6. SHAH JAHAN’S BURIAL PROCESSION
The painting above is based on a contemporary letter sent by the Amber State official Parkaldas to the Diwan of Amber, Kalyandas, dated Phalgun Vadi 30, 1722 V.S. / 23rd February, 1666.
It is a night scene in the Red Fort of Agra where Emperor Shah Jahan had been kept in strict confinement by his son Aurangzeb for the past several years. The two wives of the Emperor, Akbarabadi Begum and Fatehpuri Begum, who were with him when his end came, are being stopped at the door by the guards, and are sadly seeing the bier of their husband, Shah Jahan, the Emperor of India, being taken out by four kahars or palquin bearers, as if he was some common prisoner. No son, grandson or nobles are there to give shoulder to the body of the Emperor. In the tabut or bier, the pale face of the Emperor is uncovered. Shah Jahan’s devoted daughter, Jahanara is looking at the sad spectacle from a window of the palace, her entreaties with Khoja Phul (the eunuch) not to take the body for burial in the night without waiting for the daybreak having failed. “I have orders from the Emperor (Aurangzeb) to carry the coffin this very night”, he had replied. The Khoja is walking some steps ahead of the tabut. The body was taken out by the Mori Gate and hurriedly consigned to the grave in the Taj Mahal mausoleum.
There might be very few examples indeed of such an unceremonious and hurried burial, marked by stealthiness and tainted by guilt, as that of Shah Jahan, who had been Emperor of India for about thirty years (1627-1658) and who was leaving behind a son, now the Emperor (Aurangzeb), and a number of grand children and relations and countless nobles.