This Day in History (18-Nov-1727) – Maharaja Jai Singh-II of Amber laid the stone of pink city of Jaipur

Jai Singh II, a child prodigy, came to the Rajput throne in 1699. The young lad quickly impressed the 71-year-old Aurangzeb who awarded him the title ‘Sawai’, meaning one-and-a-quarter. Jai Singh II, having proved his soldiering ability further enriched his coffers and fulfilled his other passions – the arts and sciences. The impressive giant stone instruments which he devised for the open-air observatories at Jaipur, Delhi, Ujjain and Varanasi stand testimony to his scientific prowess. After ascending the throne, he shifted the capital from Amer. He studied the architecture of several European cities and drew up plans for constructing a larger and well-planned city.

After building close bonds with the Mughals and sure that there could be no danger to his throne, Sawai Jai Singh, envisioned his dream project, the building of Jaipur. The foundation stone was laid by him in 1727 and an eminent architect from Bengal, Vidyadhar Bhattacharaya, was asked to design the city. Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya, following the principles of Shilpa Shastra, and referencing the ancient Indian knowledge on astronomy, further developed and discussed the plan with Jai Singh. It is said that the foundation of the city was laid down on 18th November 1727 by Jai Singh himself. It took minutely planned strategies and 4 years for the city to come to form. The city was named Jaipur as ‘Jai’ means victory and was also the ruler’s first name. That it was later chosen as the capital of Rajasthan formed from the amalgamation of various kingdoms, was a tribute to both Jai Singh and Bhattacharya.

The city was planned in a grid system of seven blocks of buildings with wide straight avenues lined with trees, with the palace set on the north side. Surrounding it are high walls pieced with ten gates. The site of the shops were chosen after careful planning and they are arranged in nine rectangular city sectors (chokris). Jaipur was the first sizable city in north India to be built from scratch, though the famous pink colour symbolizing welcome, came later when Ram Singh II received the Prince of Wales in 1876. The colour was chosen after several experiments to cut down the intense glare from the reflection of the blazing rays of the sun. To this day, the buildings are uniformly rose pink.


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 (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.


This Day in History (5-Apr-1663) – Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj attacked Shahistekhan at Pune

After his accession to the throne and the dramatic death of Afzal Khan in the hands of Shivaji, Aurangzeb sent his uncle, Shaista Khan as viceroy of the Deccan with a large army to defeat Shivaji. In January 1660 Shaista Khan arrived at Aurangabad and quickly advanced, seizing Pune, the center of Shivaji’s realm. On his way, he destroyed many temples in Maharashtra. He also captured the fort of Chakan and Kalyan and north Konkan after heavy fighting with the Maratha. The Maratha were banned from entering the city of Pune and Mughal distance from the locals turned out to be an error. Shaista Khan brutally ruled the region for more than 3 years while Shivaji patiently waited for the right opportunity.

On the evening of April 5, 1663, a wedding party had obtained special permission for holding a procession. Shivaji and many of his nearly 400 men disguised as the bridegroom’s procession members entered Pune. Others entered in small parties dressed as laborers and soldiers of Maratha generals serving under Shaista Khan. After midnight, they raided the Nawab’s compound and then entered the palace in an attempt to assassinate Shaista Khan.

Shaista Khan was clearly unaware and unprepared. The Marathas broke into the courtyard of the palace and slaughtered the palace guards. Shaista Khan lost three fingers in a skirmish with Shivaji, while his son was killed in an encounter with the Marathas in the palace courtyard. Forty attendants and six women were also killed. Taking advantage of the confusion and darkness, the Marathas escaped the palace and Pune, despite the widespread camping of Mughal forces. Shivaji escaped to SinhGad while enticing Khan’s army on a wild chase to a mountain pass in Katraj.Shocked by the sudden and bold attack in Pune, Aurangzeb angrily transferred Shaista Khan to Bengal. Within 3 days of Shivaji’s attack, Khan left Pune!

The attack reconfirmed Shivaji’s leadership skills in terms of great planning and leading from front in adverse situation.