Three Features of Diwan-e-Khas

There are quite a few interesting things in Delhi’s Red Fort when you try to unravel its features that may not appear quite apparent at first, but three things that stand out in replaying the Diwan-e-Khas or the Hall of Private Audience in one’s mind’s eye are the couplet inscribed on its walls, the symbol of the Scales of Justice and of course, the Peacock Throne and Koh-i-Noor diamond. While the throne can only be imagined in the hallowed hall of Diwan-e-Khas, the rest two can still be seen, though close access to them has been restricted.

A paragraph from my book reads: “With the 12-foot-wide murmuring Nahr-i-Bihist gliding through it and the Emperor seated on his Peacock Throne or the Takht-e-Taawus, one can visualise the aptness of the verse by Amir Khusrau that was inscribed on it which says, ‘If there is a paradise on the face of the earth, it is this, it is this, O it is this!’

Agar firdaus bar ru-i-zamin ast, Hamin ast, hamin ast, o hamin ast”

Amir Khusrau most probably penned these lines in appreciation of the new city of Siri commissioned by his contemporary Sultan Allauddin Khilji more than three centuries ago. But recent research by Rana Safvi disputes this claim in favour of poet Mirza Muhammad Tahir “Aashna” (AD 1628–71), entitled Inayat Khan, son of Zafar Khan, the governor of Kashmir. (https://scroll.in/article/942273/who-really-wrote-the-lines-if-there-is-paradise-on-earth-it-is-this-it-is-this-it-is-this)

Recently I received three special covers issued in 1978 with beautiful cancellations that brought this thing back into my mind. Each of the cover carried images of beautiful and colourful pietra dura flowers that adorn the pillars of Diwan-e-Khas that were designed perhaps to give a feeling to the Emperor that he was never far from nature, with the murmuring ‘Nahar-i-Bihisht’ or the Stream of Paradise flowing along the hall.

But the more interesting features of these covers are their cancellations. While the first had this verse below the image of the fort, the second one brings us to the second important feature of the Diwan-e-khas:  Scales of Justice.

From my book: “Interesting to note are the ‘Scales of Justice’ – a pair of scales that represented the just rule of Shah Jahan – carved on a translucent marble sheet and fused atop a finely pierced marble screen below which flew the Nahr-i-Bihisht. From this final court of justice at Diwan-e-Khas, the graphic depiction of Justice nearby was perhaps to comfort the petitioners while reminding those meting out judgements on their duty to uphold impartiality. The ‘Scales of Justice’, or the Mizan-i-Adal, was depicted on a crescent moon surrounded by countless stars or suns – a portrayal of the heavens, signifying fairness of Mughal Justice in the entire universe. The lower portion of this screen standing atop the conduit for Nahr-i-Bihisht was almost like a fine lace. “

The intended visualization was now complete: Emperor seated on his Peacock Throne or the Takht-e-Taawus in a hall designed with pietra dura flowers encrusted with precious and semi-precious stones that mimicked the most beautiful flowers in their beauty if not in fragrances, and Justice itself depicted as a fine scale in the Mughal Empire’s final court of appeal, while the ‘time-like’ waters of Nahr-i-Bihisht passed below. And one could definitely appreciate the aptness of the inscribed verse: “If there is a paradise on the face of the earth, it is this, it is this, O it is this!” Agar firdaus bar ru-i-zamin ast, Hamin ast, hamin ast, o hamin ast.

This brings us to the last feature – the Koh-i-Noor and the Peacock Throne and the invasion of Nadir Shah. But maybe I will have to get on to a new post and few new artefacts to discuss that.

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