Jehangir : William Hawkins

Jehangir Characteristics as per William Hawkins

Jehangir with sons in jaroka


The Emperor Salim, entitled Jahangir, or “Grasper of the World,” formed a striking contrast to his father, against whom he had more than once openly rebelled. Born under a superstitious spell, named after a wonder-working saint, petted and spoilt, the boy grew up wilful, indolent, and self-indulgent, too lazy and too indifferent to be either actively good or powerfully evil. He had instigated the murder of Akbar’s trusted friend and minister, Abu-l-Fazl; he was possessed of a violent and arbitrary temper; and, like his wretched brothers, Murad and Daniyal, he was a notorious and habitual drunkard, although, unlike them, he could control himself when necessary. His image may be seen depicted on his coins, wine-cup in hand, with unblushing effrontery: it is of a piece with the astonishingly simple candour of his own memoirs. As he grew older he toned down somewhat, partly, he says, from a conviction that he was injuring his health, but chiefly, no doubt, under the influence of his beautiful and talented wife Nur Jahan, the “Light of the World.”

When he ascended the throne in 1605, at the age of thirty-seven, his character, never wanting in a certain indolent good-nature, had mellowed. He had become less savage and more sober; by day he was the picture of temperance, at night he became exceeding “glorious.” But what was done in the evening was entirely ignored in the morning, and any noble who ventured to approach the daily levees with the least odour of wine upon him was destined to certain and severe punishment. Jahangir carried his daylight sobriety so far as even to publish an edict against intemperance, and he emulated his far more contemptible “brother” James of Great Britain by writing a Persian counterblast against tobacco.

In spite of his vices, which his fine constitution supported with little apparent injury almost to his sixtieth year, he was no fool; he possessed a shrewd intelligence, and he showed his good sense in carrying on the system of government and principle of toleration inaugurated by Akbar. He was not deficient in energy when war was afoot; he was essentially just when his passions were not thwarted; and he cultivated religious toleration with the easy-going indifference which was the key-note of his character. The son of an eclectic philosopher and a Rajput princess, he professed himself a Moslem, restored the Mohammedan formulas of faith which Akbar had abandoned on the coinage, and revived the Hijra chronology, although for regnal years and months he preserved the more convenient solar system. He followed his father, however, in his policy toward the Hindus, and was equally tolerant toward Christians. He allowed no persecution or badges of heresy, but welcomed the Jesuit father Corsi to his court, encouraged artists to adorn the imperial palaces with pictures and statues of Christian saints, and had two of his nephews baptized, doubtless for reasons of his own. He could be magnanimous and forgiving, when he was not angry. He even bestirred himself to redress the grievances of the people – witness his specious “Institutes” – and had a chain and bell attached to his room at the palace, so that all who wished to appeal to him might ring him up without running the gauntlet of the officials.



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