CELEBRATIONS for the ruling family only really begin one month later – when Shah Jahan’s sons, who have been away in Lahore for several years, finally reunite with their parents at Agra. Aurangazeb, Dara Shikoh and Shah Shuja have grown up and Mumtaz rushes out to receive them. At the formal greeting ceremony in the diwan-e-am the next day, the sons walk up in a procession to the Imperial jharoka (balcony), where they are each embraced by their father, Shah Jahan. On this occasion the new Emperor honours an important high officer also over from Lahore, Asaf Khan, who is presented with a jewelled scabbard and sword, and a bejewelled robe of honour.
At the first private banquet held for family members in the zenana apartments, imperial cooks prepare a range of dishes themed on white: ethereal biryanis and pulaos, and meats and vegetables coated in well-flavoured white sauces. There is also a special preparation of rogan josh coloured in an eye-catching red from the use of Kashmiri rattan jyot (made from the bark of a tree) and a kichri prepared with dried fruits and a blend of spices. There is a selection of novel European confections prepared by bread makers with experience working among the Portugese who have had a nominla presence in the region running over many decades now. There are apples from Kashmir and Samarqand and mangoes from the Lakh Bagh orchards in Bihar that were commissioned by Shah Jahan’s grandfather, Emperor Akbar.
After washing their hands, they seat themselves cross-legged before carpets covered with leather sheets and white calico. The Emperor asks that some of the banquet be set aside for the needy. The family is then personally served by girls from the harem bearing dishes of silver and gold.