Prince Salim was born on Wednesday, 31st August 1569 at early morning 7 hours of day had passed. He was born to Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar and Mairam uz Zamani Hira Kunwari Princess of Amer. Akbar had lost many kids notably his baby daughter Fathima and twins Hassan and Hussain before Salim was born in 1569 at the age of 28 years. Fathima was born when Akbar was 19 years old to a cocubbine but died at age of one year. His twins Hassan and Hussein were born when Akbar was 22 years old again to a cocubbine but died within 40 days of birth. The cause of death of Baby fathima is not known but for the twins it was rumoured that someone had poisoned them. Akbar was already 28 years old when Prince Salim was born. In 16th century the average life span of a person was 35 years old and marriages took place at very young age. By the age of 14-16 years a man became a father and women became mothers at even younger ages of 11-13 years. Indeed by the age of 27-28 years many men became a grandparent or married of their kids. Hence Akbar was already quiet old by the time he became a father to Prince Salim at age 28 years.
Salim was a child born of many prayers. Emperor Akbar walked barefoot from Agra to Ajmer Sharif in tthe year 1568 praying for a son an heir to the Mughal Empire. The first time Akbar came to Ajmer Sharif was on 14th January 1562. After that he regularly visited Ajmer Sharif, the most famous time was in 1569 to pray for an heir. His wife Hira Kunwari was blessed with a son Prince Salim on 31st August 1569. He was born in fatekpur Sikri at house of Saint Salim chisti in a hut. When Akbar learned his wife was pregnant he sent his wife to Saint Salim Chisti’s house. Akbar had promised to walk barefoot to thank the saint Mouiddin Chisti if he was blessed with an heir. On 20th January 1570 he left agra to Ajmer Sharif and reached there on 5th February 1570. After that Akbar would do annual trips to Ajmer Sharif many times the last few miles on bare foot. The annual pilgrimage by Akbar stopped in the year 1582 may be because he was getting inclined to other religions too.
At birth of Prince Salim great celebrations took place at agra. The emperor ordered all prisoners except political ones to be set free. Seven days of continous festivities were ordered in agra. Prince salim was born in Sheikh salim Chitsti’s house in Fatekpur Sikri. A Kashi priest warned Akbar not to meet the prince for some days because many other kids had died youn so Akbar went to meet his new born son after 40 days. Khwaja Hussain composed a qaseeda on the birth of Prince salim and received two lakh silver tankas from Akbar. The newborn was named same day after the Saint Salim Chisti whose blessings Akbar thought he was blessed with a child. An allowance was granted for his maintanence. The Sheikh salim’s son in law Sheikh Ibrahim brought good news to Akbar and received high honors. Akbar ordered a fort and palaces to be built in Fatekpur Sikri in honor of Saint salim chisti and because Prince salim was born there. It took 15 years to build Fatekur Sikri.
According to the custom the baby born was handed to a senior mughal favourite courtier’s wife who had a baby recently. This lady became milk mother or anaga of the baby and was respected highly by the child like his own mother all life. Few princes had many anagas or milk mothers. The husband of milk mother was called Atagah or foster father and her son Kukaltash. Prince Salim’s milk mother was saint salim chisti’s daughter and her son Qutubuddin Koka was his Kukaltash or milk brother. The milk mothers family enjoyed prestigious position all life.
The occasion of circumcision of Prince salim in 1573 was celebrated very grandly. Prince salim went to school at age of 4 years 4 months and 4 days. His school going ceremony took place on November 28, 1573. A grand celebration was kept at both occasions by Akbar and nobels were invited from across the empire. Mir Kalan Harvi was the first tutor of Prince Salim and he raised Prince salim on his shoulders. Akbar next choose a religious scholar named Shaikh Ahmed and appointed him as his tutor. In 1579, Akbar appointed Qutubudin Khan a high ranking nobel of central asian family as Prince Salim’s teacher. Qutubudin Khan was the uncle of Mirza Aziz Koka the milk brother of Emperor Akbar. Later Abdul Rahim khan i Khanan the foster son of Akbar(farzand- son as Akbar called him) and son of Bairam Khan, foster father and Ataliq (Teacher) of Akbar was appointed as the tutor of young Prince Salim. The Emperor ensured Prince salim had best education. He studied Urdu, Persian, Turki, Arabic, Hindi in languages. He learned arthmetic, history, geography, politics and accounts etc in subjects.
He learned to compose poems from Abdul Rahim, son of Bairam Khan. Prince Salim was appointed many teachers among them the Kashi Priest to teach hindu religious scriptures, French and Portugese teachers to teach science and medicine etc. Prince salim had great interest in astronomy and science and nature like his grandfather Emperor Humayun. Humayun was a great astronomer of repute and built a personal observatory near Old Delhi fort. Jehangir(Prince Salim) wanted to build an observatory in Agra near Yamuna river but because of his sons revolt and later his illness could not fulfll his vision. Jehangirs greatest achievement in astronomy was the celestial globe.
Although Prince Salim went for war training at young at 8 or 9 years his education never stopped. Tutors accompanied him on war fields and his education continued. Salim was very interested in science and loved experimenting on animals and observing birds and plants. He even correctly wrote gestation period of elephants as 18 months before the scientists proved him correct in 20th century.
Prince salim was a naughty child and he was pampered with affection by the women folk in harem. He was a favourite of his grand mother Hamida Banu and his step mothers Ruqaiah Sultan and Salima Sultan. He was very close to his step mother Jodhpur Princess Maharani Rukmavathi whose neice Jodha Bai he married later and Salima begum his fathers chief consort. Prince Salim went at a very young age of 8-9 years to war field. In 1581 he was incharge of the Kabul campaign at mere age of 12 years and he had 5000 soldiers (foot and infantry) or Masabdari under him.By 1585 he had 12000 mansabdari the highest any military commander could have apart from the emperor at mere age of 16 years.
Few incidents stand out about Salim’s childhood. The first incident Qamagrah hunt and second Shakti Singh pardon. The Qamagrah hunt took place when Prince Salim was a small kid 6-7 years old. Emperor Akbar went on hunt to Qamaghar from Chandkot. During that time one day Akbar and his camp reached Jhelum river in Punjab. It was in full flow and Akbar started swimming in river. Prince Salim was standing and watching near the banks and Akbar called him to swim in river. The river was in full spate and though in later years Prince Salim became an good swimmer, the young Prince was scared to swim. This angered Akbar who dunked him in river a few times. This incident is mentioned in Dalpat Vilas.
The second incident of the young Prince childhood was in battle of Haldighatti. 18th June 1576 the battle took place and the young prince along with his howdah fell in the battle field. His elephant Hawai ran in excitement forward and got struck in the haldighatti pass. He was surrounded and attacked from all sides but his elephant shielded him with its body and trunk till he was rescued by Mughal forces later. In the same battle field Prince Shakti Singh of Mewar saved his bother Maharana Prataps life by killing three mughal commanders. A few months later in Lahore, the fact that Prince Shakti Singh who was himself a mughal commander than had killed three mughal commanders came to light. At Lahore a court was set up and Shakti Singh was arrested and produced in court to answer the allegations. Since Akbar was in another part of empire, Prince Salim was asked to judge the matter. Prince Salim forgave Shakti Singh and told him to go back to Mewar to his brother Maharana Pratap with his family. This incident is recorded by James Tod in his book on Rajasthan and many other historical books. Why Salim allowed him to go back and not punish Shakti Singh for killing three mughal commanders when all mughal court baying for his blood? May be answer lies in the fact that Shakti Singh wife, Maharana Prataps wife Phool Kunwar and Akbars wife Rukmavathi were sisters and their father was Marwar Maharana Rao Maldeo. Also Salim’s mother Hira Kunwari’s aunty(fathers mothers sister) was married to Rao Maldeo. Salim had to face Akbars warth for deciding to let go off Shakti Singh and his family and soldiers without any retribution from mughal court. Shakti Singh also captured the fort Bhainsrorgarh on the way to join Pratap. So Akbar got even more infatuated by Salims decision after this incident.
A third incident shows Prince Salim love for his pet animals. Prince Salim built Hathi Mahal for the retired elephants of his royal army, he built Hiran Minar memorial tomb for his pet deer Manas Raj in Sheikhupura village in Lahore outskirts. Prince Salim love for nature and animals was exceptional although he loved hunting. In winter cold when his elephants shivered to bathe in Yamuna river, Emperor Jehangir ordered his swimming pool to be filled with hot water so his elephants enjoyed hot water bathe. He loved to keep lions, tiger and cheetah as his pets. Many time they would accompany him for strolls in garden or for meeting with visitors like ambassadors. Thomas Roe once found a litter of lions and tigers loitering in Emperor Jehangirs bedroom when he had gone to take signature on an official document at midnight in his bedroom.
But the most interesting incident that shows Salim’s love for his pets was in Rajputhana. Prince Salim was 10 years old and he had gone to battle in Rajputhana and one day his pet deer was missing from the war camp. Everyone searched in camp and nearby but that deer was not to be found. The deer had strayed from war camp and been captured by enemy army. The deer in fear started bleating calling his master to save it. Prince Salim requested his soldiers to get it back from enemy camp but none was ready to save it. Who would dare go into Maharana Prataps camp to get just a pet deer back? Finally after midnight Prince Salim only sneaked out to get his pet deer back. But as he saved the deer the enemy soldiers found him and he was caught. But Maharana Pratap let him go as he had pardoned Shakti Singhs life sometime back. Thus Prince Salim could risk going into enemy camp just to save his pet deers life shows his love for animals. Many such incidents denote the affection he had for his pets. Indeed citizens started saying he loved some of his pets like his deer Manas like own siblings Murad and Daniyal. Which was true in some sense and Emperor Jehangir wrote in his autobiography that if only his family members were a fraction as loyal as his pets he would be happiest man in earth.
Prince Salim had great love for nature and animals. Scientists have loved his jehangirnama for its observations on animals and birds and used in biology, botany, zoology, geography and ornithology. He was a naturalist of highest order.
Not much has been written or recorded of Prince Salim’s younger days and adulthood in historical books of those times.