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Emperor Bahadur Shah at Lahore, His Death and After

Emperor Bahadur Shah, as we know, crossed the Beas at the ford of Rahilla1 on the 23rd June, 1711, and passing through Kahnuwan, Kalanaur, Chamiari and Panjgarain, arrived at Lahore on the 11th August, 1711. The Emperor did not take up his residence in the fort of Lahore. His camp was pitched near the village of Anwala not far from the bank of the river Ravi, and his sons remained in their encampments outside the city. Muhammad Azim-ud-Din Azim-us-Shan took up a position near the village of Awan, surrounding himself by a fortification of treasurecarts. Muhammed Muazz-ud-Din was encamped near Parwezabad market, Rafi-us-Shah on the bank of the river near Bagh Dharmu or Dharmu's garden, and Muhammed Jahan Shah on the plain of Shah Mir Khush.2

On the 19th Rajab, 1123 (1st September, 1711), it was reported to the Emperor that Rustamdil Khan Ghazi Khan Rustam-i-Jang had returned to Lahore, without orders, from the expedition against Banda Singh and had taken up residence in his haveli in the city. Islam Khan Mir-i-Atish, Mahabat Khan Bahadur, Mukhlis Khan Bahadur and Sarbrah Khan Kotwal were ordered to arrest him. He was brought in during the night seated on a rahkala. Bahadur Shah ordered him to be imprisoned in the citadel of Lahore with fetters on his feet. 'On his way to prison, a number of men, who had suffered at his hands, cursed him and threw dust at him; but, true to his reckless character, he was not in the least disturbed. He occupied himself with interchanging witticisms with the men in charge of his who were seated on the same elephant. Some of the by-standers shouted out "Pimp! Pimp!!" Now as Islam Khan was following him on another elephant, Rustamdil Khan retorted unabashed, "Which do you mean? The Pimp in front or the one behind?" His office of (the first) Mir Tuzk was given to another Amir [Islam Khan] and Inayatullah Khan, the Khan-i-Saman or Lord Steward, was directed to confiscate his property. The amount reported was 500 gold coins (Ashrafis), 1,36,000 Rupees, 11 elephants, 70 horses, 18 camels, some jewels and forty cart-loads of tents.' However, after three months, on the 20th Shawwal, 1123 (30th November, 1711), Rustamdil Khan was released and honoured with the title of 'Ghazanfar Khan' in place of his old titles.3

The Shiah innovation of the Emperor, by the addition of the word wasi or heirs as a title of Ali in the recital of Muhammad's successor in the public prayer for the sovereign recited every Friday in every mosque throughout the Empire, had for some time past been the cause of religious unrest. This never-ending controversy between the Sunnis and the Shiahs had already brought about riots at Ahmadabad and elsewhere; and, at Lahore, owing to the objection of Sunni Mullas to the new form of prayer, no Khutba4 had been read for some time. At first Bahadur Shah, on his arrival at Lahore, stuck fast to his resolve, arrested the Khatib or reciter of the prayer, and imprisoned him at Agra, and ordered Islam Khan Mir Atish to march to the Jameh Masjid on the next Friday with all his artillery and to see that the Khutba in its new form, with the addition of the word wasi, was duly read. But finally the Emperor gave way. On the 2nd October, 1711, the Khutba in the old form, as in Aurangzeb's reign, was read and the threatening agitation came to an end.5

On the 14th Zi-ul-Hijja, (22nd January, 1712), the news arrived that Muhammad Amin Khan Chin Bahadur had fought a sanguinary battle with the Sikhs and had sent five hundred of their heads to the royal presence.6 When and where this battle was fought is not mentioned in Kamwar Khan's Tazkirat-us-Salatin, nor any account of it has yet been found in any other work.

Towards the middle of Zi-ul-Hijja, 1123 (the last week of January, 1712), the Emperor felt a slight indisposition and his health failed day by day. Preparations for the annual celebrations of his coronation were made, but he was unable to appear.7 Later on his brain appears to have been affected very much. It would seem that he began to be troubled by delusions. One day, a month later, in the middle of Muharram, 1124 (last week of February, 1712), he took it into his head to give orders for killing all the dogs and donkeys in the camp and the city, and for expelling the Faqirs, the Jogis and the Sanyasis.8 Hundreds of dogs9 were killed every day. 'Amin-ud-din, whose tent was on the bank of the river, himself saw the city dogs at early dawn jumping into the river and swimming to the other side, only returning after dark to the houses of those who fed them.10

The Emperor held his last Durbar on the 24th February, 1712. The next day he was reported to be ill. A great excitement and commotion prevailed among the Princes and Amirs during the three days of his illness. During the night of Monday the 21st Muharram,11 1124 (the 27-28th February, 1712), he breathed his last. His corpse was prepared for burial and laid in a coffin by Maulvi Murad-ullah, Mahfuz Khan and Abdul Qadir, but it lay unburied until the question of the successor to the throne had been decided. It was dispatched to Delhi on the 5th Rabi-ul-Awwal, 1124 (11th April, 1712), in the charge of Bibi Mehar Parwar, the Emperor's widow, and of Chin Qilich Muhammad Khan. It arrived at Delhi on the 15th May, 1712 when it was buried in the court-yard of the marble mosque erected by Aurangzeb near the shrine of Khwajah Qutb-ud-Din Bakhtiar Kaki.12

The death of Bahadur Shah was followed by the usual struggle among his sons for the throne. In a fight that took place outside the city walls, at Lahore, during 6-9th Safar, 1124 (14- l 7th March, 1712), the elephant of Azim-us-Shan, being wounded in the trunk by a cannon ball, became so restive and unmanageable that it threw itself down into the Ravi where the Prince and the animal were swallowed up by a quicksand. Ultimately Jahandar Shah, having surprised and slain his remaining brothers, Jahan Shah, and Rafi-us-Shan, in a battle fought on the 19th and 20th Safar, 1124 (27-28th March, 1712), ascended the throne on the 29th March, 1712.

Jahandar Shah's reign began with a series of executions and imprisonments. But it was not to continue for long. Ten months afterwards the effeminate monarch was himself defeated by Farrukh Siyar, son of Azim-us-Shan. With the help of the Sayyed brothers, Hussain Ali and Abdulla, he put his uncle to death on the I 7th Muharram, 1125 (11th February, 1713), to avenge the death of his father, and ascended the throne of Delhi.

The period of struggle for the Imperial throne and the disturbed state of affairs at Lahore and Delhi, from February 1712 to the summer of 1713, when Abdus-Samad Khan laid siege to Sadhaura, was very favourable for the re-establishment of the power of the Khalsa. After the evacuation of the fort of Lohgarh, Banda Singh had reappeared, as we know, in the neighbourhood of Raipur and Bahrampur, and killed Shamas Khan Kheshgi and mortally wounded his uncle Bayzid Khan, the Faujdar of Jammu, in the battle offered by both of them. The Khalsa had overrun the parganas of Kalanaur and Batala before the arrival of Bahadur Shah at Lahore and had pushed on as far as Pasrur, whence they had entered into the eastern craggy mountains of Jammu, beyond the reach of their pursuer Muhammad Amin Khan.

On the death of Bahadur Shah, Muhammad Amin Khan returned to Lahore to take part in the struggle for succession, and the Khalsa emerged from their retreats to establish once again their lost power. Banda Singh availed himself of the opportunity and occupied Sadhaura without any loss of time. The agility with which he moved in the craggy mountains appears to have been wonderful. From the vicinity of Jammu he managed to reach Sadhaura in a marvelously short time. After capturing Sadhaura, the fort of Lohgarh was repaired and it once more enjoyed the dignity of a Sikh Capital for over two years.13

Notes and References

  1. Umdat-us-Tawarikh, i. 81; Qasim, Ibrat Namah, 25. Karam Singh has given the name of the ford as Sri Hargobindpur. (Banda Bahadur, 158).
  2. Qasim. Ibrat Namah, p. 25.
  3. Kamwar, Tazkirah, 158 a-b; Irvine, Later Mughals, i. 120-1.
  4. Khutba is a sermon or oration delivered in a mosque after divine service on Friday in which the preacher blesses Muhamad, his successors and the reigning sovereign.
  5. Kamwar, Tazkirah, 159 a-b; Seir Mutaqherin Raymond, i. 19-21, Briggs, 18-19; Latif, History of Lahore, 70.
  6. Kamwar, Tazkirah. 159 b.
  7. Qasim, Ibrat Namah, p. 26.
  8. Ibid.
  9. The translators of the Siyar-ul-Mutakherin have read the words sag and sag-ha, as Sik and Sikh-ha and have translated the passage as follows :

'.........some alteration was perceived in his mind. It was about the middle of Muharrem, in the year 1124 of the Hedjra. One day, he took into this head to give orders for killing all the dogs in camp, as well as all those in the city of Lahore. As such an order, from so sensible a prince could not appear but very strange, people were willing to account for it by supporting that some witchcraft or enchantment had been practised upon his person. Such a state of things was more disagreeable, as the Sycks were becoming equally numerous and troublesome. Forbidden from coming into the city of Lahore, not one of them was to be seen in the day-time; but as soon as it was dark, they never failed to return to the houses of those that used to feed and cherish them.' (Raymond, i. 21-22; Briggs, 19-20).

  1. Irvine, Later Mughals, i. 133.
  2. Harisi, lbrat Namah, 44a; Kamwar, Tazkirah.
  3. Harisi, Ibrat Namah, 44a; Kamwar, Tazkirah; Later Mughals, i. 135.
  4. Kamwar, Tazkirah; Harisi, Ibrat Namah, 44a.