How I Came Across this Story
In January 2014, while visiting my in-laws in Ghaziabad, UP. My wife and I made the customary trip to Taj Mahal. It was the first time either of us saw the mausoleum. It was breathtaking for me, but that is not the subject of this post.
While at Agra, we also visited the Red Fort. The Red Fort. Once the residence of Shah Jahan, Akbar, Aurangzeb, Jahangir. If the Taj was a symbol of breathtaking design, beauty and love, the Red Fort was a symbol of breathtaking power, strength and culture of the same scale. I loved it. I tend to instantly fall in love with anything historical, and this was no different. We spent hours taking in the construction, walking the corridors and interconnecting pathways, imagining the council chambers both private and public. Marvelling at the waterways that were now dry and imagining how the water would have flowed around the intricate drains and canals. It was magnificent. The romance of Shah Jahan's arrest story was not lost on us either as we strained our eyes to make out the Taj Mahal from his prison-room (pollution). But this is not the subject of this post either. What I want to talk about is the story of Amar Singh.
Here's the story of Amar Singh as recounted by my sasurji, father-in-law, the night before we traveled to Agra:
"Pushkar son, I will tell you the story of Amar Singh. It is a truly magnificent story. You know horses are faithful, this story is one that will even beat Chetak and Rana Pratap!
You see, Amar Singh was known for his bravery and will. One day Aurangzeb invited Amar Singh for a round of peace talks at the Red Fort. They were fierce rivals and Aurangzeb told Amar Singh that he wanted a peaceful discussion and promised that there would be no weapons and Amar Singh should also not carry weapons. Amar Singh agreed.
Amar Singh, along with a convoy, arrived at the Red Fort. As he entered on horseback and passed the gate, aurangzeb and his archers attacked the group. Amar Singh, though wounded with all his companions dead, could not turn back and tried desperately to escape making his way to the forts enormous walls which were wide enough to allow troops to march. There is a huge moat that surrounds the fort. Amar Singh on horseback had no option but to jump in order to save himself. The horse jumped without a moment's hesitation and landed on the other side of the moat, the impact instantly killing the horse. Amar Singh made his escape. In fact, I tell you, the landing was so hard that there is a hoof print on the side of the moat to this day!
That hoof print is there till today, and you must see it when you go tomorrow. There is also I think a statue of a horse there. Son, you must see this."
I was gobsmacked when I heard this story. I should look it up on the internet to see if this true! A historical event of treachery, courage and loyalty captured in a hoof print! How romantic! I must see this tomorrow! I would have drooled, but luckily didn't. I also thought I have a great Father-In-Law.
You must be wondering if this is true? Is there really a memorial to this at the Agra Red Fort?
The answer is Yes. Yes, there is a memorial to this at the Agra Red Fort. As far as the story is concerned I did not find any other source that could corroborate my Father-In-Law's story. However, Amar Singh Rathore lived between 1613 AD and 1644 AD and Aurangzeb lived between 1618 AD and 1707 AD. A gate of the fort is named after him. But the memorial is there. However, read on to find out why my search for this memorial left us sick to our stomachs.
Search for the Memorial
We arrived at the Red Fort. As we were nearing it, I asked our driver if he knew where to go for the Amar Singh Memorial. He had no clue what I was on about. I paraphrased the story to him, urging him to remember, he said he'd never heard of it. We were undeterred. At the bridge over the moat, there is a mob of rickshaw riders, taxi drivers, unofficial tour guides (you know the indian way) that mobbed us. I inquired of all of them. Some had no clue. Some pointed vaguely in some direction. At least all the pointers pointed in the same direction. We took the hint and proceeded that way.
The way in which they pointed led us parallel to the fort on the footpath that accompanies the road. Between the footpath and the moat was a waist-high wall. Looking over the waist high wall we saw a stretch of land covered in shrubbery and trees that hid the moat from view. We instantly wondered if we were headed in the right direction as the footpath disappeared and we had to get onto the road itself, which was a busy road, not to mention the paan spit, smell of feces and plant outgrowth along this path. This could not be the way to the memorial could it? We backtracked and asked once again. Once again we were directed the same way. At this point I decided that the awesomeness of the story warranted an investigation. So we continued down this way.
A little further, we noticed a gap in the wall next to the road. As we neared the gap, we noticed what was a paved path. Promising, considering that on the other side of the waist-high wall was a thicket of trees blocking the view of the fort and the moat and on the ground were thrown wrappers, condoms and what not. Alarmed yet determined we proceeded down the path. My wife immediately cupped her mouth and let out a gasp. A second later I saw it.
Among the plant outgrowth, garbage and stones there was a memorial statue of a horse in red sandstone on a smooth stone pedestal, next to which was a dead cat lying on it's side with black eyes and flies all over. My wife retreated to the road. Me too, and then I decided I had to see the hoof print. I went back down the path, the smell of rotting flesh now acrid. I covered my nose, averted my gaze from the cat and neared the memorial.
I spent a sum total of 30 seconds looking for the hoof print, clicked pictures and walked away.
The Memorial and The Story
At the memorial I saw the wall of the fort across the moat in all it's majesty. I tried to work out what the jump distance must have been, assuming the horse landed at the site of the statue, it was an improbable jump to make. Maybe the horse had a run-up, maybe it was a strong horse, maybe the bond between human and animal was strong enough to make this jump. I will never know.
What on earth is the government thinking? What on earth was Amar Singh thinking? This incident really upset me and is a damning indictment of the sad state of the Indian Government. But more than that I am really upset at the mindset of current India and that includes all us Indians. You see, my expectations were dashed in the most unceremonious way. Such things tend to remain in memory. Such a thing can cause one to get onto the bandwagon which blasts India for it's lack of cleanliness and it's even greater lack of giving a damn. Anyways, I'm lucky to have experienced a taste of rich history and the real taste of creating it.
Thanks for reading,