This Day in History (17-Jun-1631) – Mumtaz Mahal Dies During Childbirth

When strolling down the Meena Bazaar, Shah Jahan caught a glimpse of a girl, Arjumand Banu Begum. At that time, he was 14 years old and she, a Muslim Persian princess, was 15. After meeting her, Shah Jahan went back to his father and declared that he wanted to marry her.  It was love at first sight and The match got solemnized after five years. When Shah Jahan became emperor, He bestowed her with the title of Mumtaz Mahal, meaning the “Jewel of the Palace”. Though Mumtaz was Shah Jahan’s 4th wife (out of 7); they shared a very loving relationship and Mumtaz was Shah Jahan’s trusted companion who, despite her many pregnancies, travelled with her husband around the country during his military campaigns.

Mumtaz Mahal bore Shah Jahan fourteen children, including popular historical figures such as Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja, Roshnara Begum, Jahanara Begum and Aurangzeb, among others. On June 17th 1631 Mumtaz Mahal died while giving birth to their fourteenth child in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh. Mumtaz’s body was initially buried in a walled garden in Burhanpur, known as Zainabad and situated on the banks of the River Tapti. Shah Jahan was visibly devastated at the death of his beloved wife and was inconsolable. It is believed that Shah Jahan went into isolated mourning for a year and when he returned, all his hair had turned white and his face was ravaged with sadness.

When he returned, he had Mumtaj’s body exhumed in the and transported back to Agra in a golden coffin which was escorted by the Emperor’s son, Shah Shuja. Back in Agra, Mumtaz Mahal’s body was buried in a small building on the banks of the River Yamuna and Shah Jahan began planning the royal mausoleum which he would build for his deceased wife. Thereafter, Shah Jahan spent more than twenty years building the Taj Mahal in memory of his beloved wife. Shah Jahan was laid to rest next to Mumtaz Mahal in the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is probably the world’s most recognized building apart from being called one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World”.


This Day in History (13-May-1648) – Construction of the Red Fort at Dehli was completed

In 1638 Shahjahan transferred his capital from Agra to Delhi and laid the foundations of Shahjahanabad, the seventh city of Delhi. It is enclosed by a rubble stone wall, with bastions, gates and wickets at intervals. Of its fourteen gates, the important ones are the Mori, Lahori, Ajmeri, Turkman, Kashmiri and Delhi gates, some of which have already been demolished. His famous citadel, the Lal-Qila, or the Red Fort, lying at the town’s northern end on the right bank or the Yamuna and south of Salimgarh, was begun in 1639 and completed after nine years. The Red Fort is different from the Agra fort and is better planned, because at its back lies the experience gained by Shahjahan at Agra, and because it was the work of one hand.

It is an irregular octagon, with two long sides on the east and west, and with two main gates, one on the west and the other on the south, called Lahori and Delhi gates respectively. While the walls, gates and a few other structures in the fort are constructed of red sandstone, marble has been largely used in the palaces. Emperor Shah Jahaan’s royal seat stood in Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), made of solid gold frame and studded with precious stones such as rubies, emeralds, pearls and diamonds including the world’s largest, the Kohinoor.

The Red Fort was the residence of the Mughal emperors of India for nearly 200 years, until 1857. With the end of the Mughal reign, the British gave official sanctions to remove and sell valuables from the palace at the Red Fort. In 1863, British destroyed many buildings inside and outside the fort, filled up the gardens, stripped the fort of any valuable items and reduced the fort to just a military structure.

On 15 August 1947, the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru raised the Indian national flag above the Lahore Gate. On each subsequent Independence Day, the prime minister has raised the flag and given a speech that is broadcast nationally.


This Day in History (12-May-1666) – Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj meet Aurangzeb and was arrested

After every Imperial commander had failed to check Shivaji’s rapidly growing power, Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Amber, was sent by Aurangzeb to deal with the Maratha hero. Mirza Raja, certainly the ablest military commander and diplomat of his time, conducted the campaign against Shivaji with great success. He reached Pune and a few days later commenced the siege of Purandar fort. After a few months Shivaji thought it prudent to have peace, at least for the time being and concluded the Treaty of Purandar. By this Treaty Shivaji had to surrender two-third of his important forts. It was natural for Shivaji to feel great hesitation in agreeing to visit Agra to meet the Emperor for which Mirza Raja Jai Singh was insisting so much and was urging the Emperor with equal force to receive a visit from the Maratha hero. Jai Singh and his eldest son, Kunwar Ram Singh, stood guarantee for Shivaji’s life and safety. The visit, though not without hazards in view of Aurangzeb’s known character and dubious record, offered Shivaji an opportunity to get a ‘realistic’ idea of the power of the Mughal Empire and held forth other opportunities as well, making it worth a trial.

After making as perfect arrangements as possible for his work being carried in his absence, Shivaji set out from Raigad on 5 March 1666, with his son Shambhaji, and a select following of officials and servants and an escort of about 4000 men, for Agra. His arrival in Agra was to coincide with the 50th lunar birthday of Aurangzeb on which occasion a grand darbar was to be held on 12th May 1666. When presented before the Emperor Aurangzeb, the emperor did not exchange a word with Shivaji who was conducted to stand in the line of the mansabdars of 5000 rank. When Khilats were presented to Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur and two or three other nobles of high rank, Shivaji was ignored. Shivaji angrily left the Court, loudly exclaiming words of displeasure at being slighted, and refused to see the Emperor again, or accept a mansab or a khilat. Shivaji remained in Agra till 18th August in virtual confinement till he managed to regain his freedom outwitting the most wily Emperor ever to occupy the Mughal throne.



This Day in History (14-Apr-1659) – Aurangzeb defeated his brother Dara Shukoh to capture the throne of Delhi

Dara Shikoh was the eldest son and the heir-apparent of the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. He was favoured as a successor by his father and his sister Princess Jahanara Begum Sahib. In September 1657, the illness of emperor Shah Jahan triggered a desperate struggle for power among the four Mughal princes, though realistically only Dara and Aurangzeb had a chance of emerging victorious.

Despite strong support from Shah Jahan, who had recovered enough from his illness to remain a strong factor in the struggle for supremacy, and the victory of his army led by his eldest son Sulaiman Shikoh over his brother Shah Shuja in the battle of Bahadurpur, Dara was defeated by Aurangzeb and and brother Murad during the Battle of Samugarh, 13 km from Agra. Subsequently Aurangzeb took over Agra fort and deposed emperor Shah Jahan.

After this defeat Dara fled to Sindh and sought refuge under Malik Jiwan, an Afghan chieftain, whose life he had saved on more than one from the wrath of Shah Jahan. However, Malik betrayed Dara and turned him over to Aurangzeb’s army. Dara was brought to Delhi, placed on a filthy elephant and paraded through the streets of the capital in chains. Aurangzeb declared him a threat to the public peace and an apostate from Islam. He was assassinated and was beheaded, and his head was served to his father, Shah Jahan on a platter.

Dara had a deep interest in Sufism, and also attempted to find common language between Islam and Hinduism. Not able to find the answers he was looking for, Dara went on to study the Hindu Upanishads. The Mughal prince came to the conclusion that the “hidden book” mentioned in the Quran was none other than the Upanishads and believed that in order to understand the Quran, one needed to study the Hindu text. Dara even drew an equation between Adam and Brahma — a view which, according to historians, branded him as a heretic and ultimately led to his execution. Had Dara prevailed over Aurangzeb, the course of the history of the Indian subcontinent would have been different.