Mughal Court

Ritoma Sen writes from the Kingdom of Mewar

Agra, August 23rd 1615

It’s a hot and humid August day in Agra. The spectre of a poor crop yield is hanging heavy, and the memories of a comatose Fatehpur Sikri for lack of water is not distant.

The extensive Diwan-i-Khas is brimming with courtiers, soldiers and a distant clutch of common men seeking royal benevolence. To the left of the Emperor’s Takht is a new set of visitors from England, headed by one Zanab Thomas Roe. Relentlessly, they seek the protection of their factories in Surat. Beside them are the priests from Portugal headed, strangely, by a Catalonian – Father Jerome Xavier. The relation is strained between these European communities. Both are worried about retaining unanimous control of the just blossoming Hindustan-European trade flows and increasing members of their faith. It is critical that they oppose English advent and nip their efforts in the bud. They have to floor the Badshah with counter logic in that discourse. Father Xavier has been in the court since Emperor Akbar’s days and now he must wield his proximity.

The revenue yield has not been growing steadily. The expansion of the empire and the splendour has a huge cost attached. The expansion of the empire needs to be dramatized again. Lack of war to ensure peace and prosperity to the common man is dangerous for the royal Takht. The empire is fraught with infidels who interpret lack of war as weak governance. They will actively plot to dethrone and create chaos. Most of them are like mercenaries eyeing up the loot from war proceeds – be it power or vassal wealth. The Conquests of Kangra and Mewar are two incomplete tasks that need to be deliberated.

The lunch break is a strategic time out for the Shahenshah. Begum Noor Jehan has just returned from her hunting expedition. The Zenana Mahal encounter needs a quick discussion with her on the English request and another on the Mewar attack. After all, she will have a pulse of her Rajput counterparts and their vengeance: along with the machinations of Khurram- currently away in Deccan- and his mother.

There is a public audience also slated before the evening prayers for the commoners who rang the bell yesterday. Some are Hindus, while others are Muslims. The disputes include family discord over inheritance, the taxation of the madrasa and religious congregation.

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