Safdar Jung, Remembered.
Abul Mansur Mirza Muhhamad Muqim Ali Khan, simply known as Safdar Jang, may have caused waves because of his work in the courts of the declining emperors, but he was best known as the Nawab Vazier of Awadh, between the years 1739 and 1754, or the second Nawab of Awadh. He was the son-in-law of Saadat Ali Khan, succeeding his position as Nawab. Saadat Ali Khan was also his maternal uncle, causing him to be in the line of succession in two different ways. Despite the eventful life he led, one of the most popular things associated with Safdar Jang is his tomb, located in New Delhi.
Khan was born in 1708 as a descendent of Qara Yusuf, a ruler from the Kara Koyunlu dynasty. This dynasty was a Muslim Turkoman monarchy that ruled over Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, northwestern Iran, eastern Turkey, and northeastern Iraq. In 1739, at the age of 31, he officially succeeded Saadat Ali Khan as the Nawab of Oudh [or Awadh]. His title, Safdar Jang, was awarded to him by the reigning Mughal emperor, Muhammad Shah, who he continued to advise and empower throughout the rest of his reign.
Safdar Jang is looked back upon as a capable and good nawab, he was able to control the province of Oudh well, to the point where he was also given control of Kashmir, via a governorship. He shined in the Delhi court. The Mughal court thrived under his advice for the emperor, and he essentially had all the control over it. In the year of1748, after the demise of Muhammad Shah, Ahmad Shah Bahadur ascended the throne. Under his reign, Safdar Jang was given the title “Wazir-ul-Mumalik-i-Hindustan”, or the Prime Minister of Hindustan. Jang was given more and more power, thanks to his immense skill for administration. However, over time, human tendency took over in the form of court politics, dismissing him from the court in the year 1753. In the month of December that year, he returned to Oudh and started operating from the city of Faizabad, selecting it to be his administrative capital as well as his military headquarters. He passed away in October of the following year in Sultanpur, close to Faizabad.
The Safdarjang Tomb
As mentioned earlier he was quite popular, even in death, as his tomb is one of the most visited places in Delhi. It was one of the last truly monumental tombs related to the Mughal legacy. It was made from the grief of a loving son, namely, Nawab Shujaud Daula, who spent nearly thirty lakhs on constructing it. The Safdarjang Tomb is one that is also praised architecturally for various reasons.
The tomb is recognised for its four main features, namely, The Char Bagh plan, a ninefold floor plan, a five-part façade, and a large podium with a hidden stairway.
The tomb has the main entry gate that consists of two stories as well as a facade that is decadent to its core, embellished beautifully, and painted the colour purple. The facade even consists of a library with carefully preserved texts, as well as many rooms, and a mosque.
Entering this main gate will take you to the famed mausoleum, that towers over you, with the main mausoleum situated on the terrace. The main tomb is surrounded by four pillars curtained by octagonal and rectangular partitions and a central dome. Beneath all of this grandeur is an underground chamber that is home to the graves of Safdarjang’s family members. If you look above, you will see a beautifully ornate ceiling filled with paintings.
The architecture of the facade and the towers are famously asymmetrical. It has also been noticed by many that contrary to the general Mughal use of marble, especially in tombs such as the Taj Mahal, sandstone was used to build the Safdarjung tomb. This is generally attributed to the fact that the Mughal rule was in decline during the time when the tomb was constructed, causing the quality and construction of this tomb to decline as well.
A highlight of a visit to the tomb is the garden that surrounds the tomb, almost as if to say that the sorrow of death can have a silver lining. This is a typical Mughal Char Bagh garden, that is divided into smaller bits by wide footpaths. Each tower of the tomb is also home to a fountain, which is to this day activated, beautifying the monument.
Safdar Jang was a good man, a great administrator, and a terrible loss. His life was so much more than his death and deserves to be remembered the same.