Allahabad’s Khusro Bagh, the Taj Mahal you never heard of

In the heart of Allahabad, forgotten in the sands of time, lies a stunning Mughal monument called Khusro Bagh meaning “the gardens of Khusro”. People around the world have heard of Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor and the commissioner of the Taj Mahal. In contrast, very few have heard of Khusro, his half-brother and the original heir to the Mughal throne. Even fewer have visited Khusro Bagh. If the rebellious (and just?) Khusro had been successful in his attempts to overthrow his father, Shah Jahan might not have become an emperor and there would have been no Taj Mahal. Before you paint Khusro in a bad light, it’s important to understand his tragic life. I present to you, a Mughal Game of Thrones if you will.Allahabad’s Khusro bagh the Taj Mahal you never heard of

The tragic life of Prince Khusro

The Mughal Empire ruled most of India and Pakistan in the 16th and 17th centuries When the second Mughal emperor Akbar’s health began to deteriorate in the 1590s, he grew troubled by his oldest son and heir, Jehangir’s wine and opium addiction. He had already lost his second and third sons to opium. Jehangir was given to terrible mood swings and an impatience to ascend the throne. At this time, Akbar turned to his grandson, i.e the first son of Jehangir, Khusro as the future emperor. At 18, Khusro was everything his father was not. Good-natured, brave, just, a skilled battleground commander and beloved by the people of the court and the empire.Allahabad’s Khusro bagh the Taj Mahal you never heard of

In a shocking turn of events, Akbar named his son Jehangir, not Khusro, as the next emperor, at his deathbed. Upon ascending to the throne, Jehangir immediately threw Khusro into jail fearing his widespread popularity and a future attempt to usurp his crown. True to his fears, Khusro escaped captivity and tried to overthrow his father alongside an army of loyalists. His rebellion was crushed; Khusro was blinded on the instructions of his angry father and imprisoned once again.Allahabad’s Khusro Bagh, the Taj Mahal you never heard of

A choice: Life or another wife?

The story doesn’t end there.Allahabad’s Khusro bagh the Taj Mahal you never heard of

Eleven years later, Jehangir’s opium addiction to opium grew and he languished as a ruler. Meanwhile, Jehangir’s twentieth wife Nur Jahan, an intelligent and shrewd lady, rose to the occasion and the real seat of power shifted to her. The heir to the throne and Jahangir’s favorite son Prince Khurram/future Shah Jahan resented his stepmother’s undue influence and that his father turned to not him, but Nur Jahan for advice.

Aware of Shah Jahan’s disapproval, Nur Jahan wanted to consolidate her position of power. She offered Khusro her daughter’s hand in marriage and an opportunity to reclaim the throne. To understand what was at stake for a blind Khusro, you have to realize that he had been in captivity for over a decade. Accepting this proposal meant a life out of confinement, a chance to rule again and live like royalty. Seems like a simple choice, right?

To everybody’s shock, Khusro declined his repeated offer, signing his imminent death warrant. He professed a loyalty and devotion to his beloved wife, who had stood by side, through all the tough times and refused to take another wife. All this happened at a time, where polygamy and harems were widely accepted and considered a way of life.

Shah Jahan wanted to ensure that Khusro would not do him any damage and forced Nur Jahan to transfer Khusro to his custody. She had no strings attached and eventually, she complied. In a short period of time, Shah Jahan had him strangled.Allahabad’s Khusro Bagh, the Taj Mahal you never heard of

“Neither life nor death was kind to this unfortunate son of Jehangir. “

Khusro Bagh, an architectural marvel

Housed within spacious {40 acres} walled grounds, in a lush green Mughal garden, are three mausoleums from the 17th century. As you enter the walls, a broad palm-tree lined pathway leads the way to the first mausoleum.

Quite honestly, the first sweeping glance of these stunning sandstone structures and their perfect symmetry will take your my breath away. Very reminiscent of the Taj Mahal in architecture and style, the mausoleum(s) are made out of sandstone and smaller in structure.Allahabad’s Khusro bagh the Taj Mahal you never heard of

The earliest tomb, in a three-tier mausoleum, is that of Jahangir’s Hindu Rajput wife Man Bai or Shah Beghum.

She became so distressed with Jahangir fighting with their son {Khusro obviously} that she killed herself by swallowing opium. {And you thought, you had issues? :P} An interesting point to note that is her mausoleum has a Chatri {umbrealla} instead of a typical Mughlai dome. The Chatri is a distinct feature of the Rajput style of architecture, exists to celebrate and honor her roots and heritage.Allahabad’s Khusro bagh the Taj Mahal you never heard of

The most majestic building of the three and the least exciting if I may, because of a lack of a tomb is the one in the middle is of her daughter Nithar. She had this tomb built for herself, but unfortunately died somewhere else and her body was never brought to her desired resting place. While the ceilings and the walls of all the tombs are inked with colorful frescos and exquisite carvings of Persian phrases, cypress trees, vessels, flowers, and plants, Nithar’s is the most exquisite.

In the back lies Khusro’s mausoleum. Allahabad’s Khusro bagh the Taj Mahal you never heard of

Besides the historic grandeur that the monument exudes, the extensive gardens are decently maintained and are home to many mango and guava trees. I was there with a few friends on a summer evening in March. Birds were chirping and it was nice and breezy. We witnessed the most beautiful sunset on the way out.

Why you must visit

It is ironic that the world celebrates Prince Khurram or Emperor Shah Jahan as the epitome of love because of his construction of the Taj Mahal, as an ode to the memory of his dear wife Mumtaz Mahal. In reality, he had many women after his wife’s death. On the other hand, the story of Prince Khusro remains buried in the dusty pages of history. I urge you to put Khusro Bagh and Allahabad in your itineraries even if only for a day, to honor the loyal Prince Khusro, who deliberately chose to be loyal to his wife, very well aware of the cruel ending fate had in store for him.Allahabad’s Khusro bagh the Taj Mahal you never heard of

If that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.

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Also published on Medium.