A Beautiful Double Wedding in the Family of the 46th Imam Mawlana Shah Hasan Ali Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan I, as Reported in April 1874 in a Historic American Newspaper


Editor’s Note: A few minor corrections, including typos, have been made without affecting the overall content of the article as published in The Emporia News, one of many newspapers archived at the USA Library of Congress under the category of Historic American Newspapers. Explanatory notes or references to footnotes are made within square [….] brackets, where we felt a clarification was appropriate. The Emporia News attributes the report of the wedding it published to The Times of India.

A Grand Wedding Entertainment

THE EMPORIA NEWS
Emporia, Kansas, Friday April 10, 1874

The Emporia News, April 10, 1874. Image: USA Library of Congress via The Kansas State Historical Society.

His Highness Aga Khan I [or Imam Shah Hasan Ali Shah, see notes 1 and 2] gave a splendid entertainment on Sunday evening last [April 5, 1874] in honor of his son Aga Junjee [Jhangi] Shah and grandson Shahabudin Shah’s wedding, at the Nesbit Lane, Mazagon, mansion of his son Ali Shah.

Imam Shah Hasan Ali Shah, Aga Khan I, the subject of this article, whose son, Aga Junjee (Jhangi) Shah (d. 1896), and grandson, Shahabuddin Shah (d. 1884), were married in Mazgon in April 1874.

The invitation named 9 p.m., and at that hour a very large company, principally native gentlemen, assembled; a bunch of flowers was given to each visitor, and a garland of flowers was hung around his neck soon after his arrival. The Hon. Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, Mr. Byramjee Jeejeebhov, Mr. Manockjee Cursetjee, the Hon. Nanabhoy Hurridas, Judge of the High Court, were present, and most of the leading gentlemen in Bombay.

The roads for a considerable distance were illuminated with pyramids of lamps, and the entrance gate way was lighted up with brilliant stars of gas surmounted by a crown. The approaches to the house, which stands in its own grounds, were illuminated with thousands of oil lamps suspended from wooden framework in the form of continuous arches; the house itself was brilliantly lighted inside and out, the parapets on the top were covered with lamps, marking very distinctly the square shape of the building.

Inside, the house was a blaze of light; from the drawing room ceiling hung 20 chandeliers, the row down the center of the room being very large and splendid; the floor was covered with a beautiful velvet pile carpet, evidently made to order, and on its rich but light and cheerful pattern were placed round the room, numbers of handsome sofas and chairs, covered with green satin. In this fine room, a party of nautch girls [in South Asia, ladies who perform traditional dancing] went through their evolutions and sang their chants; they were dressed in the richest costume, and noses, ears, and fingers were a blaze of pearls and precious stones. The side rooms, which are spacious, were placed at the disposal of the guests, and in one of them refreshments were provided.

About ten o’clock the fire-works commenced. These were viewed from the balcony of the house, and they were very good. Vesuvian torrents of fire suddenly arose out of the earth and sent rockets high into the air, and various colored fire-balls flew about, whilst huge wheels of flame scattered showers of fire.

The most striking part of the fireworks was the lighting up of arches of woodwork arranged in the form of a square, the sides and tops of which were covered with what looked like diamonds of the largest and most brilliant description, the whole being surmounted with a festoon of brilliants, from the center of which hung rubies of the richest hue. The comparison of these white lights with the soft light of the oil lamps, made the deception complete.

The scene from the balcony was very pretty and remarkably lively, the whole of the garden being illuminated with oil lamps and filled with people. The costume of the visitors was a very noticeable feature; the Mussulmans, who of course were the most numerous, can vary their dress both in color and shape, but the Parsees and Hindoos can never go beyond the white Hindoo dress, or a black coat of somewhat European cut. They might invent some costume for these gala occasions.

On Tuesday evening [April 7, 1874], His Excellency the Governor and a number of European ladies and gentlemen were present at a party given in honor of the double wedding. The guests were invited to the house of His Highness Ali Shah, the Aga’s eldest son, where the festivities in celebration of the marriages have taken place.

Wedding in Aga Khan Family 19th century
A section of the front page of The Emporia News dated April 10, 1874 where the report of two weddings in the family of His Highness the Aga Khan I appears in the 3rd column. Photo: Library of Congress via The Kansas State Historical Society.

The house and grounds were superbly illuminated with gas and oil lamps, and the huge lusters placed between the lights intensified the otherwise beautiful effect. The guests might have imagined themselves in fairy-land, whose streets and towers are made of gems, and light, and flowers.

His Excellency, the Governor, with the Hon. Mrs. Dean and the Countess de Walden, arrived about ten o’clock, by which hour a number of the guests had arrived. After remaining in the room for a short time His Excellency and most of the visitors went to the balcony in front of the house to witness the performance of the Japanese troupe, whose services had been engaged for the occasion. Their clever entertainment was viewed with considerable interest. During the interval between the first and second part of the performance, there was a magnificent display of fireworks in the garden.

The names of the bridegrooms are Aga Junjee Shah, the Aga’s son, and Aga Shahabudin Shah, his grandson. Ode is the grand daughter of His Royal Highness Zellah Sultan, who reigned for a short time after the death of his father, Fateh Ali Shah. [3] The elder bride is from another branch of the royal family. Both the ladies arrived a short time back in one of the Persian Gulf mail steamers.

His Excellency the Governor remained till nearly midnight, and left after partaking of refreshments provided in a private super room for His Excellency and party. The majority of the visitors remained for some time after His Excellency’s departure, and all expressed their pleasure at the excellent entertainment provided.

Date posted: October 11, 2020.

Before departing this website, may we suggest that you visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 225 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family.

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Notes (compiled by the editor):

The four Aga Khans - Direct Descendants of the Prophet Muhamad
The unbroken link of the Ismaili Imamat goes back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali. The collage represents the four most recent Imams who are popularly known by the title Aga Khan, which was first bestowed on the 46th Ismaili Imam Hasan Ali Shah, top left, in the 19th century. Photo: © Istockphoto.com. His successors in the collage are (top right) 47th Imam, Shah Ali Shah, Aga Khan II; (bottom left) 48th Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, Photo: © National Portrait Gallery; and the current 49th Imam, Shah Karim Al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan IV.

[1]. The title Aga Khan is inherited by the modern Imams of the Shi‘a Nizari Ismaili Muslims. The title was first granted by the Iranian ruler Fateh Ali Shah to the 46th Ismaili Imam, Hasan Ali Shah (1804–1881), who also served as governor of Qum, Mahallat, and Kirman. Forced to leave Iran, he settled eventually in British-ruled India. His son, Imam Shah Ali Shah, Aga Khan II (1830–1885), was Imam for four years from 1881-1885, and was succeeded after his death by his seven-year-old son Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, who reigned for 71 years until his death on July 11, 1957, upon which his grandson, Mawlana Shah Karim Al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan IV, became the 49th Hereditary Imam.

[2]. The 46th Imam Hasan Ali Shah, Aga Khan I, has been referred to as His Highness in the Emporia News article, as he has been in two other stories published in the New York Herald dated March 15, 1869 and November 20, 1869. The title His Highness was granted to him as well as his son Imam Shah Ali Shah by the British Government. Queen Victoria then conferred the title of His Highness on the 48th Imam Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, in 1886. The story presented in New York Herald of March 15, 1869 is interesting from another perspective. It says, “The Shah of Persia [Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, a great grandson of Fateh Ali Shah who had earlier granted the title Aga Khan] had sent a khilut (present) to His Highness the Aga Khan.” It adds, “The fact is interesting, as showing that Aga Khan is no longer treated as an outlaw by the Shah.” Khilut (or khilat) is a robe of honour.

[3]. We have not been able to verify this statement in the newspaper report as our research informs us that Fateh Ali Shah (d. 1834) was succeeded by his grandson, Mohammad Shah who died in 1848 (see Iran Chamber). According to Iran Chamber, the succession then passed to his son Naser-e-Din, who proved to be the ablest and most successful of the Qajar sovereigns. In the Wikipedia article, one of the titles that Naser-e-Din is known to have had is Zell’ollah. The bride, Ode, may have been the granddaughter of Zell’ollah, whose rule of 48 years was certainly not a short one. We cannot therefore ascertain whether Zellah Sultan mentioned in the article and Zell’ollah in Wikipedia are one and same individual.

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6 comments

  1. Thank you for digging out this historical document. Whilst they may not have got the history right it is still very illuminating about the importance that the British recognised about the contribution that Shah Hassanali Shah had made.

    Like

  2. “… (near the house) were illuminated with thousands of oil lamps… the roads with pyramids of lamps… “. This sounds magical and it must have been quite a sight. Thanks Malik for posting this unique story.

    Like

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