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Athar-us-Sanadid by Sir Syed

It is said, that history is written by the victors. This makes the role of Historians doubtful. However, there are cases where certain facts are available and mentioned by multiple authors/travellers, yet, some historians fail to interpret them correctly.

When I started studying Delhi’s monuments, I was told to read Athar-us-Sanadid by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. We all know Sir Syed as a reformer and founder of various educational institutions in India. His contribution to the field of education cannot be ignored and at the same time, he was also instrumental in devising various acts, that still influence the constitution of India. He also has a very huge list of religious and academic work to his credit.

His work, Athar-us-Sanadid is one of the oldest compilation of Delhi’s monuments and is regarded as the oldest bible of Delhi’s heritage. I had to learn Urdu to read that book, only to find that Prof. R. Nath had translated his book decades ago. However, now that I can read Sir Syed’s work, I spent quality time reading and analysing it. There were few things that did not make any sense, but being new to this field, I felt as if challenging Sir Syed’s work would be blasphemy.

As I read more, I realized that Sir Syed’s work has numerous flaws. I have read several pages and I would like to use this post for a detailed discussion on his work:

What is Athar-us-Sanadid?

Athar-us-Sanadid is Urdu work, originally published in 1846. It was the first attempt of any Indian author to present Delhi’s heritage in vernacular language. The original work was divided into 4 parts, covered in about 600 pages. The work was presented in the Asiatic Society, London, where they requested it to be translated to English. Sir Syed and Mr. Roberts, the district magistrate of Shahjahanabad started its translation. It was then, when they found that this original work is full of flaws and is not organized properly. Sir Syed had to stall the translation and fix the flaws. In the preface of second edition, Sir Syed mentions “The original work was then found to be insufficient and full of defects, and the need to re-write it afresh in order to remove those drawbacks was realized. Hence the translation work was postponed and the book was re-written afresh.

However, I feel that even in this second edition of 1854, many of the flaws were not fixed, perhaps, new were introduced.

Flaws in Athar-us-Sanadid

This Blog post will get too long if I were to discuss every page of Athar-us-Sanadid. However, to spark the conversation let me point out following things:

  1. About Qutub Minar, Sir Syed mentions that the first door of minaret faces Northward, as the hindus always have it, whereas Mohammedans always have it eastward.
    Fact: Direction of gate depends on many factors in Hindu Vastu Kala. We have numerous temples facing West, East or South. Also, It is not important that Muslims buildings face eastward. We have strong examples from Feroz Shah Kotla, Khirki, Bijai Mandal and few others. Even Taj Mahal has entry from South.
  2. More about Qutub Minar, he mentions that it is customary for Hindus to commence building without any platform. But mohamedans first make a platform and then erect the building.
    Fact: There is only 1 temple (brick temple near Kanpur), that I am aware of, where we do not have a platform. All other Hindu buildings are made with a platform. Take Temples, or even if we talk about towers, take example of Kirti Stambh in Chhittorgarh. Platform is an important element everywhere and has a strong significance in Vastu Shastra.
  3. Sir Syed mentions that the first level of Qutub Minar was made by Prithvi Raj Chauhan (Rai Pithora, as he mentions), but his conclusion is majorly based on above two points, which we know, were written without gathering proper information about Hindu architecture.
  4. Sir Syed attributes talks about Indraprastha and says that King Indra (the god of rain) distributed pearls in this area and hence it is called Indraprastha. Kind Indra, the king of sky is also the king of this land.
  5. Sir Syed attributes King Anangpal Tomar with the construction of Old Fort.
    Fact: Anangpal built Lal Kot of Mehrauli and not Old Fort. Ain-i-Akbari mentions this fort as Kaurav-Pandav ka Qila. The present fort was built by Sher Shah Suri. On reading complete description of Sir Syed, I realized that he mixed up Lal Kot and Shergarh
  6. Sir Syed mentions that Qila Rai Pithora was built in 1143 AD.
    Fact: Prithvi Raj Chauhan was born in 1149 AD
  7. Sir Syed mentions at one place that Mehrauli is called so because of ‘Meher-i-Wali’. Wali here is refered to Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki
    Fact: Mehrauli is a corruption of Mihirapuri. The name finds mention in Jain Pattawalis and in records of several travellers, who came to the observatory of Varah Mihir, which was in Mihirapuri (now Mehrauli).

I want to mention several more, but the post will become very long. I may keep adding information to same blog in future, if required.

Please feel free to correct me, if I am wrong. And in case you have better information to add, please use the comments section below.

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Ramayana

Maharishi ValmikiRatnakar, a robber once tried to rob sage Narad. It was a routine job for him, to kill and rob travelers. But this time was different. Narad asked him, you do all this for your family, but will your family also share the load of your sins. This left Ratnakar deep thinking. He checked with his family and to his surprise, they did not agree to share the burden of his sins, regardless of the luxuries it provided. At this, Ratnakar asked Narad to teach him the right path. Narad told him the story of Lord Ram and also said, you should chant God’s name. But the name he gave was ‘Mara’ (means dead). So Ratnakar started meditating and chanting MARA-MARA-MARA…MA.RA.MA.RA.MA.RAMA.RAMA.RAM….RAM-RAM-RAM-RAM……

His chant soon became Lord Ram’s Name. But by the time he could master his worship, he was buried deep in anthills. When he reached the divine stage, the holy voice from heaven told him to rise and gave him a new name: Valmiki (means Ant-hill in Sanskrit).

This robber turned into the biggest saint of all times. It is said that when Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya, he had to disown his pregnant wife. His wife, Sita, took shelter at Sage Valmiki’s ashram. Rishi Valmiki also wrote the famous epic Ramayana and taught it to Sita’s children, Luv and Kush, which they recited in Ram’s court. That’s how their father Ram recognized them and momentarily reunited with his wife Sita.

Since then, hundreds of versions of Ramayan have been written. While most are mere translations, some were written from scratch, according to regional beliefs. The biggest challenge has been that the original Ramayana story was told to Valmiki by Narad and then passed to Luv and Kush. The original text was lost long back but it did travel orally to different regions and cultures. Saints and Poets from all across tried to interpret the epic in their local language. During this interpretation and translation from oral traditions, many aspects of the story were changed. However, one common and most important thing remains constant in all versions: Ramayana is actually a compilation of teaching of ancient Hindu sages. It presents these teachings in a nice narrative, where each character, starting from Lord Rama to Ravana and Sugreev are fundamental to cultural consciousness of the region, where Hinduism was prevailing.

Most importantly, Ramayana is not restricted to Hinduism. Muslims of South India incorporated the message of Ramayana in their poems and the work is called Mappillapattu or Muslim Ramayana. Jains have their own version of Ramayana, where Lakshmana kills Ravana instead of Rama, for which he is pushed to hell along with Ravana. Rama is characterized an upright person who at the end sacrifices his kingdom, becomes a Jain monk and attains Moksha. They also believe that Ravana will one day be born as a Jain Tirthankara.

The Buddhist version is much different from others. Here, King Dashrath was ruling Banaras (Varanasi) and not Ayodhya. He gave birth to Ram, Laxman, and Sita through his first wife. To save these siblings from his second wife, he sent the trio to Himalayas. 12 year later they come and now Ram and Sita became consorts and ruled the kingdom. Interestingly, abduction of Sita has no mention in this version.

Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th spiritual master of Sikhs also wrote the story of Ram in his bani ‘Ath Chaubees Avatar’ in Sri Dasam Granth. Even Guru Granth Sahib mentions characters and message of Ramayana at several places. ‘Salok Mahalla 9’ in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, written by Guru Teg Bahadur (9th Sikh guru) says:

Ram gayo, raavan gayo, jaako bahu parivaar, Kahu nanak thir kichh nahi, supne jiyo sansaar’. Means, both Ram and Ravan, who had such big family left this mortal world. Nanak says, nothing is stable. This world is like a dream.

Interestingly, while over 300 versions of Ramayana exist, Maharishi Valmiki is said to have written two versions himself. The other version is called ‘Adbhut Ramayana’, where after killing 10-headed demon Ravana, Lord Rama travels to Pushkar to kill his elder brother, the 1000-headed Ravana. Later in this narration, Sita transforms into Goddess Mahakali or Shakti. The best part is that even Lord Ram prays to Goddess Shakti with 1008 divine names, which glory the virtues and attributes of the Goddess.

Rishi Ved VyasRishi Ved Vyasa also authored a version of Ramayana, where an entire episode of maid Mantara provoking Queen Kaikayi to send Ram to exile was not an act of cruelty. Goddess Saraswati came as Mantara to play her part in the larger drama of destiny. Ram was born to remove the evils of Ravana, hence Saraswati helped the situation. Since Ram knew of the abduction of Sita, he ensured that Sita had her illusion born of fire in place. Here, all characters and their acts are portrayed as spiritual messages.

 

 

In Sri Lanka, the version of Ramayana depicts Ravana as Hero. Malaysian version places Dashratha as the grandson of prophet Adam and Ravana receives boons from Allah. Also, Laxman is a hero instead of Ram. In Thai version, Sita is the daughter of Ravana and Mandodry, while Hanuman is the main hero, instead of Ram or Laxman. Despite all these variations, the core message of humanity and spirituality remains same.

A Forgotten Battle for Independence

When India got independence on 15th August 1947, everyone thanked the great leaders of the country, who fought throughout their lives for this day. On one hand, people were rejoicing with extreme happiness, and on other hand, they were remembering those, whom they lost in this 100 years long battle for independence. The first major protest, which spread nationwide was recorded in 1857, which is now known as the First was of Indian Independence. After British oppressed this mutiny, they got busy in reorganizing the power and ensuring that such incidents are prevented in future. But the spark of freedom had started in every region of India. Some of the revolutions grew bigger and became famous, while most of them died within small paragraphs of history textbooks.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s royal mansion next to Rashtrapati Bhawan has now been converted into a museum. Several rooms in there are filled with stuff related to Nehru and the Indian Independence. In a corner of one such room, the curator cared to put few pictures of those social reformers, who rose around 1857, but were silenced by the British. This article is about one such social reformer, whose contribution to the society has been forgotten with time. He started his protest in 1857, just a month before the famous mutiny broke and was able to fight till 1872, but his followers continued to obey the commandments even to the present day.

clip_image002The battle of Mudki in Punjab was a major turning point for British and their advance towards North India. A soldier from 12th battalion of Kanwar Nau Nihal Singh’s regiment (Grandson of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab), decided to leave his job as a warrior and take the path of peace. But he was also very much disturbed by the fact that how British had played tricks and bribed the Sikh generals to take over Punjab unethically. He came back to his village near Ludhiana and started meditating. A decade later, he decided to restore the status of Sikhs in Punjab. He found out that there is hardly any person left, who is following the true path of Guru Nanak & Guru Gobind. Hence, in April 1857, he baptised his followers and which later came to be known as the Namdharis, or more popularly, the “Kukas”. A month later, the 1857 uprising started but Kukas continued to meditate and live peacefully. They were now obeying the commandments of this reformer, the saint-soldier, Satguru Ram Singh (as commonly referred by his followers).

Seyi net furi aaye, samvat-e bahattre main,
magh sudi panchami, suvere guruvaar ke,
zila ludhiana, graam bhaini naam jaane aam,
avtare Singh Ram, kalam le taar ke,
Jaat Tarkhaan, Jassa naam ke avasse ghar,
sada maat main prakashe naam prachaar ke,
balak hi pan main thhe, ishvar ko mann main thhe,
dhiyavate se gann main thhe, jano ke sudhaar ke

– Panth Prakash, Giani Gian Singh

Translation:

In samvat 72 (read Samvat Bikri 1872), Ram Singh was incarnated, on the Thursday morning of Magh Sudi Panchami (aka Basant Panchmi) in Bhaini Village of District Ludhiana (Punjab). He was born to (Sardar) Jassa (Singh) of Tarkhan (Carpenter) community. He spread the holy name of god in this mortal world. He was a divine soul since childhood, worshiped god from his heart and always prayed for the betterment of everyone.

Baba Ram Singh ji was born on Basant Panchami in village Raiyan near Bhaini in Ludhiana district. After leaving Sikh Army, he settled in Bhaini Village, which also became the birth place of Kuka Movement sometime later. His village is now converted to a huge Gurudwara Complex, where every building marks some historic event. He established the community kitchen and started spreading his message of love and peace from his house. But things changed as the British was spreading their command deeper into villages of Punjab.

clip_image003Few months before the famous battle of 1857, the Kukas had formed a strong sect. Baba Ram Singh gave them few instructions, from where the “Kuka Movement” started. It also became one of the first boycott movements of India. The commandments clearly stated:

  • We will boycott the British governance & Administration
  • We will boycott the British products
  • No one will ever drink English tea, as it was introduced by the British
  • No one should wear English cloths. Only home-spun white kurta-payjama should be worn
  • No one will use refined sugar from mills setup by British. We shall continue to use jaggery and sugarcane juice
  • No one will use the water of canals established by British. Use water from wells, which community has dug up
  • No one will stand in the shade of trees, that British planted
  • We will not use public transport started by the British
  • The British postal System should be boycotted

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With the above commandments, Kukas established a parallel administration. They had 22 Subas (heads) across 22 zones of Punjab. They started their own transport and postal system. Many Kukas don’t drink tea even till date. They are distinguished by their white cotton/khadi Kurta Payjama and round turban. They also abolished ill practices like Dowry and abandonment of widows. Kukas practice mass-marriages and believe in widow remarriage and are very strictly against dowry.

After the war of 1857, British went back to their thinking desks and started working on a better plan to rule India. They found that this outbreak was due to religious sentiments. The only way to ensure that no such thing happens again is to break the religious backbone of the people of India. The infamous “Divide and Rule” policy of British was tested to its extreme. One major decision taken during this course was to remove the copper plates from Amritsar, which read “Cows are not to be killed in Amritsar. The penalty of killing cow is death”. After removing these plates, a cow-slaughter house was approved in Amritsar, right next to the holy shrine of Sikhs, the Golden Temple. Similar slaughter houses came up in other areas of Punjab as well. The Kuka movement shook the British to an extend but was supressed after a series of incidents at Amritsar, Malerkotla and Raikot, where small batches of Kukas decided to go violent and take revenge on the slaughterhouses, which were butchering cows right next to the religious shrines. British took these incidents as an excuse and arrested Baba Ram Singh. He was sent to various prisons in India before finally being exiled to Burma, from where he never returned. He was kept in the same building, where Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor of India spent his last days. I earlier wrote an article about this Prison Palace of the Last Mughal. In coming days, I shall write about the episodes of Malerkotla and Amritsar, where Kukas went to massacre butchers and destroy slaughterhouses, after which they surrender themselves in courts and not only accepted capital punishments, but also went to fulfil the death penalties without any assistance. The village of Bhaini Sahib was converted into a Jail. The village earlier had a wall around it and there was only one gate to enter the village. The gate was sealed for over a decade and only a handful of people were allowed to go in or come out on a given day. Heavy checking at the entry made life of villagers very difficult and there was a time, when there was no food left and no material was allowed by the British inside the walls. In coming days, I shall write about these incidents in detail.

 

The Grand Trunk Road

We’re marchin’ on relief over Injia’s sunny plains,
A little front o’ Christmas-time an’ just be’ind the Rains;
Ho! get away you bullock-man, you’ve ‘eard the bugle blowed,
There’s a regiment a-comin’ down the Grand Trunk Road;

– Rudyard Kipling

Thousands of years ago, when the earliest known human civilizations decided to explore far far away lands, the concept of migration started. One such migration forms the famous archaeological finding called the ‘Cemetery H Culture’, which spreads from Harappa in Pakistan to the Ganga-Yamuna Basin in India, covering entire East-West Punjab (circa 1700 BCE). This is also considered to be the nucleus od Vedic Civilization. As we all know, this Indus Valley Civilization revolved around trading. They established common paths to move between various settlements, which are used till date.

GTRoad_Ambala

In around 3rd century BC, as the Mauryan Empire was flourishing, a road was built to the main centre of learning ‘Taxila’ and later even further up to Balkh in Khurasan (now in Afghanistan) from Patiliputra (now Patna). This road was used by every traveller who had to cross Khyber Pass and enter into the Hind. The same route was used by invaders like Ghori and Ghazni. With time, the road reached the eastern end of empire, which today falls deep inside Bangladesh. A Greek observer recorded that Samrat Chandragupta Maurya poured manpower to maintain this road. This road is mentioned in several ancient texts and appears as “Uttarpath” (Northern-Road).

SherShahSuriTime passed and rulers came and went, ruling over the entire breadth of Hindostan, which stretched from present day Afghanistan to eastern ends of Bangladesh. In 16th century, as Emperor Babur came to India, he hired Farid Khan (aka Sher Khan) an Afghan born in Sasram (Bihar), who later dethroned Babur’s son Humayun and took  over the throne of Delhi, and became Emperor of Hindostan. This general, popularly known as Sher Shah Suri decided to restore this ancient path and make it more useful. He deployed enormous labour to revive the Uttarpath and connected his hometown Sasaram to Agra. He died soon after that, the Mughals that came afterwards connected Kabul (Afghanistan) with Chittagong (Bangladesh) using this road. Today, this road connects the capitals of 4 countries and covers a total distance of 2500 kilometres (1600 miles). During this time, this road was known by many names, eg: Shah Rah-e-Azam (“Great Road”) or Sadak-e-Azam or Badshahi Sadak.

Map

In 18th century, as the British came, they maintained this road and later converted it to a motorable road. They started calling it the “Grand Trunk Road”, sometimes also referring to it as the “Long Walk”. During that period, it was maintained between Howrah and Peshawar.

ShambhuSerai

kosminarIt is very interesting to see how the Afghans & Mughals built ‘Kos Minars’ at each ‘Kos’ (ancient measuring unit with 1 Kos approximately equal to 1.8 Km). They also built forts and most important, Caravan Serais (Inns) at regular distances. These Serais had a mosque, rooms for travellers, area reserved for animals and lot more to offer to travellers than they can ask for while travelling for thousands of kilometres. Many of these Serais are lost, but most of them still exist. Today, huge urban settlements have come up around those historic serais and the only way to identify is to check the name of locality, as most of them still use the old serai names.

 

Popular Towns on the GT Road

 

afghanistan_small Afghanistan

starKabul, Surobu, Jalalabad, Torkham (Khyber Pass)

 

pakistan_small Pakistan

Torkham, Landi Kotal, Wali Khel, Ali Masjid, Jamrud, Peshawar, Nowshera, Attock, Wah, starIslamabad, Tarnol, Rawalpindi (& Taxila), Gujar Khan, Jhelum, Kharian, Gujrat, Gujranwala, Kamoki, Muridke, Lahore, Wagha

 

india_small India

Atari, Amritsar, Kartarpur, Jalandhar, Phagwara, Goraya, Ludhiana, Khanna, Sirhind, Rajpura, Ambala, Shahbad Markanda, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panipat, Sonipat, starDelhi, Ghaziabad, Bulandshehar, Aligarh, Etah, Kannauj, Kanpur, Fatehpur, Khaga, Allahabad, Handia, Gopiganj, Varanasi, Mohania, Sasaram, Dehri, Aurangabad, Dumri, Dhanbad, Asansol, Raniganj, Durgapur, Bardhaman, Howra-Kolkata, Gaigata, Bangaon, Petrapol

 

bangladesh_small Bangladesh

Benapole, Jhikargacha, Jessore, starDhaka, Sonargaon, Jamaldi, Daudkandi, Comilla, Feni, Baroiar Hat, Sitakunda, Bhatiari, Salimpur, Chittagong

A Budget disaster, six centuries ago

clip_image002[7]Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, Emperor of Hindostan (India) from February 1325 to March 1351, was a visionary, learned and wise emperor. But he was also lunatic, crazy and cruel. He took some decisions, which he thought are for the betterment for the country, but ended up messing everything and was given a nickname by his own countrymen: “Pagla Sultan” (Crazy Emperor). His decisions were ambitious and attempted with best intentions, but exhibited lack of proper planning and inadequacy of correct information. He was a visionary, who extended his empire to a limit, to which no other Sultan of Delhi did in entire history of Sultanate period. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was a highly qualified person. He was one of those few Islamic/Turkik rulers, who could understand and speak Sanskrit along with Persian, Turkish and Arabic. His interest in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy and physical sciences gave him the tag of ‘Scholar’. With the knowledge of medicine he had, he was half a doctor himself. Such a learned person he was, that he thought of far future but failed to handle the present. Policies and Innovations excited him and he was always busy in planning something new for domestic and foreign front. He used his knowledge of languages and philosophy to unite India and to establish embassies in various other countries.

He started the practice of keeping record of income and expenses of all princes. Governors were told to submit periodic account statements of their jurisdiction. It was the earliest form of centrally controlled accounting system that would involve everyone, from the king to peasant. It was considered a useless step at that time but today we know how important national level central accounting system and national budget has become in our lives.

Since Anangpal Tomar stepped in Delhi in 736 AD, around 38 rulers from 6 dynasties ruled from Delhi’s throne. Many of these established cities, forts and villages. To name a few, Tomars built Lal Kot, Mahipal Tuar (Tomar) built Mahipalpur (near airport), Prithvi Raj Chauhan built Qila Rai Pithora, Khilji built Siri and Ghiasuddin Tughlaq built the majestic fort of Tughlaqabad. But Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was a visionary and he realized that the growing population of his capital will require bigger places to live. He did the best part by combining the previously built cities – Rai Pithora, Siri & Tughlaqabad and created ‘Jahanpanah’ (Abode of the world).

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq sent his army to attack Himalayan provinces like Kangra and even the Chinese cities. There was only one flaw in his otherwise flawless military plan: he forgot to account the power of nature and weather of the Himalayas. His bravest men were sacrificed to the cold weather, which they were never prepared for. His military expeditions were affecting the national treasure badly. Tughlaq was then forced to increase taxes. He guessed that the most productive land in his empire is the portion between Ganges and Yamuna (area locally called Doab). He increased the tax to as many as 20 folds in this area, but failed to account that the year he increased the tax was the year of famine. Poor and frustrated people left their homes and become robbers and dacoits. But govt. officials continued to collect tax, which resulted in a major revolt.

Very late, Tughlaq realized his mistake and established a ministry for Agriculture. He instructed his new minister to find more fertile land and lease it out to poor farmers, who will cultivate it for court’s benefit. This policy was even bigger failure and the department was shut within 2-3 years because of high level of corruption amongst the people who were implementing it. They purchased very poor land for cultivation and assigned it to people, who had no interest in cultivating govt. land.

One of Tughlaq’s worst decisions was to shift the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad. It is a fort city in Maharashtra, which was earlier known as Deogiri. Circa 1327, Tughlaq forced entire population of Delhi to shift to Daulatabaad. He thought that to unite India, he must be centrally placed. He also wanted to move away from Delhi because it was on direct radar of invaders from Khorasan. The third reason to shift was that he realized that a country as big as Hindostan, needs atleast two capitals. But his men failed to analyze the situation and land properly. The land of Daulatabad and the journey to that land was one of the biggest disasters of the Sultanate period. The city was abandoned within 2 years due to lack of water and adequate cultivable land. Delhi’s population lost everything they had and businesses were shattered. Most of them died during this transition and almost entire cattle fleet of Delhi was finished.

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With such disastrous decisions, Muhammad Bin Tughlaq decided to improve his financial status. He needed more money but in order to mint Gold Coins, he needed lot of money, which was already depleting. So he decided to mint coins from Copper and value them equal to Gold. Circa 1329, he released his copper currency from mints of Delhi and Daulatabad. This policy was based on Chinese currency system, where brass and copper coins were used and equivalent gold/silver was kept in treasury. Tughlaq’s two scalable standards were issued, one in North and other in South. In order to impress his citizens he engraved on his Copper coins “He who obeys the Sultan obeys the compassionate”. For a change, citizens were very happy with this move, because this currency was so easy to forge. Illegal mints were established across the city of Delhi and people started minting copper coins and using them as Gold Coins. Within 2-3 years, the treasury was in its worst state ever. Tughlaq ordered immediate recovery of copper coins and in order to ensure that innocent people do not suffer, he decided to reimburse the copper coins with original gold coins. The illegal mints minted their last lot of illegal currency and got it replaced with Gold. The currency mafia in Delhi became millionaire overnight and the royal court was no longer able to support Tughlaq’s ambitious plans. For years, heaps of copper was laying everywhere in courts of Tughlaq.

clip_image010[4]Tughlaq’s gold and silver coins were minted in cities of Delhi, Daulatabad, Lakhnauti (now Lucknow), Salgaun, Sultanpur (now Warangal), Tirhut and couple of other cities. He also changed the weight of Gold Dinar from 172 to 202 grains. His silver coins (Adlis) were not very popular amongst people and lasted only 7 years of circulation. He is known to issue more than 30 varieties of calligraphy rich bullion coins.

Budget has been the most important function of any government. Various policies of government rely on budget but when government plans their budget without accounting all factors, disasters like “Tughlaqi Farmans” happen.

Note: The pictures were taken from Google. My credits to people who have clicked them. Unfortunately, I do not know who did this exercise with the camera. Please let me know if you own the pic, so I can give you due credit.

Untold story of the Qutub Minar

Mamluk Sultan Altamash (Iltutmish) built the Minarah, which till date is the tallest rubble masonry minaret on earth. Then why do we call it the Qutub Minar?

Qutub Minar

The Qutb Minar (also spelled as Qutub Minar or Kutb Minar) is world’s tallest rubble masonry minaret and a world heritage site in Delhi. It is situated within the Qutb Complex, which has been the centre of the first city of Delhi since the first Muslim ruler stepped here. Before Muhammad-bin-Sam (Muhammad Ghori) defeated Prithvi Raj Chauhan, this land was with Tomar Rajpoots & Chauhans (Arkpal Tomar gave it to his grandson Prithvi). Chauhan extended the walls of Lal Kot to create Qila Rai Pithora. Ghori left his governor Qutb-ud-din Aibak to rule India after defeating Prithvi Raj  Chauhan in 1060 A.D. and thus the slave dynasty started in India. There is a huge minar in the heart of this city, which most people attribute to this first Islamic ruler of north India – Qutb-ud-Din Aibak. But is this true? This article unfolds a story, least discussed in History.

 

The Qutb Complex

Qutb-layout

The Qutb Complex was originally a site with 27 Hindu and Jain Temples. These temples were destroyed by the Islamic invaders to obtain stone and raw material for their mosques and other buildings. These temples existed much before Ghori was even born.

As the rulers from slave dynasty planned their buildings, they were short of raw material. By demolishing the majestic temples, they served another very important purpose. To ensure stronghold, it was important that the backbone of religion prevailing in conquered land is crushed. Destroying temples meant that the new Islamic Invaders had no respect for the religion being practiced by locals. They were in such hurry of completing the job, that they were not able to deface the statues properly. Even today, the remains of temples can be seen within the Qutb Complex.

The First Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid of Qutb Complex For those who don’t know, ‘Jama Masjid’ (or Jami Masjid or Jumma Masjid or Masjid-e-Jami) is the majestic Friday Mosque built for the Muslim population of the city. Inscriptions on the Qutb Minar suggested that Qutb-ud-Din Aibak built this Mosque as the first building after stepping on Indian Land. This was the oldest mosque of North India. There are few mosques built in Tamil Nadu and Kerala before this. Qutb-ud-din Aibak was ruling over Delhi from 1206 to 1210 AD. There is a confusion over the actual name of this mosque. These days, we call it Quwwat-ul-Islam (Might of Islam) but the old books suggest that its name was Qubbat-e-Islam. R.N.Munshi even writes it as ‘Qutb-ul-Islam’. Further, Munshi quotes the translation of the inscription written on the walls of Mosque (done by Thomas in his book – Pathan Kings):

Kutb-ud-Din Aibak, on whom be the mercy of God, constructed this mosque.

This fortress was conquered and this Masjid Jami was built during the months of the year 587 by the great and mighty commander-in-chief Kutb-ul-Dawlat-wa-ul-Din, the commander of commanders, Aibeg Sultan. May God exalt his helpers. Materials from 27 idol temples, each of which cost twice thousand into thousand Diliwals, have been used in this Masjid. May Almighty God send mercy on him, who prays for the rest of the builder.

Quote Ref: The History of the Kutb Minar (Delhi) by R. N. Munshi (1911)

Later this mosque was extended by Alaudin Khilji and a college (Madrasa) was added to it. When Khilji died, he was buried in the same mosque and his tomb, though not decorated with glorifying marble and inscriptions, was built in same complex.

 

Origin of Qutb Minar

Qutub-4 According to the popular  belief, the Qutb Minar (or Qutub Minar) was built by the first Islamic ruler of North India, Qutubud-din Aibak. However, I have found numerous proofs that he neither had funds, nor time (in his tiny 4 year regime),  to build, or even commence such a majestic structure. It appears to me that associating it with Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak was a “historian’s mistake”. If you read historians & travellers, who came to India during the Sultanate period, you will find that they honour this Minar as ‘Sultan Altamash’s Minar’. Hasan Nizami dedicated his work Taj-ul-Maasir (the crown of exploits) to sultan Aibak but also mentioned major events from the period of his predecessor and successor. There is no reference to any such Minar in this important piece of work, which talks about period after 7 years of death of Aibak. If Qutubuddin Aibak even dreamed about (if not commissioned) this minar, then we must have found atleast some mention in this book. But Hasan Nizami do talk about the Jami Masjid of Delhi built by Aibak in following manner:

Kutb-ud-Din built the Jami Masjid at Delhi, and adorned it with the stones and gold obtained from the temples which had been demolished by elephants, and covered it with inscriptions in Yoghra, containing the divine commands.”

Following are the other prominent travel historians of related period

  • Ibn Asir (with his work Kamil-ut-Tawarikh aka Tarikh-i-Kamil)
  • Ata Malik Juwaini aka Alau-ud-din Juwaini (with his work Tarikh-i-Jahan-Kusha)
  • Maulana Nuruddin Muhammed ‘Ufi, who lived in Delhi during Altamash’s period (with his work Jami-ul-Hikayat wa Liwami-ul-Riwayat)
  • Minhaj-i-Siraj (with his work Tabkat-i-Nasiri)

The above authors make no mention of Minar. If it was one of the biggest construction of era, these people, who were living in Delhi and writing particularly on Qutb-ud-Din Aibak must have mentioned about it.

Fatuhat-i-Feroz Shahi, written by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq himself has a mention of Qutb Minar. It says:

“The minara of Sultan Muizz-ud-din Sam had been struck by lightning. I repaired it and raised it higher than it was before”

It should be noted that Feroz Shah Tughlaq also repaired other monuments and mention correct names like Hauz-i-Shamsi, Hauz-i-Alai, Madrasa of Altamash, Rukn-ud-din’s Tomb, Sultan Jalal-ud-Din’s Tomb and so on. Tarikh-i-Firozshahi written by Shams-i-Siraj Afif however refer to this Minar as “the large pillar at old Delhi” raised by Sultan Shams-ud-Din Altamash. Ibn Batuta was not sure who built this minar so all he wrote about the builder was “Is it the minar of Feroz Shah”. Babur in his memoirs mention about this minar as the Minar of Sultan Alauddin Khilji. This shows that even till late 16th century, this minar was not attributed to Qutb-ud-Din Aibak. It was known by the names of Altamash, Khilji or Tughlaq, who we know built and repaired portions of minar.

Translation on the entrance gate of Qutb minar:

The prophet on whom be the mercy and peace of God, has declared “whoever erects a temple to the true God (on earth,) shall receive six such ‘dwellings in Paradise’. The Minar, the building of the king of kings, Shems-ud-Dunya-wa-ud-Din, now in peace and pardon, be his tomb protected, and his place be assigned in heaven ____ was injured by lightning in the reign of the exalted monarch Secander the son of Behlol : (may his power and empire last for ever and his reign be glorious); and therefore the slave Fatteh-Khan, the son of Mesned-Ali the liberal of the liberal, and the meritorious servant of the king _____________, repaired it according to command. The 13th of Rebi-ul-Akher in the year 909.

<FROM DOOR ON FIRST BALCONY>

The Sultan Shams-ul-Hak-wa-ud-Din Altamash ____ erected this building

<FROM FOURTH STORY>

“The erection of this building was commanded in the glorious time of the great Sultan, the mighty king of kings, the master of mankind, the lord of the monarchs of Turkistan, Arabia and Persia; the Sun of the World and Religion, of the Faith and the Faithful, the lord of safety and protection, the heir of the kingdom of Sulman Abul Muzeffer Altamash, Nasir-Amin-ul-Momenin”

– Translation by Mr. Walter Ewer in Asiatic Researces vol. XIV (Cal: 1822)

We can see from the above proofs that this Minar was always known as the Minar of Altamash and not of Qutub-ud-Din Aibak.

 

Minarets of Jam, Ghazni and Konye

Reputed historian Sir Syed Ahmed in his work Athar-us-Sanadid said that this Minar was actually built by Prothvi Raj Chauhan so that his daughter can have a view of Jamuna river. But if it is true, then its design and architecture must be unique and not match with the other Minars of Islamic countries.

Minars

Minaret of Ghazni: Built by Muizuddin Bahram in 10th century in the city of Ghazni. It is little different from the Qutb Minar but has many similarities, like built by same generation of rulers and it is also the minaret of a mosque.

Minaret of Gutluk Temir in Konye-Urgench: This is the third tallest rubble masonry minaret in world built in Old Urgench city of Turkmenistan in 11th century.

Minaret of Jam: This Minaret, very much similar to the architecture of Qutub Minar is situated in Shahrak District of Ghor Province of Afghanistan. It is right next to the Hari River. This 65 metre high minaret was completed in 12th century. This place (called Firuzkoh) was the summer capital of Ghorid Dynasty (from where Qutbuddin Aibak came). This is the second tallest rubble masonry minaret of world and was probably attached to a mosque, just like Qutb Minar.

 

Qutbuddin Or Qutbuddin

Some historians went to an extend claiming that Altamash dedicated this Minaret to Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (r.a.), whose shrine is right behind this complex. Khwaja Kaki (ra) is the immediate successor of Hz. Khwaja Mouinuddin Chisti (ra) of Ajmer. This could be true because we know how much Altamash respected Hazrat Kaki (ref: work by Maulana Minhaj Siraj). A friend of mine, Khalid bin Umar told me a story:

Khwaja Qutub-ud-din Bakhtiyar Kaki (1173-1235 AD) is one of the most respected and esteemed Buzurg in India. He lived during the reign of Altamash ( Eltutmish) and died in Delhi. When Khawaja Qutub-ud-Din Bakhtiyar Kaki’s janazah was ready for the last salat. The khadim-i-khas came forward and announced that according to the will of Khawaja Sahib the funeral prayer (salat-ul-janazah) is to be led by the person who fulfills these 3 requirements:

  1. He should have never committed adultery after reaching puberty.
  2. He should have never missed the 4 rakat of sunnah(ghair-muakkidah) before Asr salat.
  3. He should have never missed Takbir-i-Ula’ ( Opening Takbir in Salat) in prayer ( Jamat)

The huge crowd stood still !
Hundreas of Awliya , Shyukh of Delhi as well as Shaykh’s senior disciples were present there. No one came forward.Khadim repeatedly announced the requirements. But there was no response. A sense of impatience was being felt.
Finally, Sultan Shamusddin Altamash (May Allah have mercy on him) stepped forward. He remarked, “No one knew my secret, the respected Khawaja disclosed it. All praise is to Allah, I fullfil these criteria”. He then led the prayers.

I have serious doubts on the fact that Qutb Minar was named after Hazrat Khwaja because if it really was, Altamash must have engraved atleast some information in this regard on the tower. He had all the time in world to write almost everything on this minaret and even the kings that followed him wrote a lot on it. But no one ever mentioned anything about Hazrat Kaki, ever. However, Ritter in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Vol XX, Nos. I to VIII, 1851, p353), wrote that this Minar could be in honour of Qutub Sahib, the celebrated saint. This statement is further corroborated by Major Raverty in his translation of Tabakat-i-Nasiri where he calls this Minar as ‘Lath of Kutb Sahib’. Several other historians like Miss Mabel Duff (aka Mrs. W. R. Rickemers) and even Sir Alexander Cunningham (Dir. Gen. of ASI – 1862) support this statement. But they all put forward their assumptions and no one gives an assurance of confirmed fact to prove it. The only logical reason was given by R.N. Munshi, who says that since Hazrat Kaki was such a celebrated saint, it is possible that the emperors never thought of putting an extra line on the Minaret and it was assumed by everyone as the ‘Laat of Qutub Sahib’

 

[Edited – 16 October 2015]

Link with 27 Nakshatras

Many people claim that since there were 27 temples and Qutub Minar has 27 edges on base, this could be a Hindu observatory to study the Constellation movement as Hindus believe in 27 Nakshatras. Well, before paying attention to any such rumour, I would request readers to ponder upon following points:

  1. There were 27 temples. They were a mix of Jain and Hindu Temples. This makes it impossible to form a pattern for observatory
  2. These temples were built in different eras, some even decades apart. There is no proper documentation for each.
  3. Temples were not in a single complex. They were spread across the length and breadth of this first city. Some were even outside the walls of Lal Kot and Rai Pithora. We still have Jain Dada Badi and few other remains
  4. A portion of Temple is still intact in the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. One should see its placement and design, before reaching the final conclusion.
  5. The base has 27 conical edges and 27 circular ones. This makes it 54 at base.

 

Qutub Minar has a long and mysterious history. People like me will never be able to unfold it completely. However, I have tried my best to put forward the facts that I learned in past few years.

———-
Vikramjit Singh Rooprai

 

The Last Hindu Emperor

PrithviRajChauhan Search this title on Google and all you will find is “Prithvi Raj Chauhan”. He was a brave fighter and a noble emperor of Ajmer and Delhi who ruled from 1169 CE to 1192 CE. Tales of his bravery are common folklores amongst Indian families. But very few learned writers talk about the Hindu Emperors, that came to power after him. In this article, we will talk about the Emperor, who ruled entire Northern India and virtually the entire India from the throne of Delhi.

After Samrat Prithvi Raj Chauhan was captured by Muhammad bin Sam (Muhammed Ghori) in the second battle of Tarain (1192 AD), the Sultanate Period started in India. Rulers like Qutb-ud-Din Aibak, Iltutmish, Ghiasuddin Balban and Razia Sultana were prominent during the Slave Dynasty, the first Islamic Dynasty to rule the region. The last emperor of Slave Dynasty ‘Kayumars’ was dethroned by his own guardian Jalaluddin Firuz Khilji, who founded the Khilji Dynasty.

Khusro Khan, the Hindu, who converted

Alaudin Khilji attacked Gujarat in 1297 AD under the command of Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan and defeated the last Hindu Ruler of Gujarat Karan Vaghela. Before Khilji forces killed leaders Hamirji Gohil and Vegado Bhil near Somnath, Vagedo took a promise from one of his loyal to escape and take revenge from Khilji. This guy came to Delhi as a war prisoner and converted to Islam.  He was given the name ‘Hasan’ and later Qutubuddin Mubarak Shah of Khilji dynasty gave him the name ‘Khusro Khan’.

It is said that Khusro Khan got Alauddin Khilji killed through his friend Jahiriya and later managed to kill his master Mubarak Shah and declared himself the king of Delhi. But in just 4 months, he was captured and killed by Khilji’s loyal general Ghyasuddin Tughlaq, who after that formed his own dynasty by the name ‘Tughlaq Dynasty’.

Khusro Khan was against laws which favoured tax system based on religion. It is said that he was against women being treated as war booty. He took strong steps to prevent harems and sex slaves. Perhaps his own sufferings made him think this way but this caused nobles to go against him.

 

Samrat Hemchandra Vikramaditya (Hemu)

Hemchandra Bhargawa or Hemu (1501-1556), son of Rai Puran Das, born in Alwar Rajasthan was the Chief of Army & Prime Minister during the regime of Adil Shah Suri of the Suri Dynasty. He fought 22 battles in a row without even a single setback before his emperor was captured and killed in Fathpur. In his 22nd victory on 7th October 1556 against Tardi Beg Khan of Humayun’s Army, he crowned himself as the Emperor of Delhi instead of establishing the Islamic Flag of Suri Dynasty. He took the name ‘Samrat Hemchandra Vikramaditya’. Some say that he was very much influenced by the famous Vijaynagar Empire of South and based his kingdom on those lines.  Although Hemu’s rule was very short, he was able to struck coins bearing his name.

Hemu was a powerful general who captured the Fort of Gwalior, Agra and Delhi, which were considered to be the most powerful forts of India. He captured areas which today comprises of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana.

His rule lasted only 1 month when on 5th November 1556, Mughal armies fought with him in the battle of Panipat and captured him in unconscious state. It is said that Bairam Khan asked Akbar to behead Hemu to earn the title of Ghazi. Akbar, despite of being a kid, replied that he is already dead and if he had any movement or breathing, he would have killed him. So upon Bairam Khan’s request, Akbar struck Hemu and later Bairam Khan beheaded him. His head was sent to Afghanistan to be hung outside the Delhi Darwaza in Kabul and his body was placed in a gibbet outside the Old Fort (then called the Shergarh).

After Hemu’s death, a massacre of Hemu’s community and followers was ordered by Bairam Khan. Thousands were beheaded and towers of skulls built with their heads, to instil terror among the Hindus. At least one painting of such minarets is displayed in the "Panipat Wars Museum" at Panipat in Haryana. These towers were still in existence about 60 years later as described by Peter Mundy, a British traveler who visited India during the time of Jahangir.

Today, no one knows about this brave emperor, who saw Hindus and Muslims with same respect and had no religious differences. He had a dream of making India a better place, if only he could have done it.

– Vikramjit S

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