Rahiman Raaj Sarahie,
Sasi Sam Sukhad Jo Hoy |
Kaha Baapuro Bhaanu Hai
Tapyo Taraiyan Khoy |
(A King should be like the Moon.
The Sun creates far too much heat
and takes away the sparkle from the stars.)
– a doha by Khan-i-Khana
A COURT POET RECITES this couplet credited to Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana. Khan-i-Khana was none other than a Navratna in Akbar’s Court. He was an important general but he was also popular for his dohas (a style of couplet) written in Hindi and Braj basha. While Jahangir himself wasn’t particularly fond of Rahim for his stand on Akbar’s succession, he finds this couplet genuinely praiseworthy and rewards the reciter with a turban and a shawl.
He receives many poets at his Court, a good number from Central Asia. Jahangir is fluent in Persian, Turkish, Arabic and he can manage a bit of Portugese. It is in Persian that he converses with guests from Central Asia. One such guest is a distinguished poet by the name of Mutribi Samarqandi. Jahangir likes nothing more than to hear a guest tell him how dazzled he is by Hindustan. In one of their many exchanges, Jahangir decides to surprise him by placing a large sugar candy on the guest’s seat in advance of his arrival. This sugar candy has been specially commissioned from a sweetmaker in Lucknow. In fact Mutribi is amazed to see the candy and says he has never seen anything like it before. He tells Jahangir that he will take it back to his home country, Turan, and offer it to a respected Sufi figure.
Clearly food possesses a unique power to amaze. Jahangir ensures that Mutribi is treated to the food of Mughal nobles. Consequently Mutribi gets an insight into the staple meals of the region’s elite – these include a kabuli pilaf made with meat and rice, spiced with ginger, onions and zeera (carraway seeds); this is accompanied with a dish made of chickpeas. Dal and rice is something of a classic meal and Jahangir’s own favorite is a khichri made from peas and millet.
Mutribi personally enjoys a treat that is something of a rage at the moment – called sarpacha, it consists of sheep feet in a delicate though tangy stew of mint, lemon and vinegar.