beer brewing it is an indication that this might have been what they were used for. Archeological evidence shows that beer was made by first baking “beer bread”, a type of well-leavened, lightly baked bread that did not kill the yeasts, which was then crumbled over a sieve, washed with water in a vat and then left to ferment. This “beer bread” closely resembles the bouza that is still consumed in Egypt today. There are claims of dates or malts having been used, but the evidence is not concrete.
Microscopy of beer residue points to a different method of brewing where bread was not used as an ingredient. One batch of grain was sprouted, which produced enzymes. The next batch was cooked in water, dispersing the starch and then the two batches were mixed. The enzymes began to consume the starch to produce sugar. The resulting mixture was then sieved to remove chaff, and yeast (and probably lactic acid) was then added to begin a fermentation process that produced alcohol. This method of brewing is still used in parts of non-industrialized Africa. Most beers were made of barley and only a few of emmer wheat, but so far no evidence of flavoring has been found.
Fruit and vegetables
Vegetables were eaten as a complement to the ubiquitous beer and bread; the most common were long-shooted green scallions and garlic but both also had medical uses. There was also lettuce, celery (eaten raw or used to flavor stews), certain types of cucumberand, perhaps, some types of Old World gourds and even melons. By Greco-Roman times there were turnips, but it is not certain if they were available before that period. Various tubers of sedges, including papyrus were eaten raw, boiled, roasted or ground into flour and were rich in nutrients.
Tiger nut (Cyperus esculentus) was used to make a dessert made from the dried and ground tubers mixed with honey. Lily and similar flowering aquatic plants could be eaten raw or turned into flour, and both root and stem were edible. A number of pulses and legumessuch as peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas were vital sources of protein. The excavations of the workers’ village at Giza have revealed pottery vessels imported from the Middle East, which were used to store and transport olive oil, as early as the 4th Dynasty.
The most common fruit were dates and there were also figs, grapes (and raisins), dom palm nuts (eaten raw or steeped to make juice), certain species of Mimusops, and nabk berries (a species of the genus Ziziphus). Figs were so common because they were high in sugar and protein. The dates would either be dried/dehydrated or eaten fresh. Dates were sometimes even used to ferment wine and the poor would use them as sweeteners. Unlike vegetables, which were grown year-round, fruit was more seasonal. Pomegranates and grapes would be brought into tombs of the deceased.

Meat, fowl and fish

Hunting game birds and plowing a field.
Depiction on a burial chamber from c. 2700 BC. Tomb of Nefermaat I and his wife Itet.

Meat came from domesticated animals, game and poultry. This possibly included partridge, quail, pigeon, ducks and geese. The chicken most likely arrived around the 5th to 4th century BC, though no chicken bones have actually been found dating from before the Greco-Roman period. The most important animals were cattle, sheep, goats and pigs (previously thought to have been taboo to eat because the priests of Egypt referred pig to the evil god Seth).
5th-century BC Greek historian Herodotus claimed that the Egyptians abstained from consuming cows as they were sacred by association with Isis. They sacrificed male oxen but did not eat them and buried them ritually. However, excavations at the Giza worker’s village have uncovered evidence of massive slaughter of oxen, mutton and pork, such that researchers estimate that the workforce building the Great Pyramid were fed beef every day.
Mutton and pork were more common despite Herodotus’ affirmations that swine were held by the Egyptians to be unclean and avoided. Poultry, both wild and domestic and fish were available to all but the most destitute. The alternative protein sources would rather have been legumes, eggs, cheese and the amino acids available in the tandem staples of bread and beer. Mice and hedgehogs were also eaten and a common way to cook the latter was to encase a hedgehog in clay and bake it. When the clay was then cracked open and removed, it took the prickly spikes with it.
Foie gras, a well-known delicacy which is still enjoyed today, was invented by the Ancient Egyptians. The technique of gavage, cramming food into the mouth of domesticated ducks and geese, dates as far back as 2500 BC, when the Egyptians began keeping birds for food.
A 14th century book translated and published in 2017 lists 10 recipes for sparrow which was eaten for its aphrodisiac properties.


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Ruqaiya Sultan Begum

Ruqaiya Sultan Begum
Padshah Begum
Shahzadi of the Mughal Empire
Empress consort of the Mughal Empire
Predecessor Bega Begum
Successor Saliha Banu Begum
Died 19 January 1626 (aged 83–84)
Agra, Mughal Empire (modern day India)
Burial Gardens of Babur, Kabul
Spouse Akbar
House Timurid (by birth)
Father Hindal Mirza
Mother Sultanam Begum

Ruqaiya Sultan Begum (c. 1542 – 19 January 1626) was empress consort of the Mughal Empire from 1557 to 1605 as the first wife and chief consort of the third Mughal emperor Akbar.
She was also the longest serving Mughal empress, having tenure of almost fifty years.
Ruqaiya was a first cousin of her husband, and was a Mughal princess by birth. Her father, Hindal Mirza, was the youngest brother of Akbar’s father Humayun. She was betrothed to Akbar at the age of nine and married him at 14, but remained childless throughout her marriage. In later life, Ruqaiya raised (virtually adopted) Akbar’s favourite grandson Khurram (the future emperor Shah Jahan). As Akbar’s chief consort, Ruqaiya wielded considerable influence over him and played a crucial role in negotiating a settlement between her husband and her stepson, Jahangir, when the father-son’s relationship had turned sour in the early 1600s, eventually helping to pave the way for Jahangir’s accession to the Mughal throne.

She died just a year before her foster-son, Shah Jahan, acceded to the throne after a fratricidal struggle.
Hindal Mirza, presents young Akbar’s portrait to Humayun, during Akbar’s circumcision celebrations in Kabul, c. 1546 AD[8]
Ruqaiya Sultan Begum was born into the Timurid dynasty as a Mughal princess, and was the only daughter of Mughal prince Hindal Mirza, the youngest son of the first Mughal emperor Babur from his wife Dildar Begum.
Ruqaiya’s mother, Sultanam Begum, was the daughter of Muhammad Musa Khwaja and the younger sister of Mahdi Khwaja, who was the brother-in-law of Emperor Babur, being the husband of his sister, Khanzada Begum. Ruqaiya was named after the Islamic Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, Ruqayyah bint Muhammad.
Ruqaiya’s oldest paternal uncle was the second Mughal emperor Humayun (who later became her father-in-law as well) while her most notable paternal aunt was the imperial princess, Gulbadan Begum, the author of Humayun-nama (“Book of Humayun”).
Ruqaiya, being the paternal granddaughter of Emperor Babur, was of Miran Shahi birth just like her husband Akbar. She was a descendant of the lines of the highest Central Asian aristocracy: Timur or Tamerlane the Great through his son Miran Shah, and Genghis Khan through his son Chagatai Khan.
Ruqaiya was thus, Akbar’s only wife who was his equal in birth and stature.
Marriage to Akbar
On 20 November 1551, Hindal Mirza died fighting valorously for Humayun in a battle against their half-brother, Kamran Mirza’s forces. Humayun was overwhelmed with grief upon the death of his youngest brother, who had expiated for his former disobedience by his blood, but his emirs consoled him by saying that his brother was blessed in having thus fallen a martyr in the service of the Emperor.
Out of affection to the memory of his brother, Humayun betrothed Hindal’s nine-year-old daughter, Ruqaiya, to his son Akbar. Their betrothal took place in Kabul, Afghanistan, shortly after Akbar’s first appointment as a viceroy in the province of Ghazni.
On their engagement, Humayun conferred on the imperial couple, all the wealth, army and adherents of Hindal and Ghazni, which was one of Hindal’s jagir, was given to Akbar, who was appointed as its viceroy and was also given the command of his uncle’s army.
During the period of political uncertainty following Humayun’s death in 1556, Ruqaiya and the other female members of the imperial family were staying in Kabul., Ruqaiya came to India and joined Akbar in Punjab, shortly after Sikandar Shah was defeated and had submitted to the Mughals.
She was accompanied by her mother-in-law Hamida Banu Begum, her aunt Gulbadan Begum, and many other female members of the imperial family. Ruqaiya’s marriage with Akbar was solemnized near Jalandhar, Punjab, when both of them were 14 years-old. About the same time, her 18-year-old first-cousin Salima Sultan Begum, married Akbar’s considerably older regent, Bairam Khan.
After resting for some four months in Punjab, the imperial family set out for Delhi. The Mughals were at last ready to settle down in India.
Fatehpur Sikri: Hujra-I-Anup Talao or the Turkish Sultana House, a pleasure pavilion attached to a pond, was used by Empress Ruqaiya
Ruqaiya became Empress of the Mughal Empire at the age of fourteen years following her husband’s accession to the throne in 1556. She remained childless throughout her marriage but assumed the primary responsibility for the upbringing of Akbar’s favourite grandson, Prince Khurram (the future emperor Shah Jahan).
Ruqaiya’s adoption of Prince Khurram signified her rank and power in the imperial harem as one of the special privileges of women of rank (in the Mughal Empire) was to care for ranking children not their own.
Just prior to Khurram’s birth, a soothsayer had reportedly predicted to Ruqaiya Sultan Begum that the still unborn child was destined for imperial greatness. So, when Khurram was born in 1592 and was only six days old; Akbar ordered that the prince be taken away from his mother, Jagat Gosaini, and handed him over to Ruqaiya so that he could grow up under her care and Akbar could fulfill his wife’s wish, to raise a Mughal emperor.
Ruqaiya even oversaw Khurram’s education, for she, unlike her husband, was well educated.[22] The two shared a close relationship with each other, much like the relationship that Akbar had shared with Khurram, who, in the words of Jahangir “always recommended him [Khurram] to me [Jahangir] and frequently told me there was no comparison between him and my other children.
He [Akbar] recognized him as his real child.Jahangir also noted in his memoirs that Ruqaiya had loved his son, Khurram, “a thousand times more than if he had been her own [son].”Khurram remained with her, until he had turned almost 14. After Akbar’s death in 1605, the young prince was then, finally, allowed to return to his father’s household, and thus, be closer to his biological mother. Later, Ruqaiya also brought up Khurram’s first child, a daughter, Parhez Banu Begum, who was born to his first wife, the Safavid princess Kandahari Begum.
Despite not bearing children, Ruqaiya was always kept in high regard by her husband. She remained his sole chief consort from the time of their marriage in 1557 until his death in 1605. Ruqaiya was thus, the most senior lady in the imperial harem and at court during her husband’s reign as well as in his successor’s (Jahangir) reign.
This was primarily due to her exalted lineage, being Mirza Hindal’s daughter, a Mughal princess as well as Akbar’s first and chief wife.
The Empress also took an active part in court politics and wielded considerable influence over Akbar. She played a crucial role (along with her cousin and co-wife Salima Sultan Begum) in negotiating a settlement between her husband and her step-son, Salim (Jahangir), when the father-son’s relationship had turned sour in the early 1600s, eventually helping to pave the way for Salim’s accession to the Mughal throne.
In 1601, Salim had revolted against Akbar by setting up an independent court in Allahabad and by assuming the imperial title of “Salim Shah” while his father was still alive.He also planned and executed the assassination of Akbar’s faithful counselor and close friend, Abu’l Fazl.
This situation became very critical and infuriated Akbar so much that no one dared to petition for Salim. In the end, it was Ruqaiya Sultan Begum and Salima Sultan Begum who pleaded for his forgiveness. Akbar granted their wishes and Salim was allowed to present himself before the Emperor. The prince was finally pardoned in 1603 through the efforts of his step-mothers and his grandmother, Hamida Banu Begum.
Akbar, however, did not always pardon a wrong doer and sometimes his decisions were irreversible. Once, Ruqaiya and her mother-in-law, Hamida Banu Begum, by their joint effort could not secure pardon for a Sunni Muslim who had murdered a Shia in Lahore purely out of religious fanaticism.
During Jahangir’s reign, Ruqaiya and Salima Sultan Begum played a crucial role in securing pardon for the powerful Khan-i-Azam, Mirza Aziz Koka, who would’ve surely been sentenced to death by Jahangir had not Salima interceded on his behalf.
Apart from her own palace at Fatehpur Sikri, Ruqaiya owned palaces outside the fort in Agra, near the Jamuna river, a privilege given to Mughal princesses only and sometimes to empresses who were kept in high esteem; Ruqaiya was both.
Dowager empress
In 1607, Ruqaiya made a pilgrimage to the Gardens of Babur in Kabul and for the first time, visited the mausoleum of her father Hindal Mirza, as well as those of her other ancestors.She was accompanied by Jahangir and Prince Khurram.[In the same year, Sher Afghan Khan, the jagirdar of Burdwan died and his widowed wife, Mehr-un-Nissa (later Empress Nur Jahan) was summoned to Agra by Jahangir to act as lady-in-waiting to his step-mother, the Dowager empress Ruqaiya.
Given the precarious political connections of Sher Afghan before his death, his family was in great danger and therefore for her own protection, Mehr-un-Nissa needed to be at the Mughal court in Agra. Ruqaiya, having been the late Emperor Akbar’s principal wife and being the most senior woman in the harem, was by stature and ability, the most capable of providing the protection that Mehr-un-Nissa needed at the Mughal court.
Mehr-un-Nissa was flattered to have been brought with her daughter into Ruqaiya’s service, for even though she had relatives at court, such as her father Mirza Ghias Beg. Her husband had gone down in ignominy and she could have rightly expected only the worst.] It was under Ruqaiya’s care, then, that Mehr-un-Nissa was able to spend time with her parents and occasionally visit the apartments where the emperor’s women lived.
Mehr-un-Nissa and her daughter, Ladli Begum, served as ladies-in-waiting to the Empress for four years while earnestly endeavoring to please their imperial mistress.The relationship that grew up between Ruqaiya and Mehr-un-Nissa appears to have been an extremely tender one and there is every indication that the former treated the latter as her daughter. The Dutch merchant and travel writer, Pieter van den Broecke, described their relationship in his Hindustan Chronicle: “This Begum [Ruqaiya] conceived a great affection for Mehr-un-Nissa [Nur Jahan]; she loved her more than others and always kept her in her company.
Inside the Gardens of Babur, located in Kabul, Afghanistan
Ruqaiya died in 1626 in Agra, at the age of eighty-four, having outlived her husband by more than twenty years. She was buried on the fifteenth level in the Gardens of Babur (Bagh-e-Babur) in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Gardens of Babur is the final resting place of her grandfather, Emperor Babur, as well as that of her father, Hindal Mirza. Her tomb was built by the orders of her foster-son, the fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.
Jahangir speaks fondly of Ruqaiya in his memoirs and while recording her death in it, he makes note of her exalted status as Akbar’s chief wife.




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Ala-ud-din Khilji’s tomb and madrasa

Ala-ud-din Khilji’s tomb and madrasa

Alauddin Khilji’s Madrasa, which also has his tomb to the south, ca 1316 AD
At the back of the complex, southwest of the mosque, stands an L-shaped construction, consisting of Alauddin Khilji’s tomb dating ca 1316 AD, and a madrasa, an Islamic seminary built by him. Khilji was the second Sultan of Delhi from Khilji dynasty, who ruled from 1296 to 1316 AD.

The central room of the building, which has his tomb, has now lost its dome, though many rooms of the seminary or college are intact, and since been restored. There were two small chambers connected to the tomb by passages on either side. Fergusson in his book suggested the existence, to the west of the tomb, of seven rooms, two of which had domes and windows. The remains of the tomb building suggest that there was an open courtyard on the south and west sides of the tomb building, and that one room in the north served as an entrance.

It was the first example in India, of a tomb standing alongside a madrasa. Nearby stands the Alai Minar, an ambitious tower, he started constructing to rival the Qutb Minar, though he died when only its first story was built and its construction abandoned thereafter. It now stands, north of the mosque.

The tomb is in a very dilapidated condition. It is believed that Ala-ud-din’s body was brought to the complex from Siri and buried in front of the mosque, which formed part of the madrasa adjoining the tomb. Firoz Shah Tughluq, who undertook repairs of the tomb complex, mentioned a mosque within the madrasa.

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The Khilji-Allauddin Khilji

The Khilji dynasty was named after a village in Afghanistan.
Jalal-ud-din Khilji overthrew Balban’s successors and founded the Khilji Dynasty, which ruled large parts of South Asia between 1290 and 1320. His own nephew and son-in-law Alauddin Khilji, killed Jalal-ud-din and took over as the new ruler. That was the second dynasty to rule the Delhi Sultanate of India.
Some historians believe that they were Afghans, but Bharani and Wolse Haig explain in their accounts that the rulers from this dynasty, who came to India, though they had temporarily settled in Afghanistan, were originally Turkic”.
The Khiljis were a Central Asian Turkic dynasty but having been long domiciled in Afghanistan, and adopted some Afghan habits and customs. They were treated as Afghans in Delhi Court”. The three sultans of the Khilji dynasty were noted by historians for their faithlessness and ferocity.
To some extent, the Khilji usurpation was a move toward the recognition of a shifting balance of power attributable to the developments outside the territory of the Delhi Sultanate (in Central Asia and Iran) and to the changes which followed the establishment of Turkic rule in northern India. The court languages of the Khiljis were Persian, followed by Arabic, their native Turkoman language and some northern-Indian dialects.
Although it was not their native language, the Khilji sultans encouraged the use of Persian. This co-existence of different languages gave birth to an early form of Urdu. According to Ibn Batuta, the Khiljis encouraged conversion to Islam by making it customary to have the convert presented to the sultan (who would place a robe on him and reward him with gold bracelets). During Ikhtiyar Uddin Bakhtiyar Khilji’s control of Bengal, Muslim missionaries in India achieved their greatest success in the number of converts to Islam.
The founder of the Khilji Dynasty in South Asia, Malik Firuz, was originally the Ariz-i-Mumalik appointed by Kaiqubad during the days of decline of the Slave Dynasty. He took advantage of the political vacuum that was created due to the incompetence of the successors of Balban.
To occupy the throne, he only had to remove the infant Sultan Kaimurs. On June 13 1290, Malik Firuz ascended the throne of Delhi as Jalal-ud-din Firuz Shah.
Khiljis were basically Central Asians but had lived in Afghanistan for so long that they had become different from the Turks in terms of customs and manners.
Thus the coming of Khiljis to power was more than a dynastic change. As majority of the Muslim population of Delhi was Turk, the arrival of a Khilji ruler was not much welcomed. Yet Jalal-ud-din managed to win the hearts of the people through his mildness and generosity.

Alauddin Khilji was one of India’s greatest kings and one of the world’s greatest military geniuses.
He was born in Delhi in 1266 AD (and hence an Indian; not a foreign invader) and ruled as Sultan of Delhi from 1296 AD – 1316 AD.
Khilji greatly expanded the empire that he inherited from his uncle, Sultan Jalaluddin Khilji, after killing him. Khilji is often seen as a villain.
He retained most of the officers holding key positions in the Slave Dynasty.
From 1296 AD to 1316 AD Alauddin Khilji dominated the Delhi sultanate with many courageous achievements.
Soon after becoming the Sultan of Delhi Alauddin Khilji in 1297 AD went out to win over the various parts of Gujarat state Ala- ud-din also was able to implement startling economic reforms, although their effects were probably restricted to Delhi and the 100 mile radius around it.
Nevertheless this was truly creditable for he achieved what modern governments in India have not completely achieved. Ala-ud-din re-organized the market so that there were fixed prices which were affordable, he developed warehousing facilities to ensure ready stock of goods; the government entered the business of transportation and provided facilities for the swift movement of goods.
Alauddin’s reign is marked by innovative administrative and revenue reforms, market control regulations and a whirlwind period of conquests. It is considered the golden period of the Khilji rule. However, before the death of Alauddin, his house was divided into two camps. This resulted in the ultimate collapse of the Khalji dynasty. He died on January 1316 due to an acute health condition.
The impact of Alauddin Khilj-13th century Sultan of Delhi.
A critical dialogue on the legacy the 13th century Sultan left behind.
It is time for a reckoning not only in how we see Khilji, but historical figures in general.
Many historians have accurately pointed out that the real Khilji was highly influenced by Persian culture, that he used cruelty as a strategy and that he kept the Mongols out of India.
A comprehensive assessment of Khilji’s policies and achievements.
The most long-reaching effects of Khilji’s career were not merely military or territorial, though those were important. His policies also played an important and decisive role in India’s economic and political history.
Cruelty and conquest
The shockingly rapid progress of Turkic and then Mongol hordes through the world from roughly the 10th century begs the question of why they were so successful in the first place. Their meritocratic, well-drilled and highly mobile cavalry armies crushed larger forces from China to Hungary and India. However, their true talent lay in psychological warfare.
Jack Weatherford in Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2014) points out that the Mongols always offered cities as the option of surrender before ordering their complete destruction. Often, the brutal levelling of one city and the massacre of its ruling elite would lead to the rapid surrender of its neighbors to Mongol rule, thus saving on manpower. In the case of both the Turks and the Mongols, it took barely a generation to go from “barbaric” conquerors to rulers.
This is a marked departure from earlier tribal confederacies such as the Huns and Vandals, but closer to the Kushans and Parthians. They would adopt local cultural practices, spread technology, enable trade and not interfere too much in the religious practices of their new subjects.
The Turks differed in the last because they had already converted to Islam, but rulers like Alauddin Khilji were nevertheless more pragmatic than we generally think (Khilji, as attested to by Ziauddin Barani—a 13-14th century chronicler in the Delhi Sultanate—was one of the rare sultans who dared skip the Friday prayer). In one of history’s strange twists, by the 13th century, the once-nomadic Turks had to face the recently nomadic Mongols.
It is in this context that we should see Alauddin Khilji. He is a Machiavellian (dare we say Kautilyan?) figure. In fact, Khilji’s ruthless adherence to the principle that the state must benefit at all costs, while being agnostic to religion, is strikingly similar to the views of the Arthashastra.
As a young man, he led a lightning raid into the wealthy fort of Devagiri, supposedly capturing the raja while he was at dinner and holding him hostage until a ransom was paid and a marital alliance concluded. The funds thus accumulated were used to assassinate his uncle and place himself on the throne.
As sultan, Khilji needed to defend his frontiers from Mongol incursions while simultaneously fending off assertive vassals and independent Indian states. The Indian powers were terrorized into submission through a ruthless application of psychological warfare, as Khilji’s actions against the Rajputs proved. This is because during his rule, the Mongols of the Chagatai Khanate invaded India. Khilji, by his military brilliance, managed to defeat the Mongols not once, but five times: in 1298 AD (led by Ulugh Khan, and inflicting 20,000 casualties on the Mongols), 1299 AD in Sindh (led by Zafar Khan), 1299 AD in Delhi (leading the army himself against the Mongols), 1305 AD (led by Malik Nayak, and inflicting 8000 casualties on the Mongols), and 1306 AD (led by Malik Kafur); and a “draw” in the sixth Mongol invasion of 1303 AD (again personally leading the army), where the Mongols were unable to defeat Khilji, but were able to sack Delhi.
This was a military feat unprecedented in those days, because the Mongols were an unstoppable force wherever else they went. No one in the rest of the world – whether the Russian Empire or the mighty Persian empire or the Baghdad Caliphate – could stand up to the dreaded Mongols. Khilji defeated them 5 times and had a draw in a 6th confrontation. The armies of the Delhi sultanate under Khilji were some of the most disciplined and well-trained in the world, and that is why they could defeat the Mongols time and again. Now, people who do not know about the Mongols may ask at this point: “so what’s the big deal? A Muslim ruler whose ancestors were foreign invaders defeats another foreign invader!”
But that would betray a colossal ignorance of Mongol warfare.
The Mongols had a very peculiar way of conducting war. When they did conquer a country, they would raze it to ground. They used to leave nothing in that place – no trace of the civilization that existed there. They never settled in the place they conquered. They would take whatever of value they could back home to Mongolia (or, in the case of the Chagatai Khanate, Uzbekistan), especially what new technology they could find; they would take away women as slaves and kill the men, except those with special skills that they did not have and could use; and they would leave a wasteland behind. The Mongols did not just invade and conquer; they exterminated civilizations. There is a reason the Mongols were referred to as the “scourge of God.”
Had the Mongols conquered India, India would have been set back at least two or three hundred years in its development. All knowledge and culture that had been accumulated in India over millenia would have been destroyed. Every library, every school, every temple, every home would have been burnt to the ground. When Hulagu Khan of the Mongol Ilkhanate sacked Baghdad in 1258, he left the city largely depopulated. He destroyed all the great libraries of the Abbasid empire (it is said that the rivers turned black with ink because of the huge number of books the Mongols took from the libraries and threw in them), and blood was flowing in the Euphrates and Tigris for weeks after his assault. He single-handedly ended what is known as the Islamic Golden Age. A similar thing happened to Russia after the Mongols invaded it; it is considered that the Mongol invasion of Russia set it back by 200 years in its development.
So the Mongols were not like any other invader. If Khilji had lost to the Mongols, it would not have been as benign as when Ibrahim Lodi lost to Babur. In that case, one Muslim ruler was replaced by another, but India itself did not suffer greatly. If the Mongols had won against Khilji, they would have wiped Indian civilization off the map of the world.

For better or worse, they have brought us to where we are, and remind us what we can do better.

But to keep this up, he would need a large standing army, not a traditional feudal levy to be raised only when in danger.
In an almost Ciceronian bent of mind, he seems to have recognized that the sinews of war were infinite money, in addition to Mongol-style psychological attacks. Using the territory of his compulsory ally, Devagiri, he dispatched a series of raiding expeditions south under his general Malik Kafur, while terrorizing the Mongols, building their severed heads into the foundations of Siri Fort in Delhi .
Kafur, too, used shock-and-awe tactics. The infantry and elephant-focused armies of the south were out maneuvered, supply lines severed, and smashed separately before they could converge. The rougher terrain of the Deccan gave them some edge against cavalry (which does best on flat terrain, but the Turkic officer core and army organization, perfected in mobile battlefields of Central Asia. As a result, kingdoms such as the Hoysalas and the Kakatiyas tried to buy time with ransoms but were ultimately defeated.
A new status quo
Khilji’s campaigns completely upset the Indian status quo. The dynasties which he had uprooted adhered to an older form of kingship, a sort of sedmented sovereignty which compelled the ruler to recognize the hereditary rights of interest groups such as village councils, landed nobility, and merchant guilds.
But recent scholarship, especially work done by Burton Stein, points to a broader trend of migration of hardy warrior-peasants (especially from Andhra) into the rocky Deccan that was already in place, creating new urban centers which threatened the older landed order . By shattering this older order, he cleared the way for the creation of new states, the emergence of new interest groups, and therefore new social and political equilibria.
The turmoil which he caused opened up military and administrative careers to castes that would otherwise have been excluded. It might not have been intended, but it is no less real or significant.
Khilji, however, was not interested in setting up shop in the turbulent and distant south. His primary concern would remain the Mongol incursions and maintaining his grip on his North Indian territory.
Booty from raids was generously spread among his supporters, increasing the money supply and causing skyrocketing inflation. This could be one of the reasons for the implementation of his infamous system of price controls. Another could be the expense of maintaining a large standing army, which, like in most empires, necessitated a vicious cycle of more conquest to fuel an even larger army.
The Indian states of the 13th century onward were more integrated into the global economy and the latest technological and military advances. The Bahmani Sultanate and the Vijayanagara Empire learnt well from the campaigns of Alauddin. Trade was a major priority for Vijayanagara, and control of the ports of Tamilakam and the Konkan Coast was deemed important enough to call halts to civil wars.
Sovereigns took care to import the best cavalry from the Arabs and gunpowder weapons from the Portuguese, and recruit Turkic officers. Armies (in the initial period) were relatively meritocratic and many, including the family of the famous ruler Krishna Deva Raya, rose to prominence through military service.
Other groups of cultivators-turned-rulers, remain prominent to this day, and the migratory movements which could happen due to the anarchy of the 13th century left a significant imprint on the demographic profile of India.
A wonder of the world?
The sultan’s price control department wasn’t just an organization full of harmless bureaucrats with misplaced incentives (our modern equivalent perhaps is). The Diwan-e-Riyasat started by keeping essential commodity prices low for soldiers (so Khilji could pay them less) and soon expanded to every item in Delhi’s markets, from camels to cloth.
But these price controls inevitably led to black market trading as a new equilibrium was reached between buyers and sellers. In addition, famines inevitably led to hoarding and shortages.
To deal with this, an intricate spy network ensured that any violations to the system were reported and dealt with. In times of scarcity, the entire city of Delhi was put on rations and fed only from government granaries, which acquired grain at fixed prices.
Barani informs us that any merchant who was found cheating the standard rates was penalized by cutting off an equal weight of flesh from his limbs. Still standing in the heart of South Delhi, functioning as roundabout for traffic, is Khilji’s Chor Minar. This was used to display the heads of thieves or dacoits who tried to defraud the system.
These are further examples of the sultan’s willingness to use calculated, deterring cruelty to further what he saw as the interests of the state, and again an eerie echo of the Arthashastra. Both adhere to a cold-blooded form of political realism, explored at length by scholars such as R.P. Kangle, J. Patrick Olivelle and Thomas Trautmann, which is often visible in the subcontinent.
Within a few years of Alauddin’s accession, Delhi became unrecognizable. Practically a surveillance state where the Big Sultan knew all , its markets boasted possibly the most elaborate system of price controls ever conceived, at relatively cheap prices compared to global standards.
In times of famine, amazingly, every household in the city had something to eat, enabled by a sophisticated system of go downs and warehouses. Contemporary travelers’ accounts describe the fixed prices, come hell or high water, as a wonder of the world. The system allowed Alauddin to maintain, arguably, the largest, best equipped force ever fielded by the Delhi Sultanate, with observable results. But the policy had other ramifications.
The peasantry and landed nobility had little incentive to increase production, struggling under heavy tax burdens. The sultan refused to lower the taxes they paid and his land surveys—the first in the history of the Sultanate—allowed him to keep a keen eye on defaulters, and tax cultivators directly. Merchants, too, could not pursue profits beyond what the sultan allowed (a departure from Kautilya, who has more farsighted views on fair prices and profiteering).
Irfan Habib points out in Cambridge Economic History of India Vol-1 that real wages for labourers remained low, and Khilji often had to subsidizes merchants, though Abraham Eraly argues that the improved functioning of state institutions could have allowed for some degree of prosperity.
While prices were kept constant in Delhi and nearby markets, they kept increasing as per the free market in other parts of the world, creating excellent arbitrage opportunities for traders who were willing to take the risk of getting their heads chopped off.
Gujarati textile merchants made full use of this opportunity, buying cheap cloth from Delhi and selling it at places like Mecca for a delicious 700% profit. Coastal trade grew leaps and bounds, with wealth essentially being transferred from the once-dominant urban center of Delhi to new ones on the coast. These new centers came at a point when the fledgling empires of the Deccan were rising, and would have played a vital role in integrating India into global maritime trade, which was rapidly expanding. This is an important effect, which most Delhi-centric views of Khilji’s rule neglect.
Ultimately, it is difficult to say whether Khilji was a savior or a villain. But that is the point of looking critically at our past—nobody can fit into a single category. Value judgements on those whose values were so different from ours do not help us move forward.
Indeed, the idea of a normative approach to something as inexorable as the march of time and history is absurd. Instead, we need to objectively understand what historical figures did and how it impacted our ancestors—not just in one part of the country, but throughout our subcontinent.

The third and last ruler of the Khilji dynasty in India was Qutb-ud-Din Mubarak Shah. He was the weakest ruler of all and during his reign, all taxes and penalties were abolished. He released all prisoners of war who were captured after waging gruesome battles. He was ultimately murdered by Khusru Khan and this ended the Khilji dynasty in India.

Was Alauddin Khilji actually after Rani Padmini?

The Rajput community was fighting against the film and calling for a ban since they wanted to protect the dignity of Rani Padmini in whatsoever manners.
Alauddin Khilji was one of greatest emperors in Indian history. He was the one who protected India from Mongolese. Had he not been there, there might not be the India we live in today.
Author RV Smith in his book ‘India that no one knows’ and ‘Delhi: Unknown Tales of a city’ has said that Alauddin Khilji had attacked the city of Chittor to expand his region, and not to win Rani Padmini. After defeating The King of Chittor Maharaja Ratan Singh, he came to know about the beauty of Rani Padmini and he just wanted to have a look at her.
Smith, in his book, said that after 250 years of the death of Khilji poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi made the most notable work is the epic poem Padmavat. To make it more entertaining, he added some fiction.
He even crossed out the fact that Rani Padmini committed Jauhar in order to save herself from the hands of Alauddin Khilji. She jumped into fire to commit Sati which was a common practice at that time since her Husband Ratan Singh lost the war.
It is said that Khilji was the first emperor of Delhi who stopped Black Hoarding.
From Different sources.

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Begum Samru

Begum Samru


Joanna Nobilis Sombre (ca 1753– 27 January 1836), a convert Catholic Christian, popularly known as Begum Samru and also, as Begum Sumru, (née Farzana Zeb un-Nissa) started her career as a Nautch (dancing) girl in 18th century India, and eventually became the ruler of Sardhana, a small principality near Meerut.

She was the head of a professionally trained mercenary army, inherited from her European mercenary husband, Walter Reinhardt Sombre. This mercenary army consisted of Europeans and Indians. She is also regarded as the only Catholic ruler in India, as she ruled the Principality of Sardhana in 18th- and 19th-century India.

Begum Sumru died immensely rich. Her inheritance was assessed as approximately 55.5 million gold marks in 1923 and 18 billion deutsch marks in 1953. Her inheritance continues to be disputed to this day. An organization named “Reinhards Erbengemeinschaft” still strives to resolve the inheritance issue. During her lifetime she had converted to Christianity from Islam.

Begum Samru was of slight stature, fair complexion and distinguished by exceptional leadership abilities of an uncommon order. More than once, she headed her own troops in action. She was of Kashmiri descent.

When she was in her early teens, she married (or started living with) a mercenary soldier Walter Reinhardt Sombre of Luxembourg, who was operating in India. Walter Reinhardt Sombre, a European mercenary, then 45-years-old, came to the red light area and fell for the charms of Farzana, then a girl of 14, says Johan Lall in his “Begum Samru – Faded Portrait in a Gilded Frame”.

A soldier of fortune, Sombre moved from Lucknow to Rohilkhand (near Bareilly), then to Agra, Deeg and Bharatpur and back to the Doab.
Farzana helped him in those times of intrigue and counter-intrigue.
On the death of her husband Walter Reinhardt, she succeeded to his Principality yielding about £90,000 per annum.

Farzana was courted by some of the European officers who were associated with her husband. Among them were Le Vassoult, a Frenchman, and George Thomas, an Irishman.

The Begum favored the Frenchman and when, in 1793, the rumor spread that she had married him, her troops mutinied.

The couple sought to escape secretly by night – Le Vassoult on horseback and the Begum in a palanquin. Misinformed that Le Vassoult had been shot, she stabbed herself but survived.

Her lover, however, died of a self-inflicted wound to the head.
One version has it that she suggested a suicide pact but only nicked herself when the unsuspecting Le Vassoult shot himself dead.

When British General Lord Lake met the Begum in 1802, in a fit of enthusiasm he gave her a hearty kiss, which appalled her troops. But with her customary tact, Begum Samru pacified them by saying that it was only “the kiss of the Padre to a repentant child”.

The Begum, though only 41⁄2 feet tall, wore a turban and rode on horseback as she led her troops to battle. So invincible did she seem that the superstitious spread the word that she was a witch who could destroy her enemies just by throwing her cloak towards them.

Her army occupied the left of the Maratha line at the battle of Assaye and hers was the only part of the Mahratta force that was not driven in disarray from the battle field.

Having annihilated an advance by the 74th Highlanders and a picket detachment commanded by a Colonel Orrock, her army then withstood a cavalry charge from the Raj before marching from the field in good order. She inducted Jats into her irregular armies.

Throughout her life, she had only one friend, Begum Umdaa, who belonged to the other Jagirdar Family of Sardhana became her closest friend with time and fulfilled her relation until her death with Begum Samru.

Even after Begum Umdaa was married, Begum Samru took out time to visit her to Meerut in good and bad.

After the fall of Aligarh in September 1803, she was induced to surrender to Lord Lake and afterwards lived on good terms with the British, receiving visitors including the Bishop of Calcutta, Reginald Heber, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army Lord Combermere and Italian adventurer Jean-Baptiste Ventura. Her conduct in the internal management of her estate was highly commendable.

Over time, she became powerful, ruling over a large area from Sardhana, Uttar Pradesh. On 7 May 1781, aged around forty, Begum Samru was baptized Joanna Nobilis, by a Roman Catholic priest.

She died at Sardhana in January 1837 at the age of 85, bequeathing the greater part of her property to David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre, who descended from Walter Reinhardt Sombre, from his first wife. His grave is near the statue of Begum Samru in her Church at Sardhana.
Several stories and novels have been written based on her political and diplomatic astuteness and on crucial battles fought by troops directly commanded by her.

There is a rumor that one of the sons of the Begum had been killed by the Begum herself, as he had some physical disorder due to which he couldn’t get married to any lady.

Begum Samru’s Palaces at Chandni Chowk, Jharsa and Sardhana

She built palaces at Sardhana, Chandni Chowk in Delhi and Jharsa. The paragana of Badshahpur-jharsa in Gurugaon in Haryana was also ruled by Begum Samru.

Jharsa palace and cantonment in Gurugram

Begum Samru Place at Gurugram lies between Badshahpur-Jharsa in Gurgaon. The paragana of Badshahpur-Jharsa was ruled by Begum Samru. She built a palace for herself between Badshahpur and Jharsa. Jharsa was the place of Samru’s principal cantonment. Parts of her fort compound have been completely lost to encroachments.

Palace building is located between Gurgaon and Jharsa village, which is used as the official residence cum camp office of the district collector of Gurugram district. The Jharsa place is built in Islamic style.
A 1882 land revenue settlement report records that the idol of Sitla Mata was brought to Gurugram 400 years earlier (15th century). Begum Samru claimed the offering to Sitla Mata temple of Gurugram during the Chaitra month and the revenue from the offerings given to the deity for rest of the month was distributed among the prominent Jat zamindars of the area.

In 1818, Bharawas district was disbanded and Gurugram was made a new district. In 1821, the Bharaswas cantonment was also moved to Hidayatpur in Gurugram.

Sardhana palace

The palace built by her in Sardhana near Meerut was the centre of much activity during the reign of Mughal Emperor, Akbar Shah. Shah Alam II, the predecessor and father of Akbar Shah, regarded Begum Samru as his daughter. He did so because the Begum had saved Delhi from an invasion by a force of 30,000 Sikhs, under Baghel Singh in 1783.
They had encamped at Tis Hazari (the name of the place being derived from the number of those who constituted the force, estimated at 30,000). Thanks to the Begum’s parleys, the Sikhs did not enter the city and went back to Punjab after getting a generous monetary gift from Shah Alam.

In 1787(?), when the emperor, Shah Alam, blind and feeble, was in pursuit of Najaf Quli Khan and trying to quell the rebellion stirred up by him, an incident occurred at Gokalgarh that brought the Begum closer to Shah Alam. Seeing that the emperor’s troops were wavering in their resolve to attack the rebel leader, she advanced with a force of 100 men and whatever big guns she had and opened fire on Najaf Quli Khan and his men. This did the trick and Najaf sought the Begum’s help to make his peace with Shah Alam. Thankful for her intervention, the emperor bestowed special honours on her at the royal court and declared her to be “his most beloved daughter”.

Not only that, she was also confirmed in her estate at Sardhana, which was the subject of a dispute with Louis Balthazar alias Nawab Zafaryab Khan, another son of her late husband, General Sombre, by his first wife, Badi Bibi (senior wife).

Until his death, Emperor Shah Alam and his major wives treated her almost as a relative, and embraced her when she entered the zenana (women) quarters, as the English visitor Ann Deane noted in late December 1808: ” ….and afterwards I accompanied her to the royal residence ……we then ascended ….to the zenanah [‘women’s quarters’]…. the begum now led the way through crowds of eunuchs ….Here we were met by the queen Dowager….an ugly, shriveled old woman, whom the begum embraced.

Chandani Chowk palace

Begum Samru’s palace in Chandni Chowk, now called Bhagirath Palace, was built in a garden gifted by Akbar Shah, a later day mughal, to the Begum when he ascended the throne after the death of Shah Alam in 1806. Her palatial building still stands in Chandni Chowk, New Delhi.



Inscription on the Statue of Begum Samru at the Basilica of Our Lady Of Graces in Sardhana

Begum Samru died on 27 January 1836 at the age of 90 and was buried under the Basilica of Our Lady of Graces which she had built.



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