Khurram- Jodha Bai: The Separation pangs

Jodha Bai
Jodha Bai

Jodha Bai was mother of Khurram aka Shah Jahan the mughal emperor. Jodha Bai was daughter of Mota Raja Udai Singh and Maharani Mangrang Devi of Jodhur royal family also known as Marwar. Prince Salim married Princess Jodha Bai in 1586. Salim was 17 years old and Jodha Bai was 13 years old at time of marriage. Jodha Bai was related both to Salim through her aunt Rukmavathi and mother Hira Kunwari. Maharani Rukmavathi was the last chief wife of Emperor Akbar. She married him in 1581 when he was 39 years old and she was 15 years old. Udai Singh(not to confuse with Kunwar Prataps father) married his youngest sister Rukmavathi to Akbar in 1581. And he married his daughter Jodha Bai to Akbars elder son Salim in 1586.

Both Rukmavathi and Jodha Bai got very high powers in mughal court. Rukmavathi was one of top 10 chief wives of Akbar and had many powers. Same way Jodha Bai was top 3 wives or chief consorts of Salim aka Jehangir. Man Bai and Nur Jahan were other two chief consorts of Salim aka Jehangir. Jodha Bai like Man Bai got seals to issue orders on behalf of her husband Salim or emperor Jehangir. Salim was anyways away from agra or mughal court on wars and as governor in other places so Man Bai and Jodha Bai got all powers to run his family in agra or Lahore court.

Jodha Bai had a tragic personal life. Till 7 years of marriage she never had a child. In 16th century value and respect of wife depended on her giving birth to an heir. When all other Salim’s senior wives had kids from Salim, Jodha Bai could not have a child till 7 years after marriage. One baby was born but died. This frustrated Jodha Bai a lot. She turned to spirituality and prayers. She did a lot of fasts and prayed in many temples to get a baby. Not that Salim actually had any issues with her for not giving him a baby. Actually it made him sympathize with her and get more close to her. Salim had always loved Jodha Bai and proposed marriage to her himself after seeing her at a family function in marwar. So he had no problems if she was childless and did not give him a heir. He still treated her with respect and gave her high position in his harem(house hold). But society was a cruel place not kind hearted towards women who did not have children. The mughal harem was no different place. Only women who gave birth to children especially male prince had respect in mughal harem usually. Exceptions were senior wives like Ruqaiah and Salima who never had kids from Akbar yet had very high position because they were related to Akbar.

Similarly Salim adored Jodha Bai much and gave her many powers and high position in his family. Jodha was not only his wife she was his cousin sister as his mother Hira Kunwari’s grand aunt was married to Jodha’s grandfather and her aunty Rukmavathi was Salim’s step mother(akbars wife). So whether Jodha would have child from Salim or not, she would have power and high position in Salim’s life and house hold. Yet Jodha wanted a child badly. Finally in 1591 she decided that she will undertake same pilgrimage Akbar undertook to have Salim. To walk from Lahore to Ajmer Sharif bare foot. Pince Salim was not really in favour of her undertaking this hazardous walk but he finally bent to her wishes. He too accompanied her on this pilgrimage. Prince Salim was a warrior used to tough life in war fields and on roads. But Jodha had a very secure and shielded life first under her father than her husband Salim. So walking 500 or more kilometres was not an easy task for a princess. Yet Jodha and Salim took this barefoot walk and completed it after almost a month. Jodha prayed for a baby in Ajmer Sharif just like Akbar.

Finally in 1592, she was blessed with a baby boy Khurram. Khurram was born on 5th Jan 1592 to Jodha Bai and Salim. Salim was in war field in Rajputhana at Khurrams birth. When Khurram was born Salim rushed back from war field to meet his new born baby. Now Akbar called a priest from Kashi and asked him to do astrological charts of child. The priest said Khurram will be more famous than grandfather Akbar or father Salim. When Ruqaiah heard this she demanded Khurram to be handed over to her for upbringing. Akbar could not say no to his senior wife and cousin. So at 6 days old Khurram was ordered by Akbar to be handed over to Ruqaiah for upbringing. Ruqaiah was 48 years old and Akbar 50 years old when Khurram was born. Jodha was 19 years old and Salim 23 years old when Khurram was born to them.

When Salim heard this he must have definetly felt bad but did not actually show any opposition. Already his elder son Khusrau from Man Bai was being brought up by Akbars house hold. Now his younger son Khurram was being given to Ruqaiah to be brought up in Akbars household. In a way may be this was a way Akbar was trying to tie up or restrain Salim politically. Anyways in Akbarnama, Abul Fazl has mentioned that “Akbar loved his grandsons(Khusrau and Khurram) more than sons” taking a direct dig at Salim. Further Akbar even gave very high ranks to both Khusrau and Khurram at small age. At 7 years only Khusrau had a mansabdari rivalling his father Prince Salim and his uncles Daniyal and Murad. Whether Salim was flattered by all attention his boys were getting from Akbar or resented it no one will know. But what happened a few years down the line must have hurt Salim as a father a lot. But both Khusrau and Khurram started considering Akbar as father and Salim was just a dummy invisible father in their life. Khusrau went a step further calling Salim as “Shah Bhai” means “Royal brother” rather than father.

Jodha and Salim had a daughter in 1597 but she died in few weeks. This left Jodha pretty much shattered. Although she was a mother she was like a barren woman. Her baby was being brought up away from her household by Ruqaiah. Although they stayed in same fort access to her child was rare and for very less time. Khurram further considered and called Ruqaiah as his mother and Akbar as his father. Salim was anyways away in war field or his revolt and drowned any his sorrows of his kids not considering him as father in wine and in friends company. The fact that Salim revolted against Akbar also did not help Salim’s family or Jodha. Mughal harem must have turned against Salim’s family. But Jodha Bai had no option but stay at mughal fort and see her child growing up calling grandparents as mother and father. Man Bai had similar issues with Khusrau considering Akbar as father and her husband Salim as royal brother. Khusrau too never listened to his mother or father as he had powerful grandfathers blessings.

It was total messed up family and relations in Salim’s household. This family stress and tension ensured many of Salims wives died in their 20s or 30s. Man Bai committed suicide in early 30s. Jodha died in early 40s. Shahib Jamal his second wife and son Parvez mother died in her late 20s too. This must have affected them mentally in some ways. And the fact that the sons born were being raised by Akbars house hold rather than own parents must have added to the frustration of family members. Which father will like his children calling him brother? Which mother will be fine with children treating them as strangers and step grandmother as mother living in same roof? Or the fact that Salims sons were being seen as suitable challengers to throne after Akbars death by Akbar himself must have truly frustrated Salim and his wives too. Because which wife would want her child to become emperor surpassing her husband? Or which mother wants her husband and son to be contender for same throne?  So Man Bai drowned her lonliness at being away from husband and son in addiction. She was heavy drinker and opium user like her husband. Salim himself almost died of overdose drinking at 29 years and than had heart attack at 37 years and than another heart attack in 40s.

Unlike her two cousins Man Bai and Salim who drowned their upsets and wasted themselves in heavy drinking and opium addiction, Jodha took to spirutiality and fasting and prayers to overcome her grief of separation from only child. When Man Bai moved to Allahabad to be with Salim during his revolt in her last months, Jodha stayed back at agra fort. May be because her child Khurram was in agra fort with Ruqaiah or she wanted to take care of Salim’s family. But Jodha never left mughal family and stayed back with them than go to her husband. Meanwhile Man Bai was not helping herself or her husband with her high addictions. Salim may have not loved Man Bai like a Nur Jahan but he was definetly concerned about her. Salim himself mentions that Man Bai had mental illness and her family too agreed on that fact. Anyways staying in royal family that too a mughal family filled with so much treachery and two faced people may have frustrated Man Bai. Man Bai would have her bout of depression and meltdowns where she would not spare even Salim of her angry outbursts. Abul Fazl himself has mentioned in Akbarnama that Man Bai would get agitated for simple things in mughal harem. In 16th century mental illness was not really known or treated. Man Bai seems to have had heavy depression and Salim too seemed to have been frustrated and depressed in life. From age of 9 years he was away in war fields for long times till he revolted in his 30s. As child soldier seeing so much cruelty and war must have affected him mentally too. Add to that all the political games played within family must have made him very insecure and mentally frustrated. But he was not someone to give up as easily as a Man Bai and held on to his life despite health issues and many personal set backs in life both politically and personally. Once Salim came to know that Man bai was drinking very heavy and unwell when he was away in war campaign in Persia. So after war he called Man Bai to join him in Kabul fort as she had gone to attend a wedding with Jodha Bai of their relatives in Rajputhana. Man Bai and Jodha visited Salim in Kabul fort. Salim tried to placate Man Bai’s lonliness but with his constant travel on war campaigns and to other cities on work he could not do much to placate her frustrations.

In 1605, Salim became emperor. First order he gave as emperor was that Khurram will return to his mother Jodha Bai. But Khurram was already 13 years old and close to Ruqaiah and Nur Jahan his nurse maid. He never really accepted Jodha as his mother or spent much time with her. He became close to Salim but, only reason that may be is that him becoming next emperor depended on his closeness to his father. Khurram if you read his life history is a very machivellian and strong person like an Akbar. He was not a Salim who showed his emotions openly or what was in his mind. In royal families relationship are superficial, they see aligning with whom will benefit them. Based on that all relationships thrive in mughal family.

Salim too like Jodha loved Khurram a lot. When Khurram son got unwell, Salim took oath not to hunt in gun and maintained it for years till Shah jahan revolted. And everyone knows Salim loved hunting and was a great hunter too. For him to refrain from hunting is like a very big sacrifice. And Salim always affectionately called Khurram as Khurram baba usually used for kids even after he became a father and big adult. May be for Salim it was a way of compensating years of Khurram being away from parents and Salims household. Further Salim ensured Khurram never went to war field till he was big. Khurram went on first war camapagn at age of 19 or 20 years old for a mughal prince. Compared to him Akbar went to war at 11 years, Salim at 9 years, Murad at 11 years etc. Salim ensured none of his sons went to war as kids atleast after he became emperor.  

Khurram felt being close to his father and his current favourite Nur Jahan his nurse maid one upon a time was more beneficial in long term to his political ambitions. So he never bothered about his own mother Jodha Bai much in long term. Anyways for all purpose Ruqaiah was a mother to him than a Jodha Bai. In 1617-18 Nur Jahan started her political manouvering and first asked Khurram to marry her daughter Ladli begum from Ali Quli. Khurram refused saying he considers her as sister. Than Nur Jahan asked Khusrau and he too refused saying he only loves his wife. So Nur Jahan married Ladli Begum to Sharyar and started making all decisions against Khurrams interest. Khurram was shocked at this turn of events. He finally must have realized its only a own mother who cares for a child without any expectations.

But it was too late in 1619, Jodha Bai died at young age of 46 years. Thus even if Khurram wanted to rectify his behaviours and get close to his mother it was too late. When Jodha died, Khurram cried a lot and Jehangir had to take him to his palace and console him. May be the guilt of not having had a relationship with mother all life weighed on his mind.  But Jodha was already dead and gone. In her last few years she had lost her husbands love too him being close to Nur Jahan after 1611 to 1619 till her death. Her son Khurram was never her son since birth although Salim tried his best to get him back to his mother once he became emperor. It is said when Taj Mahal was being built Shah jahan put a trishul shape on top in memory of his mother. But it was too late to rectify decades of neglecting an own mother. She died heartbroken with son who never cared about her for 27 years that she lived or got husbands love and attention for last 8 years since he married Nur Jahan. Akbars decision to hand over Khurram to his senior wife Ruqaiah for upbringing thus brought irreparable damage to relationship between Khurram and his parents especially mother Jodha. Basically Salim and Jodha could never foster a parent child relationship with Khurram. They just remained an option in Khurrams life while for all purpose Akbar and Ruqaiah became his parents. Thus their only child which they got after many prayers and penance just remained a distant dream for them. Atleast Salim had other children from other wives to experience joy of being a parent. But Jodha did not get joy of being a parent all life despite having a child.

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