Saturday, 10 November 2012

The sword that fell out of a cupboard

There were several locked cupboards in a university. These cupboards had remained unopened for decades. In February 2011, when one of the cupboards were opened, a sword with Persian engravings fell out.
The sword belonged to the last great Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who practically ruled over the whole of India in the late 17th century. Aurangzeb was the Emperor from 1658 to 1707 and he head succeeded Shahjahan to the throne.
The Mughal kings and royalty, including Aurangzeb, possessed several arms and many of these articles were noted for their magnificent make and beautiful carvings. Swords, daggers, knives, pistols and other arms belonging to the Mughals are found in many museums across India, particularly in Delhi, Agra, Ajmer, Hyderabad and even Lahore.
Aurangzeb’s sword was found in a cupboard in the manuscript section of the library of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh. Alipur is a city nearly 345 kms from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. It s much nearer to Delhi which is  140 kms away. The AMU library is the second biggest in Asia.
There were several cupboards in the manuscript section and when the head of the section, Khurshed, opened one of them on February 26, 2011, the sword tumbled out. Some of the students managed to read one of the many Persian words on the scabbard of the sword. It said Aurangzeb.
The sword was then taken to the Head Librarian, Azarmi Tukht. When none could decipher the wordings, it was taken to Azarmi Tukht, head of the Institute of Persian Studies and Asif  Naeem, a Professor of Persian. Both of them deciphered the Persian couplet on the sword.
It is believed that this sword was presented to Aurangzeb. The sword was not the only artefact found. There are others such as a sapphire pen stand and a paper cutter presented by the then king of Afganisthan, Nadir Shah, to the then Vice-chancellor of AMU in 1933.
Other ancient articles found were photographs of Shahajan and Mumtaz Mahal and 350 manuscripts, including a deed executed by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1602. The AMU has also in its collections royal decrees of Mughal Emperors Babur, Shahajahan, Aurangzeb and Shah Alam from 1602 to the later part of the eighteenth century have been discovered. More than a dozen royal families have presented the AMU with manuscripts and historic artefacts. The sword of Aurangzeb could have come with them. But who gave it, still remains a mystery. 
This is not the only sword of Aurangzeb. Emperors and nobles in India and the aristocracy had several swords. The Mughal Emperors had several swords and in those days it was customary in India to present swords and other arms to a ruler or a nobleman.  
There is another sword belonging to Aurangzeb in the Indian collection of the Victoria and Alfred Museum in London, England. This sword is inlaid in  gold in Persian saying Alamgir Padshah 24. Alamgir was another name for Aurangzeb and Padshah is another name for Badshah or Emperor. The number 24 is believed to be the date on which the sword was manufactured. It was believed to have been cast in 1680.
The sword was in the personal collection of  Lord Kitchner of Khatroum. It was presented to the museum in 1964.
You can also see a sword of Aurangzeb at the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad. This museum has also daggers belonging to Jahangir, Shahajan and Noorjahan.
Well, coming back to Aligarh and the AMU. The manuscript section of the Maulana Azad library has some of the most valuable books of ancient and Mediaeval India in Persian, Sanskrit, Urdu and other languages.
The Persian translation of the Leelawathi, a book on mathematics, by Abul Faizi is in the library. Leelawathi is part of the book Siddantha Shiromani authored by renowned astronomer and mathematician, Bhaskaracharya in 1150. Emperor Akbar had commissioned Faizi, one  of the famed Navaratnas of his court, to translate Leelawathi from Sanskrit to Persian.
The library is reputed to have more than 16,000 manuscripts from almost all the periods of Indian history. Other rare books include a fragment of the holy Koran inscribed more than 1400 years ago by Hazrat Ali, the 4th Calpih of Islam. The AMU was set up as Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College and Centre for Muslim education, learning and excellence in 1875 by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. It got its present name. AMU, in 1920. It is one of the most famous central universities.
Aligarh is also well known for locks. It is also historically important as  it was here that Balarama, brother of Krihsna, slew Kol, a demon. Therefore, in ancient days, it was known as Kol. Qutb-Ud-Din Aibak was the first Muslim ruler to subdue Kol or Koil and appoint a Muslim Governor, Hisam-ud-din Ulbak, to rule over the province.

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