JEHANGIR ( Saleem) INFACT WAS A CRUEL AND DRUNCARD MONARCH
Dr K Prabhakar Rao
Saleem the surviving son of Emperor Akbar succeeded to the throne of Mughal empire after the death of his father at the age of 36 years and assumed title Al-Sultan al-'Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Khushru-i-Giti Panah, Abu'l-Fath Nuruddin Muhammed Jahnagir Padshah Ghazi on November 3, 1605. Nuruddin means light of the faith and Jehangir means conqueror of world. . He was born on 31 August 1569 August at Fatehpur Sikri the capital of Mughals and died on 28 October 1627 while returning from Kashmir and buried at Shahdra now in Pakistan. In fact, he was much eager to occupy the throne when his father was alive. As per available history he revolted against Akbar when he was out on expedition., Murad and Danial were the other two sons of Akbar who died in Akbar’s life time. Jahangir has been praised by the historians ( ?) as a man of letters with aesthetic sense and patronized arts. He is credited to have written his memoirs Tuzuk. But all was not well with Jahangir. The historians in India as usual have down played his serious negative qualities and portrayed him high glorifying (1). The most important misdeeds of Jahangir are:
1. Jehangir planned viciously to usurp throne from Akbar during the last years of Akbar. He rebelled and proclaimed himself as Emperor at Allahabad in 1600 and made parleys with Portuguese. He planned and got revered Abul Fazal killed near Narwar in 1602 while he was returning from Deccan. Bir Singh Bundela was a Hindu ruler of a province and was friendly to Jahangir. Bir singh was promised favors if he killed Abul Fazal who was a very close noble and advisor to Akbar. Bir Singhs troops attacked the convoy of Abul Fazall when it was passing through his country and after some resistance were over powered and Abul Fazal was slain. His head was cut off and sent to Saleem at Allahabad. Abul Fazal was against Saleem becoming the ruler after Emperor Akbar and hence the tragedy took place. Subsequently Bir Singh was rewarded by elevatiing him to be the commander of 3000 Horse cavalry ( a notable position) and he became the ruler of Orchha.
2.Jehangir faced serious problem from his eldest son Khusroo who rebelled against him who had strained relations with his father even before Jahangir became Emperor. In fact Akbar willed that Khusroo should succeed him. He revolted against father after 5 months of Akbar’s death based on his will. Khusro was however defeated by Jahangir at Jullundhar who led army against his son and also captured him along with important followers. Khusro was imprisoned and it is learnt that he was blinded and he died in prison in 1622 most probably assassinated by the agents of his brother Khurram ( Future Emperor Shahjehan). Fathers and brothers could be so cruel for the sake of power in Mughal dynasty. Blinding was one of the commonest form of immediate punishment among Mughals that makes the victim unfit to become a king.
3. Khusros followers Hussein Beg and Abdul Aziz were enclosed in the skins of cow and ass and were mounted on asses face towards the tails and were paraded round the city. Obviously these victims died in the skins when they dried up (2).He got erected wooden poles along the road leading to Lahore from the fort where Jehangir stayed during the campaign and the followers of Khusro were nailed to each of the pole and they were shown to the prince taken on a dirty elephant while Jahangir enjoyed (3)
4. Jahangir then turned his anger towards Sikh Guru Arjun dev. In fact persecution of Sikhs started with Jahangir. He got the Guru arrested on the charge that he helped Khusro with money and he was harbored. Guru Arjun Dev was most charitable and had holy disposition. In the words of Terry he was “…the very love and delight of them all.” (4).
Jahangir was annoyed with Guru Arjan Dev because he had given an amount of Rs.5000/- to Prince Khushru, the rebel son of Jahangir, when he needed it. When Jahangir questioned Guru Arjan Dev, the Guru justified it on the grounds of his Dharma and gratitude for past kindness received from Emperor Akbar, and not because of his opposition to Jahangir (5). Still Jahangir fined him Rs. 2 lakhs and also ordered Guru Arjan Dev to expunge from the GRANTH SAHIB certain passages opposed to the Mussalmans. Guru stated that his money was meant for the welfare of the poor and so he could not pay even a pie towards the fine imposed in a dictatorial manner by Jahangir. Further Guru Arjan Dev also made it clear that it was not possible to expunge the passages from the GRANTH SAHIB, as the passages he had included in it were not offensive to the sentiments of the Mussalmans. In spite of this reasonable explanation, Jahangir sentenced Guru Arjan Dev to death.
Guru Arjan Dev was made to sit on a hot iron plate and hot sand was showered over his body, and he was boiled in a cauldron. Dabistan-i-Mazhaid, a contemporary Persian Work, mentions of Guru Arjan Dev being deprived of food and water and put into the hot blazing sand and stoned in a savage manner, which caused blood to ooze out of his head. He was thus tortured for five days. With wounds blistering on his body, tied hand and foot, he was thrown into the River Ravi on May 30, 1606. Guru Arjan Dev was barely 43 years old at the time of his martyrdom (6).
This is what Emperor Jahangir himself wrote in his diary called the Tuzk-e-Jahangiri (‘Memoirs of Jahangir’): ‘In Goindwal, which is on the river Biyãh (Beas), there was a Hindu named Arjan Dev, in the garments of sainthood and sanctity, so much so that he had captured many of the simple-hearted of the Hindus, and even of the ignorant and foolish followers of Islam, by his ways and manners, and they had loudly sounded the drum of his holiness. They called him Guru, and from all sides stupid people crowded to worship and manifest complete faith in him. Many times it occurred to me to put a stop to this vain affair or to bring him into the assembly of the people of Islam. At last when Prince Khusrau passed along this road this insignificant fellow proposed to wait upon him. Khusrau happened to halt at the place where he was, and he came out and did homage to him. Arjan Dev behaved to Khusrau in certain special ways, and made on his forehead a finger-mark in saffron, which the Indians (Hinduwän) call qashqa, (Tilak) and is considered propitious. When this came to my ears and I clearly understood his folly, I ordered them to produce him and handed over his houses, dwelling-places, and children to Murtaza Khan, and having confiscated his property commanded that he should be put to death.’
Guru Arjundev was charged with committing treason and was tortured gravely to death not before offering him pardon if he converted to Islam. Guru believed in his own dharma and preferred death to change of faith. Execution of the Guru was the most impolite step by the emperor. This shows the religious bigotry of Jahangir.
5. It is also alleged that Jahangir engineered the murder of Ali quili Beg Istajhi titled Sher Afghan the Jagirdar of Burdwan in 1607. The episode circles around Meherunnissa a beautiful maiden who was married to Sher Afghan . Historians state that Ali Quli received jagir of Burdwan and title Sher afghan from Jehangir in the early years of the emperors’ reign. However Jehangir learnt that Sher Afghan had become insubordinate and therefore he sent Qutubuddin new Governor of Bengal and his foster brother to discipline Sher Afghan. At Burdwan Sher Afghan and Qutubuddin had some serious arguments an in which Qutubuddin was killed. Followers of Qutubuddin immediately hacked Sher Afghan to pieces. They took away Meherunnissa along with her young daughter to Mughals court. Jehangir infatuated with her beauty married her after 4 years and gave her the title of Noor Jehan ( Light of the world) and she became the most important personality in the affairs of the court. Cunningness of the emperor can not be ruled out in the affairs of murder of Sher Afghan although the plot of the emperor and his complicity in the killing of Sher Afghan is not confirmed by any evidence(7).But knowing his weakness towards beautiful women the element of doubt can not be ignored.
6. Religious intolerance of Jahangir that is the hall mark of Mughals can be easily seen after the victory over Kangra fort after a difficult campaign in North Eastern Punjab on 16 November 1620. the Temple of Goddess Jwalamukhi desecrated by killing a cow in the temple and desecrating the idols (8).
7. Jahangir has been described by historians as a kind hearted ruler. He wrote in his memoirs that he killed 28532 animals and birds with his own hands during a span of 32 years from the age of 18 to 50 years. How cruel he could be and had the audacity to declare that people were forbidden to kill for two days in a weak and that cruelty to animals and birds was a sin. His way of hunting was weird.He wrote in his memoirs, “ On the 22 nd when I had got with in shot of a Nilgay suddenly a groom, and two bearers appeared and the nilgaw escaped. In a great rage I ordered them to kill the groom on the spot and to hamstring the bearers and mount them on asses and parade them through the camp..” ( 9)
8. He became famous for a golden chain with a bell that was called a bell of Justice and it is doubtful if ever it was used. Infact Hindu King Ananagapal was the first king to introduce such bell and the pseudo Indian historians to the beat of drums have praised Jahangir as the most innovative. Immediately after assuming power he declared 12 ordinances for better administration and all these are considered as big joke on people from an Emperor who always remained under the influence of liquor and opium. He handed over administration to his wife and brothers in-law while he drowsed himself in liquor and what better administration can be expected of the emperor (10).
9. Jahangir was highly critical of Islamic rituals of rigid fasting in certain months. He drank, ate and made merry with friends and forced those who followed the tenants rigidly at the threat of being made fodder for two lions who were kept caged closed by. Catrous writes, “ When some of his nation of rather rigid principles happened to be present at these meetings, he compelled them to violate their fast, threatening them in case of disobedience with being abandoned to the rage of two lions who were always kept chained under the windows of his apartments( 11).
. Historians wrote that at times he was very furious and enjoyed when some victims were skinned alive while he at times felt pity for the elephants trembling in winter at cold. He has been praised as the collector of paintings and had sense of fine tastes. But he was an opium addict and was drowned in liquor and this surely affected his sense of judgment. In fact he left state matters to his famous wife Noor Jehan and his brother in law who decided most of the matters while he drank and made merryall the time.. Over indulgence in liquor surely and finally affected him and he died after a reign of 22 years on 28 October 1627.
2.Elliot Vol VI, P 300
3.M V R Shastry, Edi Charitra ( A reappraisal of Ancient and Medieval Indian History Ajo K Vibho Foundation Hyderabad Publication, First Edition 2003 PP 201
4.Terry, Voyage to East India, PP 411
5. RC Majumadar, H C Roy Chaudhry, Kalikinkar Datta, An advanced History of India, Macmillan, New York, 1967, PP 458
6. Guru Arjun Dev , Great sikh Martyr, http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:1kVWs3qBjNAJ:newstodaynet.com/printer.php%3Fid%3D17614+Was+Jehangir+a+very+cruel+ruler&cd=10&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=in
7. RC Majumadar, H C Roy Chaudhry, Kalikinkar Datta, An advanced History of India, Macmillan, New York, 1967,
8. K.K Bhardwaj, History of medieval India, Sudha publications, Rajendra Place, , New Delhi, India, Edition V, PP 141
9. Vincent smith, The Oxford History of India, PP 387
10. Iqbal nama I Jehangiri, Elliot and Dawson, Vol VI PP 405 as cited in M V R Shastry, Edi Charitra ( A reappraisal of Ancient and Medieval Indian History Ajo K Vibho Foundation Hyderabad Publication, First Edition 2003 PP 206
11.Catrous, History of Mughal Dynasty, PP 138, 139, Also quoted in Elliot and Dawson, Vol VI, PP 513-514, as cited in M V R Shastry, Edi Charitra ( A reappraisal of Ancient and Medieval Indian History Ajo K Vibho Foundation Hyderabad Publication, First Edition 2003 PP 204
Dr K Prabhakar Rao