The Phool Walon Ki Sair or the procession of the florists is one of the oldest and most prominent festivals in Indian History. The festival originates from 1812 under the rule of the lesser-known Mughal king Akbar Shah II who was the penultimate of the Mughal Empire. The festival has flourished both under the Mughal rule and the colonial government but moreover different polities that have ruled the city of Delhi have influenced the festival to serve their own political administrative structure. The festival was started when Mirza Jahangir (son of Akbar Shah II) came back from Allahabad prison after three years, and hence the festival became an institutionalized ritual. After the death of Mirza Jahangir and transfer of the throne to Bahadur Shah Zafar, owing to the great Mughal emperor’s secular credentials, Bahadur Shah made his efforts to be secular and promote the festival, as he started construction in Mehrauli and built a diwan-e-aam and diwan-e-khas and Bab-e-Zafar that mirrored the architectural opulence of the Red Fort. Bahadur Shah shifted his entire court to Mehrauli temporarily, making it the official seat of the Mughal empire. Along with new constructions, he also renovated the Jahaz Mahal and Hauz-e-Shamsi, while incorporating them in the myriad of festivities. Bardic tales from the times of Bahadur Shah, tell that during the midnight when the festival was going on, Bahadur Shah would take a stroll of Shahjahanabad on his elephant, while throwing coins across streets which is believed to have bought the loyalty of the subjects. Texts also tell us, that the elites used to take part in the procession on their horses which were decorated, and on reaching Mehrauli, they would stay in their own country houses while the poor would stay in tents put up by the Mughal army inside the Qutub Complex. There was a striking difference in how men and women celebrated the festival, as for the women, the festival days used to be a break from the traditional norms as the exposure would be beyond their homes as they would make visits to the Subzi Mandi or enjoy themselves in the Mughal Gardens, where they would momentarily break free from the patriarchal control.
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