In Memory of Akbar’s Favourite



Close to the Allahabad Railway Station, in the Khuldabad area of the city, is a walled garden called Khusro Bagh. This is the only memorial dedicated to the favourite grandson of Akbar, the man who could well have been the Emperor of India. While Prince Khurram, who became famous as Emperor Shah Jahan is very well known, it was his elder brother Prince Khusro, who Akbar was keen to see on the throne.

Prince Khusro was the eldest son of Jahangir and his Rajput wife, Man Bai, the Princess of Amer (Jaipur). He was born in 1587 CE and it was after his birth that Man Bai received the title of Shah Begum. Khusro grew up to be an intelligent young man, who was a great warrior and a court favourite.

Emperor Jahangir receiving his sons Khusro and Parviz
Emperor Jahangir receiving his sons Khusro and Parviz|Wikimedia Commons

Around the 1590s, as Akbar’s health began to deteriorate, he grew troubled by the wine and opium addiction of his son Jahangir. So worried was he about the fate of the Mughal Empire in Jahangir’s hands that he was actively considering handing over the throne to his eldest grandson, Prince Khusro. Reading the signs, Jahangir pre-empted the move, rebelled against his father and started holding court in Allahabad in 1599 CE. This led to a bitter conflict between him and his father and Khusro became the scapegoat. Jahangir began to resent Khusro, because he was his father, Akbar’s choice.

Khusro’s mother Shah Begum, was so depressed by this and the perpetual court intrigues where her brothers Man Singh and Madho Singh were often involved, that she committed suicide in 1604 CE. This hit Jahangir hard and he is said to have lamented her death by refusing to eat or drink for four days. Shah Begum’s death also thawed relations between Akbar and Jahangir. Hearing about his son’s despair, Emperor Akbar is said to have sent him a robe of honour and his own turban.

While father and son made up, Jahangir never forgave his own son, Khusro for Shah Begum’s death. She was buried in a walled garden in Allahabad which came to be known as Khusro Bagh later.

Shah Begum’s tomb 
Shah Begum’s tomb |Wikimedia Commons

Jahangir finally took over the Mughal throne in 1605 CE. But the relations between Jahangir and Khusro continued to deteriorate. Now a young man of 18, Khusro was everything a head of empire should be, in contrast to his weak opium-addict father. There were murmurs among the courtiers about the possibility of Khusro becoming Emperor. All of this only added fuel to the fire. Jahangir kept Khusro under strict supervision.

But this didn't deter Khusro, who was making his own plans. On 6th April 1605 CE, Prince Khusro left Agra under the pretext that he was visiting his grandfather’s (Akbar’s) grave at Sikandara. He was joined by a large number of horsemen in Mathura. He then proceeded toward Punjab and reached Taran Taran near Amritsar, where he received the blessings of Sikh Guru Arjan Dev. He then attacked Lahore but was defeated by Jahangir’s army. He was captured and brought to Agra. After a brief trial, he was blinded in 1607 CE and kept a prisoner in the Agra Fort, where he lived, locked up for 10 years. Prince Khusro however continued to be very popular among the general public.

Khusro is captured and presented to Jahangir
Khusro is captured and presented to Jahangir|Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, Prince Khurram - who would later become Emperor Shah Jahan, with an eye on the throne, wanted to ensure that Khusro could do him no damage. He demanded the custody of Khusro and in 1617 CE, Khusro was handed over to Prince Khurram, who was in Burhanpur, on his Deccan campaign. It is here, after a span of five years, that Khusro was murdered in 1622 CE. He was strangled in his bed, and it was made to appear as if he died naturally.

His body was temporarily buried in Burhanpur. However, after the news of his death reached the Emperor Jahangir at Agra, he demanded that Khusro’s body be brought to Agra. From here it was taken to Allahabad, to be buried near his mother's grave, at Khusro Bagh.

Tomb of Nithaar Begum and Khusro
Tomb of Nithaar Begum and Khusro|Wikimedia Commons

When you visit Khusro Bagh, you will find a third mausoleum - that of Nithaar Begum, Khusro’s elder sister who built a tomb for herself during her lifetime. She wanted to be buried next to her mother and brother. However, when she died in 1646 CE, she was not buried here but in Sikandara. Hence, her intended tomb lies empty at Khusro Bagh.

The story of Khusro and his mother Shah Begum has to be seen in the context of the changing tides within the Mughal courts where power centres shifted after Akbar’s death. By the time Jahangir was in his early 50’s , the real power centres in the Mughal court were his wife Nur Jahan and her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg . It is believed that Khusro was a victim of their ambitions and it was Asad Khan, Nur Jahan's brother and Prince Khurram's father in law (Asad Khan’s daughter was Mumtaz Mahal), who had Khusro murdered to remove what they saw as a potential obstacle to Khurram ascending the throne.

This murder also marked the end of the Rajput influence in the Mughal Court and the emergence of the powerful Persian family of Mirza Ghiyas Beg known by his title I’timad-ud-Daulah or ‘Pillar of the State’. The triad of the Beg, his daughter Nur Jahan and her brother Asad Khan dominated the Mughal court.

A portrait of Mirza Ghiyas Beg
A portrait of Mirza Ghiyas Beg|Wikimedia Commons

The calm of Khusro Bagh is a mirage. It has been witness to a violent past. It was the scene of many pitched battles during the Revolt of 1857 CE when the city of Allahabad rebelled against the British and the Allahabad Fort was captured by Indian fighters.

Maulvi Liaquat Ali, a Muslim religious leader from Allahabad was also one of the active leaders in the revolt of 1857 CE against the British. After gaining support from the landlords, he captured Khusro Bagh and declared the Independence of India. Following this, Khusro Bagh became the headquarters of the sepoys under Maulvi Liaqat Ali. The revolt, was however a failure and the British recaptured Khusro Bagh in a fortnight. They destroyed a lot of the Mughal monuments in Allahabad city, but thankfully, Khusro Bagh escaped destruction.

Interiors of the tomb of Nithaar Begum
Interiors of the tomb of Nithaar Begum|Wikimedia Commons

The Bagh today has three mausoleums standing amidst a lush green garden. Apart from the external grandeur of the mausoleums built in Mughal style, the interiors are adorned with artistic Persian embellishments and exquisite calligraphy with inscriptions of Persian couplets.

But all the beauty, is just a cover for the real story, that of the brutal end of a Prince who could have been Emperor.

How to get there:

The nearest railway station is Allahabad Railway Station 3 kms away. The nearest airport is Bamrauli Airport, Allahabad at a distance of 11 kms.

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