November 09, 2014



View of the Anasagar Lake from Taragarh Fort
March 1659. On the banks of the serene Anasagar Lake in Ajmer, Prince Dara bid a teary eyed adieu to his chief Begum Nadira, his other wives, concubines and other members of his extended harem. As he entrusted the responsibilities of taking care of the women to eunuchs and some of his trusted aides, he promised his family that whatever be the result of the impending battle he would come back and meet them at the Anasagar. A victory would mean that the entourage led by the prince would proceed towards Agra where Dara, claimed by many to be the 'Second Akbar' owing to his policy of religious tolerance, would be crowned the sixth Mughal emperor as envisaged by his father Shah Jahan. On the other hand, a defeat would more or less end his claim to the royal throne.

The last one year had been particularly difficult for the 45 year old prince. Already elevated to the rank of the 'Crown Prince' by his father some months ago, he had blessings of the incumbent emperor and most of the subjects in Delhi. Ably assisted by his elder son Sulaiman Shikoh, he even won a handsome victory over his younger brother Shah Shuja at Bahadurpur. However in May 1658, at Samugarh in what could be described as a 'moment of madness', his Mughal-Rajput army which was on the threshold of an easy win over the combined forces of Prince Aurangzeb and Prince Murad turned their backs and fled from the battlefield just because Dara was forced to temporarily dismount his howdah, thereby handing over the Peacock Throne to his younger brothers on a platter. The victors marched on to Agra and imprisoned Shah Jahan even as his favorite son fled to the west, aiming to raise a new army and win back the empire.

Marble Baradari, Anasagar Lake
In what would be one of the final chapters in this sanguinary fratricidal war, the forces of Aurangzeb and Murad took on Dara's army at Deorai near Ajmer. After the rather unexpected win at Samugarh, the ranks of the princes had swollen; many nobles and governors from all over the empire had switched their allegiance to Aurangzeb thereby largely isolating Dara. Hence, in spite of a heroic fight put forth by his men, Dara was routed and with this defeat his dream of succeeding his father was all but over. In the melee that followed, the prince did not keep up the promise he had made to his family. The royal entourage waited for long at the Anasagar and once they received the unfortunate news of the defeat, they had no option but to leave; staying behind would make them an easy target for the victorious army. Though the harem would later reunite with the fallen prince, the joy was short lived. Dara Shikoh, the man who was destined to take over the throne from his father was captured a few months later and put to death by his brother and future emperor Alamgir Aurangzeb.

Considering that Ajmer was one of the most important centers in the empire during the era of the Great Mughals, it is certain that the city and more importantly, the beautiful lake that is located at its center did witness many important events during this period, like the one I have mentioned above. The construction of this fresh water lake is attributed to Anoraji or Anaji Chauhan - the grandfather of Prithviraj III Chauhan in mid twelfth century. The Daulat Bagh was laid out by Emperor Jahangir whereas the five beautiful Baradaris or marble pavilions that offer stunning views of the seren lake were constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan in AD 1637. The pavilion at the center is the most exquisite and is inspired by the Diwan-i-Khas in the Red Fort in Delhi. There are boating facilities available that take tourists to the island located in the middle of the lake.


(1) Terracotta Wall Frames (Link)

(2) Akbar's Palace or the Magazine or the ASI Museum (Link)

(3) Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti's Dargah (Link)

(4) Adhai Din ka Jhopra or Jama Altamash (Link)

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