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Jodha Akbar 99: Of the birds and bees and butparasti

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Jodha Akbar 99: Of the birds and bees and butparasti

Post by sashashyam on 2013-11-04, 16:12

Folks,
At the outset, I would like to wish you all, and your families, a joyous Deepavali and a healthy, peaceful and fulfilling year ahead. With these three assured, happiness is sure to follow!
Now for the post, which I could not resist for I did not want to miss the magical 99! Let me, as I do often, start from the end.
Butparasti: The gentle thumping sound you might be hearing is me patting myself on the back for having been practically the only one here to highlight the risk Jalal ran, when he fulfilled Jodha's sankalp by placing his head at the foot of Kali Maa, of being accused of butparasti, or idol worship, which is strictly  forbidden in Islam. And Ela was among the very  few to back me in this take, which was generally brushed aside by most here.
In my  Jodha Akbar 87: The Gordian Knot post , I had noted, while describing this scene:
The courage of his convictions: There is a perceptible hesitation, for no one should underestimate what this gesture costs him. What he is about to do would be  taken  as  butparasti  (idol worship),  specifically forbidden in Islam. If anyone had spread the word across the Mughal sultanate that their Shahenshah had  paid obeisance to a Hindu  but,  there would have been an uproar, and not only among the maulvis. Even decades later , when he had long been the all powerful Emperor Akbar, his initiative to found a syncretist religion merging Islam and Hinduism, the Din-e-Ilahi,  had attracted widespread criticism. Now he is,  as yet,  nowhere near that level of  unquestioned domination, so the risks are that much more.
This, of course, is what has happened now, and if the leak had been engineered by Adham Khan, that changes nothing in practical terms.  
What was remarkable about this stormy encounter was three things.
-Ruqaiya's intelligence network, headed by Hoshiyaar, is clearly  better than the regular imperial one, which should have been as  active as usual, and in fact more so, when both the Shahenshah and the chief Minster Atqah Khan were out of Agra.
In the event, Ruqaiya, true to her reputation for siyasati savvy, is swift to assess the danger that lies ahead,  and to move with lightning speed to alert Jalal to it before he reaches Agra. That her messenger goes astray, and Jalal does not get the heads up on what awaits him at Agra, is besides the point. What matters is that the Begum-e-Khaas is capable of assessing a dangerous situation unerringly and acting to warn the Shahenshah about it as soon as possible.
-When Hamida Banu's plaintive appeal (forestalling Jalal's initial attempt at an explanation),  to the maulvis falls on deaf ears, it is left to Mahaam Anga, in her official capacity as the Wazir-e-Aaliya,  to leap into the breach with a fiery, coherent and lucid peroration that seeks to put the maulvis on the defensive about their blockade, and their assertion of their right to excommunicate the  Shahenshah and thus dethrone him. She shows her mettle unambiguously, and demonstrates afresh why Jalal has not just deep rooted affection but unbounded admiration for her.
-Equally impressive, if far more soft spoken - very unusual in the quick tempered Shahenshah, which shows that he has a cool brain as well, and knows when to be calm and patient - is Jalal's own  gentle and yet razor sharp rebuttal.
He never apologises for anything he has  done -  be it the bowing before Kali Maa or whatever  he did to save the life of the half-frozen Jodha - and this is as befits a Shahenshah.  
Instead, he first clears the decks with a comprehensive statement on his impeccable Islamic credentials. Then, when they continue to harp on his butparasti, he asks a couple of  smooth, non-confrontational, but very pertinent questions. Before the maulvi who answers them knows where they are leading,  he has been pushed on to the backfoot, as Jalal declares that his adherence to Islam is  not dependent on the place (of worship), for his soul is lit by the light of his faith,  which the maulvis are unable to see.
The maulvis, left without a leg to stand on, fall back on the only weak link in all this, Jodha Begum, and demand that she convert to Islam, so as to prevent any recurrence of butparasti on his part.
Again, it was wise on Jalal's part not to force the issue by posturing and declaring that he had given Jodha his word that she could  remain a Hindu. This might have sounded heroic, but it would have re-ignited the controversy that he and Mahaam had just managed to tamp down, and unnecessarily endangered his regime. So he accepts the day's reprieve that Mahaam gets  him, and announces that they will meet the next day in the Diwan-e-Khas.  
It is likely that Jodha, with her usual lack of understanding of the  priorities of imperial governance,  would have been mentally  castigating him for not having publicly stuck to his vachan to her. However, the stability of his empire, and the security and wellbeing of his millions of subjects, whom he cannot  abandon to the chaos that would emerge if he was either dethroned or had to confront the clergy head on, should come first for him, and they do.
The power of the clergy: Many of you might be wondering how is it that a  bunch if maulvis can dethrone such a powerful monarch just because he is accused of having violated a  tenet of Islam. It all depends on the nature of the State, which is,  in this case, at least in theory, based on the Sharia and the decrees  of Islam as the State religion.  
But the extent to which the maulvis can enforce the Islamic writ depends, in turn, on their hold on the awaam, the common people. If this was as strong as they believed it was, both the army and the people at large would turn on the Shahenshah , believing that his continued rule, in defiance of the State  religion, would endanger their souls and condemn them, along with him to dozakh,  or Hell.
What Adham Khan and his supporters bank on is not a general popular uprising against Jalal, which might or might not have broken out. They hope, by taking advantage of the uncertainty regarding the legitimacy of Jalal's rule created by the maulvis' ban on his ascending the throne, to  engineer a successful rebellion against him by discontented nobles and army commanders like Sharifuddin.
Jalal might well have rallied large parts of the army and the nobility to his side and prevailed in the end, but the interim chaos would have led to  a resurgence of the anti-Mughal forces across Hindustan, with the Rajvanshis in the forefront. This was also, as you  would remember, the threat he faced during Bairam Khan's short lived rebellion, or when he was in a  critical condition after being mauled by the tiger.  Whence the vital importance of  quieting the maulvis and  preventing them from becoming a rallying point, under the cry of Islam in danger!,  for other malcontents.
Lament about rigid orthodoxy: As for  those dismayed because of the illiberalism shown by the maulvis, their concerns are enlightened,  but they  would not apply to most people  in that era.  The liberal examples, like Jalal and Hamida,  we are shown in this serial must belong to a distinct minority. So that makes Jalal's explanation that he is still  a good Muslim in the real sense of the term far more realistic  than a statement of full on sarva dharma samabhava  would have been. The latter would have been distinctly anachronistic. 

Even today, if  one reads for example, the fulminations of the preachers like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell against 'idolatrous heathens' , as they call Hindus, not to speak of Protestant-Catholic enmity and the savage conflict between them for centuries in Ireland, or  the denominational hatreds even within Buddhism, one realises that true acceptance of all religions as true is quite rare even now. This has to be accepted, whether now or in the 16th century, as a human failing, and attempts made to  keep it within reasonable limits, and not allow it  to spill over into murderous strife.

The birds and the bees:  I have already written at length about the body heat angle in my last post. and I do not want to repeat myself  here. So just  a few factual points.
The "vachan": A propos the so-called vachan of Jalal's, there was no such thing. It  is strange that  Jodha behaves as though Jalal had given her a notarised affidavit on Rs.100/- stamped paper that he would never touch her (the without her consent angle is something new that she has tacked on now). As I remember it,  he said, during that bangle breaking session, that he had every right, as her husband, to do anything he wanted to, but he would not touch her, because that would be giving her too much importance and she might begin to think that he had mohabbat  for her. That was no vachan, only an angry affirmation by a drunken, angry husband. That was a statement of intent, an iraada,  meant to insult her, and statements of intent can be changed at any time.
For those who point out that Jalal himself is now shown ruminating about the zabaan he gave Jodha, that only means that the present lot of CVs, who must have come in after the mass walkout several weeks ago, have no clear idea of what was written earlier by their predecessors. So they have cooked up this zubaan   to ratchet up the body heat!

If you take it from the angle of the characters, I can only say that after he got entangled with this chudail, Jalal ki smaran shakti ksheen ho gayi hai. And no wonder, seeing how much blood he has lost after the nirdosh pashu  affair, not to speak of having to tackle snakes,  dive into deep water to rescue her, and so on and on. So he cannot remember what he himself said to her on the night I referred to, and accepts her claim as a fact!!

To revert, not that he is going to change his iraada  now. He does not clarify anything to Jodha the morning after  because he is angered and disappointed by  her cheap suspicions of him. Or, as Ariel  puts it even better, "he was  hurt, humiliated and exasperated by the end of it all,  in that order, that she would think so lowly of him".

I was half afraid that he would tie himself into knots explaining what he did to save her life and what he did not do. I was thus relieved that he  looked neither awkward nor hesitant when faced with a shrill Jodha, but instead put her in her place effortlessly with this Hum Shahenshah hain aur hum kuch bhi kar sakte hain  mantra.
Plus he did not indulge in any unbecoming  chichorapan and tease her.

He was aloof and dismissive, stressing, in  a cool putdown of her apparently taking it for granted that he is mad with desire for her, that he did whatever it was that he did only as a duty, which was a classic snub. Next he made it clear that neither this time,  nor the next time, if there was one, does he need her permission for doing whatever he thinks fit. I gave him a round of standing applause!

Jodha's responsibilities: This said, I find Jodha's continual ranting about her husband  seeking to "take advantage of her"  pretentious  and ridiculous. He is her husband, and if today he were to go to court in India, he would get an order for the restoration of his conjugal rights, and  if she still refused, she would go to jail. A woman can sue for a divorce from her husband, but while she is married to him, she cannot say that he should not touch her.
Poor Paridhi, my heart goes out to her, made to do these idiotic scenes,  with that contact face meant to convey anger and desperation. She is totally wasted, the poor sweet.
Another point. It  was universally acknowledged in those days that any royal wife's  first duty was to provide her husband's kingdom  with an heir. Not to take strategic  forts and  endless other valuable gifts for her maayka while snarling at the provider  of all this largesse when he so much as touches her hand.
If she had had a saas who reminded her every now and then of what was expected of her, coupled with the warning that if she was unable to do fulfil these expectations of her,  she would be cashiered and replaced, Jodha would have been pulled up short.
How long does Jodha think she can claim all her rights as a begum,  but get a free ride and avoid this crucial responsibility? That would have been the same even if she had been married to some  creep of a Rajvanshi king, and he would not have waited for her consent the way Jalal does.
In fact, I cannot think of any ordinary husband who would put up with this touch me not mantra for any length of time.  Even if he was reluctant to indulge in bal prayog, he would have returned her to her maayka labelled "psychologically  defective goods"!
The fact is that Jodha does not know how lucky she is, and Jalal, alas,  does not know what an idiot he is with his endless understanding, indulgence and boundless generosity, none of which gets him what he seeks, that she should care for him. In fact quite the opposite.
IT or no IT?:  Apart from the  fact that Jodha  brought the whole body hear imbroglio on herself by going and sitting out in the freezing cold, what I want to know is what Jodha's cheerleader, Hamida Banu, thought about why her precious bahu camped under the tree. I daresay she blamed her son for that as well.
As for Mahaam, what else does one expect of her but  that kind of ugly gloating?
Coming to Jodha's apparent ignorance about whether IT happened to her, I am old fashioned and so this is awkward, but mothers, in every age, did and do teach daughters about the birds and the bees before they are sent off to their sasural.

Plus, they were far more plainspoken and indelicate in those days in royal families, where the love life of the king in his harem was an open book

Did you know that among European royalty, at least till the late 20th century, the Lord Chamberlain had , by law,  to be present in the delivery room of the queen,  where the King would never  have thought of being? This was so that he could certify that no changeling had been smuggled in to become the heir to the throne. This was not done for Princess Elizabeth, later to become  Elizabeth II, because when she was born, she was not the heir or even the heir once or twice removed, since her tau, later to become King  Edward VIII for a short while before he abdicated, was the Prince of Wales. So they were not bothered about anyone substituting another child  for her!

Besides, if anything had happened to Jodha,  which I do not for a moment believe, it would hurt, often  a lot,  for the vast majority of women, and possibly bleed  as well. So there is NO way a  woman who is, as the old-fashioned term went, untouched, would not know. If Jodha  did not feel anything or there was no blood, she should have known that her paakeezagi  was intact. Ugh...

What  Jodha  deserves for her nautanki under the tree and the drama the morning after is that  Jalal should tell her never to come near him again, so that he is at peace. She can relax for in her hoojra with Moti, and perhaps Hamida Banu  for company. 

But if he continues to run after her, trying to con her into massaging miscellaneous body parts, or trying to hold her hand,  while she recoils every time he comes within   a yard of him, I shall wash my hands of him.  It would be intolerably demeaning,

 As I noted earlier, I go for   the likes of Rhett Butler, who would never stoop for any woman, not for a poodle, even an imperial poodle.

So on to the conversion debate, which I am sure will be resolved on the lines indicated in Alakh's spoiler: Jalal refuses to compel Jodha to convert citing Shahenshah ki zabaan, she then offers to convert of her own free will,  and then Sheikh Salim Chisti intervenes and declares that she cannot be forced to convert. End of story.
Shyamala B.Cowsik
NB:  Historical examples of the power of the clergy in this particular aspect of the interface between politics and religion vary. In 15th/ 16th  century England. Henry VIII, thwarted by the then Pope and refused the annulment of his marriage to his first wife, the Spanish princess  Catherine of Aragon, effectively dismantled the Catholic Church in England, seized their monasteries, expelled the monks and confiscated all the vast wealth of the Catholic Church in his kingdom.
He was duly excommunicated by the Pope, but it did not affect him as there was no rebellion against him by his subjects, who were fed up of the corruption of the Catholic Church in their country and preferred to back their English King against the foreign ecclesiastical establishment in Rome, all the more so as he declared himself to be the Defender of the Faith - of the true Catholic faith that had been corrupted, he asserted, by Rome. He impartially  burned both  Catholics loyal to the Pope, and  Protestants opposed to Catholicism, at  the stake with  abandon, and ruled as an unopposed autocrat till the end of his days in 1547.  
Contrast this with what happened to the Holy  Roman Emperor Henry IV, faced with a rebellion by his nobles after he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church in early 1076 by Pope Gregory VII, and given a deadline of a year  for   the excommunication to become permanent. Henry VI had to walk barefoot in the snow, clad in  a hairshirt, to meet the Pope at Canossa in northern Italy, kneel before him and beg his pardon before the excommunication was lifted.

sashashyam
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Re: Jodha Akbar 99: Of the birds and bees and butparasti

Post by Tanthya on 2013-11-04, 16:36

This event  and certain other acts further  down the line would have lead Jalal to break the stranglehold of Maulvi's  in later period  but it  also paves the way for weaklings to usurp power under the garb of protecting Islam..

T'was good to see Jodha effectively staying mum throughout the whole imbroglio and not opening her mouth in passionate defense of the  'Vachan', her love for Kanha  etc etc..

It  made a good read, Shyamala

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Re: Jodha Akbar 99: Of the birds and bees and butparasti

Post by ShaliniRobinson on 2013-11-04, 17:19

Once again, a truly good enjoyable write-up with which i am in utter agreement. Thank you! :)

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Re: Jodha Akbar 99: Of the birds and bees and butparasti

Post by sashashyam on 2013-11-04, 17:38

You know, I too was wondering if she was going to start out  with  that kind of bhashan! Thank God she did not!ShyamalaTanthya wrote:This event  and certain other acts further  down the line would have lead Jalal to break the stranglehold of Maulvi's  in later period  but it  also paves the way for weaklings to usurp power under the garb of protecting Islam..

T'was good to see Jodha effectively staying mum throughout the whole imbroglio and not opening her mouth in passionate defense of the  'Vachan', her love for Kanha  etc etc..

It  made a good read, Shyamala

sashashyam
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Re: Jodha Akbar 99: Of the birds and bees and butparasti

Post by Tanthya on 2013-11-04, 17:56

sashashyam wrote:
You know, I too was wondering if she was going to start out  with  that kind of bhashan! Thank God she did not!ShyamalaTanthya wrote:This event  and certain other acts further  down the line would have lead Jalal to break the stranglehold of Maulvi's  in later period  but it  also paves the way for weaklings to usurp power under the garb of protecting Islam..

T'was good to see Jodha effectively staying mum throughout the whole imbroglio and not opening her mouth in passionate defense of the  'Vachan', her love for Kanha  etc etc..

It  made a good read, Shyamala
Perhaps the Bhashan instinct  knows that the Maulvis will not prove to be  'captive' audience like Jalal  and may even  return the favour double-fold , which would be unpalatable to her taste ..:)

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Re: Jodha Akbar 99: Of the birds and bees and butparasti

Post by Tinkerbell on 2013-11-04, 19:39

nyc 1 !!

Jalal should tell her never to come near him again, so that he is at peace. She can relax for in her hoojra with Moti, and perhaps Hamida Banu  for company. 


Amen for that !

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