Some old stuff I wrote years ago , for new generation of DFI


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Jul 21, 2010
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Real story of Salim-Anarkali

by ashdoc on Mon May 09, 2011 3:44 pm

For generations of people brought up on the legend of salim anarkali and the film mughal e azam this may be a bit of a shocker- but anarkali was akbars woman before she became salims.

i read this first in a book called EMPERORS OF THE PEACOCK THRONE written by abraham eraly.he writes-'' there seems to have been an oedipal conflict between akbar and salim.the mughal court was rife with rumours of about the tension between the two,because of salims escapades and akbars resentment over them. THE MOST ROMANTIC AND PERSISTANT OF THESE STORIES LINKED SALIM WITH ANARKALI(POMGRANATE BLOSSOM), A BEAUTIFUL AND ACCOMPLISHED CONCUBINE OF AKBAR, AND POSSILBLY THE MOTHER OF AKBARS SON DANIYAL (WHO DIED DUE TO ALCOHOLISM)-LEGEND HAS IT THATA WRATHFUL AKBAR ENTOMBED ANARKALI ALIVE FOR THE CRIME OF EXCHANGING A SMILING GLANCE AT HIM''

i decided to search for more information on this and found this in the book THE MUGHAL EMPERORS AND THE ISLAMIC DYNASTIES OF INDIA IRAN AND CENTRAL ASIA by francis robinson-''there was a sexual jealusy between akbar and salim. akbar was said to have immuered alive his favourite concubine ,anarkali for smiling at salim.''

these are titbits though and i decided to search for a longer account of the matter.

i found a longer account in PRIVATE LIVES OF THE MUGHALS OF INDIA by professor R. NATH.

this is what he writes-

anarkalis real name was nadira begum or sharif un nisa begum. she was a excessively beautiful slave girl in the personal service of akbar, who had great liking for her and conferred the title anarkali upon her.

one day while seated in an apartment lined with mirrors, he noticed the youthful anarkali returning prince salim(who was just passing by the hall) a smile.

akbar knew the character of his sensuous son more than anybody else, and he was outraged by the suspicion of an affair between the crown prince and his own slave girl.

he was so infuriated that he that he ordred her to be 'built' alive into a wall. salim could not save hae from this cruel end, but after his accesion to the throne , he commisioned at lahore a tomb in her memory.

the persian couplet which he had inscribed on her marble tombstone reads,

ah! if i could behold the face of
my beloved(yar) once more,
i would give thanks unto my god,
until thr day of resurrection.-
by majnoon salim akbar

this is an expression of passionate love and this testifies that he had really fallen in love with anarkali. the romance was going on for quite some time.

she innocently reciprocated, little knowing the subtle threads of mughal polity which bound these human beings called mughal emporers, and the unfor tunate lady paid the price by her life.

the mughal harem was a 'matter of fact ' institution and there was no place for romances in it.

and to think that I used to think of akbar as her potential father in law!

in another place the author writes-' some youthful slave girl was always in attendance , when akbar was in his harem to look after his personal service,as was anarkali.'

obviously the personal service didnt mean just massaging his legs or something like that- unless you are talking about his short leg -or shoving his short leg between her two fine legs - if you want to use cricketing terminology.

obviously the stories of anarkali being a common nautch girl are false.

k asif in his movie mughal e azam does not want to malign the character of the mughals by showing father and son fighting over one woman.he also shows her as being allowed to escape alive.

the movie anarkali starring bina rai and pradeep kumar is somewhat more truthful as it shows her being buried alive.

obviously she was buried alive to strike terror in the hearts of the other inmates of the example was made of her to show others what would happen to them if they dared cross the line.

akbar was known to be an egomaniac and any woman whom he slept was to be only his- even though he sometime slept with her only once and then moved on to others.

of course as shehenshah e hindustan he had no choice-if word got out that his concubine was sleeping with his own son he would become the laughing stock of the was a question of IZZAT- and he had to act accordingly.

where did he aquire her- possibly in meena bazar- the weekly bazar where beautiful women from all over the world were presented to him by merchants and the most accomplished were bought by him.

she musnt have come cheap-for one thing she was beautiful and the person who sold her must have spent a lot of money in training her in her accomplishments which included makeup dancing etc and must have looked to earn a profit on that .


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Jul 21, 2010
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Book review---History of Aurangzeb by Jadunath Sarkar

This book , written by legendary bengali historian Jadunath Sarkar , was written during british rule , and is arguably the largest and the finest detail account of the life and times of India's most controversial emperor--Aurangzeb . Originally running into four volumes , it has now been abridged , and put together in one volume by Orient Blackswain.

The book dwells in short on his early life--how he had a inborn trait of suspicion . Once , he and his brothers and father are supposed to enter a underground room . He refuses , saying that somebody could murder them there.....

The stellar part of the book is of course the way in which he won the throne , murdering all his brothers in the process , and imprisoning his father , the emperor Shahjahan after a series of epic battles . The book also makes it clear that he had no choice in the process ; his own brother declares about his own ambition for the throne-- ' Ya takht ya tabut !! ' ( either the throne or the grave !! ) , meaning that he himself would kill Aurangzeb and his brothers if he won....or himself get killed. Such is the brutal tradition of Mughal emperors . Aurangzeb's own father Shahjahan has killed his brother before ascending the throne......

This tradition is forever in Aurangzeb's mind , for during his rule , he is forever plagued by suspicion that one of his sons would imprison him in a similar manner and humiliate him as he daily humiliated his father Shahjahan--so Aurangzeb keeps a close watch on his sons , and imprisons them many a times .

Coming back to the battles for the throne , Jadunath Sarkar describes the battles ( like the battle of Dharmat between Aurangzeb's oldest brother Dara Shukoh and him )in detail , showing great mastery of the art of creating the picture of the battlefield in our mind. The tragedy of the hapless prince Dara Shukoh is well brought out , as he is hunted down from pillar to post as he escapes from the battle , and is eventually captured and sentenced to death by learned kazis . His crime--he was too tolerant to hindus......

Having ascended the throne in this manner , Aurangzeb kills even all his bothers' sons , so that they do not form a future threat to his kingship . Most of them are drugged daily to convert them into idiots until they die a slow death .

Having destroyed all threats to his kingship , Aurangzeb lays his lecherous hand on the wives of the defeated--but here destiny thwarts him , for the one he is most angling for , Dara's most beautiful wife slashes her face with a knife to destroy her charms , and make herself unworthy of his bed , thereby showing a shining example of love and loyalty to her husband......

After winning the throne in this fashion , Aurangzeb does not spare his friends , those who helped him win the throne either--for who knows , one day these brave people might become too powerful , threatening the throne.....

--Mir Jumla , the commandant of his artillery , is sent to fight in the malarious jungles of Assam , where as expected , malaria overcomes him .

--Maharajah Jaswant Singh of marwar is sent on a campaign in Afghanistan ,where afghans in Aurangzeb's pay kill him.

--Maharajah Mirza Raje Jai singh , who helps him control the marathas is kiiled by poisoning. His success against the marathas has made him too powerful....

The killing of the last two is especially important , as they are hindu nobles who might form the main impediment to a project that Aurangzeb Alamgir ( thats the title he has given himself )has long been considering , a project that indeed is his dream......the total islamisation of the subcontinent.......

And it is for the realisation of this project that he unleashes the jizya tax on hindus--something that his great grandfather Akbar had banished long ago .
The hindus protest of course , carrying out huge anti-jizya rallies right upto the mughal court , but Aurangzeb orders his troops to attack and kill the protestors--he is unrelenting......

Having done this , Aurangzeb makes peace with Iran , which has held Kandahar in afghanistan , long cherished by the mughals and orders his army ( 170, 000 strong ) to invade south India to complete another project of his--bringing the whole subcontinent under the mughal banner , right form Kashmir to Kanyakumari......

By force and bribes ( actually more by bribes ) he manages to conquer the muslim kingdoms of the deccan as his armies move south , levying tax as far as tiruchirapalli in tamil nadu . Above all , his troops capture alive maratha king Sambhaji , who is blinded by buring hot pincers put in his eyes , his skin is torn from his body while still alive , he is cut limb to limb and then fed to the dogs . Such mind-blowing cruelty !!

Aurangzeb has reached the pinnacle of his ambition , and seemingly achieved his dreams--or has he ?? For he soon discovers that his armies have yet to overawe the hardy inhabitants of the sahyadri ranges , those followers of Shivaji , whose impregnable fortresses elude capture by the mughals and whose armies disappear and appear at will , utterly confounding the slow mughals . Aurangzebs unwieldy army is unfit to fight against well motivated guerillas in mountainous jungle country , and his soldiers are reduced to hapless onlookers as the marathas wreak havoc in mughal territory .

The almighty mughals have met their match , but one man prevents them from retreating--Aurangzeb himself....
For an astonishing two decades and a half , the army is forced to fight an unwinnable fight in the hills of maharashtra as the treasury is depleted , the other provinces of the empire are neglected , and an entire new generation of children reach their youth in camp--they have never seen the big city.....

All his officers and men now want Aurangzeb to die so that the war would end , but his life is unusually prolonged . Aurangzeb laughs derisively at his sons who he knows are waiting for him to die , so that they can fight for the throne in time-honoured mughal fashion , but the old man simply refuses to croak off.......

But Aurangzeb is really sad at the end of his life , as he realises the enormous mistake that he has done , and asks his sons to not fight after his death for the throne , though he knows nobody will heed his call......

As far as the marathas who brought him to this pitiable condition-- they are given their fair share in this book , and the entire life and campaigns of both Shivaji and Sambhaji along with other warriors like Santaji Ghorpade is articulated . Of particular interest will be Shivaji's dramatic confrontation with the emperor at agra and his more dramatic escape .

All the ordinances that Aurangzeb brought out to enforce islam on an unwilling people are described in detail . Personally he led a simple life , stitching caps for a living .Fittingly , when died , he preferred burial in a simple tomb in Khuldabad in Maharashtra--'' the deccan became the grave of his ambitions as well as his body '' !!

Verdict about the book---masterpiece......


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Jul 21, 2010
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Book review---Inside the kingdom

Saudi Arabia in the shadow of 9/11

With this book Robert Lacey returns again to the land he has written about in a bygone , much gentler era . That era was when the US-Saudi special relationship was in full flower , with the Saudis satisfying America's endless hunger for more and more oil , and themselves enjoying an endless windfall of petrodollars .

'' Inside the kingdom '' is thus a sequel to his earlier book '' The kingdom '' , written in 1980--over thirty years ago--and the geopolitical tectonic plates have changed dramatically since then.....

........For Saudi Arabia sent what Lacey calls '' 15 flying Saudis ''( out of 19 terrorists ) crashing into the twin towers of New York city to change our world forever.....
That they were sent not by the Saudi govt , but by a crazy Saudi billionaire called Osama Bin Laden does not completely exempt the Saudi Govt from the charge of fomenting terrorism , for--as Lacey effectively brings out in this book--the Saudi govt was responsible for creating the system which produced crazies like Osama and his minions .

What a change from 1980 !! In the earlier book '' The kingdom '' ,Lacey was kindler , gentler to the Saudis--trying to present their primitive tribal society , with its draconian laws , in a much better light than possible......
How draconian are the rules that govern that kingdom is seen from the fact that inspite of presenting the kingdom in a good light , that book was banned in Saudi Arabia......

Yet there is no denying that Lacey did try--for example , the fact that Saudi Arabians , inspite of having all the petro-dollars did not know the technology to drill and refine the oil and had to depend on the westerners for everything was dismissed by him by saying '' Is the king ashamed of the fact that he cannot make clothes ?? That his tailor is the one on whom he has to depend on for making clothes ??.... No , for the king is king , and the tailor is too lowly , inspite of his skills . If this tailor doesn't do the job , somebody else will !! ''.....what an analogy !!

The reason why the book was banned ?? Lacey had written about the differences between the princes who rule the land--something that the Saudis could hardly afford to allow to come out in the open , as they have to present a united front before their people--an all important fact in an absolute monarchy....

Result of the book being banned--the book became a success in other parts of the arab world !!.....and presumably Lacey earned a lot of money.....
No wonder in this book , Lacey wonders if there will be a ban on this book too.....
Banned books sell fast.....

So how was Saudi Arabia responsible for the system which produced crazies ?? The answer goes back to 1978.....
At that time , the Saudi govt was slowly opening up the kingdom . Women were being allowed to get higher education , got jobs , and even fashion shows were being held .

But the change was too much for a crazy called Juhayman and his bunch of fanatics , and they attacked and took control of the grand mosque of mecca . It was only after a fight which resulted in many lives lost that the soldiers were able to take back the mosque .
And around the same time the Iranian revolution happened.....
Fundamentalists took control in Iran , and Saudis wondered if the same would happen in Arabia......

All this led the Saudi govt to seek a closer relationship with the ulema ( the religious scholars ) , so that they would not revolt against the kingdom . The ulema agreed to support the kingdom--but for a price . Whatever modernity the kingdom had achieved was to be scaled back. No fashion shows , women to be in complete purdah , above all the students in schools , colleges and universities to be forced to learn a total fundamentalist strain of thought--one which spewed total hatred on anything non-muslim , especially America , and taught students to hate secularism ,openly calling for the destruction of those states which espouse secularism , and also jews and christians . Religious classes became mandatory , and classes which taught science , maths etc were greatly reduced .

Not only did this produce religious fanatics , but also people who were unable to get any jobs in the real world , as their education did not give them the skills . Such frustrated people easily turn towards fundamentalism......

Once the ulema gained control , anybody and everybody who espoused secularism was under the scanner . One Saudi chemistry teacher who openly opposed to new laws was first warned by being told by his colleagues that they were very worried about the thoughts in his mind--next , when he refused to stop lecturing about his views , he was threatened with removal from job and arrest by the religious police.

As the insidious effects of the new teaching began to permeate , other incidents occurred . One female teacher who dared talk of women's rights was spat upon by her female students ( yes female !! ) for deviating them from religion . Another female who wrote a ' secular ' piece in a newspaper was arrested , put in solitary confinement for two months ,until she recanted her thoughts .

Yes ,Lacey says that control over females is the foremost thought of the Saudi govt , for it is a tribal society , and the cohesion of a tribal society depends on keeping women in tight leash .

.......And to do that are specially appointed religious police ( muttawa ) who not only rap any female walking on the street with a hard cane if they feel she is exposing too much of her body , but arrest for adultery , any female who is walking with a male who is not her relative--or cannot produce papers proving that he is her relative . Besides that , all shopkeepers have to close their shops five times for namaz , or risk being arrested . Belief in god is not according to the will of the people , but it is enforced by the govt......

And the terror of the religious police is everywhere to ensure that . As they walk on the street , they look like a posse of long-bearded Juhaymans--the crazy who took control of the mecca mosque .

And how are the craziest of the fundamentalists made ??--well some of them have to be bred from childhood . A former fundamentalist tells Lacey that since his childhood he was told stories as to how when he died he would go to either heaven or hell , and where he went would be determined by what he had done against the infidels . His keepers used to make him sleep in a freshly dug grave , and imagine that he had just died and was being buried . And how the fires of hell were waiting for him when he woke up , if he had not hated the infidels . He used to have nightmares of hell after this......

Another target of the muttawa are the shias , who populate the oil-rich eastern province , and are actually the rightful owners of the oil that it contains . They are regularly trampled upon , and Iran , which is a shia power , takes advantage of their disaffection to try foment trouble . So far due to the fear of the para-military forces ,the shia have kept quiet . Also , they are given jobs in ARAMCO , the Saudi oil company , and this allows them to survive , though their financial condition is not as good as the sunnis .

Sometimes the muttawa go crazy themselves , as in case of the girls' school which caught fire . They refused to let the fire brigade inside , saying that the men in the fire brigade had no right to touch girls , as they were not their relatives , and let the girls burn--15 died .

Lacey has said in an interview that the govt would like to ship off the fundamentalists to some other part of the globe , if possible . But given their numbers , just how much of the population will that mean ??

It was after 9/11 that some changes in the school and college curriculum ware made in favour of non-religious topics , but will that compensate for the damage done to minds ??

Lacey says that 9/11 was done by deliberately using Saudi suicide-bombers by Osama , as he wanted to create a rift between the US and Saudi Arabia , his homeland . If so ,he has partly succeeded , for Saudi students , who earlier could easily get a visa into the United States , now find it very difficult to do so ,thus sowing bitterness in their minds .

No such bitterness is seen in the minds of many Saudis towards Lacey , and indeed he seems to be on talking terms with high and mighty on one hand , and humble and humbler Saudis on the other , as they open their hearts to him . That is the result of years of staying in Saudi Arabia and making friendships with people . To be honest , Lacey makes a honest attempt to give us a ' human face ' to this mysterious land . The very fact that secular people are arrested is an indication of the fact that they do exist , and their tribe is growing , according to Lacey . When Saudis do go out on foreign vacations ( and all Saudis do , considering their petrodollars ), Saudis behave more freely , with their women being unveiled .

Lacey's conclusion is that the Saud dynasty is our best bet for stability in future ,whatever be its shortcomings , for collapse of it will bring total anarchy to our oil supplies--if it falls , we may as well be ready to travel to our destinations in bullockcart . Unlike in India ,the Saudi monarchy openly takes bribes in defence deals , as seen from what happened in the Al-Yamamah deal for Tornado fighter jets . Such are the perks of royalty......

One must say many thanks to Robert Lacey for opening up the Saudi land to us by this book--a land I may say is most important , as our economy depends on the oil it supplies , and thus makes it an indispensible nation .

Verdict--fascinating .


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Jul 21, 2010
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Book review---Tinderbox

This book , by veteran journalist and editor of India today magazine M. J. Akbar was launched recently . I being and avid reader of anything concerning Pakistan ( know your enemy , as Sun Tzu warned ) , instantly grabbed it .

Opening the book , I realised that what M. J. Akbar meant by past was not just the history of Pakistan itself , but its historical roots--right from the invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni on Somnath to muslims' experience under British rule to the poet Iqbal to finally Muhammad Ali Jinnah ....

About the era of medieval muslim rule over the subcontinent , Akbar parrots the typically secular line --that hindus fared reasonably well under it.....but since he is a muslim , he cannot be expected to say anything else.

Regarding muslim experience under British rule , Akbar clearly brings out the insecurities of the muslims , especially the landed elite , about suddenly losing their privileged position as rulers of the country during mughal times and realising for the first time that they were a minority who now had to compete economically against the hindus whom they had formerly treated with contempt , and their dismay at the fact that the idolaters were actually winning the economic race !! It was this fact , which according to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad ( says Akbar ) spurred the muslim elites of north India , especially UP , to ask for Pakistan --the fact that muslims did not have the acumen to economically compete against the hindus .....and wanted a nation which had eliminated such competition .

However , regarding the rift that began between hindus and muslims during the struggle for independence ,Akbar subtly suggests that hindus were more responsible for it than muslims . He creates a picture wherein the congress , under the influence of hindu fundamentalists , refused to share power with the muslims , which led to the muslims distancing themselves away from the hindus . On the other hand , the word ' muslim fundamentalism ' does not come on his lips even once--as if it didnt exist......

On the other hand , clearly establishes that Sir Sayyad Ahmad Khan ( who established Aligarh muslim university ), a great champion of hindu-muslim unity according to historians of the communist variety , was actually the first person to ask the muslims to distance themselves from the hindus .

About Jinnah , Akbar is sympathetic to his aspirations to become leader of the Indian independence movement , which were suddenly thwarted by the appearance of Gandhi on the national scene . But he neglects to mention that it was this thwarted ambition which led Jinnah to demand Pakistan , to achieve a great historical role for himself , something denied to him by Gandhi's appearance .

Akbar rightly blames Gandhi for earning the muslims' mistrust by suddenly stopping the Khilafat movement without consulting them , thus giving up the last chance for achieving hindu-muslim unity .

It is while writing the history of Pakistan after it was actually formed that Akbar excels , to the extent that one is left asking for more--one wonders why it was relatively short . He shows , that despite the hopes of leaders like Jinnah to have a secular state , fundamentaliam was built within Pak's DNA --since Pak was formed on the basis of hate , only hate could sustain it and help it achieve a degree of unity , and successive leaders had to play the hate India card to help them survive politically .

How the wily Zia-ul-haq diverted the funds given by America for liberating Afghanistan from Soviet control to raise jihadis for attacking Kashmir is well brought out . But Akbar says that Zia's ambition was much more--to establish Pakistan as the headquarters of islamism from which islamic movements would radiate out to the other muslim countries , and the hub from which trained jehadis would be sent to spread radical islam throughout the world . Thus he envisioned a grand historical role for Pakistan and himself.....

About the future of Pakistan , Akbar talks precious little , inspite of the title of the book . He does make one prediction however--that instead of either imploding or stabilising , Pak would continue remain a toxic ' jelly state '.He says that predictions about Pak's imminent collapse are much too premature , thus belieing the title of the book again --after all a ' tinderbox ' is bound to explode into flames at some point , isnt it......

Verdict--its still a formidable read...

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