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Jahangir2A CONVOY CAN LEAVE A TRAIL of public utilities every place it passes through. In the case of the Mughal camp, this is most certainly the case. So many serais, public wells and kos minars are the incidental gifts of the peripatetic Mughals. With camping techniques perfected over generations, Jahangir, a creature of the Court, has quickly taken a shine to the indulgence of Imperial-style travel.


Camping with convenience. Image: From 17th C painting showing Jahangir served by his sons (British Museum)

As soon as the orders for movement are issued, the best routes are chalked out, an advance camp sets out, finds a suitable spot, erects tents and places furnishings well before the royal contingent and trailing crew arrive. At each location, the contingent stay a minimum of two days before they head forth again on camels, horses, howdahs, in palanquins, to the next spot, where once again tents are erected by the advance team. Nothing is rushed. So the camp doesn’t move more than 13 kilometres a day. The calvacade-on-the-move also serves an endless source of entertainment for residents of the cities, towns and villages they pass by.

This is how Jahangir and his city-sized retinue arrive at the new capital in Ajmer. When England’s first ambassador comes a-calling, it’s not at Agra or Delhi that he presents his credentials, but at this Imperial camp in Ajmer. In three years, this precise camp will be burned down to ensure everyone’s on board before the Mughal contingent moves to their next capital at Mandu.