Just a day before the last day of summer May of 1607, the sun blazed so atrociously since morning at Badh-e-Diwan in Mughal Bengal that local people took it as an ill omen. And they were right.
Their Jagirdar (ruler) was to die on that day for to a lady: his own wife. The lady who became the Empress of Hindustan would make Emperor Jehangir her puppet and rule the Mughal Empire from behind the veils.
In Agra, her soft-supple, slender-snowy Mehendi-decorated hands pulled strings of Mughal administration in such a way that she emerged de-facto ruler of vast Hindustan leading Jehangir’s son Shah Jehan to revolt. But that ordinary Jagirdar’s Begum turned Mughal Empress could not be subdued.
Yes! We are talking about the Mughal history’s most powerful woman Noor Jehan. This enigmatic lady of Gemini-zodiac sign having all characteristics of a dual character beacons thousands of people from across the sub-continent at Bardhaman: Badh-e-Diwan during the Mughal times.
Even after her departure from Bardhaman 409 long years ago, people from different parts of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh still throng the city to see the relics of ancient havelis, Dargas and mosques that existed four centuries ago. However, the most thrilling thing to see is the two marble graves: the graves of two persons who fought a sword-duel. It was a bloody fight unto the last. The cause happened to be a woman: Noor Jehan. One of the graves is that of her husband.
Noor Jehan was undoubtedly a Gemini by zodiacal sign since she was born on 31st May, 1577. In 1594, when she came at Bardhaman as the wife of Bengal’s Jagirdar, a special gate was created for her entry into the town. She was then 17. At 30, she left for Agra crossing the same gate through which she had once entered the city, but never to return.
Most of the tourists first would visit Pir Bahram to see two identical marble tombs of two men who fought a very dangerous sword duel making them bathe in blood and die. One died on the spot. The other, Jagirdar, died later in the evening when Asmat Begum finally stabbed him. She was his mother-in-law.
Both the swordsmen sleeping in the two identical graves fought for Mehr-un-Nissa whom local peoples still call Meher in its shortened form. Why both the tombs are identical? History is totally mute here. Can Asmat who murdered her son-in-law be given a benefit of doubt?
Sin and The Scene
It is time to return to the sword, sins and the scenes enacted 409 years back at Bardhaman. It is much more thrilling than what you have seen in the Bollywood’s iconic Mughal-e-Azam. Bardhaman, indeed, is a tale of Jehangir’s carnal sin.
Jehangir, the Mughal Emperor, known to be extraordinary connoisseur of beautiful women, sharab (wine) and opium, eyed on Meher, wife of Sher Afghan, the Jagirdar of Bengal. Jehandir wanted to eliminate Sher Afghan. Subsequently, an elimination plot was hatched at Agra.
If lovers could go to any extent to kill their rivals even if he happened to be the Emperor, Jehangir was no exception. If mothers could go to any extent to save their only child, then Asmat, Meher’s mother, was no exception. The real reason why Asmat wanted to finally stab Sher Afghan’s heart to get exonerated because he wanted to kill Meher and her daughter Ladli before he died, so that no Mughal hands touched them.
No. Motherly sentiments could not have tolerated this. Spies had informed Asmat about the plan of Sher Afghan to kill Meher and Ladli in case he was murdered by Jehangir’s men.
Koi Hai? Is There Anybody?
As you enter into this centuries old “gullies” or narrow lanes of old Bardhaman through Noor Jehan Gate, you find a large number of thick wooden doors of Mahals, Rajmahals and Havelis lying closed for long. God knows since when?
Koi Hai? Some unknown, unseen forces propel you to shout: is there anybody? A large number of pigeons, once loved by Meher, would fly from the roof-top of such derelict palaces, if you actually shout Koi Hai? Nobody would open the door for you to un-open the history. You have to dig the history’s mystery yourself.
Here she first came as a shy-simple bride of Sher Afgan. Ladli, Meher’s “ladli” (darling) daughter, was also born here. Enigmatic Meher-un-nisa, known as intriguing-conspiring and ruse-Ki Rani (queen of laying traps) Empress Noor Jehan, attracts thousands of visitors at Bardhaman every year.
Dame and The Duel
In 1607, Sher Afgan and Qutubuddin fought a sword duel near what is now the official quarters of the District Magistrate of Bardhaman. Jehangir had ordered Qutubuddin to arrest Sher Afgan and send him to Agra where he would be either beheaded or put into a dark dungeon.
The Mughal court had charged him with siding with the Afghan rebels. But he refused point blank to surrender or accept the charges making Qutubuddin to come to Bardhaman. Sher went to meet him as it was his official duty being a Jagirdar accompanied only by two of his men.
Bardhaman Witnessed a Bloody Duel
When Qutubuddin ordered Sher Afghan’s arrest, he leaped with naked sword against Qutubuddin causing a duel fight. Qutubuddin died on the spot. Wounded Sher Afghan went to his palace to kill Meher and Ladli so that they are not tortured or defiled in the Mughal harem in Agra but die with honour in his own hands.
But Asmat could not allow it. So she killed him. Very famous novel of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhaya “Kapalkundala” allude that Jehangir sent Qutubuddin to Bardhaman to procure Meher. On 25th May, 1611, Meher married Jehangir to become Noor Jehan and on December 17, 1645, she died. Her tomb lies at Shahdara Bagh at Lahore in Pakistan.
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