On May 10th 1857, the sepoys of Meerut regiment revolted against the British and started marching towards Delhi, massacring hundreds en route. Armed groups from several other outposts quit their barracks and trooped across the northern Indian summer with a single aim of forcing the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar to be their leader and fight against the British.
The first war of Indian independence was born.
The 87 year old emperor dithered, hesitated , but in the end offered his stately authority to the uprising. Chaos and savage blood shed ensued, only to be matched later by the brutality of the British forces which, after initial setbacks regrouped and pounded the walled city of Delhi with vengeful bestiality.
Most of the royal family members were either executed (it is said that heads of two of his sons were presented by the British to the emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar ) or sent to jail. The emperor himself was caught and exiled to Burma (now Myanmar) .
The last emperor of India had always dreamt of being buried among his family members within the Zafar Mahal complex in Mehrauli. Instead he died a very ordinary death and the British hurriedly buried him in an unmarked grave somewhere in Burma.
The vacant space that the last emperor of India dreamed remains till date just that, a vacant space.
A lover of ghazals and a poet himself, Bahadur Shah Zafar is said to have written the ghazal lagta nahi ye dil mera (as sung by Mohd Rafi here) while in exile in Burma.
kitna he bad-naseeb
zafar dafn ke liye
do gaz zameen bhi na mili
"How unfortunate is Zafar! For his burial
Not even two yards of land were to be
had, in the land of his beloved"
(excerpt from William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal)