About the Book
Phool Waalon Ki Sair is a beautiful fragrant tradition of Delhi. which owes its origin to an episode in the royal darbar of Akbar Shah - II (1912- 37). It involved the royalty as well as the British rule. The incident may have been lost in the pages of history but the tradition has continued over the centuries and is a living tradition of Delhi.
The book unfolds the pages of history. describes the incident and the consequent vow of a queen to Allah. through the Sufi Saint Khwaja Quttbuddin Bakhtiar Kaaki's mazaar in Mehrauli - offering of floral chaadar and the involvement of the ancient Hindu temple of Devi Yogmaya. (Ganga-Jamni tehzeeb) of that era culminating into the evolution of floral pankha the symbol of Communal Harmony. It tells the story of royal processions with floral pankhaas and floral chaadars proceeding through the lanes of Delhi to Mehrauli.
The book elucidates the life and story of the Sufi Saint and his mazaar and the history of Yogmaya temple and its role in the Festival.
About the Author
Ms. Usha Kumar is the daughter of Padmashri Yogeshwar Dayal and is presently the General Secretary of Anjuman Sair-e-Gul Faroshan. She was born when the family was living in Haveli Raja Jugal Kishore in Chandni Chowk. Ms. Kumar is a staunch traditionalist and has inherited from her illustrious father his love for Delhi and its traditions, monuments, food, jewellery, language, and festivals.
Ms. Kumar was educated in Delhi in the Modern School, then in Indraprastha College and Delhi University Law Faculty. She learnt classical dance in Sangeet Bharti and at Triveni Kala Sangam. She gave several stage performances in her time and became an expert in Bharatnatyam and Manipuri styles of classical dance.
After marriage she shifted to Jullundhar and returned to Delhi during the 1972 war with Pakistan. She is practising as a lawyer in Delhi High Court since 1977.
She has been associated with Anjuman Sair-e-Gul Faroshan as Joint Secretary and took part in the Festival by assisting her father in the organization of the Festival. Now she is managing the show as the General Secretary.
I heard the mention of Phool Waalon Ki Sair when I was four- and-a-half years old. It was around the year 1941-42, when the freedom struggle was at its peak. We used to live in our sprawling haveli in Chandni Chowk. Our haveli was a portion of the complex known as Haveli Raja Jugal Kishore next to Ghantewala halwai. The sadar darwaza (main gate) of the haveli which was in Chandni Chowk, had large solid iron doors and in one of these doors, was a small gate (wicket gate), the size of a window to allow people to come and go when the main doors were closed. Over the main gateway, on the floor above, was the naubat khana, where once drum beaters and shehnai players used to sit. Large drums and other musical instruments were kept there, and were played, when the master of the haveli entered, to announce his arrival.
On entering from the main gateway, on the left hand, there was a lane in which the muneem-qumashie', and attendants of Raja saheb had their quarters. On the right, inside the gateway, were the pheelkhana' and astabal", After crossing the stables and the lane to the left, one came upon houses on both sides, each a beautiful haveli by itself, for the relatives of Raja saheb and his amir-umra and deewan (minister). From the lane only the chhajja (balcony) and the beautiful main gates were visible. After a few houses on the left was a large well (now the well has been covered and a shop has been constructed over it). A little farther at the end of the lane, was a temple which is still there today. In the temple, there is a well, and idols of Shivji, Parvatiji, Kartikeyaji, Shri Ganesh and Nandi bull (deities known as family of Shiva) are housed. Apart from the Shiv Parivar, idols of other Hindu gods and goddesses are installed alongside, including that of Hanumanji, covered with vermilion.
Opposite the temple on the left was a large gateway with very heavy double doors and an iron clasp to lock it. This was the zenani haveli (ladies' chambers) and at the end of the lane was the mardani haueli (men's chambers). The mardani haveli had an akhaara (arena) for wrestling and performing dand-baithakr. Large muqdars" were kept there for exercising. There were also some takhis? used by the masseur for massage.
On the first floor of mardani haveli there used to be a darba (pigeon house). Some- times I used to go there, stealthily, with my brother, and sliding open the door of the pigeon house, I would peep in and look at the pigeons. Once, as a child, I had touched the soft feathers of a white pigeon, that touch is still treasured in my palm. The zenani and the mardani havelis had passages opening onto the lane behind known as Kinaari Bazaar. When the ladies of the haveli went visiting, the peenus/doli/palki used to be placed on the steps to the passage from Kinaari Bazaar and a maid would lift the curtains for the ladies to enter. Once they were inside, curtains of the doli were again drawn. I remember visiting my naaniji (maternal grandmother), who lived in Kucha Paati Ram, in a doli several times with my mother.
Chandni Chowk was the centre of all activity, some event or the other was taking place all the time there. The struggle for freedom was going on, of which the epicentre was quite naturally Chandni Chowk. Some- times, bombs were hurled by inqilaabies (revolutionaries), sometimes there were bonfires where imported goods were burnt all over Chandni Chowk particularly at Ghanta over Ghar (Clock Tower) which used to be in front of the Town Hall in Chandni Chowk. At times there was picketing of shops selling foreign goods and at some places, spinning of khadi yarn on spinning wheels by Gandhiji and his followers. The policemen used to charge at the people with lathies (long batons) and at times even fired and used teargas as well. When they (police) pursued and tried to catch the people, who put fire to foreign goods and exploded bombs, freedom fighters and revolutionaries, they would disappear into the crowd. The police used to make a furore by beating their lathies (batons) here and there and wondered where all of them disappeared. Countless revolutionaries and freedom fighters used to enter our haveli from Chandni Chowk and were quietly helped to slip into Kinaari Bazaar from the other end of the haveli. The police would often land up at our doorstep to search the haveli, but could never find any clue to the revolutionaries, of course the police never dared to enter the zenani haveli.
In our haveli, I remember hearing lively discussions about the people who were fighting for independence. Often, they were served food, given shelter and helped in escaping from the British soldiers and the police. There were always some of these freedom fighters of all religions in the haveli and long discussions on political issues used to be held. Sometimes, while discussing these matters, there used to be a lot of excitement and voices were raised to a very high pitch. We, the children in the haveli, used to think that they were all fighting amongst themselves and we used to get scared. All of us, brothers and sisters (including cousins, of course), were very small. We were regarded as harmless, and all the discussions were held while we played around with no one paying any attention to us.
The freedom struggle was at its peak and charged with patriotic fervour, people were sacrificing all for the sake of liberty from the British rule. While some adopted ahimsa (non-violence) as advised by Mahatma Gandhi, some others adopted more aggressive methods. The freedom fighters professing non-violence would shout "Angrezo Bharat chhoro" (Britishers quit India) and would take out prabhaat pheris (morning rounds). Men and women wearing khadi dresses would go round the city in processions, early in the morning after which they would sit at Ghanta-Ghar in Chandni Chowk and spin khadi yarn on charkhas (spinning wheels). This would be a part of their efforts to discard foreign-made goods. On the other hand, the revolutionaries, who were known as inqilaabies like Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Batukeshwar Dutt and many others, were eager to make the supreme sacrifice and wanted to see the strength of the British and sang:
"Sarfaroshi ki tamanna
Ab hamarey dil mein hai
Dekhna hai zore kitna
Bazuey qaatil mein hai. "
The desire to sever our head (to sacrifice our lives)
We carry in our heart
We want to see how much strength
The arm of the murderer has.
At the same time Subhas Chandra Bose popularly known as Netaji raised the Indian National Army and gave a call "Tum mujhey khoon do, main tumhein azaadi doonga" (You, [calling upon the youth of the country], give me blood i.e. enlist in Indian National Army, and I will give you independence from the British rule). Each and every Indian was obsessed with the struggle for freedom. Their ways were different, but their goal was the same, to get independence. There was so much enthusiasm in people particularly in children, that when they heard Netaji's voice over the radio, they would stand up and salute. At that age, I neither understood the meaning of 'salute' nor of 'azaadi' (independence), but would get so enthused by all that was going around, that following my elder brothers, I would also stand up in attention and salute.
In our haveli, the names of our national leaders-Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Maulana Azad, and others were often mentioned during discussions with freedom fighters and all the elders used to gather around the only radio in the family to listen to the news. There was a lot of commotion which was beyond our comprehension. But, the eldest among us children, my eldest cousin brother, would make all the children of the haveli stand in a line and would ask each of us to hold the dress (shirt/frock) of the one in front and form a train. The eldest would call loudly "Jail chalogey" (will you come to prison), we all shouted in a chorus "Haan bhai haan" (yes, oh yes). My brother would again shout "Eik cheez mileqi' (you will get a gift) and we would shout back "Kyaa bhai kyaa" (what, say what) and then my brother would say" Azaadi bhai azaadi" (Independence, oh, independence) and we would chorus "Haan bhai haan, haan bhai haan" (yes, oh yes, yes, oh yes). And this grand procession of the soldiers for freedom would keep taking rounds of the haveli shouting slogans. The movement was so strong that it had affected even the games that children played. At times, my brother would change his slogan and would shout "Inqilaab" (revolution) and we would shout "Zindabaad" (long-live).
We, the children, and our haveli could not but get affected by the atmosphere of the country and of Chandni Chowk. Once during the usual discussions and arguments with the freedom fighters, I heard, "Arrey Gandhiji ney too baraa sakhth prastav pass kara diya Bambai mey, "Angrezo Bharat Chhoro"" (Oh Gandhiji has got a strong resolution passed at Bombay, "Britishers quit India"). And look at these Britishers, when they failed on all fronts, they are now trying to play the dirty politics of making brothers fight amongst themselves. They say 'Divide and rule' i.e. make Hindus and Muslims fight each other, divide them, make them weak by division, and then rule over them and in this game of politics, they have discontinued the festival of Hindus and Muslims Phool Waalon Ki Sair." There were heated arguments over this and both Hindus and Muslims got very angry and annoyed.
Phool Waalon Ki Sair got stuck somewhere in my little imagination. I selected and threaded countless juhi, chameli, motia and gulab (names of flowers) and made a picture of Phool Waalon Ki Sair in my mind. It was as if the fragrance of flowers had penetrated my mind and was embedded there. I asked my father, "I want to go to see "Phool Waalon Ki Sair". My father replied, "Child, that has been discontinued by the Britishers."
Dilli The Soul of Hindustan
Hukm Company Bahadur Ka
Monuments Connected with
Phool Waalon Ki Sair
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