¤ A Medieval Town
About five hours drive from Indore is Burhanpur town towards the
south of Madhya Pradesh. The town was established as far back as
1406-7 by Badshah Nasiruddin Faroqui as part of his kingdom, Khandesh.
All throughout history this town, especially the nearby fort Asirgarh,
remained important strategically, being the last bastion before the
¤ Places of Interest
Shahi Jama Masjid
of the many mosques built here by the rulers of the Faroqui dynasty.
The story goes that at one time, most of the population of Burhanpur
lived to the North. So in 1421 Azam Humayun, one of Faroquis, built a
mosque here in Etwara for his queen Ruqiaya called Bibi Ki Masjid, the
very first Jama Masjid of this place.
Now Jama Masjids are usually built in the most populace parts of the
towns, where everybody can have easy access to them. Ideally there
should be only one Jama Masjid in every town.
Another Jama Masjid- Constructed In The Center of The Town
However as the city grew and the people spread everywhere, they came
to realize the impossibility of reaching a mosque at one end of the
city. They needn't have worried.
The ruler Adil Shah Faroqui solved the whole problem by simply
building another Jama Masjid in the heart of the city. It built so
that people from all over the city could reach it conveniently for the
The Interior Layout of The Mosque
The mosque is modeled on the Jama Masjid in Delhi. The entrance is
toward the east and the doors here date from the time of Jahangir.
Originally these doors were 12 foot tall, which, some felt, was a bit
of a tight fit for the mosque.
In 1898 the Begum of Bhopal Sikander Jahan Sahiba on way to Bombay
stopped here for a brief stay and saw the mosque. She got another
gateway built here, a little ahead of the original doors this
time 24 feet high, stone, with delicate carvings.
Coming ahead of the main door you can see 22 huzras (meditation
seats). These were built here by a Subedar Mirza Abdul Rahim Khan
Khana under the supervision of Hazrat Mir Nomaan Nakshabandi who was
the Imam (head priest) of the mosque at that time. A little further on
are a few mazaars (literally graves of saints; these are worshipped)
of the generations of mosque priests.
Towards the south of these mazaars are two huge hauzs (literally,
artificial water pools; these are used by devout Muslims to perform
the ritual washing of the hands and feet before prayers). The water to
these hauzs used to be supplied by underground passages from the
Lalbagh (see below, Lalbagh). Nowadays, of course, the tap does the
Minars (Tower) of Mosque
The identical minars (tower) of the mosque are quite a feature. At
about 130 feet tall they loom all over the mosque. You can climb up
right to the top by the spiral stairways.
These minars are believed to be much taller than those of the Jama
Masjid in Delhi. The view from up there is literally something else
especially if you have a problem of vertigo.
The mosque itself is quite a building it is 149 foot tall and
52 feet wide. So naturally, about 70 pillars support it. The huge hall
of the mosque can hold as many as 500 people easily. Towards the west
of the mosque on the wall are about 15 mehraabs (prayer alcoves) which
have some exquisite carvings on them. The pillar in the middle of the
prayer hall has some serpentine Arabic calligraphy on it. It is still
in use and Janab Akram Bukhari is the present Imam of the mosque.
Set in the Satpura Hills at the altitude of 750m, about 20 km from
Burhanpur is the once-important fortress of Asirgarh.
Unfortunately, it's mostly ruins now and there's nothing much left of
its colourful and glorious past. In better days it used to be called
Baab-e-dakhan (the doorway to Deccan) a much sought-after prize back
A victory over this fortress meant the kingdom of Khandesh, which in
turn meant a smooth road to Deccan. What made it much more fun was
that it was supposed to have been an impregnable fortress.
The who and when of the fort is not known which of course
leaves it wide open to be associated with the Mahabharata and
Ramayana. In India attempts are made to link literally any and
everything with the two epics.
Myth Associated With The Fort
As far as this fort is concerned, myth associates it with the with
the son of the legendary Guru of Mahabharata Dronacharya, Asawathama
at best a minor character in the epic and even then this is most
probably mere wishful thinking. Interestingly, in Burhanpur, near the
Gupteshwar Mandir is a tunnel, which links to Asirgarh.
Tradition has it that during auspicious occasions Aswathama used to
come to here to bathe in the Tapti river, pray in the temple and then
disappear back to his fortress.
Well, if the Mahabharata is here the Ramayana can't be far behind and
there are other stories which link Asirgarh to it. Even today many
amateur and serious historians are working at cracking the mystery
that Asirgarh hugs so dearly to itself that of its birth.
Successive Conquering of The Fort
After a lot of confusion the ownership of the fort becomes settled
when it came into the hands of Adil Shah Farouqui. After him the fort
passed on to his successor Bahadur Shah Faroqui. This Bahadur Shah had
a reputation of not being a very farsighted king.
and as soon as Akbar, that time the Mughal emperor of India, came to
know of this he dispatched an army for here at a rare rate of knots.
Foresight or no foresight as soon as Bahadur Shah got the wind of
Akbar's plans he too proceeded swiftly and fortified his fortress.
Consequently, the armies of the Mughal emperor was stuck here laying
siege to the fort for almost 10 years.
It is evidence of how well-stocked the fortress was that during that
time the people inside had provision enough not to need anything from
outside. Every attempt to take the fort was repulsed by the soldiers
of the Shah.
Finally sick of the battle, Akbar one day called Bahadir Shah to his
camp for a meeting and there had him summarily dispatched to happy
hunting grounds above.
When the dying king accused Akbar of treachery, the emperor replied
with that age-old lesson, "Everything is fair in Politics and
government." So all those who said Bahadur Shah lacked foresight
were proved right after all.
Finally Akbar Captured The Fort
Then Akbar showered gold and silver on Bahadur Shah's generals and
won his way through to the fort. Finally on January 17, 1609 Akbar
became the lord of the Asirgarh fort. Since then the fort remained in
the able hands of the Mughals; till there were Mughals of course.
There are a whole bunch of other stories like that. Unfortunately
nothing remains here now of all that charming history. There's just a
mosque left here now.
On the eastern side of the Tapti River is the Shahi Qila. However,
not much of it remains today.
At one time Shah Jahan, when he was the governor of Burhanpur, had
lived in this palace. and he loved the place so much that after
ascending the throne he established a court here for first three
His wife the famous Mumtaz Mahal (of the Taj Mahal) died here in
childbirth. Don't go exploring the palace alone because it is very
confusing and locals call it bhulbhulaya (labyrinth). There are some
parts of the palace still standing which display some exquisite
The Shahi Hammam is situated bang next to the Qila. Surprisingly it
is quite intact. It has three rooms and assorted baths which are in
good shape. The eight-faceted hauz in the middle is quite a work of
The Ahukhana was the hunting lodge of the Faroqui kings. In 1609 AD,
when Akbar took over the fort he stationed Prince Daniyel here, who
was very fond of hunting. Daniyel did a lot of beautifying around the
Ahukhana, adding the hauz, gardens and so on.
There's also a garden here which is associated with Shah Jahan's
daughter Alamara, called Bagh-I-Alamara. The Ahukhana is in quite good
Mirza Raja Jaisingh Ki Chattri
About 5km from Burhanpur, at the meeting spot of the river Tapti and
Mohana is this cenotaph. This charming little edifice has pretty
gumbazs (round roofs) and 32 decorated pillars. It is dedicate dto
Kachawaha king Raja Jaisingh.
This resting house (sarai) was built by Abdul Rahim Khan Khana was
appointed as the subedar of Khandesh by the Mughals. During the time
of Jahangir, an ambassador of the English King James I, Sir Thomas Roe
had come to India, he was put up in this sarai. The main door of the
sarai is about 90 feet tall and is built of black stone. There are
about 400 rooms in thos place which are in quite good shape.
21km from Burhanpur, this palace is on the Amravati road. When Shah
Jahan was the governor of this area he had fell in love with a
danseuse called Gulara. and he did not stop at that, he married her
and set her up in this palace, hence the name. The Mahal Gulara is
actually two palaces joined by a charming pathway. The palace is in
fragile condition and is under ASI's protection which keeps repairing
it from time to time.
Bibi ki Masjid
This is the mosque mentioned earlier in the Shahi Mosque. It is
skillfully decorated all over by Persian and Arabic calligraphy. There
were two towers in the mosques, one of which have collapsed.
Begam Shahshuja's cenotaph
When the Mughals established their control in this area, lots of
Mughal princes and of course their queens started frequenting the
During Shah Jahan's reign, one of his queens Shah Shuja came visitng
this place, while the king was in Kashmir. She died here in
childbirth; quite a déjà vu for Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan
got this built in her memory. The cenotaph is built on a 5-foot high
platform. The artistic carvings on the cenotaph are still visible.
Near the cenotaph is a small mosque called the Kanati Masjid.
Burhanpur is on the NH3. The best thing to do to get here is to hire
a car in Indore and drive down the Barhawa-Omkareshwar-Khandwa route.
There are also frequent state transport buses from Indore which come
here. Alternatively you could come to the nearest town Khandwa and
drive down for a day's trip.