A lesser known tomb in the dargah compound of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi is of Jehanara, the Sufi Princess.
The beautiful princess was elegant, erudite, generous, cultured and loved by all. Jehanara and her brother Dara Shikoh shared an interest in poetry, philosophy and mysticism. In a quest for spiritual guidance, Shah Jahan invited Mullah Shah, the leading disciple of Mian Mir to the palace. Initially the mystic refused, insisting that the Kings of this world would no benefit from Sufi teachings. Mullah Shah later agreed, formally initiating Jehanara and Dara Shikoh as disciples. Shah Jahan, Dara and Jehanara continued to meet Mullah Shah regularly in Kashmir and Lahore.
Jehanara remained devoted to her father and looked after him during his incarceration, after being deposed by Aurangzeb. She earned Aurangzeb’s displeasure for being close to Dara Shikoh. When Aurangzeb issued orders that Mullah Shah leave Kashmir and move to Lahore, Jehanara arranged for one of her personal servants to look after him. When Mullah Shah died in 1666, he was buried close to the tomb of Mian Mir. Jehanara had a red sandstone mausoleum built over his grave, adding a beautiful garden in the compound.
An accomplished writer and poetess, Jehanara authored 2 Sufi Manuals —– Munis al Arwah” (Confidant of Spirits), containing the life and teachings of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, and ” Sahibbiya”, an account of her spiritual mentor Mullah Shah. Jehanara’s biography of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is highly regarded for its literary value. It describes the author’s pilgrimage during the Urs at Ajmer Sharif in 1643, and conveys her personal engagement with Sufi practices.
The Sufi Princess uses the word “faqira” ——- the feminine form of “faqir” —- to signify her own spiritual vocation. Jehanara regarded Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti as the supreme Sufi of India and felt a deep spiritual bond with him. She writes : “Praise and favour be to God, and a hundred million thanks, for on Thursday the fourth of the blessed month of Ramadan, I attained the happiness of pilgrimage to the illuminated and perfumed tomb of the revered Master. I rubbed my pale face on the dust of the threshold. From the doorway to the blessed tomb, I went barefoot, kissing the ground. Having entered the dome, I went around the light-filled tomb of my Master seven times, sweeping it with my eyelashes, and making the sweet-smelling dust the mascara of my eyes. From extreme longing I became astonished, and I do not know what I said or did.” —Jehanara spent the last days of her life devoted to the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. She died in 1681, and was buried opposite the feet of Hazrat Nizamuddin in the simple open marble mausoleum she constructed during her life time.
Jehanara wrote her own epitaph :
He is the living, the sustaining
Let no one cover my grave except with greenery
For this very grass suffices as a tomb cover for the poor
The annihilated faqira Lady Jehanara
Disciple of the Lords of Chishti
Daughter of Shah Jahan the warrior
(May God illuminate his proof)
——– Sadia Dehlvi