Sunday, 13 October 2019

Last Mogul ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar and the discovery of his tomb in Yangon, Myanmar


Last Mogul ruler. Bhadur Shah Zafar  lighteddream.wordpress.com
Tomb of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, Ynkon, Myanmar  triphobo.com

In the last phases of the first war of independence (Many historians view that Sepoy mutiny is a wrong title) in 1857 by Indian soldiers and others  against the British  misrule rule,  their exploitation and racial discrimination it turned more violent and sensational. Dubbed as the  most important anti-colonial revolt against  a European empire in the 19th centuryit shook the basic foundation of the British rule in India. The last Mogul ruler Zafar  who was reduced to a powerless ruler with jurisdiction in and around Delhi with yearly dole from the English company publicly supported the rebellion though he was against violence and his entry angered the British. 

Against Zafar's  wish, Sepoys ­­– native soldiers both Hindus and Muslims, who were in the employ of  the East India Company, made him their commander-in-chief, because  as there was no charismatic leader worth his name  to lead them and further he was  was liked by both  Hindus and Muslims. In the midst of Delhi siege that followed mayhem, violent riots and killings, the Europeans were hiding in Zafar's  palace to escape from the fury of the hell-bent mob. Without Mogul ruler's  knowledge,  the  rebels inside the palace killed as many as of 52 Europeans hiding there.  Despite his non-involvement and just because he was the leader of the rebels, the British accused Zafar of having instigated the cold-blooded killing of the British in the palace.  

Fearing safety of his family members,  Bahadur Shah Zafar and his wife Zeenat Mahal had escaped to Humanyun’s tomb near Delhi.  The British had him and his wife captured under the command of  Hodson and his spy Maulvi Rajab Ali,  who negotiated with the emperor,  of safety to his life. The emperor and his wife Zeenat walked back to Delhi as British prisoners.  Following day,  Major Hodson went back to  Humanyun’s tomb  to capture the three princes, Mirza Mughal, Khizr Sultan, and Abu Baker, the heirs to the Mogul ruler on assurance they would be spared. They were on the way to Delhi in a bullock cart before a huge  mob.  They were at the Khuni Darwaza near the city walls of Delhi, Hodson’s next action was horrible, gory and in human. No sooner  had he ordered the princes to be  stripped  naked than  Hodson shot them dead in cold blood. No remorse, nothing of that sort and he did it with glee.  He then stripped the corpses of their rings and their bejeweled swords, and later he boasted that he  disposed off the principal members of the family of Timur, the Tartar. To cap it all Major William Hodson,  presented  ruler Zafar the decapitated heads of his three legal heirs.
1957,Delhi:dagger seized  seized Hodson  lighteddream.wordpress.com
 Above image: khanjar (Khanjar or dagger seized by Major William Hodson at Delhi, 1857 : Hodson probably took this beautiful dagger from one of the Mughal princes, whom he stripped and shot dead on 21 Sept 1857 after their surrender. Alternatively, he may have obtained it later on at the sale of treasures organized by Delhi prize agents. ©National Army Museum, London...................................

The British  implicated Zafar  in the massacre of Europeans and tried him for “treason” and “aiding rebels”. But, the Indian patriots looked upon him as a great hero and  a freedom fighter. The British who were after complete take over of Delhi  found  Zafar guilty and  exiled him to Rangoon, Burma. Thus the British  eliminated the last Mogul ruler and sent him out of Delhi to a far of place.  Soon after the rebellion was subdued by them, the administration came directly under the British Crown,  leading to the creation of the British Raj (1858-1947).

The Mogul ruled the Indian sub-continent for more than three centuries, between the mid 16th and early 18th centuries. Under it, the Indian economy remained prosperous. It had created a uniform currency and road system, unified the country and created great cities. After five years of a very sad  and painful exile in  captivity, deeply humiliated and mentally wounded ruler  Zafar became a wretched  soul  and died in Rangoon on November 7, 1862, at the age of 87.  Just before death he wrote, “Not to be heard, not a spirited song; I am the voice of anguish, a cry of colossal grief. […] Life comes to an end, dusk approaches; in peace I will sleep, sheltered by the grave.”

Zafar with twwo sons. lighteddream.wordpress.com
 In 1876, Britain’s Queen Victoria was proclaimed the Empress of India. In haste, the British buried Zafar according to Islamic rite in Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar).  Later, his wife and granddaughter, Raunaq Zamani were buried alongside him.

It took nearly  century to find Zafar's tomb as the British wanted his tomb to be lost for ever and not to be found again . However, local Muslims living in Yangon knew   for a long time that the Emperor had been  buried somewhere within a definite compound to the south of Shwedagon Pagoda. The spot was covered with over growth of grass and had  simple bamboo fence around it.

 (  Zafar’s grave, Yangon, Myanmar. lighteddream.wordpress.com
It was on February 16, 1991, the civil workers stumbled upon the brick-lined tomb while working. It contained an inscription, and the body’s identity was quickly confirmed.  The skeleton of the Emperor was found wrapped in a silk shroud covered by floral petals only about three-and-a-half feet (one meter) under the ground..
Tomb of Zafar, Myanmar lighteddream.wordpress.com
Above image: In 1862, Zafar  was  87 "weak and feeble"  and in late October his health condition was very poor. The British Commissioner, H.N. Davies, wrote , "very uncertain." He was "spoon-fed on broth,"  On November 6, Davies recorded that Zafar "is evidently sinking from pure desuetude and paralysis in the region of his throat."  Davies made preparations for  the emperor's burial.  Zafar  died on November 7, 1862 at 5 a.m. He was buried at 4 p.m. on the same day "at the rear of the Main Guard in a brick grave covered over with turf level with the ground," according to Davies. The ceremony was attended by his two children and their servant but not Zafar's wife, Zinat Mahal........................

A couple of years later  Bahadur Shah Zafar’s “Dargah” (Sufi shrine), was built at the site of the grave. The current hall, dedicated to the memory of Zafar, was inaugurated on December 15, 1994 by Myanmar’s minister for religious affairs, with the assistance of the Government of India and the presence of the Indian Ambassador. Myanmar’s Muslims, visit this durgah regularly and they honor  Zafar as an “emperor-saint”.  It is a  two-story mausoleum are covered with engraved marble plaques. Nine steps lead to a crypt,

Tit-bits:
It is a bit of irony, just like Zafar  Thibaw, the last King of Burma (1878-1885),  faced defeat and humiliation in the hands of the British  in the Third Anglo-Burmese War. He not only lost the throne and his crown   but also  spent his time in colonial captivity (exiled for twenty-seven years) in Ratnagiri, India where he died in 1916 unsung and unheard of.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahadur_Shah_Zafar_grave_dispute
https://www.mmtimes.com/lifestyle/9507-grave-secrets-of-yangon-s-imperial-tomb.html

 https://lighteddream.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/1857-uprising-the-sigh-of-the-oppressed-exploring-kashmiri-gate/