From Mughal Baghs to Cricket Runs



The richest cricketing body in the world BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) began its innings in the garden of a Mughal princess Roshanara, who would play a pivotal role in history. Roshanara Begum (1617 – 1671 CE) was the daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan and would go on to help Aurangzeb win the succession battle against his more popular brother, Dara Shikoh.

Today, Roshanara Bagh, a garden bearing her name is an oasis of greenery in the crowded and dusty Subzi Mandi area of North Delhi. And it was this garden that would connect Roshanara to India’s Cricketing body.

Roshanara Garden, Delhi 
Roshanara Garden, Delhi |Wikimedia Commons

Roshanara helped Aurangzeb win the succession battle against his more popular brother Dara Shikoh

Roshanara Begum, the second surviving daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, was just 13 years old when her mother died. Overshadowed by her elder sister, the more famous Jahanara Begum, she grew extremely close to her brother Aurangzeb. In 1657 CE, a bitter war of succession broke out between Shah Jahan’s sons when he fell ill. Unlike her sister Jahanara who supported Dara Shikoh, Roshanara supported Aurangzeb. She is said to have kept Aurangzeb informed of all the intrigues at the Delhi court and was well rewarded for her loyalty.

A sketch of Roshanara
A sketch of Roshanara|Wikimedia Commons

During the Mughal times, today’s North Delhi area was dotted with gardens and pleasure palaces of the Mughal royals and nobility like the Qudsia bagh, Shalimar bagh, Gulabi bagh and Tis Hazari bagh. These gardens provided a perfect getaway during hot Delhi summers.

Both the sisters, Jahanara and Roshanara laid out vast gardens in Delhi. Jahanara’s garden was called Begum ka Bagh. Today, the old Delhi Railway Station stands on the site of Jahanara’s garden.

Map of Delhi from 1911, showing Roshanara Garden
Map of Delhi from 1911, showing Roshanara Garden|Wikimedia Commons

Roshanara’s garden has survived, though in much altered state. The garden was laid out in 1650 and built in the typical Mughal Char Bagh or four gardens style with gateways, pavilions and fountains.

In the later years of her life, Roshanara had a fallout with Aurangzeb due to her intrigues. She was banished to this garden by the Emperor and she remains buried in one of the pavilions, since her death in 1671.

Tomb of Roshanara Begum 
Tomb of Roshanara Begum |Wikimedia Commons

In the later years of her life, Roshanara had a fallout with Aurangzeb

With her the fate of her gardens was also sealed and it went into decline with the fall of the Mughal Empire. From British records, we know that by the year 1872 CE, the garden was in a state of complete ruin. Records also tell us that in 1875 CE, Colonel Cracroft, the commissioner of Delhi, ‘improved and modernised’ the garden by demolishing all the old buildings except the Baradari (pavilion) and replacing the old Mughal style garden with an English style park!

Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala
Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala|National Portrait Gallery London

In 1922 CE, 22 acres of the western side of the garden was leased to a club which was named the Roshanara Club. This club soon became a popular haunt for the elite of Pre-Independence Delhi. It was here on 22 November 1927 CE, that a meeting of all prominent cricket enthusiasts, from across India took place, presided over by Maharaja of Patiala. It was decided to have a Cricket Board for promoting and regulating Cricket in India. This is considered to be the moment when BCCI was born; though it was legally registered as an entity only in 1928.

While the BCCI has become a multi-billion dollar entity, often in the news for the power struggles there - the Roshanara garden has continued to face official apathy.

In 1961, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) decided to lay a Japanese style garden and a lot more of garden’s original landscape was obliterated.

Today, Roshanara garden is a decently maintained neighbourhood garden, popular with local residents going for a stroll. What a long way it has come!


LHI TRAVEL GUIDE

The Roshanara garden is located in New Delhi, 16 kms away from Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station and 21 kms from Indira Gandhi International Airport.

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