Once a place to chill out for Saadat Ali Khan in the 19th century, now Musa Bagh lies in ruins. But what attracts people to this very place is the grave of Kaptan Baba who in historical records is referred to as Captain F Wale. The man goes by many names, but what he stands out for people is the fact that his soul is only pleased by cigarettes and not by incense sticks.
It was Musa Bagh which was setup by Saadat Ali Khan in the early 19th century which comprised of huge gardens and a kothi for himself. This was Khan’s ideal hangout for leisure and hunting, away from the hustle bustle of his empire.
While the kothi lies in ruins, Musa Bagh is no longer a manicured, flourishing garden. It is large and green, but uneven. Over time new colonies have come up around it. Instead of the Nawab and royal guests, it is now a place for young, ordinary couples to hang out. Those who are in love come here not just for public display of affection but pray at the “mazaar” of a “saint”, who goes by three names — “Kaptan Shah Baba”, “Gora Baba”, and “Cigarette Wala Baba”. Cigarettes here are neatly tucked into a white tomb to pay obeisance to the saint praying that their courtship culminates in marriage.
Cigarette Wala Baba stands out, not just because of the strange offering that devotees give him, but the fact that he really was no saint. He was, in fact, a British soldier — Captain Frederick Wales. The whitewashed tomb reads “Sacred to the memory of Captain F Wale, who raised and commanded the 1st Sikh Irregular Cavalry, Killed in action on 21st March, 1858.” The epitaph also says that the tomb was erected by one “Captain LB Jones, Acting Commandant, 1st Sikh Irregular Cavalry, as a token of regard for his officer, whom he admired both as a friend and a soldier.”
He was a British officer who raised and commanded the first Sikh irregular cavalry. Some devotees even admit of offering meat and wine. Hardly anyone is able to give convincing reply to this tradition.
Legend says that the nawab killed a rat (musa) here hence the name. Some believe it took its name from a French word Monsieur during Lord Martin’s period. In the first freedom struggle in 1857 it was stronghold of the Oudh forces.
The garden serves as a spot to get a marvelous view of the existing buildings of the time including Machchhi Bhawan, Panch Mahala, Asafi mosque, Aalamgir mosque, Sunehra Burj, Bara Imambara, Pucca Pul (Stone Bridge), and Daulat Khana.