Mehrauli, a suburb of Delhi was in the news last week as the site of a bomb blast that killed three persons and injured about a dozen people. In this same late monsoon month going back about 170 years, starting in early 1800s, the same Mehrauli, a suburb of Delhi, has been the site of the glorious annual communal harmony event called, “Phool Walon Ki Sair”.
PHOOL WALON KI SAIR
The origin of Phool Waalon Ki Sair goes to the age of history during the reign of the Mughal King Akbar Shah II i.e. from 1808 to 1837. Akbar Shah-II was not happy with his eldest son Siraj Uddin “Zafar” and wanted to nominate his younger son Mirza Jahangir as the heir Apparent (Wali-Ahad). This move was not liked by the then British Resident in the Red Fort, Sir Archibald Seton. Once Mirza Jahangir who was a reckless youth of 19 insulted Seton in open court and called him Loolu. The British Resident somehow did not react to this insult as probably he did not understand the meaning of Loolu. After a few days, when Mirza Jahangir was merrymaking on the roof of Naubat Khana in Red Fort, Archibald Seton was coming from the Darbar after an audience with Resident Mirza Jahangir fired a short at the Resident from the roof of Naubat Khana. Seton escaped but his orderly was killed. For this act of his, Mirza Jahangir was exiled to Allahabad under orders of the British Resident.
The mother of Mirza Jahangir Queen Mumtaz Mahal Begum was distraught and took a vow that if her son was released from Allahabad she would offer a chadar of flowers at the dargh of Khwaja Bakhtiar ‘Kaki’ at Mehrauli. After a couple of years Mirza Jahangir was released and like a devout lady Mumtaz Mahal Begum went to Mehrauli to redeem her vow. With her the Imperial Court also shifted to Mehrauli and so did the entire population of Delhi. For 7 days all sorts of merrymaking continued at Mehrauli with Jhoolas (swings) in the mango groves, cock fighting and bull bailing, kites flying, wrestling and swimming bouts. Amidst all this merrymaking with great pomp and show, a chadar made of flowers was offered at the Dargah of Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki. The Mughal king was secular minded and under his orders floral offering in the shape of a floral pankha was offered at the famous Temple of Yogmayaji which is also in Mehrauli.
Seeing the response of the people and sensing the enthusiasm generated, it was decided that the festivel will be held annually after the rains and people of all communities will offer pankha and chadar at the Dargah of Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki andpankha and floral offering at Yogmayaji temple. The Darbar was also shifted to Mehrauli for the 7 days of the Festivel. The Festivel reached its pinnacle during the reign of Siraj-U-ddin “Zafar”, the last Mughal emperor also known as Bahadur Shah “Zafar”. Bahadur Shah “Zafar” went to celebrate “Phool Waalon Ki Sair” even in 1857 when Delhi was under siege of the British. This was the last “Phool Waalon Ki Sair” under the Mughals.
The Festival continued to be celebrated even after 1857 by the British Deputy commissioner who was the highest government functionary in Delhi with the help of some prominent citizens. The Festival was stopped by the british during “Quit India” Movement of Mahatma Gandhi in 1942 in pursuance of their “Divide and Rule” policy.
The country was divided in 1947 when India got its freedom at the price of division of the country. There was a mammoth task before the country to settle those who came from Pakistan and had to be absorbed in India. In about 1961, the then Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru thought of reviving the Festival and asked Mr. Noor Uddin Ahmed, the Mayor Of Delhi and Shri Yogeshwar Dayal, a scion of a prominent family of Delhi to revive the Festival. “Phool Waalon Ki Sair” was revived in 1961-62
Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru took great interest and came to Mehrauli on every “Phool Waalon Ki Sair” as long as he lived. The Festival has grown since then. During the period of Smt Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister, all the States of India were requested to participate in the Festival and the Festival known for communal harmony also took a step towards national integration by weaving the States of India into the garland of flowers of “Phool Waalon Ki Sair”. Now every participating by its artists and craftsmen and a dance troupe takes the pankha and dance troupes of various states go in procession to the Dargah and the Temple.
After its revival in 1962, the Festival is organized every by Anjuman Sair-e-Gul Faroshan, a society registered under the Societies Registration.