Mahabhat Khan

Mahabat Khan was one of best friends of Prince Salim aka Emperor Jehangir. Jehangir trusted him blindly and relied on his advice from teenage days when he met Mahabat Khan till he was abducted in coup by Mahabhat in 1626. Mahabat Khan original name was Zamana Beg. He was Khan e Khana(supreme commander) of mughal army. He was also subedhar of of a province under emperor Jehangir. Mahabhat Khan father Ghayur Beg was from Persia and he moved to agra to work under Akbar. Mahabhat Khan started out as a small sepoy of mughal army at the age of 16 years. There he was appointed to work under Prince Salim’s command. Prince Salim who was a teenager when he met Mahabhat Khan who was also a young man at that time. There was not much age difference between both of them. Prince Salim took a liking for this young soldier in his army. He slowly became best friends with Prince Salim and started rising in his career.

Prince Salim went to war field at very young age of 9 years. In his initial years he led many campaigns against both Persia and Rajputhana. Prince Salim had four best friends from childhood/teenage days and out of that Mahabhat Khan was one of them. His other best friends were Qutubuddin Koka his milk brother, on whose death Salim had lamented that he no longer had desire to live without his best friend/brother Qutub.  His third best friend was Dalpat Singh of marwar, whose sister Jodha Bai was his third wife and his son Khurram’s mother. Jodha Bai was cousin to Salim as his mother Hira Bai’s(Salims mother) grandaunt was married to Maldeo Rao the grand father of Jodha Bai(the real Jodha Bai is wife of Salim and mother of Shah Jahan). Dalpat Singh’s father Mota Raja Udai Singh was best friends of his father Akbar. Prince Karan Singh was his other best friends who was his cousin.

Once Mahabhat Khan joined Salims army, he gained his confidence and became  a major commander and advisor to Prince Salim on his campaigns. Both were of almost same age and Mahabhat took no time to gain confidence of a home sick Prince and become his best friends. Its said that once Mahabhat and Salim were in campaign in Persia. Persia had attacked a border area of Afghanistan, than part of India and mughal empire. So Salim’s army was sent to defend that city. Salim was 17-18 years old. One day Salim went out with one of his body gaurd and a strom ensured. Salim and his companion lost the way. They entered by mistake Persian territory with whom they were at war(Iran/Iraq in modern days). They obviously could not go and ask the citizens of enemy country how to go back to Afghanistan. So they started searching for ways to go back after storm. It was 2-3 days since they were lost and they had no food or water. The desert heat was unbearable. That time Salims body gaurd had got a bottle of wine with him and he quenched his thirst using wine. But Salim was hesitant to drink as he had never had wine before except when he would get sick as a child. Finally after 2-3 days of being lost with hunger and terrible thirst in hot weather Salim drank the wine. That was fist time Salim drank wine. After that he liked it so much he started drinking regularly as per his auto biography Jehangirnama.

Mahabhat Khan even married a Rajputh woman. Prince Salim first made him commander of his 500 troops and than his mansabdari slowly rose with every successful campaign. It is also said that Prince Salim on advice from Mahabhat Khan and his close friends attacked agra to steal the agra treasury when Akbar was in campaign in Deccan in year 1599. He was major master mind in Salims revolt that lasted 4-5 years.

Mahabhat Khan was made Khan e Khana of mughal empire after Jehangir aka Salim became emperor in 1605. He was the supreme commander of mughal forces and had 7000 men under him the highest only next to emperor and princes of mughal empire (some of the emperor sons and nephews). Mahabhat Khan even led campaign against Shah Jahan uprising in 1621 and defeated him many times. When this happened all nobels of Mughal court started hating Mahahat Khan and many became his enemy. Because majority mughal court hated Nur Jahan and loved Shah Jahan. They just tolerated Nur Jahan only for emperor Jehangirs sake out of respect for him. Since Mahabhat defeated Shah Jahan he made many enemies in mughal court. Specially those from Iran hated Mahabhat although he was a Persian descent himself. Iranian side wanted an orthodox Islamic ruler and Jehangir was quiet liberal and gave equal respect to all religions. Indeed many religious had declared him as khafir means non believer of Islam. But Shah Jahan was orthodox muslim as he was raised by Ruqaiah and did not celebrate hindu/christian religion festivals like Jehangir did.

Mahabhat claimed as per Fathnama I Nur Jhana begum author that 10 Rajputh could overwhelm 100 mughals. That angered those of Iranian and Persian and Mughal descent even more and they complained to Jehangir about it. Though Jehangir himself never took any offence to his statements because he was also half Rajputh decsent may be. And being his best friend from teenage days Jehangir would tend to ignore complaints against Mahabat Khan. But Nur Jahan was offended by Mahabhat being so close to Jehangir and Jehangir always listening to his best friend always. Nur Jahan wanted ministers and commanders to be loyal to her not to Jehangir. But Mahabhat was an independent thinker he only obeyed Jehangir’s orders not Nur Jahans. He started resenting Nur Jahan and started advicing Jehangir.

Further Mahabhat was appointed caretaker and adviser to Prince Parvez, second son of Jehangir by emperor. Pravez was very close to Mahabhat Khan. Parvez was an direct contender to throne against Sharyar, the son in law of Nur Jahan. Even Asaf Khan started resenting Mahabhat as he was against Shah jahan’s rebellion. Both Nur Jahan and Asaf Khan started plotting Mahabhat downfall. Nur Jahan separated Parvez and Mahabhat Khan. Parvez was sent to Bhuranpur and Mahabhat to Bengal.

Mahabhat was told to submit all elephants and treasury captured during Shah Jahan’s revolt. Mahabhat sent his son in law Barkhudar Mirza to submit all treasury to Jehangir. Jehangir had camped in Punjab near river Behat. Nur Jahan said that Barkhudar had stolen from the treasury that was captured and arrested him. Mahabhat who came to know went to Punjab and met Jehangir in his camp. Nur Jahan and other nobels had already crossed river and gone to other side. Mahabhat’s rajputh army surrounded Jehangir and his grand children Dara Sikoh and Aurangzeb among others and did not let them cross river. Nur Jahan and Asaf Khan surrendered back to Mahabhat and crossed to Jehangir’s side. The brother and sister themself were in opposite parties, Nur Jahan wanted Sharyar to be emperor and Asaf Khan wanted Shah jahan his son in law to be emperor.

Jehangir was furious at Mahabhat and refused to obey any of his orders. Obiously Jehangir had no idea of Nur Jahans scheming behind his back to ensure Mahabhat and he spilt up. Jehangir saw this as an open revolt by a friend who back stabbed him. A friend who because of his friendship with Salim has rosen from an ordinary soldier to supreme commander of mughal forces and was now betraying him. Mahabhat had no option but to proceed to Kabul as per Jehangirs original plan. It is said of Jehangir that Akbars orders could not move him to do as per royal command if he did not wish to.  So Mahabhat having any chance to order Jehangir to do as per his wish was a next to impossible task. Meanwhile in Kabul a fight ensured betten Mahabhat Rajputh soldiers and Jehangirs royal gaurds in which many Mahabhats soldiers were killed. Jehangir took command of mughal army during inspection in Kabul and ordered Mahabhat to leave camp. Mahabhat Khan fled to Deccan from Kabul. He took sons of Asaf Khan and Prince Daniyal as hostages. Then after reaching near Madhya Pradesh he released them and fled to Shah Jahan in Deccan. Thus for few months Mahabhat was defacto emperor.

After the unsuccessful coup against Jehangir he ran to Deccan for protection to Prince Khurram. Prince Khurram told him to surrender to Jehangir and he wrote a letter to Jehangir and was told to present himself in court for pardon. But than Jehangir died in Kashmir before 1627 a few months after the coup before Mahabhat could go back and seek pardon.So Mahabhat sent a letter to Jehangir regarding same. By than even Jehangir had sobered may be knowing circumstance in which Mahabhat revolted. So he called him to court to decide Mahabhats fate. But destiny had other plans Jehangir died before Mahabhat could take any decision to go to court. Under Shah Jahan rule,  Mahabhat was appointed governor of Ajmer than commander for war campaigns in deccan. He died in Deccan in 1634. He is buried in Delhi. Thus ended the illustrious career and life of Mahabhat under the shadow of being a traitor to his own best friend Salim in the last year of his life.

Jehangir was so shocked about Mahabhat and Shah Jahan’s revolts and Nur Jahan and Asaf Khans power games that he lamented in his auto biography that his pet animals were more loyal to him than family members. Jehangir considered Mahabhat as a family member only. Wherever he went to war or as governor etc he took Mahabhat with him everywhere from teenage days. Mahabhat got status and position because he was Jehangirs friend. Otherwise in mughal court during Akbars time all Akbars corterie hated Mahabhat Khan. Abul Fazl, Khan e Khana Rahim, Aziz Koka all felt he was traitor and adviced Salim wrongly that led to revolts and tension between father and son.  But Salim truly considered Mahabhat as a best friend/brother kind and showered him with titles and positions. In his 30s only he made Mahabhat Khan e Khana and supreme commander of mughal army. A position that Bairam Khan and Man Singh held before during Akbars time. But Mahabat in end did a coup against Jehangir only and broke his best friends trust. May be Nur Jahan forced him to do that, she tricked him by arresting his son in law. May be if he had more patience and asked his friend of many decades Salim to release his son in law, Jehangir may have understood and released his son in law. He acted in anger and emotional way as his daughters husband was involved and Nur Jahan and Asaf Khan wanted that only to make him fall in eyes of Jehangir. More than 40 years of friendship was lot in few months of coup.

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