In mughals Princes were usually married at the age of 16. On this occasion the palace and the whole city were decorated, roads covered with costly cloth and illuminated, trees beautified with artificial flowers and armed soldiers wearing colorful uniforms stood on both sides of the road where the marriage procession passed. The bridegroom sat on an elephant, while nobles in palkis (palanquins) or on horses followed him. Music and dancing were the order of the day. The wedding celebrations lasted for a month, during which grand feasts and entertainment were held at the royal palace. Alms and charity were distributed generously, prisoners were released and food was served to the poor. Turkish ceremonies were usually observed at weddings, but as Akbar and his successors married Rajput princesses, Hindu customs were also adopted. Three Turkish and Indian ceremonies such as sachaq, mehndi, and the baarat were very significant. Before the wedding costly gifts were exchanged between the two families for the bride and groom. The bride received a dowry from her parents, as well from her in-laws. According to the Muslim law, the bride received mehr or alimony from the bridegroom.
Prince Salim married 25 women, majority of these weddings were arranged by his parents. Ony 3 of his wives were commoners and they were also from famous mughal nobleman family and only one Persian nobel’s family. Prince Salim first marriage was to Man Bai of Amer aka Jaipur. Man bai was daughter of his mother Hira Bai’s elder brother Bhagwan das and sister of Raja Man Singh. Bhagwan Das desired to marry his daughter Man Bai to Prince Salim. The marriage took place in a grand way not heard or seen before or after those times. Akbar himself went to Amer along with his nobels and ministers to take part in wedding on 16th February 1584. Akbar ordered gold and costly jewels to be scattered all the way from agra palace to Amer along the route the marriage procession took. When prince Salim was married to the daughter of Raja Bhagwandas, the mehr was fixed at two crore silver tankas(coins). The Raja gave away horses, elephants, slave boys and girls from Ethiopia and India as dowry along with gold and silver utensils adorned with jewels. At the same time the Raja gave a saddled horse to every noble who accompanied the bridegroom.
Bhagwan das thanked Akbar and said “My daughter is the honour of your palace and we your slaves”. But Akbar replied “ Your daughter is the Queen of our palace and you are our great Lord”. As a mark of respect to rajpuths, Akbar and Prince Salim carried the palanquin of Princess Man Bai for a short distance at her marriage to Salim. Man bai was mother of Prince Khusrau, elder son of Salim. Man Bai died at very young age of 34 years by consuming high opium in 1604. She is buried in Khusrau bagh in Allahabad with her son.
After the marriage, the prince was allowed a separate establishment with a monthly allowance for the newlyweds. Sometimes a prince would be given a palace, servants, and cash for initial expenses. Mughal princes were mostly married into the royal family or to the daughters of nobles, members of the Safawids of Iran who had come to the Mughal court, and daughters of Rajput rulers. Marriage with Rajput princesses and with the daughters of the Safawids had a political significance.
Prince Salim another famous wife was his third wife was Jodha Bai of Marwar aka Jodhpur on 11th June 1586. Jodha Bai was the third wife of Prince Salim and his Chief Consort from 1605 till 1615. She was the tenth daughter of Mota raja Udai Singh. Raja Udai singh and Akbar were friends from teenage times only. Jodha Bai’s dowry included 75 lakhs of silver coins a little less than the 2 crore silver coins given during Prince Salim’s first wife Man Bai’s marriage.
There is an interesting story of how Jodha Bai was married to Prince Salim. Once Prince Salim accompanied his step mother Rukmavathi Lalji Bhaisa to a wedding ceremony and there he saw Jodha Bai, her neice and his cousin(Hira Kunwari father’s sister was married to Rao Maldeo the grandfather of Jodha Bai). Prince Salim conveyed his desire to marry Jodha Bai to his mothers and grandmother after returning from the wedding. Thus Prince Salim married Princess Jodha Bai on 26th June 1586. Maharani Rukmavathi was the one of the top ten chief wives of Akbar. Jodha Bai had two children a daughter who died as infant and another son Prince Khurram the future emperor Shah Jahan. Jodha Bai died at young age of 46 years in 1619. She was buried in agra but her tomb was destroyerd by British in 18th century.
Sahib Jamal was another favourite wife of Prince Salim. She was daughter of Khwaja Hussain, who was cousin brother of Zain Kahn Koka the milk brother of Akbar. Akbar was not in favour of this wedding as Sahib Jamal was a commoner but Salim was very much keen to marry her and finally Akbar relented. Salim married sahib Jamal in October 1586. She was mother of second son of Prince Salim, Prince Parviz. Sahib Jamal died very young at age 27 years in 1599 and is buried in Lahore with her son.
Sahila Banu Begum was another favourite wife of Salim. She was the daughter of Qasim Khan of Mughal lineage. Salim married her in 1607 and immediately made her Padshah Begum and she remained Padshah Begum till her death in 1620. Since she was so highly favoured, its assumed that her father must have been a cousin of Emperor Akbar. Thats because Padshah Begum was next only to the emperor in decision making and usually sisters(cousin sisters included) or mothers of Emperors became Padshah Begums. Contrary to popular belief, the famous Meherunissa aka Nur Jahan was made Padshah Begum only after Sahila Banu’s death in 1620. Sahila Banu Begum had two kids who died at infancy. Sahila Banu herself died at young age of 28 years. This is one feature of many of Prince Salim’s wives many died at very younge ages in their 20s or early 30s.
Koka Kumari Begum was another controversial marriage of Prince Salim. Koka Kumari sahiba was the Princess of Amer and was grand daughter of Man Singh. Prince Salim married her on 17th June 1608. Koka Kumari was a relative of his mother Hira Kunwari and a daughter of Jagat Singh, Crown Prince of Amer. This marriage was basically a political marriage to stop Raja Man Singh who had supported Khusrau for the throne against Prince Salim. Koka Kumari sahiba was a widow and 26 years old when Prince Salim married her to stop Man Singhs revolt. Koka Kumari lived a long life unlike other wives of Prince Salim and lived with her step son Shah Jahan in Delhi after Emperor Jehangir’s death. One of her neice was even married to Prince Khurram aka Emperor Shah Jahan by his father Emperor Jehangir. She did not have children from Prince Salim.
Nur Jahan was the most controversial wife of Prince Salim and his last wife. She was daghhter of Minister of Akbar, Itmadullah and a widow of Sher Afghan. Emperor Jehangir married her on 25th May 1611 when she was 34 years old and a widow. Emperor Jehangir was 42 years old and never married anyone after her. Its rumoured he saw her in the annual Meena Bazaar and married her. She totally dominated her husband and Mughal politics after her marriage and ruled with iron fist over mughal empire. She displeased many mughal nobels and even Prince Khurram aka Shah Jahan that led to his revolt in 1621.Her family including father, brother and neice Mumtaz Mahal totally dominated Mughal court and finally led to the blood bath after Emperor Jehangir’s death by Prince Khurram. Nur Jahan had no issue with Emperor Jehangir but had one daughter Ladli Begum from her first husband Ali Quli aka Sher Afghan a commander of mughal forces and governor of Bengal. Shes buried in Lahore in her own tomb.
These are 6 most controversial or favoured wives or marriages of Prince Salim. Prince Salim had 25 wives and hundreds of cocubbines in his harem. But his most favoured and powerful wives were Man Bai also known as Shah Begum(Kings wife), Jodha Bai and Nur Jahan. All three were his chief consorts at various points of time.