Saeed Naqvi's article, Bagh-e-Bedil (City Limits, March 2007), about Persian poet Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil's tomb being situated on the pavement opposite Pragati Maidan, seems to have stirred up an old forgotten debate. Professor C.M. Naim, at the university of Chicago, was the first to alert us to the possibility of this not quite being the actual site of Bedil's grave:
"Bedil is said to have had his own grave already prepared in the house where he lived. He was buried in it. The house was outside the Delhi Gate of what was then called Shahjahanabad or the New City, in an area called Khekariyan. Quite close to the river. A big annual urs even continued to be held there for at least forty years... The last mention of the grave dates to 1788 (?) when the poet Mushafi wrote that Bedil was buried in his house but now alas there is no sign left of the house or the grave."
Apparently, the house and the neighbourhood had not survived the twin ravages of the bloody raids by Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali.
Meanwhile, another historian in Delhi, Prof Nayanjyot Lahiri, was inspired enough by the article to visit Baagh-e-Bedil, and wrote to us to point out that the historical records did not say anything about this site being Bedil's tomb:
"Volume 2 of Maulvi Zafar Hasan's 'Monuments of Delhi - Delhi Zail' describes it as an unknown tomb (p. 55, No. 88). Also, that volume mentions that 'there is no trace of any grave within' -- whereas today, there is a grave! The relevant INTACH volume entitled 'Delhi: The Built Heritage' (p. 205, volume 1) describes it as a late Mughal dargah but does not mention Bedil. This was published in 1999, it is logical to therefore assume that the identity of the tomb was only ascertained after that date. From enquiries that I made with the person who cleans the tomb, it seems that the inscribed slab that is high above the northern wall there was put up a couple of years ago."
This mystery of the new slab is soon clarified when we learn that the dilapidated tomb was spruced up and plaques were put up at the instance of MEA officials as recently as 2006 because Emomali Rahmanov, the Tajikistan President, had expressed a wish to visit the tomb.
Last day before we go to press, and our grave confusion about the whole maajraa about the mazaar gets further confounded when we look up a Wikipedia entry:
"Mohammad Daoud Al'Hossaini, an Afghan Bedil expert, arguably showed that seven months after his funeral, Bedil's body was brought back by friends and relatives from Dehli to Khwaja Rawash, where the relatives of Barlas-e Tshaghatai lived. The grave is also called Bagh-e-Bedil (Garden of Bedil). Sallahouddin-e Saljouqi prooves this thesis on p.87 of his book "Naqd-e-Bedil", that Bedil's grave does not exist in Dehli, but in Khwaja Rawash."
While there seems no dispute among Indian historians on where he was born, Wikipedia confuses matters some more by saying that "according to some other sources, he was born in Khwaja Rawash, an area of Kabul province in today's Afghanistan," a claim that is echoed by many internet sites, including http://devoted.to/bedil
By now, we are all reciting Ghalib's naa koii mazaar hotaa... which seems to segue into a soulful rendition of yaa ilaahii ye maajraa kyaa hai..., when Rajeev Kinra, a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago, steps in to confirm Naim sahib's hunch:
"Dargah Quli Khan mentions Bedil's tomb in "Muraqqa'-i Dehli", but gives no specifics other than it being located in "old Delhi" (dilli-yi kuhna). See Khaliq Anjum's printed edition: persian text, p.57, urdu trans, p.122-3, and editor's note on pp. 198-9. In the editor's note Anjum, like Naim Sahib, points out that Bedil was buried in his house."
We are about to go to press when Naim sahib, while looking up various Persian accounts in Chicago, suggests that perhaps Mr Khaliq Anjum, who is also the General Secretary of Anjuman-e-Taraqqi-e-Urdu, could be contacted. So we somehow manage to locate Mr Anjum who immediately confirms that Bedil was indeed buried in his haveli in Old Delhi -- deep inside Daryaganj, he says. He also adds that Bedil's grave was certainly not in what is called Baagh-e-Bedil now and that someone had just perhaps acquired the prime real estate -- "jhuuT bol ke" -- from the authorities, perhaps in order to honour the great poet's memory. Who would know more? we ask. He suggests that we could try contacting Khwaaja Hasan Saani Nizami of the Nizammudin dargah.
So we do. Khwaaja sahib is vehement and categorical: "Who says the grave is not in Baagh-e-Bedil? Ye sab jhuuT hai." He adds that his father, the late Khwaaja Hasan Nizami, was the one who first got the grave re-discovered and the tomb was built with financial help from the then Nizam of Hyderabad. He is hazy about the dates, but puts it somewhere in the 1930s. He says that some Afghans had wanted to rebuild the tomb, and his father had been involved with the rebuilding in the 1950s as well. He also recalls being witness to a similar contentious debate about the provenance of the grave, as a child, decades back, between Maulana Arshi, Hazrat Abdul Kazim Qaiser and many other eminences of yore. Was it conclusive? we ask. Of course, he says: it was settled. How? He is satisfied that the eminences would have definitely been able to convince the sceptics among them with something conclusive.
Anyway, was this tomb always called "Baagh-e-Bedil"? we ask. No, he says, that was done much later, at the suggestion of Naqeeb Bilgiraami sahib of Hyderabad who was a great Bedil fan, and used to be friends with Mohammad Yunus, a man best remembered as Mrs Indira Gandhi's special envoy...
Is there any way to find out how the grave was rediscovered? we wonder. Nizami sahib sounds affronted at the very idea that anyone would want to rake up what was settled to his satisfaction in childhood. He says as proof he can even show us a photograph of the eminences mentioned above gathered together, discussing this very subject! We are not sure how that photograph would help settle matters. He scoffs at the mention of documented history and suggests that perhaps we could engage the services of one of the dervishes at the Nijamuddin dargah -- or a muriid perhaps, he adds helpfully, who might go into a samadhi and travel back in time...