Sehar documents the grandeur of the Khusaru Bagh, a Moghal garden in Allahabad, India, where three mausoleums stand. These seem to have been lost in oblivion. Here’s an in-depth report.
Hidden amidst vast expanse of green, stands three mausoleums which have somewhere been lost in oblivion, Khusrau Bagh , the once famous Mughal gardens are now just a neglected part of the city. The magnificence of the monument is slowly fading away. The beauty of the Mughal architecture, inscriptions, frescoes and painting have withstood the sands of time but are now screaming out for conservation.
History Inside the Walls
Khusaru Mirza, the son of Jehangir is said to be the favourite of Emperor Akbar. The life and death of this favourite grandson of Akbar is interesting. As told by Rana Safvi, a scholar of history in her blog, “In 1606 Khusrau Mirza rebelled against his father, Jahangir and left Agra on April 6, 1606 with 350 horsemen with the excuse that he was visiting Sikandra, his grandfather’s mausoleum. He was joined by more nobles and their forces: Hussain Beg with 3000 horsemen and Abdur Rahim Khan-i- Khana, the provincial divan of Lahore.
“The Mughal Army under its new Emperor, Jahangir defeated him in the battle of Bhairowal and the Prince was captured and imprisoned in Agra. He was also partially blinded. In 1620 he was handed over to his younger brother, Prince Khurram who later adopted the title of Shah Jahan on his accession to the Mughal throne. Khurram saw a potential rival to the throne and as a result ordered the execution of Khusrau in 1622 in Burhanpur. According to Manrique, Khusrau’s body was first taken to Agra from Burhanpur, but later removed at the insistence of Nur Jahan and taken to Allahabad. During the journey, shrines honouring him were made, but quickly dismantled on imperial orders.”
The Tomb of Khusrau Mirza
A magnificent tomb made out of Chunar sandstone was ordered to be made in the remembrance of his beloved brother by Nisar Begum in remembrance. The walls of the tomb have been adorned with cypress and flowers, some of which have been destroyed due to non maintenance of the place. The intricately carved stone jaalis still look breath- takingly beautiful. There are inscription in Persian on the walls of the tomb, where Khusrau Mirza rests peacefully.
Even though the sands of time have done their work, the splendid beauty of this place never fails to mesmerise the bystander or visitor. The tomb of Akbar’s grandson is kept locked at most of the time.
During the heritage walk organised by Sanchaari, an organisation working to revive and preserve the culture and history of the city, Allahabad, Rana Safvi, a historian visited the city and shared with the participants of the walk some extremely enlightening facts from Mughal history and Khusrau Mirza’s life.
“Who thought that this boy of few years
Would behave so badly to his sire?
At the first taste of the cup he brings up the lees.
He melts away my glory and his own modesty.
He sets on fire the throne of Khūrshīd,
He longs for the place of Jamshīd.”
This is Jehangir talking of his son Khusrau Mirza’s rebellion against him in Tuzuk e Jahangiri, as narrated by Rana Safvi during the heritage walk.
The other Tombs Inside the Mughal Garden
An interesting aspect of history has been noted by Dr Pallavi Chandel, member of Sanchaari, her thesis contains research work on the city of Allahabad. According to her, “The tomb of Shah Begum, a Rajput Princess is a fine blend of the Hindu and Islamic School of Architectures. The dome on top of the mausoleum is replaced by the chatri, a distinct feature of the Rajput style of architecture. Chatris are commonly used to depict the elements of pride and honour.
Further, she adds on her reflections of monument, “If Akbar’s Fort is a jewel, the chief ornament of the city is Khusrau Bagh. The tombs of Khusrau Mirza, his mother and sister, portray the exceptional beauty and grandeur of the Mughal architecture.”
Accoding to Rana Safvi, author of the book, Where Stones Speak, “Her tomb in respect to her Rajput lineage has been made in that style of architecture, and to me, seemed very similar to Panch Mahal in Fatehpur Sikri.”
Frescoes Inside the Tomb of Nisar Begum
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Colourfully inked walls would instantly grip the attention of any passerby walking through the tomb of Nisar Begum. Frescoes are an essential part of the Mughal culture left behind, as it was an artwork patronised by the Mughal dynasty. The dynasty has left some beautiful pieces of artwork on the walls and ceilings of the tomb, for the future generations to cherish.
Frescoes might not be a very uncommon term for art lovers but for a layman, it might be a confusing term initially. Frescoes are basically artworks that are done on fresh plaster; mostly watercolours are used in these painting. Frescoes can be spotted on walls or ceilings which have been freshly constructed and the plaster is still damp. In Allahabad, the best place to spot some of the most outstanding frescoes is the tomb of Nisar Begum stationed inside the lofty Mughal garden named after her brother, Khusrau Mirza.
Excellent and striking glimpses of the much celebrated Mughal painting can be seen on the walls and ceilings of Khusrau Mirza’s sister. Her tomb is the most elaborate one as compared to the other two built inside the same premises. The tomb stands on an elevated platform and is furnished with panels depicting a series of convex rounded projections painted intricately with stars in concentric circles. The central room has walls ornamented with floral decorations depicting Persian cypress, vessels, flowers and plants.
According to both the historians, the cypress is a symbol of mourning and can be spotted in many tombs across the nation.
The Revolt of 1857
As mentioned by Khalid Bin Umar in his blog on Khusrau Bagh, “It was during the Revolt of 1857 Khusrau Bagh came to light again. It became the headquarters of the sepoys under Maulvi Liyaqat Ali of Mahgaon , who took charge as the Governor of Allahabad. This way Khusro Bagh was once again the centre of attraction at the end of the Mughal Rule. When Maulvi Liaqat Ali unfurled the green flag in support of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II and accompanied by Ram Chandra another leader of nationalist forces, established the headquarters of their interim government at Khusro Bagh and started to convene his court in the Bagh Sultan Khusro. He delivered a sermon each morning and each day an assault was launched by his men at the Fort in Allahabad. Unfortunately his rule could not live long, Maulvi Liaqat Ali was defeated, the uprising was swiftly suppressed and Khusro Bagh was retaken by the British in two weeks.”
Khusro Bagh, a forgotten memory from the page of Mughal history, a walled garden is located at a stone’s throw away distance from the railway station (the city side) of Allahabad. The splendid monument is surrounded by high walls on all four sides, with the southern gate being the grandest of all. It is about 60 feet high and bears close remembrance to the main gateway of the Allahabad Fort.
The gate, situated to the north of the Khuldabad Sarai, bears a Persian inscription ascribing its construction to Jahangir and the architect is mentioned as Aqa Reza.
“By the Order of Emperor Jahangir, whose kingdom extends from the sky to the nadir, this lofty and sky-high Sarai has been built.”
Note: I would extend my heartfelt gratitude to Dr Pallavi Chandel and Rana Safvi for helping in putting together this article. And I also thank the photographers, who very enthusiastically contributed photographs for this article.
Pix: Sourced by author from photographers.