“Phool Waalon ki Sair”
The origin of “Phool Waalon Ki Sair” goes to history during the reign of the Mughal King Akbar Shaah II (1808 to 1837). Akbar Shaah-II wanted to nominate his younger son Mirzaa Jahaangir as the Heir Apparent (Wali-Ahad) in preference to his elder son Siraajuddin ‘Zafar’. This move was not liked by the then British Resident in the Red Fort, Sir Archibald Seton. Once Mirzaa Jahaangir who was a reckless youth of 19 insulted Seton in open court and called him “Loo Loohai”. The British Resident did not react to this insult as probably he did not understand the meaning of “Looloo”. After a few days, when Mirzaa Jahaangir was merry making on the roof of Naubat Khaanaa in Red Fort, Archibald Seton was coming from the darbaar after an audience with the King. Mirzaa Jahaangir fired a shot at the Resident from the roof of Naubat Khaanaa. Seton escaped but his orderly was killed. For this act of his, Mirzaa Jahaangir was exiled to Allahabad under orders of the British Resident.
The mother of Mirzaa Jahaangir, Queen Mumtaaz Mahal Begum, was distraught and took a vow that if her son was released from Allahabad and allowed to return to Delhi, she would offer a chaadar of flowers at the Dargaah of Khwaajaa Bakhtiar “Kaaki” at Mehrauli. After a couple of years Mirzaa Jahaangir was released and Mumtaaz 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 seven days all sorts of merry making continued at Mehrauli with Jhoolas (swings) in the mango groves, cock fighting and bull baiting, kite-flying, wrestling and swimming bouts. Amidst all this merry making with great pomp and show, a chaadar made of flowers was offered at the Dargaah of Khwaajaa Bakhtiar “Kaaki”. The Mughal King was secular minded and under his orders floral offering in the shape of a floral pankhaa was offered at the famous Temple of Yogmaayaaji which is also in Mehrauli, and it became a festival named by the King as ”Phool Waalon Ki Sair”.
Seeing the response of the people and sensing the enthusiasm generated, it was decided that the Festival will be held annually after the rains and people of all communities will offer pankha and chaadar at the Dargaah of Khwaajaa Bakhtiar “Kaaki” and pankhaa and floral offering at Yogmaayaaji temple. The Darbaar was also shifted to Mehrauli for the seven days of the Festival. The Festival reached its pinnacle during the reign of Sirajuddin “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 Shri Yogeshwar Dayal, 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 State sends two pankhas made by its craftsmen, and a dance troupe. In a systematic manner each State Troupe and its Pankhaas come to the stage, the troupe performs and leaves the Pankhaas on stage after performing. After all states have performed, all the Pankhaas are taken in a procession to The Dargah and The Temple.