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Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

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Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

Post by Tanthya on 2013-09-03, 16:01

Power, then as now, brings its own price. Neither life nor death was kind to this unfortunate son of Jehangir. AROON RAMAN recounts one of the most tragic yet inspiring stories to come out of Mughal India…





At 18, Khusrau was everything his father was not: personable, brave, and a talented battlefield commander.




Photo: Subir Roy

FORGOTTEN PRINCE: Khusrau's tomb in Allahabad.

The Great Fort, Agra, August 28 1605. Inside the gilded chambers of the Royal Quarters a man lay on his bed, dying. Select queens of the zenanaand senior courtiers were gathered around, as was a younger man of royal countenance in his mid-thirties. It was upon him that the gaze of the sinking man finally rested. He was not to know, even if he was in any position to reflect on it, that the prince had been smuggled into the room in the nick of time.

He raised his head painfully and nodded, beckoning the prince forward. With a servant supporting him reverently, the sick man placed the robes and turban of kingship in the younger man's hands in a formal yet curiously tender gesture. Then he fell back on the cushions; his eyes roved around the room one last time before glazing forever.
The wails of the women from the anteroom began, marking the end of one of the defining reigns in the annals of Hindustan. For almost half a century, Jalaluddin Mohammed Akbar had been master of the largest empire since Asoka. He was the greatest of the Mughals, an empire-builder of genius, whose name shines undimmed through the passage of centuries not just for what he achieved by force of arms, but for the brilliant administrative edifice through which he governed, and for the religious syncretism and tolerance that he brought to polity.

Akbar was a man far in advance of his time. So potent was his persona that only those most gifted and possessed of a strong sense of self-worth could stand up to him. It was a trait that was to have fateful consequences for his heirs.

Akbar had three sons: Salim, Murad and Daniyal, born to him in 1569, 1570 and 1572 respectively. Yet, by 1605 only Salim still lived; the other two had self-destructed through addiction to opium and alcohol. At the time of his father's death, Salim too had become over-fond of stimulants and subject to the most capricious mood swings when in the grip of arrack and opium. Between 1600 and 1605 he also led a series of revolts against Akbar, and war between father and son was averted only through the intervention of Akbar's senior begums, and by Salim's own realisation that he was militarily no match for his father.
In despair over the succession, Akbar's mind turned to one who, by widespread consent, had all the requisite qualities to succeed him: Salim's eldest son Khusrau. Khusrau was born in October 1587 to Salim and Man Bai, a Rajput princess from Amber. She was reportedly highly strung, but no trace of this showed in her son in the early years. Khusrau soon grew up to be a court favourite. Edward Terry, a clergyman at the Mughal court writes of him: “He had a pleasing presence and excellent carriage, was exceedingly beloved of the common people, their love and delight”. At 18, Khusrau was everything his father was not: personable, brave, and a talented battlefield commander.



Struggle for power



Inevitably, in the years just prior to Akbar's death his court was a political cauldron, “a snake-pit of intrigue” between the rival camps of Salim and Khusrau. So distressed was Man Bai at the vicious infighting that she committed suicide by an overdose of opium in May 1605.

By October, the succession was poised on a knife-edge. Salim was backed by Akbar's senior wives who wielded considerable power behind the scenes; Khusrau by the duo of Man Singh, the Raja of Amber, and Aziz Khan Koka (Khusrau's uncle and father-in-law respectively). These two were amongst the most influential nobles in the Mughal durbarand Khusrau's star seemed clearly in the ascendant. Khusrau himself was convinced that he was destined to be the next ruler of Hindustan, addressing his own father in terms of equality as ‘Bhai' or brother rather than as a father.

No sooner was Akbar laid to rest than events began to move at breakneck speed. At a meeting of the senior umracalled to decide the succession, Akbar's handing of the robes of kingship to Salim tipped the scales in favour of the Salim faction, which carried the day. On November 2, 1605, Salim ascended the Mughal throne as Nuruddin Mohammed Jahangir Padshah Ghazi. One of the first acts of the new Emperor was to have Prince Khusrau confined to his quarters in the fort, with only his wife to keep him company.


Succession intrigues:Emperor Jahangir receiving his two sons; an album painting in gouache on paper, c1605-06.


Chroniclers at Jehangir's court record dismissively Khusrau's descent into melancholy at this time, even attributing it to deficiencies in character inherited from his mother's side. But this was a young man who had been offered a giddy vision of power afforded to very few, encouraged by many, including his illustrious grandfather, to believe in his manifest destiny — only to have it crushed in the space of just hours.

Whatever be the reason, Khusrau's character now underwent a shift as the disappointment ate into him like a cancer. Goaded on by a wide network of informants and sympathisers, he made his move on April 15, 1606. During a visit to the tomb of his grandfather Akbar at Sikandra near Delhi, he slipped past his guards and, with a small band of soldiers faithful to him, struck out northwest towards Lahore.

The rebellion



The news of Khusrau's flight sped through the country like wildfire. Malcontents of every kind — disaffected Chugtai and Rajput clans and several frontier tribes — flocked to his banner as did some senior Akbar loyalists.

However, Khusrau did not foresee the swiftness of the Mughal response. For once, Jahangir acted with speed and decision. The newly appointed governor, Dilawar Khan, raced from Agra to Lahore in just 11 days and strengthened and sealed the defences before Khusrau's army could reach the city. Simultaneously, a punitive force of over 50,000 was assembled at Agra and launched towards the enemy. Unable to break Lahore's defences, Khusrau had no option but to turn and fight.

The armies met on the north bank of the Ravi on April 27, 1606. Fighting in heavy rain, which turned the battlefield into a mud soup, the rebels were routed and Khusrau captured and brought before his father in chains. Jahangir's retribution was ruthless. The rebel soldiers and their commanders were impaled alive on stakes by the hundreds, and Khusrau forced to ride between the screaming men to witness their agony up close.

A more fateful outcome was the summary execution of the Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev, whose only fault was to bless Khusrau on his way to Lahore; an act dictated purely by the canons of hospitality, and which in no way could be construed as supportive of the rebellion. The result was a scarring of the Sikh psyche that would reverberate for centuries.

Khusrau's life was spared, but he was condemned to a fate almost as terrible. Either immediately after the rebellion or a year later, holding him complicit in a further plot against him, Jahangir ordered Khusrau blinded.

                                                        .......................   To be Continued !!

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Re: Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

Post by sonshine487 on 2013-09-03, 16:18

What cruelty!

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Re: Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

Post by pollyanna on 2013-09-03, 16:26

Thanks for sharing Sathu...will wait for the secon part...:)

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Re: Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

Post by Tanthya on 2013-09-03, 16:27

sonshine487 wrote:What cruelty!

You have not yet read the whole thing, wait for that and let loose, Appuse !!

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Re: Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

Post by sonshine487 on 2013-09-03, 16:39

Tanthya wrote:
sonshine487 wrote:What cruelty!
You have not yet read the whole thing, wait for that and let loose, Appuse !!
I've read it in the book I am talking about
I am guessing Opium addled his brains
He thought out his insane punishments in the midst of frenzied hallucinations

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Re: Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

Post by Tanthya on 2013-09-03, 17:25

sonshine487 wrote:
Tanthya wrote:
sonshine487 wrote:What cruelty!
You have not yet read the whole thing, wait for that and let loose, Appuse !!
I've read it in the book I am talking about
I am guessing Opium addled his brains
He thought out his insane punishments in the midst of frenzied hallucinations
Opium and NoorJahan  ...

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Re: Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

Post by amimus on 2013-09-03, 17:42

Gosh that's so horrible. The fight for power makes a man do so many cruel things

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Re: Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

Post by Maria J on 2013-09-03, 17:42

Thanks for sharing Tants. So sad fate..

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Re: Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

Post by Tanthya on 2013-09-03, 17:51

amimus wrote:Gosh that's so horrible. The fight for power makes a man do so many cruel things

Mankind is inherently cruel is my feeling !!

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Re: Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

Post by sonshine487 on 2013-09-03, 17:54

Tanthya wrote:
sonshine487 wrote:
Tanthya wrote:
sonshine487 wrote:What cruelty!
You have not yet read the whole thing, wait for that and let loose, Appuse !!
I've read it in the book I am talking about
I am guessing Opium addled his brains
He thought out his insane punishments in the midst of frenzied hallucinations
Opium and NoorJahan  ...
yes, that is one woman that all versions equally hate

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Re: Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

Post by sunshine99 on 2013-09-04, 02:57

Power turned a father against his own flesh and blood with such inhuman cruelty.. The lust for absolute power then and now is equally savage.

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Re: Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

Post by --sumana13-- on 2013-09-04, 09:03

Cruelty is in their blood .... They lack the virtue of forgiveness .... Having so many wives and  producing so many sons ..was the norm those days and this lead to infighting with in the family .. Not only Moghuls even Rajputs ...

The Britishers sneaked in taking advantage of the prevailing scenario ......

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Re: Khusrau: The shadow of power - I

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