Bagh-e-Bedil: The Full Scoop
POSTED BY SUNDEEP DOUGAL ON MAR 31, 2007 AT 23:48 IST in Outlook
There is more to report on the matter of Bedil’s grave. Just as we are about to go to press, Naim saab in Chicago has been able to hunt out the book he was looking for and this is what he has to report further on the subject that has been causing us a grave concern:
1. Life And Works Of Abdul Qadir Bedily by Dr. Abdul Ghani,
“[Bedil] was down with typhoid fever towards the end of Muharram 1133 AH (Nov. 1720). After four or five days the fever disappeared, and, thinking that he had recovered, Bedil took a bath on the 2nd of Safar 1133 AH (December 3, 1720). On Wednesday the 3rd of Safar there was a relapse of fever which remained for the whole of the night. Nawab Ghairat Khan Bahadur . . . was with him for the whole of the night. Sometimes Bedil swooned, and then came to himself. When he regained senses, he would burst into laughter involuntarily. The hopes of recovery waned at last, and at dawn the condition changed horribly. It was Thursday, 4th Safar 1133 AH (December 5, 1720) when six gharis had passed after sunrise, the Bedil’s soul winged its way to Heaven. His sacred remains were buried in the courtyard of his house, on the bank of the river Jamna, at the place specified by himself.” (pp. 110-11)
The above statement is based on three impeccable contemporary sources, including Bindaban Das ‘Khushgo’, a most ardent admirer of Bedil who was in Delhi then. Khushgo clearly says that he was buried in a grave dug into a chabutra that bedil had got built for that very purpose ten years earlier.
Sirajuddin Ali Khan Arzu, another contemporary, gives the 4th of Safar as the date of the annual ‘urs. While Dargah Quli Khan, who came to Delhi only in 1738, mentions that the ‘urs was held on the 3rd. It’s quite possible that the ceremonies began the night of the 3d and concluded the next morning, at the approximate time of Bedil’s death. He also implies that the grave was well maintained.
Some other, non-contemporary, later sources have mentioned the 3rd as the date of actual death. Their confusion is obvious.
Hasan Nizami, in 1941, translated Dargah Quli Khan’s book into Urdu. Curious about Bedil and the fact of his grave being unknown to anyone in Delhi, he published a query in his magazine (where the translation also appeared). He received one response. here is what he wrote in re the matter to Dr. Abdul Ghani, as reported by the latter:
“On reading [Nizami’s] note, Maulana Shah Sulaiman Sahib [of] Phulwari wrote to him that the tomb was in front of the Old Fort and in the vicinity of the tomb of Hazrat Malik Nur-ud-Din Yar-e-Parran. The Maulana [i,e, Nizami] went there. No vestige of the tomb was left, but he says he discovered the site. A request was then made to the present Nizam Asif Jah VII, who remitted Rs. 2,000 and the tomb with a marble tomb-stone and low enclosure of bricks was rebuilt. The inscription on it reads . . . ‘The tomb of Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil. Date of death: 3rd Safar, 1133 A.H. (Necessary repairs and constructions made in 1359 A.H. through the royal regards of His Highness Asif Jah VII, the ruler of the Deccan).” (pp114-15)
2. Hayat-i-Bedil Aur Digar Mazamin by Dr. Amanat, Allahabad, 1980.
He has a long essay on the life and death of Bedil, entitled “Hayat-i-Bedil” (Bedil’s Life).
He quotes Khushgo about Bedil’s house that was bought for him by Nawab Shukrallah Khan. It was “outside the Delhi Darwaza and the Shahar-panah (Delhi Gate and the City Wall), in muhalla Khekariyan and beside Guzar Ghat, [and was known as the haveli of] Lutf Ali.”
The annual celebration is described in sufficient detail by several eye-witnesses, including Khushgo and Arzu and Dargah Quli Khan, in that chronological order. Apparently it was a big event in Delhi’s cultural/literary life.
According to Dr. Amanat, the last mention of the grave and the ceremony is dated 1771. (p. 75) By then Delhi had been plundered over and over again, and its elite and poets were leaving it increasing number for safer and more rewarding places. On such person was Ghulam Hamdani Mushafi, who left Delhi and found refuge in Lucknow. In his tazkira (account) of the Persian poets of his age, he includes Bedil ‘for blessing,’ but adds ten years to his date of death (1143 AH). He also writes: “Bedil’s grave was built in his house which is now only a deserted ruin.” Mushafi wrote his book in 1199 AH (1784-85).
Several sources mention the names of two shagirds of Bedil and the son of a cousin of Bedil who organized these ceremonies. The son of the cousin is described as a lout who had little of Bedil’s spark, but earned a good living selling the various pills and pastes that Bedil used to make for himself and his friends.
3. The Wikipedia entry mentions two Afghan scholars. It claims that Saljuqi ‘proved’ that the grave was in Kabul. He does not do so; in fact he bases his assertion entirely and exclusively on the other scholar, Mohammed Da’ud, whose book I have not been able to locate. The two scholars suggest that Bedil was a Barlas Turk; he in fact belonged to another tribe called Arlas, as firmly concluded by Dr Abdul Ghani. Certainly, if the bones had been removed seven months after Bedil’s death, as the Afghan scholar is reported to have established there would have followed a big uproar among Bedil’s disciples and admirers, and the annual ceremony would not have continued for fifty years.
4. I must however express my greatest admiration and gratitude to Afghan scholars and literati for keeping Bedil alive for us and for making excellent editions of his books. We have yet to do that in India and Pakistan.