Follow Us:
Monday, July 16, 2018

Quest: Monuments teach as much of history as books

The Quest organised a visit to Roshanara Bagh for students of G D Salwan Public School, Rajinder Nagar

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: December 8, 2014 2:08:14 am
The students feel history is best researched and learned through experience. (Source: Express photo by Ravi Kanojia) The students feel history is best researched and learned through experience. (Source: Express photo by Ravi Kanojia)

I personally feel that the best way to establish interest and a connect of the students with a subject like history is to tell them the fascinating stories of  these divas of the Mughal period and visit places built by them.

No textbook can explain the facts which are automatically understood by just stepping inside these tombs and forts, which are a gateway to the rich cultural heritage of our country.

But it is sad to see that these priceless gems are not being given the due importance that they should be given.

People engrave their names or other words on their outside and inside walls. Nobody stops them. In most monuments, stones or bricks have come out. They have either not been repaired at all or if they have been repaired, the difference of material and design is clearly visible. It becomes obvious that they have been repaired by ordinary masons, not by experts and designers. Beggars at the gates of monuments annoy visitors. The food available at shops around these sites is dirty and contaminated.

The arrangement of drinking water is absent while sanitation facilities are not available at all. If this is the state of affairs, who will come to visit them? The monuments represent our tradition, history, art and design. They are related to historical events. They are also the symbols of our architectural skills. The authorities should pay proper attention and save them from ruining away. We need to sensitise our youth about the fact that India has a rich heritage, which includes a repository of archaeological treasures and incredible monuments and this cultural history epitomised in heritage monuments needs to be properly preserved for posterity.
Pooja Datta, HoD, English (Primary)

I feel history is best researched and learned through experience. History is not a list of facts. By visiting historical places, you get a real feel of what life would have been like for inhabitants then, how they would have done things, etc. You can learn a great deal about how people lived by visiting a site, rather than just reading about it.

We visited the Roshanara’s Tomb and baradari and learnt about the famous Roshanara Begum. After Aurangzeb established his rule, Roshanara, still afraid of the implications of her actions, asked Aurangzeb to build a palace for her away from the Walled City. She decided to stay away from politics, which was getting dangerous and uncertain. Roshanara chose to spend an esoteric life in her palace in Delhi, surrounded by thick forests. She never married and lived in her palace till the end. Her palace in the middle of Roshanara Garden is a reminder of the crucial role she played in the history of India.

The area is littered with ruins. Both the students and the teachers were fascinated to see the structures and their beauty. We also enjoyed the calm and serene atmosphere.
Saurabh Patra, IX A

My trip to Roshanara Bagh was unforgettable. Our teacher told us a brief history about the place. Roshanara Bagh is a Mughal-style garden built by Roshanara Begum, the second daughter of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Roshanara, like her elder sister Jahanara, was fond of gardening. The latter had planted 30,000 saplings in the area now occupied by the Tis Hazari Courts. Roshanara was Aurangzeb’s sister and took his side during the crown struggle. Roshanara’s Tomb, where she was buried, is also situated here. It is built in the middle of the garden and four pathways lead to four directions of  the garden. But it is sad to see such an important historical monument in a bad shape. The government certainly should take good care of it.
Shubh Bhardwaj, IX B

Nearly 80 students of Class IX got an opportunity to visit Roshanara’s Tomb and Roshanara Bagh. As we all know, Roshanara Begum was the daughter of Mughul emperor Shah Jahan. Roshanara Begum was the younger sister of her four brothers, viz., Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad. Jahanara was their elder sister. Born on September 3, 1617, Roshanara Begum was a brilliant woman, poetess and, above all, the favourite sister of Aurangzeb, who ascended the throne after killing eldest brother Dara Shikoh in an embittered battle and became the emperor with her support as she got wind of her father’s plot against Aurangzeb in order to install his eldest son Dara Shikoh as the next Mughul emperor. Upon coming to know of Shah Jahan’s move, Aurangzeb held him prisoner and lynched Dara Shikoh.

Today, Roshanara Begum is remembered better for the Roshanara Bagh. The tomb of Roshanara lies in the middle of the garden and is known as baradari, meaning ‘open pavilion’. Though in a dilapidated condition, the tomb once had a simple roofless grave surrounded by intricately carved screens made of marble and a hall, which had apartments with arched openings. The interior of the hall was beautifully decorated with paintings, some of which can be seen even today on the ceiling.
Manav Malhotra, IX A

It was an amazing day as we all went to Roshanara Bagh. It was great fun learning history by visiting a monument. But the place is littered with garbage. There appears to be no impact of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Daughter of Shah Jahan, Roshanara Begum was a princess who had an important role to play in history. But today, her grave shows little signs that she once was such a powerful and influential princess. Her tomb, situated near Sabzi Mandi in north Delhi, is a poorly maintained structure lying in shambles. It is hard to believe that when Roshanara lived, her palace was in the middle of a dense forest where now there is roving traffic and congested roads.

A huge garden, surprisingly well-maintained, seems to contradict the size and condition of the tomb, then built in her palace premises. This garden, built by Roshanara in 1640 AD, was named after her.

Her tomb does not seem to attract many visitors. A notice at the entrance of the tomb says that it is a site of great national importance under the Act of 1958 (24 of 1958). People who come to take a stroll in Roshanara Garden say that renovation work is done frequently. The condition of the structure does not seem to support their statement. A sweeper, who is also the caretaker of the tomb, says, “The basic problem in maintaining the place is that the tomb comes under the archaeological department whereas the garden is maintained by the MCD. The archaeological department ignores the condition of the garden and the MCD does not bother about the condition of the tomb.”
The present condition of the place is such that it looks more like a recreational park than a monument of national importance. It has become unsafe to roam inside the structure as it is now a convenient hideout for drunkards and petty thieves. There is a complete lack of cleanliness inside and the walls of the monument are covered with dust and dirt.
Kaustubhi Sonkariya, IX A

The palace of one of the most influential Mughal princesses lies in shambles. It looks like the restoration work of the tomb was not done properly. The walls are filled with dirt. It is surrounded by a huge garden, which though is very well-maintained. The garden is maintained by the MCD and I appreciate its work.

As we were coming back, I was constantly thinking that these monuments are pieces of art, timeless classics that seem to belong to the environment around. The monuments were built mainly with stones and one can simply marvel at their size and strength that has withstood the test of time. The craftsmen who built these monuments must have planned, designed and built with meticulous care and interest, putting in huge effort. Nowadays many cleanliness drives are taking place, so why not come here and clean the place? It is our national pride and we will surely not allow negligence to lessen its glory.
Divyanshi, IX A

We started our trip from the school at 9.15 am and reached the place around 10 am. The tomb is in a very bad condition. The place is littered with garbage. We all started thinking of ways to clean the place. Roshanara loved gardening. She had grown 30,000 saplings. Once, there were many canals also. Slowly with time, the garden has lost its charm. On the two sides, the garden walls are broken and the walkway beside the water can hardly be distinguished. The winding roads through the old garden have completely spoiled the beauty of the original design. The trip was nice but the government has to take steps to take care of the place.
Shubham Bansal, IX A

The trip was a very good learning experience for all of us. We got to know a lot about the tomb and its history. Roshanara Begum was the second daughter of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It is a well-known fact that during the struggle for ascension of the Mughal throne, while Jahanara, the eldest daughter of Shah Jahan, sided with the more popular Dara Shikoh, Roshanara supported Aurangzeb and is known to have been the mastermind behind his ascension to the Mughal throne. To help Aurangzeb, she even spied on Dara Shikoh on a regular basis.

Today, however, Roshanara is best known for the Roshanara Bagh, a pleasure garden located northwest of the Walled City. The original bagh was made much smaller by carving a part of it into the Roshanara Club in the late nineteenth century by the British. The bagh was designed and commissioned by Roshanara for her residence in the 1650s, the same time when Shah Jahan was building Shahjahanabad, and after her death in 1671, this also became the location of her burial. Only two buildings now survive — a central pavilion or baradari and an entrance gate.

The original char bagh layout of the garden, in the middle of which the current pavilion must have stood, was obliterated when it was converted into an English garden. Today, the park is not just a place for taking a peek into Delhi’s historical and architectural legacy, but also a perfect venue for spotting some old and lovely trees. The bagh is entered from what remains of the original gateway. The gateway has a lime plaster finish, but one can see tantalising remains of some beautiful glazed tile decorations in parts, especially in the upper portions. A channel runs from the gate to the pavilion some distance away; which must have originally contained fountains within.

At the end of this water channel stands the main pavilion in the middle of a square pool from which the building can be accessed from two sides. Like Shalimar Bagh, the pool here is also decorated with sculpted kangura pattern on its edges. The pavilion itself is beautifully proportioned, more reminiscent of earlier Mughal buildings, although the columns of the arcade are of late Shahjahani design. It is made of Lakhori bricks and sandstone, and covered with lime plaster decorations. On the interior, traces of delicate paintings done on lime plaster can be seen. Roshanara’s grave lies in the centre of this pavilion.

Some say that even though Roshanara was Aurangzeb’s favourite sibling, she fell out with the emperor in her later days and that her end was sealed by Aurangzeb when she was found with a secret lover in her garden and was poisoned thereafter. She died at the age of 54 and Aurangzeb had her interred in Roshanara Bagh. The grave is housed in the centre of an enclosure created by four marble screens with jali (screen with ornamental patterns) work, but is an open grave now, covered only with earth, the marble cenotaph probably having been stolen sometime in history.
Ashutosh Bhowmick, IX A

For all the latest Delhi News, download Indian Express App