The Tomb of the Emperor Shah ‘Alam at the Qutb Minar
Author: Metcalfe, Sir Thomas Theophilus (1795-1853)
Medium: Ink and colours on paper
[From 'Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi’, an album consisting of 89 folios containing approximately 130 paintings of views of the Mughal and pre-Mughal monuments of Delhi, as well as other contemporary material, with an accompanying manuscript text written by Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe (1795-1853), the Governor-General’s Agent at the imperial court. Acquired with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and of the National Art-Collections Fund.]
The Tomb of the Emperor Shah Alum (‘King of the World’) at the Kootub. Ulee Gohur (‘Glorious Race’) for such was his real name, was the eldest son of Alumgeer (‘Conqueror of the World’) 2nd who was assassinated in 1759 by his Minister Ghazeeoodeen (‘Hero of the Faith’) Khan (Page 46 [f. 50]). As heir apparent he had been previously compelled to fly from Dehlie, and as nominal Emperor he commenced his reign by an unprovoked and ill conducted attack on the British in Bengal and Behar then recently acquired by the latter. But finding himself baffled and defeated, he soon after voluntarily surrendered himself to the British Camp without treaty or stipulation. In his absence from the seat of government another member of the Royal Family was raised to the Throne by the Regicide, but this Prince’s title was never acknowledged.
The Mahratta power was at this time at its zenith. The military establishment had increased with its power, and its force now included an army of well paid and well mounted cavalry and 10,000
[The Tomb of the Emperor Shah ‘Alam II (r.1759-1806) at the Qutb Minar. Within an enclosure near the Daragh of Qutb Sahib are the graves of several Mughal rulers, including Shah Alam I (r.1707-12), Shah ‘Alam II (r.1759-1806) and Akbar II (1806-37). Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal ruler, wished to be buried here, but was exiled to Rangoon and died there. The tombs have a well crafted marble jali around it.]
Inscribed: naqsha-i qabr-i safir-i Shah ‘Alam Badshah Ghazi naqsha-i qabr-i siyah-i Muhammad Akbar Shah Badshah Ghazi.
disciplined infantry superior to any infantry previously known in India.
About A.D. 1769 the Mahratta Chief Sudasheo (‘Name of the Hindoo Deity Sibh or Shiva’) Bhow (‘Literally “approved”) captured Dehlie. He made an ungenerous use of his conquest, defaced the palaces, tombs and shines for the sake of rich ornaments which had been spared by the Afghans and Persians, tore down the Silver Ceiling of the Hall of Audience (Page 20 [f. 22]), which was coined into 17 lucks of rupees equal to £1,70,000, and seized on the throne (no longer however precious as of old) and on all other Royal ornaments. Years of anarchy and oppression succeeded the death of the unfortunate Alumgeer the 2nd. At last Ullie Gohur under the title of Shah Alum, was enabled chiefly by the assistance of Shooja oo Dowluh (‘The most valiant of the State’) to return to Dehlie and on the 25th December 1771 A.D. made his entry into the capital with much pomp and splendor and amidst the acclamations of all ranks of people.
In 1765 a pension of 26 Lakhs of Rupees 2,60,000 £ had been settled upon him annually by the British Government with a considerable tract of fertile territory in upper Hindoostan both of which he forfeited on quitting the protection of his benefactors and repairing to Dehlie became a prisoner and political instrument under the custody of the Mahrattas.
In 1788 Goolaum (‘Literally “slave”’) Kaudur (‘Powerful’) the Rohilla (‘Name of a tribe’) having by a sudden eruption made himself master of Dehlie, seized the unfortunate Emperor, and after exposing him for many weeks to every species of insult and degradation in order to extort the disclosure of supposed concealed treasures, concluded by piercing his eyes with a dagger so as to completely extinguish sight. For the attainment of the same effect he massacred, starved to death and tortured many of the Royal Family and of the Chief inhabitants of Dehlie, but being compelled to evacuate the city by a detachment from the Mahratta Army, he was captured during his flight and expired under the effects of even greater tortures than he had mercilessly inflicted.
Nor was the misery of the Mogul Emperor much alleviated by the transfer, which about this period took place, of Dehlie and some adjacent territory from the Mahratta Chief to the French Officers commanding the corps of disciplined infantry retained in the service of the Chief, for though the King was ostensibly under the superintendance of these officers, he yet effectually remained a prisoner in the hands of the Mahrattas and subjected to all their proverbial rapacity.
During the year 1802 when there were 52 sons and daughters of the Emperor the monthly stipend allowed to each Prince of the Imperial Family did not exceed Rs 15 per month (£21 per annum) and the sums disbursed by the French Officer who had charge of the Emperor’s person, for the aggregate expenses of His Majesty, the Royal Family, Dependants and establishments, amounted only to 17,000 Rupees per month or £23,664 per annum, while the Mahrattas retained and converted to their own use all the gardens and houses in or about the city that were Royal property and perpetuated the most atrocious crimes in the name of this Royal Prisoner for the purposes of land and extortion.
Such was the desolation of this ancient capital in 1803 when Lord Lake having defeated the Mahratta Army six miles from Dehlie on the 11th September and entered it the next day to the infinite joy of the aged Emperor, and from this time the British jurisdiction has continued supreme. Shah Alum closed a long and calamitous reign of 43 years in December 1805 in the 83rd year of his life- and on the same day was succeeded by his eldest legitimate son Akbar the 2nd the late Emperor.