Dragging of the Prince in the Market

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Dragging of the Prince in the Market

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A story of a wretched Prince, Mirza Nasir Ul Mulk who begged at Chitli Qabar (Shahjahanabad) in his last days

A translation from Khwaja Hasan Nizami, Begmat ke Aanso (The tears of the begums) by Rehan Asad

Khwaja Hasan NIzami (1879-1955)

kitnaa hai bad naseeb “Zafar” dafn key liye 
do gaz zamin bhi na mili kuu-e-yaar mein 

How unfortunate is Zafar! For his burial

Not even two yards of land were to be had, in the land of his beloved

Late nineteenth century street view of Shahjahanabad. Retrieved from  https://www.vintag.es/2013/03/photographs-of-old-delhi-from-19th.html

This heart touching verse was written by the last Mughal King Bahadur Shah Zafar when he was passing his last days in exile far away from his beloved city of Delhi. The aftermath of 1857 was the devastation of Delhi with massacre faced by residents of Shahjahanabad especially Timurid princes. This is one of the heart-rending account of the Timurid prince who survived the massacre but circumstances forced him to penury.

One year before the mutiny, the princes wandered in the outskirts of Delhi on hunting expedition. In the light moments, they were targeting small birds (Doves) resting on the greens branches of the trees. The branches of the tree gave them solace from the scorching heat of Delhi.  They were reciting the name of their creator. The catapult balls  of the young princes targeted the innocent birds.  Suddenly a Sufi mendicant came from the front and asked the Princes in humble gesture: “Dear respected children’s, why you are punishing these speechless creatures of the God. What harm they had inflicted on you. They also have a life and feel pain & sorrow like you. They are helpless because they cannot express anything from the tongue. You are the sons of the King. Kings need to reflect love and compassion for their subjects. These creatures also reside in your dominion. If they will be treated with mercy & Justice, it will be a Royal gesture”. On listening to this, the elder prince dropped his catapult but younger one Mirza Nasir Ul Mulk said in agitation “O penniless man, who is you to deliver us sermons. Everyone enjoys tour and hunting expeditions. What’s the sin if we are doing it? On listening to this, the mendicant replied “O my lord, please don’t get agitated.  Hunt the big animal if you took one life it will able to satisfy the appetite of six-seven peoples. What will be the benefit of killing these small birds? For filling the stomach of one individual you have to take the life of twenty birds”. Nasir Ul Mulk responded with rage on listening reply of Mendicant. He filled his catapult with ball & targeted it on the knee of the Sufi mendicant. The ball hit with a force that made him prone on the ground. He yelled with a pain “You broke my leg”. On listening to this, the princes mounted on their horses and moved towards the fort. The Sufi mendicant tugged his body in a state of pain towards the graveyards and cursed the princes by screaming in these words: “Why that throne will persist whose inheritors are ruthless like this”. O, boys! You broke my leg, the God will break your leg in a similar manner and you will also drag the body in a similar manner”.

The scene of the final assault showing the destruction of Kashmiri gate in 1858. Source: bbc.co.uk

The cannons were making the loud noise, and fireballs were projecting in the air. The piles of the corpses can be seen everywhere on the land. The Red Fort was deserted and devastation has started. Few of the princes were sighted running away from the fort in the distracted state towards Paharganj. Six to seven British soldiers were on advancing assault from the other side. Their guns fired on the young riders. The bullets pierced the bodies of riders and horses. Soaked in the blood all the princes writhed with the pain on the carpet of dust. When British troopers came closer, they saw that two of them have lost their life. One of them was still alive. On closer inspection, the soldiers found no injuries on his body and he momentarily lost consciousness due to psychological fear. His hands were tied with the reins of the horse and he was taken to the camp under the supervision of two soldiers. The camp was located on small Mountain. Both native and British forces were deployed there. When the high-rank official came to know that he is the Nasir Ul Mulk, the grandson of Bahadur Shah Zafar, he became happy. An order was issued to keep him alive. When defeat came on the head, the rebel forces dispersed. The advancing troops of the British Army entered the city. Bahadur Shah was arrested at Humayun Tomb. The lamp of Timurid party darkens after the last flicker.

Captain Hudson arresting last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. An illustration by J.H.Thompson. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41884390

The surrounding forest of Delhi got inhabited with royal ladies having open head & faces.  The parents were slaughtered in the front of their progenies.   The mothers lamented on visualizing their young sons wriggled in dust & blood. In this crisis, Mirza Nasir Ul Mulk was tied with a rope on the mountain camp of the British army. Suddenly a Pashtun soldier came towards him and said: “I took the permission of your release from my officer. Please escape from here urgently otherwise you will be entangled in any other problem”.  With barefoot, Mirza escaped toward the countryside after delivering thanks to the Pashtun soldier. Without any prior habit of walking on foot, he felt severe thirst after covering a distance of one mile. The tongue became dry, throat prickled with thorny sensation and blister appeared in his sole. With fatigue, he fell down under the shadow of one tree. The eyes were filled with tears and he turned his head towards the sky and said:  “Oh God! What torment came upon us? Where shall we go? Where is our shelter? When he turned up his gaze was fixed on the tree where there was the nest of a bird. The dove was resting on the eggs”.  The prince murmured with envy after he sighted the freedom & comfort of the bird:  “O Dove! You are a hundred thousand times better than me. Without any anxiety, you are resting in the nest. Today I don’t have solace in skies and land”.  At a short distance, he saw the human settlement. The prince tried hard to reach the place. It was difficult for him to walk with blisters on the sole.  On coming close, he noticed the strange scenario. More than a dozen of the villagers were gathered under the tree. In the center, there was a thirteen-year-old girl having fear on her face. Her earlobe was bleeding & she was abused by the hooligans. There was a scream on both sides when the gaze of Mirza connected with the girl. The brother and sister hugged each other and start crying. This younger sister of Mirza left for the summer palace of Mughals at Qutub complex by a chariot along with her mother.  Mirza had not presumed that they had been taken as captive. She replied: “Gujjar had robbed us on the way. All the servants had been killed. Our mother was sent to the other village. My earrings have been snatched due to which my earlobes are torn. Multiple times, they slapped on my face”.  With loud crying, she was not able to utter a single word. Mirza starts requesting with Gujjar for her rescue. The Gujjar threatened to chop the head of both brother and sisters. They were asking for the huge ransom as compensation for the rescue. Miza was trying to explain his crisis. During the conversation, the soldiers came in and Mirza and his sister were arrested along with the chief of the Gujjars.

Strangling gallows were fixed at the market of Chandni Chowk. Each day, the hundreds of the prisoners were either shot down or hanged. Due to bloodshed and genocide, there was chaos everywhere around the Delhi. Mirza Nasir Ul Mulk and his sister were also presented in the front of British Officer.  Fortunately, both of them were exempted from death sentence due to their tender age. After the release, they joined in the service of one merchant. The princess performed the babysitting and Mirza used to bring groceries from the market. After a few days, the princess died due to cholera. The prince struggled from one job to other. After a span, the Mirza Nasir Ul Mulk received the pension of five Rupees from British Government. 

After passing of many years, this incident was noticed, a beggar used to drag on his hips at Chitli Qabar. His facial appearance reflected the physiognomic features of Timurid race.  His both legs got paralyzed and he used to drag on the ground with the support of his hands. There was a bag tied around his neck. After moving a short distance, he used to stare at the passerby. It appeared that without verbal communication his gaze was expecting help and empathy from them. Few of the people who felt pity one him dropped some alms in his bag. After asking it was found that he was Mirza Nasir Ul Mulk, the grandson of the last Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar. The government pension was exhausted in loans and now his reliance is on silent begging. I draw inspiration from his condition. My heart trembled whenever I recalled his story that was narrated to me by himself and some other princes. The malediction of the Sufi mendicant whose knee was injured by the ball ejected from his catapult appeared true.  Even guys with a firm heart showed compassion on his dragging posture in the market and their hearts trembled with fear of God. Now, this Prince had undertaken his divine journey to the next world.

Note: Khwaja Hasan Nizami was born in 1873 and passed in 1955 at Delhi. He was Sufi scholar of Chishti order. The tears of the Begum are the account on situation of Mughal off springs after the mutiny. He penned down in the form of stories extracted by the explorations and interviews of the old survivors who witnessed the event of 1857. Though Khwaja Hasan Nizami didn’t cited Nasir Ul Mulk year of demise. However an article published in Hindu, 21 April, 2003 cited 1911 as the death of this unfortunate Prince.

References:

  1. http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mp/2003/04/21/stories/2003042100610200.htm
  2. Khwaja Hasan Nizami, “Begmat ke Aansu” (Tears of the Begums). Delhi ka Tareekhi Silsila Number, Published February 1944, Printed by Ilmi Press, Delhi.

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About Rehan Asad

I am a medical educator by profession and have an avid interest in history. I have authored a book on the socio-cultural history of an Arain (a tribe from Punjab and Sindh) diaspora in Western Uttar Pradesh. I am passionate about sharing and gaining knowledge of history and culture.

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