“What You Are Longing for Is Longing for You.
The Energies Do Not Lie, Nor Do Passions…..”
Agra, the epitome of love & longing, stories of beautiful people gone by; anecdotes woven around the stunning legacies left behind by people of honour. Time and again weighed down heavily by Delhi as a close contender for hosting the courts of the grand Mughals, Agra witnesses history as no one else could have.
Agra would easily have been about the Taj Mahal for me, like most; a tale of monuments and beautiful buildings. But a whirlwind trip over the weekend, leaving behind the very enticing kite flying festival - Utrayan back home, was a complete accident in itself!
History become a bit too trying for me at times simply because I cannot imagine if I haven’t been there. I live the stories when I am amidst the past, forgetting what the volumes attempted to tell, for a book is simply the reflection of what its writer senses.
History divides India under various pretexts – origins, faiths & cultures. There were the plunderers & the invaders who entered India from the north-western frontiers. Some remained at Delhi for years only to raid India to rob her of her riches, grandeur & respect; some kept invading time & again. But then, there were also 'The other Indians', the Mughals who made Hindustan their own; bringing in their own culture & likings to settle down here forever. Their own stories of love, longings and passions set in & around Agra & Fatehpur Sikri, inseparable from India & contemporary Indianness.
It took me a while to find these tales amidst the overwhelmingly beautiful Agra Fort or the Lal Quila as it is also called; the Fatehpur Sikri, an ode to the very revered saint Salim Chisti and of course the Taj Mahal for which I am still struggling to find words. It was only natural to feel the passions which bound the Mughals to their lovers, their longings to see the land they came from and ultimately love for their sultanate in Hindustan overcoming all.
The man who started it all, Babur's yearning to go back to his motherland was never to be fulfilled simply to keep his new-found reign in India protected. His love for his son ultimately made him trade his life to save his son Humayun’s, said the anecdote in the light & sound show at the magnificent fort.
For Humayun the longing to get back Agra, his realm he had lost to continuous wars, his wanderings across lands through years and futile efforts to settle down peacefully comes across as nothing short of tragedy. But he set the stage for his very illustrious son, Akbar; who in the real sense chalked out the epic golden period of the Mughals in India.
Akbar, besides getting questioned for almost every radical change he wanted to bring in for the people he loved rather than rule; I would feel was the true man of honour of this impressive dynasty. He did get questioned time & again for marrying the gorgeous Rajput princess Jodhabai. Was it a political alliance or a union of the hearts? What touches me the most in his story is how the emperor's wives had their religious independence, the freedom to follow their own faiths & cultures.
He was well ahead of his times to establish that one religion for all Din-i-Ilahi. It obviously failed because it was really well ahead of its time. His love for people & the land his ancestors had made their own, was overpowered by the hatred people held in their hearts against each other. It is an irony how Akbar's progenies themselves were finally a cause of this permanent culture & religious divide in Hindustan.
Having read the story of Salim & Mehrunissa earlier & how it took them decades to turn into Jehangir & Noor Jehan to unite forever was probably not enough for me. It took me a visit to Agra & Fatehpur Sikri to get a feel of the Meena bazaars, the grand living quarters & the courts of the Mughals where their love blossomed.
Ironically it was Akbar's love for his position, his power & the falsehood of society that led him into compel Mehrunissa's family to wed her to another. It was the same son for whom he had prayed & begged to the sufi saint Salim Chisti; it was the same son for whom he had walked from Ajmer to Agra a lot many times to please the saint; it was the same son whose heart he tore apart by marrying his lady to another.
Human mind works in unpredictable manners.
And the Taj is chronologically last on the list. When the last honorable emperor, Shah Jahan built it for his wife no longer by his side, Mumtaz Mahal. Was it love, was it longing or just a promise?
Taj is a most beautiful, intricately carved masterpiece that needs no introduction. The iconic bench where tourists get photographed is in fact where the emperor sat looking at the final burial site - the mausoleum of his lover for long days & longer evenings. It would have been so painful, so beautiful to read his mind, the story of prince Khurram & the light of his life Arjuamand. Because sometimes a story of love is also a story of pain understood by a very few.
I could feel him when I saw the Taj in the first rays of light when I touched the bench where he would have sat. I felt him at his quarters in the Agra fort too, where he was imprisoned for the last years of his life by his own son Aurangazeb. He must have ached to go to the Taj to feel his lover and set free from his house arrest. Bonds of hearts are never broken; love defies boundaries, distances & even lifetimes when moments become memories.
Agra, of love & longing, unfinished stories, ruined dynasties, beautiful people - the other Indians who made India their very own. A beautiful picture bringing alive a thousand memories is there to cherish, ever since.........