Friday, September 1, 1995

The Fall of Tana Shah

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad - 5

The Fall of Tana Shah
by Narendra Luther

Aurangzeb attacked Golconda in 1687. Since his last attack in 1656, the fort had been strengthened and was now very well- stocked. It therefore proved very difficult for the Mughal forces to reduce it. Unexpectedly, the siege lasted 8 lunar months during which the Mughal army made several sorties on it which were foiled by the Qutb Shahi defenders.

During the siege Tana Shah exhibited a strange mixture reckless of defiance and abject humility. In one of the raids by the Mughals, some of the officers of their army and generals were captured by the Golconda army and brought to Tana Shah. He treated them well and showed them how well-provided his garrison was. He, however, released them and sent them back with a message to Aurangzeb offering to make peace. Aurangzeb however, did not relent and said that he wanted to see Tana Shah presented to him with folded hands or as a prisoner in chains.

Tana Shah nevertheless continued to exhibit great chivalry. Once, when Aurangzeb was at prayer in the small mosque specially built by the side of Hayat Bakshi's tomb (which can still be seen intact in the Qutb Shahi metropolis),one of Tana Shah's marksmen took aim at him. Tana Shah pulled him up : "Don't you see that the man is at prayer?" On another occasion, he turned a soldier's gun away from Aurangzeb at whom it was aimed saying: "Not the emperor man ! Aim at the combatants."

Larry's Gallantry & Loyalty :

Ultimately the fort fell to the Mughals due largely to the treachery and defection of some of the defending commanders. One by one all of them were lured away by various inducements and rewards by the Mughal side. Only one general, Abdul Razzak Larry remained steadfast in his loyalty to his sultan. For him, he said, it was a holy war and he would rather go down fighting than change sides. When, one night a traitor opened the main gate to the enemy, now called `Fateh Darwaza' (Victory Gate), Larry got up with a start and with a dozen faithful soldiers fought valiantly till, suffering over 70 grievous wounds, he fell unconscious in the Nageena Bagh at the foot of the inner fort. Aurangzeb was so impressed by his gallantry that he sent his personal physician to treat him. He also offered him and his sons jobs in his army, but Larry declined. A year later, on his full recovery he again declined a similar offer. Later however, he was persuaded to accept a rank of 4,000 horse, and joined the Mughal army.

After the fall of Golconda when the victorious Mughal commanders arrived in the palace, Sultan Tana Shah was at prayer. He took his time to finish his prayers and then went and sat coolly on his throne. There he received the Mughal general Ruhulla Khan who with a small contingent of soldiers has gone to arrest.

Ride into Captivity :
Thereafter, an attendant came and announced that breakfast was ready. The sultan got up and invited the party to join him in his repast. Some Mughal officers tried to prevent him from going for breakfast, but their seniors pulled them back. Mukhtar Khan and one or two officers, joined him out of politeness. General Ruhulla Khan asked Tana Shah in surprise: "Is this the time to eat ?" Tana Shah replied calmly: " This is my usual time for breakfast". Ruhulla said he understood that but was surprised how the sultan could feel any appetite on an occasion like that. Tana Shah smiled and replied, "Ups and downs come in one's life. I belonged to the royal family but spent 14 years of my life as a mendicant. The Almighty raised me once again for a humble position and made me a king. I have lived a full life and must have been guilty of some sin that the Creator has done this to me. But I have this satisfaction that my kingdom is passing on to the ruler of the piety of Alamgir."

After his breakfast he consoled the wailing ladies of the harem, bade them farewell, sent for his horse and in his full royal regalia, joined his captors on his last ride out of his fort and into captivity.

As the procession of the defeated monarch passed by the Hussain Sagar lake, his youngest son sitting in a palanquin, felt thirsty and asked for water. It was late afternoon and a water - carrier who was sprinkling water on the road was summoned. He poured out water from his goat- skin bag. The infant princes cupped his hands ineptly and quenched his thirst. The water carrier thanked his former sovereign for bestowing the rare honour on him. Tana Shah fumbled about in his pocket and founding only one silver coin, gave it to the water carrier. "This is the only thing I have on me. God be with you", he said to his former subject. The procession then resumed its march towards Daulatabad where he was to spend the last 14 years of his life in prison.

Thus ended the story of the last ruler of Qutb Shahi dynasty. Incidentally, he is the only one of the rulers of the dynasty not to have been buried in the dynastic necropolis near the fort. You can still see his unfinished mausoleum there.


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