Notes Shah Alam II and his Blinding


  • Syed Munir Wasti


The blinding in 17BB of the Moghul Emperor Shah Alam ll [d.1806] is one of the most tragic events of South Asian Muslim history. The perpetrator of this horrific deed was his former minister and later enemy Ghulam Qadir Rohilla. When his rapacious greed was not satisfied by the captive Emperor, he ordered that the eyes of the old, infirm and helpless Emperor be plucked out. This tragedy was the outcome of palace politics and cabbalistic intrigues involving those who had sworn to assist the Emperor and were his functionaries on whom the security of the Empire rested. It is not our purpose here to trace out the historical events related to this infamous deed but only to examine its reference in a famous ghazel by the blinded Emperor composed after the event. This reflects his personal suffering as well as the immensity of pain and loneliness that he subsequently experienced. The Moghuls were great patrons of literature and had a strong tradition of composing poetry [collected in their ‘divans’]. The divans of Babar and Humayun are well known. ln Shah Alam's case, as in the case of other blind poets [Abu'l Ala alMa’arri, lbn Rumi, Bashar b. Burd (Arab poets) and John Milton], the sense of light and colour is heightened on being deprived of sight. Thus one of Shah Alam's Persian divans [in the India Office Library] goes: Ai roshni az partawi ru-i jahan ra Mehre tu afrokht zamin ra wa zaman ra