Saturday, May 25, 2024

Tears of Red Fort – 4 : When princes faced exile

On 6 April 1648, Shah Jahan was 56 years old when he entered Delhi’s Red Fort, still his body was full of vigor and energy. Although thousands of women lived in Shah Jahan’s harem, Shah Jahan was so debauch that in his harem, a lot of new women used to come and go.
Shah Jahan had spoiled the women of many of his Cavalier and generals by calling their women in his harem. Because of this, some women committed suicide.  Due to this reason, his harem was full of conspiracies.  No one in his family loved him.  Many rich and generals of the Sultanate were also thirsty for his blood.
There were thousands of women in Shah Jahan’s harem, but he only had Nine declared Begums. Shah Jahan had many children from these Begums, history doesn’t even know their names. Shah Jahan’s chief begum was Mumtaz Mahal, the third wife of Shah Jahan.  She got married to Shah Jahan at the age of 19.  In 1631, Mumtaz Mahal died while giving birth to the 14th child of Shah Jahan when she was just 38 years old.
Even though fourteen children were born from the belly of Mumtaz Mahal, but only four sons born to her belly i.e. Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Bakhsh and four princesses – Purhunar Begum, Jahanara Begum, Roshanara Begum and Gauhra Begum placed their feet on the threshold of youth. The remaining six children died during their childhood.  A lot of Shah Jahan’s children were born from the stomach of Shah Jahan’s other Begums, but history doesn’t even have their names.
Shah Jahan’s eldest son Dara Shikoh and eldest daughter Jahanara were quieter, more sensible and intelligent than the rest of their siblings, while Aurangzeb, the third son of Shah Jahan, and the second Shahzadi Roshanara, were of the most turbulent and quarrelsome nature. Yet Jahanara handled their quarrels with patience and did not let them miss their mother.
In the meantime , the king’s debauchery was increasing and the time was in leaps and bounds taking turns. When adult Shah Jahan turned old, he himself didn’t knew. The influence of time could also be seen clearly on Shah Jahan’s children.  All eight princes and princesses left their childhood behind and set foot on the doorpost of puberty.  Like Shah Jahan, their eyes were now dreaming.  Whatever the dreams were in their eyes, but three dreams were very big – Kohinoor diamond, Takht-E-Taus and the Red Fort of Delhi and Agra.  Everyone wanted to be the owner of these things one day.
  Shah Jahan was clearly able to see the dreams of his children while growing old. He could also sense the impulsiveness towards the reign coming down in the eyes of his children.  On seeing the eyes of the princes, a powerful king like Shah Jahan trembled with fear and the wrinkles of his face were becoming increasingly dark.
Shah Jahan started sending his sons away from Delhi one by one. He kept his elder son Dara Shikoh in the capital Delhi.  The second son Shahshuja was made the Subedar of Bengal, the third son Aurangzeb was made the Subedar of the Deccan and appointed the fourth son Muradbakhsh to Gujarat.  Thus, the four princes became thousands of kilometers away from each other.
Shahjahan’s trio of Princes became restless as they were being sent away from the capital Delhi. They felt that their father was never willing to send them away, but the elder brother Dara Shikoh must have had conspired and sent his younger brothers away from the capital.
All the Princes wanted to take possession of the huge treasure accumulated by the Mughals in the Red Forts of Delhi and Agra, about which many mysterious tales were prevalent.Everyone living within the Red Fort had some or the other list of this immense wealth, but Shah Jahan himself wasn’t fully aware of the actual list of this huge treasure.
Every Prince wanted that their father Shah Jahan, who slaughtered his 18 uncles and brothers and seized the kingdom of the Mughals, they must also kill their remaining brothers and become the rightful owner of this immense treasure and Takht-E-Taus, Kohinoor diamond and Red Fort. No one came to know when did the four princesses also joined the task.
Each princess selected her own brother whom she wanted to be the emperor after Shah Jahan so that the harem of the Red Fort would be ruled by the same princess and all the begums and princesses of the palace should remain her pimps.  Princess Jahanara was in favor of her brother Dara Shikoh;  Roshanara, of Aurangzeb;  Purhunar Begum was favoring Shahshuja and Gauharara was in favor of Muradbakhsh.
Shah Jahan, the builder of the Red Fort fell ill in September 1657 due to the fate of the Princes.  He was now 65 years old. Being heavily immersed in the swamp of lust, he was besieged by a variety of diseases and the rumors of his death used to come up every day.  Most of the rumors were spread by harem’s Queens, princesses, servants and eunuchs. 

Article by Dr. Mohan Lal Gupta, English Translation By Er. Ayush Dadhich, Presentation by Er. Dipti Tayal

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