Sunday, July 8, 2007

Aurangzeb -- As he was according to Mughal Records -- Part II

The painting is based on a contemporary letter sent by the Amber state official Parkaldas to the Diwan of Amber, Kalyandas, dated 23rd February 1666.

It is a night scene in the fort of Agra where emperor Shah Jahan had been kept in strict confinement by his son Aurangzeb for several years. The two wives of the emperor: Akbarabadi Begum and Fatehpuri Begum who were with him at the time of his death are being stopped at the door by the gurards. The painting depicts the two women sadly seeing the body of their husband Shah Jahan the emperor of India being taken out by four kahars or paliquin bearers as if he was some common prisoner. No son, grandson or nobles were around to bear the paliquin. Shah Jahan's daughter Jahanara is looking at the sad spectacle from the window of the palace, her entreaties with Khoja Phul (the eunuch) not to take the body for burial in the night without waiting for the daybreak having failed. "I have orders from the emperor (Aurangzeb) to carry the coffin this very night" he had replied. The Khoja is walking a few steps ahead of the tabut. The body was taken out by the Mori gate and hurriedly consigned to the grave in the Taj mahal mousoleum.

There might be very few examples indeed of such an uncermonious and hurried burial, marked by stealthiness and tainted by guilt as that of Shah Jahan, who had been the emperor of India for about 30 years and who was leaving behind a son, now the emperor (Aurangzeb) and a number of grand children and relatives and countless nobles.

Execution of Sarmad

Sarmad was a well known saint who came to Delhi towards the end of Shah Jahan's reign. Prince Dara Shukho, the eldest son of Shah Jahan and translator of the Upanishads in Persian sought his company and gave him much respect due to a saint and philosopher.

Sarmad was disliked by the mullahs for his unorthodox views and free thinking. He used to say that whosoever had realised the God, annihilates the distance between him and the supreme reality, i.e. he remains constantly in communion with the Divine. The mullahas said that the prophet ascended to the heaven, but Sarmad declared that the heaven came down to Prophet, he meant that the hightest state of bliss is attinable in this very life. He generally remained nude and had acquired knowledge of the highest non-dualism. When he was summoned to the court and asked to repeat the Kalima, he only went so far as to declare that there was no God. He saw the non difference between the individual soul of every one and the supreme soul. The mullahs decreed that he must be put to death for apostasy. When the executioner came with his axe to cut off his head, Sarmad welcomed him with the words "I know you in whatever form you come" and embraced death for the sake of his views.

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