Synopsis : These are simply two stories that show some light on the ancient practice of female abductions when they were sold as slaves into the harems of the rich and powerful. Sadly this practice is still in use in some parts of the world that needs to be eradicated and strongly repudiated.
Source : Google photo of a story teller
I read these two stories when I was young and was very impressed by its relevance in the contemporary Moslem society that existed several centuries ago. They are fictitious stories but quite probable given the history of debauchery in the Moslem royalty that kept grand harems full of beautiful women.
Once prince Aurangjeb was out hunting with his friends in a remote part when suddenly he came across a group of beautiful women bathing in a mountain spring quite unconcerned because they thought they were alone. They were being guarded by a big bearded fellow who was heavily armed and confronted the young prince and his companions not knowing who they were and told them to be off.
He was a trader who sold kidnapped beautiful women to royal harems at a high price because the Princes and Kings paid a huge amount of money for the most beautiful of these women but they must be virgins. These unfortunate women were kidnapped from their homes in Afghanistan, Persia and other places ending up in some harems somewhere.
Aurangjeb was the youngest son of Emperor Shah Jehan who built Taj Mahal for his wife MumTaj Mahal. This story is about the young prince.
The young prince was particularly attracted to a very pretty woman so he got off his horse and introduced himself. The trader knowing he was a prince asked forgiveness for his rude behavior and wanted to make amends. The prince then asked for the girl and said that he wanted to spend the night with her.
The trader protested and said that he must sell the girls as virgins so the Prince should understand his conundrum. No one will buy a woman no matter how pretty she is if she is not a virgin.
But the Prince Aurangjeb insisted and got his wish. The next morning he gave the girl his gold ring that had his royal emblem and said that should the need arise, she can show this ring to the royal household and her needs will be attended to.
For the young prince it was just a fling on the spur of the moment so he soon forgot all about her and continued with his hunting and frolicking with his companions.
Many years passed. Then one night at midnight a mysterious woman clad in black veil from head to foot called Hijab with only two peep holes for the eyes approached the guards of the palace of Aurangjeb and insisted on seeing him. She said that it was a matter of great urgency but the guards had strict orders not to disturb the prince who was sleeping. Still the woman insisted but would not reveal who she was and what was the purpose of her visit. The guards still did not let her.
So she put out her white hand on which shone a heavy gold ring that the guards recognized instantly but said very politely that they could not disturb the prince so she finally gave them a package for the prince and left.
Aurangjeb found a big package next to his bed when he woke up and opened it to find a strange contraption made of steel that looked like a rat cage but very unusual in design. When he asked who had brought it, the guards could only say that it was a woman clad in Hijab who did not reveal her identity but showed them a royal ring on her finger that they recognized as that of the Prince.
The prince could not make the head or tail of this incident and had already forgotten about the beautiful girl he had slept with during his hunting trip long ago and put it down to some strange prank. He however, noticed that the cage had a heavy duty door that was well oiled and closed silently but still he could not understand the purpose of the rat trap and the unusual design .
Then one day he received an invitation from his elder half-brother Dara Shukoh who was the next in line to become the king after Shah Jehan and was groomed as such. Dara had built a summer palace in Agra and he wanted to show it off to the King and his brothers so everyone came to see the summer palace part of which was under the river Yamuna.
Dara explained that the design of the building was to keep it cool during the hot summer months so the river above the building kept it cool. The king and his entourage all went inside the superb palace but Aurangjeb noticed that the door was heavy and slid into the jamb silently . This triggered the alarm bells in his mind and he instantly saw the similarity with the strange rat cage that he had received from an unknown woman.
So he refused to step through the door angering the King Shah Jehan who ordered him to come in but this he would not obey thus greatly upsetting the King. He was not used to disobedience from any one so he took away the privileges of the young prince and reduced his allowances.
Aurangjeb then went back to his palace and looked very carefully at the rat cage and eventually found a secret trap door on top of it that opened when a secret button was pushed. The cage was extremely well made and its implication made him aghast and fearful. He then used his spies to go to Dara’s palace and see if indeed there was a secret door in the ceiling.
They found it and it could mean only one thing. It meant that Dara was planning some mischief and wanted to invite his enemies that included Aurangjeb who was secretly aspiring to be the king. Once inside the room, the heavy door would be shut and the trap door in the ceiling would let in the water killing every one inside.
With this information Aurangjeb then confronted his half-brother and asked him what was his intention. The king was also told but Dara said that he did not know anything about it as he did not supervise the construction himself. However, very mysteriously the architect was found dead after some time.
Aurangjeb’s spies also found out that the mysterious woman who gave the prince the rat trap was in the harem of Dara but no one was allowed inside the harem that was guarded all the time so Aurangjeb asked a young boy in his palace to carry a secret message to the lady. The young boy was dressed as a girl so gained admittance somehow and gave the message to the lady.
Now the guards had some suspicion about the young girl coming and going and found that it was a boy. Dara then asked the guards to release his blood hounds at night when the messenger usually came .The outcome was inevitable. The next morning Dara sent the remains of the boy to the palace of Aurangjeb with a note that perhaps it was the body of someone from his palace so he was very sorry that the hounds were out and attacked.
Aurangjeb knew all about palace intrigues through his spies and said with perfect poker face that it was not someone from his palace so Dara must have made a wrong assumption. The matter ended there but no one knew what happened to that woman who had warned Aurangjeb.
As we all know, Aurangjeb had his two brothers assassinated and put the King into prison in the Agra Fort for the rest of his life and became the king. This last part is historically accurate. He was a ruthless king who forced Islam on hapless Hindus and destroyed thousands of their temples and built mosques there. I saw his grave in Aurangabad where he was buried in a pauper’s grave covered only with soil as per his wish.
The second story is somewhat similar to the first one but also fictitious. It was written by Rabindra Nath Tagore and made into a movie called The hungry stones.
A young man had accepted a job in a remote part of Central India so being a bachelor, he arrived one day by train to the small town hoping to find a house to rent and settle down in his new job.
There was a small Bengali community there that welcomed him because it was so rare to have someone new in their small town so they promised to look for a house to rent and find a servant and a cook.
The young man liked the small town and was excited to start his job there and saw through the window of his host who had offered him tea, a house on a distant hill quite outside the town. It was a white house and quite visible in the full moon.
When he asked about the house on the hill and if it was available for rent, his host and others became very quiet and uneasy and said that the house was haunted and no one lived there since a very long time. He should under no circumstances consider living there as no servant and cook will stay there with him.
But the young man was inexplicably drawn to the house on the hill and decided to look at it and see for himself if it was a suitable place for him to rent. He did not believe in ghosts and thought it was all non-sense.
So one day he decided to spend the night there after walking around the property. Behind the house he found very craggy mountainside with jagged rocks and very steep slopes.
Then all of a sudden a dirty old man in rags appeared and shouted at him It is all fake. Go away Go away and laughed hysterically. It was quite odd but the young man thought that it was perhaps some old fool who lived nearby and tried to scare him off the property for some reason.
Then at midnight he woke up feeling that someone was looking at him and was very surprised to see a very beautiful young woman dressed in rich clothes and jewelry motioning him to follow her silently.
Like sleep walking he woke up and followed the girl who showed him many rooms in the villa where there were lots of people merry making in some rooms that were richly decorated with silk and lighted with numerous oil lamps and chandeliers.
He could not shake off the feeling that somehow he knew this girl but could not figure out where and how he had met her or when.
Then all of a sudden the girl vanished into thin air and all was the same as before. The rooms were locked and the corridors were dirty and dusty with cobwebs everywhere.
Then he noticed that the fountain in the garden that was totally dry came alive all of a sudden and there were many beautiful girls all richly dressed were cavorting and giggling but again they disappeared like a mirage and the fountain was dry and full of leaves like before.
He went back to town the next day and told everyone what he had experienced the night before but they all pleaded with him not to go back there because nothing good would come out of it. The place was haunted and full of ghosts who live there and were up to no good.
But the young man went back again and saw the young girl again who was trying to tell him a story by gestures only. He was a very courageous young man but his servant and cook all ran away due to fear.
Anyway the long and short of this story is that he had fallen in love with this young girl in his previous life long ago when he was sent by the Nawab to buy this girl from the trader who sold kidnapped women as told in the previous story and together they ran away somewhere. The Nawab was furious that this fellow had run away with the most beautiful woman that he had bought for his harem so sought vengeance. Eventually the young man and the girl were captured and brought to the villa of the Nawab.
Then one night they tried to escape but they were chased so the spooked horse fell into the ravine behind the palace and they died together.
Since then the scene of chase and death was reenacted by the ghosts on the same night each year which was during the full moon. This time the ghosts were out to kill the real young man during the full moon that was coming up shortly so the girl pleaded with him to get away before it happened.
The young man came to his senses in the nick of time and ran away from the haunted place where the stones were hungry for his blood.
These two stories that I heard a long time ago underline one important fact. It is known to historians that the Moslem rulers kept large harems that they filled with beautiful women captured from various countries and kept as virtual slaves albeit in luxury. The slave traders were very active to supply the girls because there was such a great demand for them.
Their debauchery had no limits because although by their laws they could marry only four women, there was no limit to the number of concubines they kept hence the harem. Often the concubines plotted their off springs to be the ruler but that is perhaps another subject for a blog someday.
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