This article first appeared in Hindustan Times here, written by Sohil Sehran. 

A Grave Error

Even though the dargah of 13th century Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya is visited by thousands of devotees every day, not many people know that the complex is also home to the graves of celebrated poet Amir Khusro, and Mughal princess Jahanara Begum. Old-timers say that there used to be an emerald stone {panna} marking the grave, but it went missing 20 years ago.

The ASI-protected Begum’s grave sees fewer visitors and lies in a state of neglect. Paan stains, garbage and its filthy surroundings highlight the apathy of the authorities. On its left is the tomb of Amir Khusro, while the red building on the right is the Jamaat Khana Mosque, the principal mosque of the dargah complex, which is currently undergoing renovation through a project of the Aga Khan Foundation.

Hearsay and Haunts

“There are many graves here, and we know so little about them. There are some references that suggest Jahanara Begum used to clean the area of the mausoleum with her tresses, and wished she be buried here,” said Farid Nizami, Naib Sajjada Nashin {Deputy Hereditary Administrator} of Nizamuddin Dargah.

Nizami said that people from nearby areas aren’t interested in learning about the graves, while international tourists visit the grave of Jahanara Begum and are inquisitive about her past. As there is no information available, visiting the grave becomes a difficult task, he added.

History Tells the Tale

Jahanara Begum passed away at the age of 67, and was bestowed with the title of Sahibat-ul Zamani {Mistress of her Time} by emperor Aurangzeb. The marble on the grave has floral patterns, some inscriptions, but is not decorated like other graves from the Mughal era.

Jahanara was only 17 when she lost her mother Arjumand Banu Begum, alias Mumtaz Mahal, during childbirth. She was left with a vacuum in her life and took it upon herself to raise her six siblings, besides looking after her grief-stricken father and assisting him in the affairs of the court.

“Historical references suggest that Jahanara Begum was a wealthy woman, but Sufism inspired her to serve the poor. Nizamuddin Auliya’s humanitarian work also influenced her to dedicate her life to help others,” said Islamic scholar, Prof. Jawad of Islamic University of Science and Technology.

Quotes of Times Long Gone

According to acclaimed historian Sohail Hashmi, the grave has a hollow on its top which was meant to be filled with soil and grass. However, nobody maintained it. He added that Jahanara had herself written a couplet in Farsi which is inscribed on the grave now. It reads, “Let grass grow on my grave, only grass is sufficient on the grave of a fakir”.

You can read the original post here.

Featured image courtesy: Wikipedia

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