The Story of Anarkali, Indigo and the Dead Planters by Majid Sheikh

Published in DAWN newspaper, Pakistan.

 

Indian_indigo_dye_lump

image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Indian_indigo_dye_lump.jpg#filelinks

In the year 1611, an English trader by the name of William Finch came to Lahore with the sole purpose of purchasing indigo, which according to him after accounting for all expenses to get it to England via Persia, yielded a 400 per cent profit.

It was Finch who for the first time wrote about the story of Anarkali the dancing girl who was buried alive by the Moghal emperor Akbar. He had heard the story from many a person in the streets of Lahore and from other indigo traders.

The scandals of the Moghal court and the fight between father and son over this beautiful courtesan were titillating conversation in Lahore in those days. I decided to once again pick up this indigo trade story and to see how the strands of Lahore’s greatest export played out, and how this trade, eventually, died out.

My story starts off at three points, for that is all that a brief piece like this allows. A graveyard, a ‘mohalla’ inside the walled city and from well-known historical facts. Very few might know this but surely the oldest Christian graveyard in Lahore is opposite the Nursing Hostel of Mayo Hospital just behind Ewing Hall at Nila Gumbad and next to the back wall of Sacred Heart School opposite the GPO. Behind the wall are scores of ancient graves; among them are several graves of the pre-Sikh period of ‘Indigo Planters’, which description is clearly marked on the tombstones.

The indigo consignment of Finch was “a large boatful that left the docks” that then existed at Khizari Gate, now known as Sheranwala gate, for the River Ravi then flowed around the walled city and moved southwards towards an alignment that today is the Sanda Road moving towards the present river alignment.

It headed towards Multan and then to Bander Karatchi (Karachi) to a Persian port and towards the North African coast and on by sea towards Portugal, which in those days was the world’s largest trading nation. The effort to reach India by Vasco de Gama had specifically indigo and spices in mind when undertaken.

Just one word about the graveyard before we move on to our ‘mohalla’. The old folk who live nearby and look after the graveyard tell of an unmarked grave of the real designer of the Taj Mahal. I have written earlier about this architect from Venice who was executed on the orders of Shah Jehan by a Portuguese Jesuit monk and buried at this place.

Lahore_MapTomb_of_Anar_Kali_Lahore

More: https://www.dawn.com/news/1030672/the-story-of-anarkali-indigo-and-the-dead-planters

A History of Mughal Cuisine through Cookbooks from The Heritage Lab

544322_10151555158737139_1234962013_nPreparation of betel for the Sultan Ghiyath al-Din, from The Ni'matnama-i Nasir al-Din Shah, 1495-1505 (opaque w/c on paper)from The Ni'matnama-i Nasir al-Din Shah, 1495-1505 (opaque w/c on paper)coffee_route_06_0h_sp2l_same_size_seq_or_stack_photo_2_of_4_high_res_bl_751430_mincing__lg-1024x714i_sp2l_same_size_seq_or_stack_photo_3_of_4_high_res_bl_751422_detail_c_lg-800x445j_sp2l_same_size_seq_or_stack_photo_4_of_4_high_res_bl_751431_2_lg-1024x527o_sp4l_high_res_bl_751431_sherbet_detail3_smshah-tahmasp-i-and-mughal-emperor-humayun-meet-mural-chehel-sotoun-palace-isfahansweetsa70459bc-b17d-4140-8df6-f16ebdd9600egoldspoonmughal

On any given weekend, my head is usually occupied with the thoughts of food. The taste buds have been working over time for a year now – ever since I started following my friend Richa’s amazing food stories. Turns out that Kings and Royalty had a thing for food too. The cookbooks of Akbar, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb give us an idea of the history of Mughal cuisine. Apart from royal food, you also get to look into their kitchen! For instance, the Ain-i-Akbari mentions that during the reign of Akbar, there was a Minister for Kitchen! He had his own budget, an independent accounts department and ran an army of cooks, tasters, attendants, bearers and other sundry designations. It is true – there was a time when people really lived to eat (and life sounded like Harry Potter books)!

More: http://www.theheritagelab.in/mughal-recipe-history/