Salim-Anarkali myth or reality?

Salim-Anarkali myth or reality?

I came upon a recent article of Salim-Anarkali as the top 10 love stories in this world ever included with likes of Cleopatra-Anthony etc

Here are some interesting facts on Salim-Anarkali love story

As per William Finch  a British traveller Anarkali was Akbar’s concubine too, and the mother of 27-year-old Danial (Salim’s youngest brother)  who visited Lahore in 1608, three years after Prince Salim ascended the throne as Emperor Jahangir. “The King (Jahangir), in token of his love, commands a sumptuous tomb to be built of stone in the midst of a four-square garden richly walled, with a gate and diverse rooms over it,” wrote William Finch. His travelogue survived, along with accounts by fellow travellers and later historians. So did the tomb itself.

Finch probably didn’t make up the story by himself, because the basic incident is corroborated by other sources, too. However, he almost certainly messed up some details, because there are two discrepancies in his account. Firstly, Akbar was not in Lahore in 1599, the year when Anarkali is supposed to have been executed. Secondly, the court historian had already recorded several years ago that Danial’s mother had died a natural death. So definetly Anarkali was not Danyial’s mother or Salim’s step mother.

The Akbarnama, the official court history of Akbar, records an incident where Akbar became angry with Salim for some reason and sent a noble to admonish him. Salim, however, complained that the noble spoke too harshly and Akbar ordered the tongue of the noble to be cut off, disregarding the fact that the unlucky man was acting on the orders of Akbar himself. If such could be the fate of a high-ranking noble caught in crossfire between the king and the prince, then imagine a slave girl.

Abul Fazl, Akbar’s courtier historian, reports in Akabrnama that Salim was once caught in Akbar’s harem, and, being mistaken for an intruder, was thrashed by the harem staff, and that Akbar, who came on the scene, was about to strike him with his sword, when the prince was recognised. Abul Fazl evidently does not tell the whole truth. Adult sons of emperors did not live in the harem, so it is very odd that Salim was there at night. And if his presence there was proper, it is incredible that he did not identify himself when set upon by royal gaurds.

Akbar was an insatiable sexual predator in his early youth ” he used to send panders and eunuchs into the harems of nobles to select women for him ” but he became continent in his early thirties and adopted a progressively austere lifestyle. But as his own sexual appetite waned, his sons grew into adulthood. Akbar seemed to resent this. He often treated the princes roughly, as if they were his rivals. It was not possible that the royal gaurds did not recognise Prince Salim as they would have seen him come to the harem, but had orders to punish him for coming into Akbar’s harem.

Edward Terry who visited a few years after William Finch writes that Akbar had threatened to disinherit Jahangir, for his liaison with Anarkali, the emperor’s most beloved wife(cocubbine). But on his death-bed, Akbar repealed it.

Syed Abdul Lateef, in his book Tareekh-i-Lahore (1892), mentions that Anarkali’s actual name was Nadira Begum or Sharf-un-Nisa and she was one of Akbar’s concubines. He suspected illegitimate relations between Prince Saleem and Anarkali and, therefore, ordered that Anarkali be burried alive in a wall, and the tomb was later built there by Jahangir (Saleem) when he succeeded to the throne. A couplet by Jahangir written on the grave in Persian reads, “If I could behold my beloved only once, I would remain thankful to Allah till doomsday”.  This clearly infers a passionate affair between Saleem and Anarkali. Two dates have been mentioned on the grave: 1008 Hijri (1599AD) and 1025 Hijri (1615AD) ” perhaps the date she died and the date of the completion of the tomb.

Noted art-historian R. Nath argues that there is no wife of Jahangir on record bearing the name or title of Anarkali to whom the emperor could have built a tomb and dedicated a couplet with a suffix Majnun. He considers it absolutely improbable that the grand Mughal emperor would address his married wife as yar’ designate himself as majnun’ and aspires to see her face once again. He reasons that she was not his married wife but only his beloved, to whom he would take the liberty to be romantic and a little poetic too, and it appears to be a case of an unsuccessful romance of a disappointed lover.

He writes anarkalis real name was nadira begum or sharif un nisa begum. she was a excessively beautiful slave girl in the personal service of akbar, who had great liking for her and conferred the title anarkali upon her.one day while seated in an apartment lined with mirrors, he noticed the youthful anarkali returning prince salim(who was just passing by the hall) a smile. akbar knew the character of his sensuous son more than anybody else, and he was outraged by the suspicion of an affair between the crown prince and his own slave girl.He was so infuriated that he that he ordred her to be ‘built’ alive into a wall. salim could not save her from this cruel end, but after his accesion to the throne , he commisioned at lahore a tomb in her memory.

the persian couplet which he had inscribed on her marble tombstone reads,

ah! if i could behold the face of my beloved(yar) once more, i would give thanks unto my god, until thr day of resurrection.- by majnoon salim akbar

“The innocent who is murdered mercilessly and who dies after enduring much pain, is a martyr. God considers him/her a martyr”.

this is an expression of passionate love and this testifies that he had really fallen in love with anarkali.

the romance was going on for quite some time.she innocently reciprocated, little knowing the subtle threads of mughal polity which bound these human beings called mughal emporers, and the unfortunate lady paid the price by her life.Salim is sent into exile. What eats away at him is not a sense of loss for his unfulfilled love, but remorse for sending Anarkali to her death.

Anarkali Tomb at Lahore?

Anarkali tomb not only is it a “most ingeniously planned octagonal building”, it is a memorial to the love-legend centering around prince Salim (later emperor Jahangir), and Anarkali (pomegranate blossom) who belonged to the harem of emperor Akbar, Salim’s father. Although Mughal sources are silent about Anarkali, European contemporary travelers such as William Finch related the popular gossip rife at the time, mentioning her as Akbar’s “most beloved”Latif, quoting popular legend, says that Sharf-un-Nisa or Nadira Begam, with the title of Anarkali, was found giving a return smile to the prince by the emperor in the mirrors of his palace. Suspecting an intrigue or worse, Akbar ordered Anarkali to be interred alive. Accordingly, she was placed in an upright position and buried alive in a masonry wall, brick by brick. The prince, who must have been devastated, on succeeding the throne in 1605, “had an immense superstructure raised over her sepulcher” 16 years after her death.

In 1940 the grave was found intact in its original position, five feet below the present floor. From accounts of its discovery, the grave is apparently of plastered brick-work, inscribed on the top and sides with the ninety-nine attributes of God and below with a Persian couplet. The Persian couplet inscribed on the sarcophagus has been translated by Latif into English. “Ah! could I behold the face of my beloved once more, I would give thanks unto my God until the day of resurrection,” and is signed “Majnoon Salim Akbar” or “The profoundly enamoured Salim, son of Akbar” and expresses Jahangir’s intense passion for the beautiful Anarkali. No doubt the two inscribed dates 1008 [1599] and 1024 [1615] refer to the date of Anarkali’s death and the completion of the sepulcher respectively. But some historians believe that tomb was built for Sahib Jamal, Salim’s favourite wife and his son Parvez mother.

There may be some truth behind the legend of Salim-Anarkali but the Mughal chronicles have not mentioned it except some hints like Salim being beaten by royal gaurds and Akbar sending someone to admonish him etc. But there are some intrigues Salim is almost totally absent from Akbarnama for a long duration and Salim had visited Afghanistan as a youth(not official visit) without his family accompanying him which in itself is a big intrigue.

It is said that an heartbroken Salim rebelled against his father finally in 1599. Taking over the crown was not the only intention of Salim when he waged war against his father. He had wanted to fight against what he considered the destruction of his tender love by his authoritative parents. He had faced similar resistance to his love for Sahib Jamal his wife who was not of royal paternage in younger times. Salim was a romantic at heart and his and anarkali’s love story is a legend that will stand test of times as one of the greatest love stories of this world.

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