From being a pleasure garden to a resting place — Roshanara Bagh, a royal mausoleumMaryam Khan
There’s no denying in the fact that Delhi is a hub of gardens- some of which are very vast and enormous and others are tiny and scaled-down; some of them are beautifully well maintained or are still being rejuvenated to perfection, while others are miserably neglected and unkempt; some of them are stamping grounds while others are hushed yet pleasant. Roshanara Bagh is one such garden located in Shanti Nagar, near Kamla Nagar Clock Tower and North Campus of the University of Delhi. This monumental park is blessed with wide enormous spaces and lush greenery throughout, along with a tomb or palace-like structure within the bounds of the garden, which was formerly encompassed by a dense forest. The mind who contrived the foundations of this mausoleum back in the 1650s wasn’t an ordinary person but; none other than the charming, iron-willed, ambitious and crafty — the Mughal Princess, Roshanara Begum, second daughter of the mighty emperor, Shah Jahan.
Born on 3rd September 1617, Roshanara Begum, well known as “Malika-e-Mausiqui”, was strong-headed, adept at poetry, yet always overshadowed by her sister, Jahanara begum, became green with envy and extremely resentful. She bonded well with her younger brother, Aurangzeb and it is believed that she was the prime mover during the war of succession held between Dara Shikoh, who was the favourite of Shah Jahan and Jahanara Begum and Aurangzeb, with whom Roshanara Begum allied. With her sharp-witted and scheming mind, she ferreted out her father’s plan to kill Aurangzeb and thwarted it by apprising Aurangzeb beforehand. When Aurangzeb ruled from the Peacock Throne/Takht-e-Taus, things were bearing fruit well for Roshanara Begum. She grew extremely powerful and was even bestowed with the title of “Padshah Begum” by her brother, Aurangzeb and eventually became the First Lady of the Mughal Empire. With her eloquent skills, she even managed to convince Aurangzeb to kill Dara Shikoh because of her fear that he might kill her one day since she was the mastermind behind Aurangzeb’s victory. Being always invisible to the eyes of her loved ones, her relations soared bitter, especially with her sister. Ultimately, she transcends her sister when Aurangzeb withdrew Jahanara begum from the title of Padshah Begum and removed her from the position of ‘the head of the Imperial Heram’ and made Roshanara the head instead. With privileges and power coming in her way, her greed and desire for land and gold elevated and soon became a notorious woman in the royal court when the rumours of her love life and lasciviousness were in the air which Auragzeb highly condemned. With her blatantly misusing her might and force, she herself invited all the political troubles in her way and relinquished herself from it, yet her growing desires made Aurangzeb overthrew her from all her ranks and even debarred her from entering the royal palace and ordered her to live a secluded, pious and a benevolent life away from the palace in a pleasure garden which she got built for herself, which soured her relation with her brother too.
Fabricated in a typical Mughal style with Char Bagh/four gardens with huge gateways, pavilions and fountains; with a long canal which used to water it up. But, due to her never-ending love stories and greed, her brother, Aurangzeb himself poisoned and interred her in her pavilion; kept running away from her miseries and troubles which haunted her, she thought that this place would provide her with the ultimate peace, little did she know that the garden which once was a gateway of her paradise, turned into a charnel. Only in the arms of death, she got unshackled from her hardships.
The fate of Roshanara Bagh was similar to Roshanara Begum, After her death, the liveliness of the garden also vanished and, by the year 1872, according to the British records, it is said that the garden’s condition was terribly wrecked and dilapidated. Moreover, in 1875, the Commissioner of Delhi, Colonel Cracoft revamped and upgraded the garden after all the structures were tore down except the pavillion (Baradari) and turning the garden into an English style park. In 1922, the western side of the garden or the English style park’s 22 acres land was leased to a club known as the Roshanara Club which eventually became the provenience of BCCI (The Board of Control for Cricket in India) when a meeting was held on 22nd November 1927 comprising of all the notable cricket enthusiasts from all over India, directed by Maharaja of Patiala, wherein it was decided to have a Cricket Board which would encourage and modulate Cricket in India.
The mausoleum which one was in awe of its beauty and marvellous royal architecture back in its heyday is now all in ruins and overlooked, while the garden is well maintained and thriving. The garden which once was a heaven for Roshanara Begum is now heaven for all the sport and nature lovers due to its vast and huge spaces wherein innumerable people can be found having a good time while playing cricket, badminton and much more whereas by the virtue of its rich greenery and verdant vegetation with various kinds of trees, flowers and orchids; one would be pleased with the best time of their life. In addition to that, it’d be a cherry on the cake for all bird lovers who adore bird watching since the pond inside the park is the home of migratory birds during winters. Not long ago, the Authorities also installed a rose garden and an acupressure walkaway for the local residents going for a stroll.
Indeed, Roshanara Bagh has come a long way.