Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Roshanara Bagh

Roshanara Bagh is situated in the Northern Part of Delhi, near the Civil Lines. The Bagh or the Garden was once the most beautiful example of Mughal Gardens of it's time, (that extended till the Shalimar Bagh, another of the Mughal gardens). The younger daughter of Shahjahan laid this garden in 1650 and in accordance with her wish, was buried here after her death in 1671. Though now the poorly maintained garden and the grave show little signs that once she was such a powerful and influential princess. Part of the Garden houses the famous and elite Roshanara Club formed in 1922 by the British.

Roshanara : Last of the fourteen children of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, Roshanara was born on 3rd September 1617. Roshanara was a brilliant woman, a talented poetess and the mastermind behind Aurangazeb's accession to the Mughal throne. Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shahjahan and the heir apparent was aided by Jahanara the oldest sister. Roshanara sided with Aurangzeb, instead. She successfully foiled a plot by her father and Dara Shikoh to kill Aurangazeb. According to history, Shah Jahan invited Aurangazeb to visit Delhi, in order to conduct negotiations about the division of the Mighal Empire. In truth, however, Shah Jahan planned to imprison and kill Aurangazeb in prison as he viewed his third son a serious threat to the throne. When Roshanara got wind of her father's plots, she sent a message to Aurangazeb, outlining the plot and warning him to stay away from his father and brother.

Aurangazeb was eternally grateful to Roshanara for her timely warning. When the war of succession was resolved in favour of Aurangazeb, she quickly became a powerful figure at court. Fearing that he would kill her for her role in the war of succession if he ever returned to power, Roshanara insisted that Dara Shikoh be killed. It is said that Dara was bound in chains, paraded around Chandni Chowk and beheaded. Roshanara allegedly had his bloody head wrapped in a golden turban, packaged neatly and sent to her father as a gift from Aurangazeb and her. Shah Jahan, who opened the package to see his "gift" was so stunned by the sight of his favorite son's head that he apparently fell unconsious and lay in stupor for many days. Roshanara had always been jealous of her older sister, Jahanara, as the latter was undisputedly their father's favourite daughter. At her insistence, Aurangazeb, who was displeased with Jahanara for supporting their father and brother over him during the war of succession, removed Jahanara as head of his harem and offered the position to Roshanara, instead.

In contrast to her elder sister's character of a saintly and religious woman, Roshanara was known to be of flirtatious nature. Though she remained single throughout her life she has known to have taken many lovers, some openly, some secretly. Aurangzeb, a strict Muslim frowned on the libertine ways and her sister's choice of lovers. One legend has it that one evening Aurangzeb got to know that one of his commanders was with her sister in her 'khwabgah' (Chamber of Dreams or private quarters of the royal women). He immediately raided the quarters to catch Roshanara and the commander, red handed. Roshanara, who got a whiff of coming of his brother made her lover hide in a hamam (water tanks used for bathing purpose). Aurangzeb who had sensed that the man had hidden somewhere in the hamam did not want embarrassment to creep in for his sister by openly pulling out the man from the hamam. Instead, true to his cruel, stern and strict nature, Aurangzeb ordered that the hamam be lit with fire beneath under. It is said that the man hiding in the hamam preferred a gruesome death in the boiling water rather than being caught and killed cruelly and mercilessly at the hands of Aurangzeb.

Apart from having many secret lovers, Roshanara also had a love for gold and land, and accumulated wealth on a large scale and sometimes as a result of corruption. Aurangazeb, who was looking for a way to rid himself of his troublesome sister, who in spite of being warned of her deeds did not mend her ways, finally had her poisoned with the help of her cook. Roshanara died a slow and painful death.



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