Burhanpur is a city located at a distance of 180 km from Indore in Madhya Pradesh, India. As of today, not a lot of people know or talk about this city because Burhanpur has more or less fallen into a place of forgetfulness. However, whoever knows it, knows that Burhanpur was an important medieval city of Mughal times. And now this medieval city of Burhanpur is home to many beautiful and important historically significant monuments.
Burhanpur was an important city for the Mughals that is why every Mughal emperor from Akbar to his successors spent considerable time in the city. This city was undoubtedly an important city. Burhanpur is located at a distance of about 180 km from Indore. Due to its geographical location, it was called Dakkhan ka Darwaza meaning Gateway to Deccan.
Puranic references to Burhanpur:
As per ancient Indian text Surya Purna, the city of Burhanpur has much older existence. It is said that before Goddess Ganga came to earth in the form of a river, she demanded that her power and importance should be the most among all the rivers of Bharat (India).
Following this Rishi Narad prayed to Goddess Tapti on the banks of river Tapti on his one toe for six months. After which Goddess was pleased and he asked Goddess Tapti to reduce her stream so Goddess Ganga can come to earth in the form of a river. His wish was answered and Ganga river descended to earth.
Establishment of Burhanpur:
The city of Burhanpur is situated at the banks of river Tapti. As per historians, Burhanpur city was established during the reign of the Farooqi Dynasty. During this time the city was renamed after a Sufi Saint Burhan Uddin.
The then Sultan of Delhi, Firoz Shah Tughlaq gave Jaagir in Khandesh to one of his nobles from his court named Malik Arza Farqui. This Jaagir was later expanded by Malik Arza Farooqi and his successor. The City of Burhanpur was founded in the year 1388 by Nasir Khan the son of Malik Arza Farooqi. This city was renamed after a Sufi saint Burhan Uddin.
Khandesh remained with Farooqis between 14th and 16th century, in the year 1599 Khandesh was captured by Mughal emperor Akbar and he made Burhanpur his capital for Khandesh region.
Later Burhanpur became an important outpost for the Mughal empire. Both Farooqis and Mughals built many beautiful structures in this region. Burhanpur has many medieval era structures which include both buildings built by Farooqis and Mughals. Most of the structures built by Farooqis were built with black stone and most of the Mughal buildings were made with bricks.
Out of all Mughal emperors, it was Shah Jahan who spent the most time here (including both periods i.e. before and after he became emperor). As we all know Shah Jahan was a patron of architecture hence a lot of buildings were constructed during his reign. Apart from magnificent buildings, there are many interesting stories related to this place, most of which especially come from the reign of Shah Jahan.
Some of the prominent stories and structures of Burhanpur:
It is often considered the gem of Burhanpur. Jama Masjid of Burhanpur is a very important and significant monument. Apart from being a religious center, it is also a fine example of art and architecture. The construction of this mosque began during the reign of Farooqis but was completed by Great Mughal King Akbar. It is the only mosque in the world which is adorned with inscriptions in Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian
Guru Granth Sahib:
Burhanpur is the proud possessor of the Guru Granth Sahib that was written and signed by Guru Gobind Singh Ji with the ink of gold.
Shahi Qila meaning the Royal Fort:
This fort of Burhanpur is an important monument of the city. Shahi Qila acted as the residence for all the Mughal emperors and their families whenever they visited this city. Being an important city, its governor was also an important member of the royal family (mostly the prince) or some important person from Mughal court.
Shahi Qila of Burhanpur has witnessed many events, out of which one the most tragic being the death of Mumtaz Begum. Shah Jahan’s favorite wife, Begum Mumtaz Mahal died in this fort after giving birth her 14th child Gauhar Ara.
It is said that after the death of his favorite wife emperor Shah Jahan locked himself inside his room for about 8 days, he did not eat or drink much during this period. Finally, when Shah Jahan came out his appearance had totally changed. He looked really pale and old, his hair had turned grey and he wore plain white clothes instead of colorful and blingy royal attire.
Mumtaz Shahi Hammam:
This magnificent spa or royal bath was built for Mumtaz (favorite wife of Shah Jahan). Shahi Hammam is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture, luxury, and grandeur. It is adorned with stunning paintings; these paintings later became the inspiration for Taj Mahal.
This royal bath was equipped with all kinds of facilities be it hot water, cold water or anything else. Apart from this, this luxury Hammam royal bath house also had slanting structures to give a cascading effect to the water.
This place was built for Nur Jahan, the favorite wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir. Nur Jahan who was fond of deer hunting. She used to hunt deer in this area hence it was named Ahu Khana meaning place of deer.
During the reign of Shah Jahan, this place was turned in to a massive and magnificent rose garden because Mumtaz loved gardens, roses and not hunting. Because Mumtaz adored roses so much her dead body was kept in this garden, between innumerable roses for 6 months before it was taken to Agra to be buried in Taj Mahal.
Bilkish (Bilqis) Bano Maqbara:
Bilqis Banu Begum was the wife of Mughal Prince Shah Shuja (son of Emperor Shah Jahan). After her death, this stunning tomb was built in her memory. Because the dome of this mausoleum looks like melon which mean Kharbuja in Hindi it is also called Kharbuja Mahal.
Bilqis Banu Maqbara is a magnificent example of Mughal architecture. This beautiful building has stunning wall frescos which are an excellent state even today. This is one of the lesser known gems of Burhanpur. It definitely deserves a visit. The inner walls and ceiling of this tombs are adorned beautifully with magnificent colorful paintings.
Shah Nawaz Khan Tomb:
It is also called Kala Taj Mahal meaning Black Taj is one of the most prominent structures of Burhanpur. This tomb is dedicated to Shah Nawaz Khan. He was the son of Abdul Rahim Khan I Khana and Subedar or governor of Burhanpur during the reign of Mughal emperor Jahangir.
This magnificent tomb built exquisitely with black stone is truly a work of art. Many features of this structure were incorporated in the later built monument ‘Taj Mahal’, this is why it is called Black Taj Mahal.
This is perhaps one of the most interesting structures of Burhanpur. Also, this palace has very interesting and lesser known stories associated with it. This palace has a story of Shah Jahan’s love affair, most of us know Shah Jahan loved Mumtaz but how many of us know about his other lover Gulara Mahal.
Gulara was a concubine of Shah Jahan with whom Shah Jahan had fallen in love. He built this palace for this woman he loved. Shah Jahan often visited this palace to visit his lover Gulara watch her dance and sing for him.
As Gulara got a lot of attention and love from Shah Jahan this became a matter of concern for father of his other wife Mumtaz. It is said in order to secure future and prominent place in Mughal empire for his daughter, Mumtaz’s father drowned Gulara to death in Tapti river.
Story of Aurangzeb and Hira Bai’s love affair:
It was here in Burhanpur that young Mughal Prince Aurangzeb had fallen in love with a dancing girl. Yes, the same Aurangzeb who is known for his cruel deeds, fell in love with a slave girl (as per some she was Hindu, while others caller Christian) in Burhanpur, at this time Aurangzeb was a prince and governor of Deccan (Burhanpur). This slave girl was the favorite concubine of Aurangzeb, her name was Hira Bai also Known as Zainabadi Bibi or Zainabadi Mahal.
It is said Hira Bai was a very beautiful woman, she had an amazing voice. She used to sing and dance for Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb was captivated by her unparallel charm and beauty. Due to the early death of Hira Bai, their love story remained a short-lived one.
It is said after the death of Hira Bai Aurangzeb started hating everything that in any way reminded him of Hira Bai. Hence, things like singing, dancing was ultimately banned by him.
It is a brilliant water system that was built by one of the nine gems of Akbar, Abdul Rahim Khan e Khana. This incredible water system still pulls water from under the ground without any pumps or motor. There are several wells connected by canal to facilitate the supply of water. These wells are 80 feet under the ground.
Decline of Burhanpur:
After Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb died in 1707 Mughal empire weakened and Maratha empire grew stronger and their attacks on the Mughal empire increased. This ultimately brought an end to the prosperity of the Mughal empire and with that Burhanpur.
Every place has a story to tell the popular ones gets to share their stories with masses very often but Burhanpur one of those places that have a lot to tell but no one is there to listen to its stories. There is a lot for people to see in this city but because we seem to have forgotten it, this poor city today lies in a state of abandonment and loneliness.
Burhanpur is a beautiful historic city. There is a lot for a tourist to see and admire. If you are planning to go to M.P. please check this city and its monument and I promise you will not regret it.
On this visit our guide told us an amazing fact, Taj Mahal the burial of favorite wife of Shah Jahan was originally supposed to be built here in Burhanpur but because there were problems like appropriate land and issue of logistics it was decided that it will be built in capital Agra.
Shyam, Radhey (1981), The Kingdom of Khandesh, Delhi:Idarah-i-Adabiyat-i-Dell