WESTERN MUSIC ROCKS EMPEROR BAHADUR SHAH’S TENT
A MUSICAL NIGHT IN LAHORE 26TH JANUARY 1712
The last days of Aurangzeb Alamgeer’s son
In Lahore we have all heard of the Shalami Darwaza, and one can picture it as the Gate of Emperor Shah Alam, son of Aurangzeb Alamgeer. Very little is written on it in history, but we do know that in 1947, the Hindu-Muslim riots had burnt the area down, and the Gate was demolished by the civic authorities, with a plan to rebuilt it with a new one. In fact the design for the new Gate was made by M.A. Rahman Chughtai, but lack of finances, never materialized that project.
Aurangzeb Alamgeer snubbed as a bigot by the Hindu as well as pro-Hindu lobbies was an exceptional man of great taste. To rear up his children, he had acquired the services of a Portuguese women, by the name of Lady Juliana Dias Da Costa, who served the Mughal household during the reign of five Mughal Emperors, that is Aurangzeb Alamgeer, Bahadur Shah Alam, Jahandar Shah, Farruk Siyar as well a Muhammed Shah. Amazing is it not, that a European woman was head of the Mughal harem for decades, and was loved and respected by the Mughal Princes as a family member and carried the Royal Seal with her.
Shah Alam spent quite a lot of his time in Lahore itself. He was in Lahore, when the Dutch sent in an Ambassador to his court. His name was J.J. Ketelaar, and he came and camped just outside Lahore. Bahadur Shah was also in a camp near by. Presents were exchanged, hunts were shared and ideas for the future planned by them. Site seeing was being done in Lahore. A Royal presence and a Court visit was not an every day thing. Lady Juliana was the hostess to the Ambassador Ketelaar in Lahore. She took him to show the Shalimar Gardens as well as the Wazir Khan’s former palace, the Pari MahaL inside the Shahalm Darwaza Lahore. This palace was now occupied by Lady Juliana herself and she had it renewed with Christian icons,including a statue of Jesus Christ himself, done in alabaster.
On 26th January, 1712, Lady Juliana requested J.J. Ketelaar to serenade the Emperor and the Queens at night. Three Western musicians came in the tent, and the ladies inspected their instruments; a bass violin, harp and hautbois. And then the band started playing the music. The Emperor and his chief wife Nihar Parwar, as well as the others, listened to the music all night. The band had exhausted itself. The Emperor and his Queens very happy.
The funny part is that Bahadur Shah died on 28th February, 1712. Some alleged that he had been assassinated by someone present in the lady’s harem. Others said differently. Even the conspiracy of the Dutch was suspected by some. But at that time no one cared at all. Even the body of the Emperor laid unattended for a month before being taken to Delhi. A war of succession started. J.J. Ketelaar left Lahore in a hurry, after bidding farewell to the Queen then in the Lahore Fort. The last music heard by Bahadur Shah was that of the Western band in Lahore. Indeed a serenade of history. Today Western bands rock Lahore all the time. Cars playing western music, television shows, singers imitating western idols (Sonu Dangerous is famous for being Michael Jackson) as well as bands in night long concerts, and teenagers swaying to their music. Yes, Lahore is Lahore. It welcomes all good things. And music is one of the best things of the world. More on that later.