Burhanpur: Shah Jahan’s 1st choice for the Taj Mahal!!!

Its a lazy Sunday afternoon in Mumbai. Mom has just finished winding up her chores and has come & sat besides me in the living room. While I was watching some interesting show on Discovery Channel, my mom casually remarks- “How long has it been since we last went out of town together?”. My eyes quickly turn around towards my mom as she finishes. And true to my wandering soul, I instantly blurt out (as if those words were waiting to see the world beyond my mouth) – “Lets go to Burhanpur”.

Within minutes (well, it could have been an hour), I use the power of the Internet & get my train tickets booked for the next evening (I was pleasantly surprised that I managed to get confirmed tickets that late). And as is a custom before every travel I embark on, I call up a friend to tell her I am leaving (much to her chagrin since she longs to travel but never gets the chance).

Train travel in India is an experience in itself. A kaleidoscope in every sense as you come across people from places you may have never heard of!!! The train pulled in Burhanpur station 30 minutes late (it follows IST – Indian Stretchable Time). I was only glad to get off the coach and into the fresh air of Burhanpur. Our community people have thronged this sleepy city off the Tapti river for the past several decades. Thanks to our community, this city has gainfully enjoyed a lot of tourism and allied businesses. Our mosque and its compound is by far the cleanest and most picturesque man-made structure in the entire district!!!

Coming to a religious place has never been my idea of soul travel. However, Burhanpur has always endeared me towards it. Not only for the mosque and its unique reverence, but also the priceless history associated with it. From Shah Jahan’s office as a Governor to the 600 year old Jama masjid (Courtesy the Moghuls), not to mention the “Shahi Hammam” or the Royal Bath of the immortal Mumtaz Begum (In whose honor, Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal). Interestingly, Mumtaz was buried in Burhanpur for almost 6 months. And, it was here that Shah Jahan actually started work on the Taj Mahal!! However, the place wasn’t well suited and posed logistical challenges and hence the location was shifted to Agra. The ruins of a lost monument still lie there, maybe searching for someone to finish a job left incomplete.

I chose to make the most of my trip (true to the fundamental human trait – GREED). I took a 2 hour city trip in the most traditional of all Indian transports. The taanga!!! (A horse-cart for my friends who don’t know Hindi). Sitting at the back, I was indulging in the experience of a place where rich history had given way for modern-day sustenance measures like the power-looms and gold embroidery works (It was pitiful to see such abject poverty in a place once ruled by the Moghuls). What was really interesting about this tour was that sitting behind, I saw these sights going away from me (as against in a car or bus where you see them coming closer as they pass). I instantly felt a strange disconnect. As if I was being pulled away from that place and being forced in a different, more hostile world… As I traveled through the narrow city streets, the obviousness of the truth became apparent to me. It was a glimpse into Bharat…. And it was more saddening than ever for someone coming from India.

But not all is lost. I had the yummiest mawa-jalebi ever!! ( an Indian sweet). I gorged so many of them, that my mom was worried I would fall sick for over-eating!! From there on, we went to this isolated dargah on the outskirts of Burhanpur. Another popular destination, its characterized by its location. Right in the middle of nowhere!!! Took a cab almost an hour to reach it through a labyrinth of roads (Thats what the locals call that strip of mud flattened by the ones who have braved them before us). The endless fields that stretched as far as the eye could see made me stand in awe of the magnificence of nature only to realize that was not true nature itself. It was man’s desperate attempt to “consume” a natural resource for its own sustenance (agriculture for the uninitiated).

Overall, a trip worth remembering. Not just for a glimpse into a part of History, but also a walk beyond the boundaries of India and into the realms of Bharat. My search shall continue….


One response to “Burhanpur: Shah Jahan’s 1st choice for the Taj Mahal!!!

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