[Reader-list] secret history of delhi

Yousuf ysaeed7 at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 27 12:38:31 IST 2006

Dear Sidharth
I read your posting with interest. Are you relying
only on the so-called "gossip" and "rumour", or are
you also looking at the documented texts. Because what
you call "secret" history is no secret for the
historians. Most of these events have been documented
in one text or another (Persian as well as Urdu). In
fact, even the oral histories that maybe common among
the present generation elderly people of old Delhi may
have originated from the documented texts. It would be
however interesting to look at what the texts say and
what versions are avaiable in the oral domain today.
You could also identify your sources.


--- sidharth srinivasan
<sidharth.srinivasan at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear Fellows,
>                        I seem to finally be getting
> my bearings in
> understanding a "secret" history of Delhi. At times
> I even feel like a
> paparazzi voyeuristically peeping into the past.
> Somewhere, the
> filmmaker in me has to make a distinction between
> fact and fiction –
> the fiction that is to inform my photo roman as well
> as the fiction
> that is intended to be the photo roman itself and
> the fact of history
> that weighs down on the monuments I am exploring. I
> have tentatively
> titled my film "Beeti Bahaar" – hopefully it evokes
> the past and
> suggests a sense of nostalgia

> I recently met someone who gave me a lot of idle
> gossip regarding the
> Delhi of yore and also advised me very politely
> against making a
> tragic love story as it may unduly influence the
> youth of today –
> which got me thinking that maybe I have a Rang de
> Basanti on hand!!!
> The Delhi of yore is a Mughal Delhi, a Muslim Delhi,
> by all accounts.
> Aside from the emperors, it is the poets and the
> pirs who created this
> beautiful city and the historicity of the capital
> stems from the
> folklore and myth surrounding these very people.
> Some of the gossip I gleaned from my encounter was
> rather colorful. I
> was informed by the gentleman that anything and
> everything imaginable
> actually happened and, despite never being
> documented, had been passed
> down from generation to generation through idle
> banter and gossip.
> Of course Hindi cinema immortalized Jahan Ara's love
> for her childhood
> friend Mirza Yusuf Changezi in the 1964 film JAHAN
> ARA by Vinod Kumar
> starring Mala Sinha, Bharat Bhushan and the great
> Prithviraj Kapur as
> Shah Jahan. In the film Jahan Ara's mother, Mumtaz
> Mahal's death
> disrupts the romance between the two lovers. Before
> dying Mumtaz Mahal
> makes Jahan Ara promise that she will take care of
> her father in her
> absence. As a result of this the princess is unable
> to commit herself
> to Yusuf and he wanders the earth waiting for Jahan
> Ara to return to
> him.
> According to other sources Jahan Ara and her
> admirer, who was a poet,
> only glanced at one another once, and it was love at
> first sight.
> Pigeons flew back and forth from the princess to the
> poet carrying
> messages of love and poems brimming with romantic
> yearning. Though the
> classic film suggested that they consummated their
> affair, in all
> probability they never actually met. Jahan Ara's
> lover apparently died
> of a broken heart.
> Rumor also has it that Jahan Ara had an illicit
> affair with her father
> Shah Jahan because she resembled his dead wife
> (Mumtaz Mahal). This
> story would be in keeping with the film, as Jahan
> Ara was being true
> to her word and in effect "looking after" her
> father.
> The Mughals were very wary of marrying off their
> daughters for obvious
> reasons of property and dispute. As a result many
> princesses remained
> spinsters till their dying day. The Persian couplet,
> Bar mazare ma
> gariban ne chirage ne gule/Ne pare parwana sozad ne
> sadai bulbule is
> by Zaib-un-Nissa, Aurangzeb's eldest daughter, who
> was a poet and
> wrote under the pen name Mukhfi.
> She earned the wrath of Aurangzeb because of her
> emotional attachment
> to Aqilmand Khan, also a poet, and her suspected
> involvement in the
> revolt by his younger son against him. She was
> jailed for nearly a
> decade and remained unmarried until her death at the
> age of 63.
> Behind the Red Fort is an area called the Suhagpura
> where many young
> women who had been with the emperor only once but
> were nonetheless
> married to him, resided. Needless to say, often
> their biological and
> emotional instincts got the better of them and they
> embarked on
> illicit affairs with commoners and outsiders as a
> result of which they
> were impregnated.
> Yunani medicine, it is believed, could re-join a
> severed arm to the
> shoulder, and was used in aborting these discarded
> wives lest the
> emperor discover their indiscretion. The fetuses of
> the countless
> illegitimate heirs to the throne were all
> clandestinely buried behind
> the Suhagpura and the burial ground is still in
> existence today.
> I also learnt of the story of Sarhad Shaheed, a
> story that you know of
> perhaps, but one that really fascinated me. Sarhad
> was an Armenian
> merchant from Sindh who used to come to Delhi to
> trade. In Delhi he
> fell in love with a Baniya boy. However the young
> boy was married off
> and Sarhad was heartbroken. He renounced the world
> and became a mystic
> wandering the streets of the capital. He even
> removed all signs of
> clothing from his body and took to walking around
> naked, singing sufi
> hymns.
> Word got round to Aurangzeb who ordered him to offer
> prayers clothed
> at Jama Masjid. But Sarhad refused to comply.
> Finally he was taken
> captive, forcibly clothed and made to stand in front
> of the head
> maulvi at Jama Masjid. While prayers were being
> offered Sarhad could
> divine that the maulvi's mind was on other matters –
> namely, the lunch
> waiting for him at home and he loudly proclaimed in
> front of the
> congregation – "Mulla ki neeyat mere pair ke
> neeche!!".
> Aurangzeb ordered him to be beheaded in public in
> front of the jama
> masjid. But miraculously, after being beheaded his
> headless body
> started to dance holding its own decapitated head in
> its hands.
> Aurangzeb was disturbed and the public thought that
> calamity had
> struck. The king begged forgiveness and requested
> sarhad to stop
> dancing, which he did. To this date his grave,
> painted bright red (to
> symbolize his blood), lies at the foot of the Jama
> Masjid and is
> called Sarhad Shaheed.
> All for now, am following up on a few more leads and
> studying a bit
> more closely the poetry of the time
till the next
> posting

> Warm Regards,
> --
> Reel Illusion Films
> New Delhi/Mumbai
> India
> _________________________________________
> reader-list: an open discussion list on media and
> the 
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