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Prince Dara Shikoh’s baraat (wedding procession) with Shah Jahan closely behind his son. Image: From an 18th C painting, The marriage procession of Dara Shikoh (National Museum, Delhi)

shah jahan

The world is a paradise full of delights 1

While Mumtaz was still alive, she had arranged for and hoped to witness the marriage of her eldest son and heir apparent, Dara Shikoh. With her demise, this event must wait two years before it is realised. The time has now come for Jahanara, Dara Shikoh’s eldest sister, the First Lady, to take charge of her brother’s wedding celebrations. She has much in common with Dara. Not just in terms of temperament, but in spiritual leaning. Both Jahanara and Dara are initiates of the Sufi Qadiri order which holds the symbol of the rose.


Gifts are given as generously as they are received. Image: From a 17th C painting by Bishnadas (The Royal Collection)

In managing the elaborate arrangements for the wedding scheduled for the first day of February, she is ably assisted by the resourceful Satti un-Nissa, Jahanara’s tutor who was also her late mother’s lady-in-waiting. The amount spent on the celebrations will equal that spent on construction of the entire Red Fort complex. She will meet more than half of this from her own funds. The day finally arrives. For the first time since the demise of Mumtaz, music rings through the palace. Dara, in a heavily worked angrakha, escorted by his brothers in the customary baraat, enters the the diwan-e-aam where his father Shah Jahan places the sehra, the ceremonial veil of pearls, across his son’s forehead. After the brief midnight ceremony overseen by the qazi, festivities play out against the backdrop of fireworks along the length the river across which move the dim shapes of decorated boats.

At the wedding feast, Shah Jahan is radiant, no longer in his clothes of mourning, but in dazzling jewels, perfume and embroidered finery. Gifts are distributed as generously as they are received. At a distance, in a private moment under the stars, as Jahanara looks on at the fireworks from her balcony, she enjoys a few glasses of her favourite cocktail made from wine and rosewater and considers a verse by Rumi – Today is the day of the rose, now is the rose’s year.

From lines read out in memory of Mumtaz Mahal