Category Archives: mughal princes

The famous Jehangir Justice – An old woman demands justice

Emperor Jahangir

Emperor Jahangir

Jehangir was particular about justice being delivered in his empire. This incident occurred when the Emperor was still a prince in 1590s. In those times the army which won looted the defeated kingdom and killed or captured its citizens. The women especially were in biggest trouble as they were abducted and used as slaves by the winning army. The Emperor(Prince Salim then) had told his army to not abduct or misbehave with any defeated kingdom citizens especially women. But he got constant complaints that his soldiers were abducting women and girls after the kingdoms defeat. But no defeated kingdoms citizen dared to come and give an official complaint. Once the emperor was out on tour in his province(where he was governor). An old lady landed in his travelling cantonment and demanded to meet the Prince. The soldiers refused her audience with the Prince Salim on some pertex. Luckily for the old lady the Prince was returning from a sight seeing expedition just at that time. The old lady went to the Prince and started crying. The mughal army had defeated a Rajputhana kingdom few months back. The mughal army raided the city and abducted many young girls, this old lady’s grand daughter was one of them. The old lady begged the Prince to return her grand daughter to her as she had no one but her as family.

Jehangir took a parade of all army man who participated in the war. The old woman was called to the parade and told to identify the person who abducted her grand daughter. The old woman identified a commander as the man who had abducted her grad daughter. His house was searched and the girl was found in his house and reunited with the old woman. Jehangir realized despite his several warnings his soldiers and commanders are not listening to his orders to not abduct or touch defeated kingdoms woman and girls. Hence to set an exemplary punishment he had the commander flayed alive to death in public. That ensured that mughal soldiers under him did not misbehave or abduct girls of opposing kingdoms after a war. He also compensated the old woman and the girl.


Maharani Rukmavati Lalji Baisa -Akbars youngest chief wife



Rukmavathi Lalji Bhaisa

Maharani Rukmavathi Lalji Bhaisa

Rukmavathi Lal Bhaiji was a Princess of Jodhpur(called Marwar then) a powerful Rajputhana kingdom. Princess Rukmavathi was daughter of King Rao Maldeo and his cocubbine Tipu. Akbar married Rukmavathi in 1581 (he was 39 years and she was 17 years old at time of marriage). Marwar rulers are called Suryavanshi’s because their leniage can be traced to Lord Rama and through him to Lord Surya himself. The Jodhpur royal family used to rule Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh for many centuries till Muhammad Ghori defeated Raja jai Chand in 1192 and they had to leave. They roamed the plains of Ganges in Gujarath and Rajasthan before settling in Rajputhana.

Rukmavathi was also the sister of Motta raja Udai Singh of Jodhpur whose daughter Jodha Bai (or Jagat Gosain later after convering to Jainism) was married to Prince Salim(who became Jagat Guru after accepting Jainism) and was his chief consort after he became Emperor Jehangir. Jodha Bai was Emperor Jehangirs chief consort (also known as Malika e Khas, Chief Queen) from 1605 when he became emperor till 1615 (when Nur Jahan became his favourite and Chief Queen ).  Jodha Bai was Malika e Hindustan till her death in 1619.

Rukmavathi had powerful connections and was related to powerful emperors and Kings of those times. Indeed among all of Akbars wives she was the only one who had powerful brother in laws. Her brother in laws included

  • Emperor Sher Shah Suri (her elder sister Lal bai was married to Sher Shah Suri in 1544)
  • Badshah Muhammad Shah (Her elder sister Kankavati was married to him)
  • Haji Khan of Ajmer (Her elder sister Ratnavati married him)
  • Khan Muhammad Daulat Khan (Her elder sister Jasoda bai married him in 1532)
  • Maharana Pratap (Her elder sister Phool Kanwar was married to him)
  • Bhagwan Das (Her elder sister was married to him)

Further to this Rukmavathi’s neice Jodha Bai was chief consort of Prince Salim and his third wife and mother of next emperor Shah Jahan(Prince Khurram). Princess Rukmavathi ensured that Emperor Jehangir also married Shah Jahan to Rukmavathis grand neice (Jodha’s brothers daughter).  Rukmavathi’s great grand neice was married by Shah Jahan to dara Sikoh and was his top three wives too. Rukmavathi’s elder sister was Phool Kunwar the one of the two chief consort of Maharana Pratap. Bhagwan das, brother of Hira Kunwari (mother of Salim) was also married to an elder sister of Rukmavathi and hence her brother in law. Raja Man Singh was her nephew in relation. Hence Rukmavathi had a close family relationship with powerful men of those times.

The circumstances that led to her marriage to Emperor Akbar was intruiging. When Sher Shah Suri attacked Delhi, Humayun was betrayed by his three younger brothers and his wife and kids were captured in a night raid by the Afghan general in Dausa, West Bengal. His daughter Aqiqa was brutally abused and killed by Sher Shah Suri’s forces and her body was thrown into river and not returned for final rites to Humayun. When Humayun faced defeat he ran to Marwar(Jodhpur) and asked refuge for few months as his wife was pregnant which was refused by Rao Maldeo because he did not want to displease Sher Shah. Hence Humayun sought refuge in Umerkot till Akbar was born. Humayun lost his elder son Al Aman due to hunger while running from Sher Shah in Rajputhana desert. When Akbar became emperor he attacked Marwar in 1561 and captured both Jodhpur and Nagore fort not only to expand his empire but to settle old scores. Maldeo tried to please Akbar by sending him many gifts through his second son Chandra Sen but that did not placate Akbar at all for two decades. Finally Mota Raja Udai Singh, Rao Maldeo’s elder son managed to placate Akbar and Akbar appointed Udai Singh as King of Jodhpur instead of younger brother Chandra Sen who had occupied the throne after his fathers death by committing farticide.  Raja Udai Singh married his youngest sister Rukmavathi to Akbar in 1581(Akbar was 39 years, Rukmavathi was 17 years old) and then later on his daughter Princess Jodha Bai to Prince Salim in 1586(Jodha Bai was 13 years of age and Salim was 17 years of age at time of marriage).

Rukmavathi was one of the top 36 chief wives of Akbar  and among his top 10 wives and had many powers. She was very close both to Akbar and Jehangir. Some incidents show how close Rukmavathi was to Akbar and Jehangir. Tulsi das was a great poet who lived in times of Akbar. Akbars commander and adopted son Abdul Rahim Khan e Khana(known as Rahim Das the great poet) was a great friend of Tulsi Das and Kabir das. When Akbar entrusted the education of his sons to Abdul rahim , he appointed hindu priest from Kashi to teach about Hindu religion to Akbars sons. Also he requested Tulsi Das to teach Ramayana to the Princes. Tulsi das work was translated into Persian for the Mughal princes and library. Akbar had good relation with Tulsi das, he visited his ashram in 1590s and its recorded in mughal books and paintings.

When Salim was Governor of Ajmer he revolted against Akbar and settled in Allahabad fort in 1599. In those times Prince Salim family(wife and kids and siblings etc) were in agra fort with Akbar and family. Prince Salim went to meet Tulsi Das often in his ashram as he was known to him from childhood. Initially Akbar ignored Salims folly for few years. But someone informed Akbar that Tulsi Das was instigating Prince Salim to revolt against him as he was meeting him often. Emperor Akbar invited Tulsi Das to agra and accused him of supporting Prince Salim’s revolt and why he should not be punished. Tulsi das said that he only spoke to Prince Salim as a teacher about personal things and nothing political was ever discussed between them.  Abul Rahim Khan e Khana and Kashi Priest requested Akbar to let Tulsi Das as they can vouch for his innocence but Akbar refused to budge. No ones wise counsel had an effect on Akbar’s mind.  Princess Rukmavathi  was known for her gift of gab and fearlessness in mughal harem. Her neice Princess Jodha Bai also had this quick wit and gift of gab that endeared Prince Salim to her. Princess Rukmavathi intervened on behalf of Tulsi Das and told Akbar to let go him and argued on his behalf. Akbar finally realized his folly and let tulsi Das go back to Kashi. When Prince Salim who was away returned to Allahabad and heard about Tulsi Das being summoned to agra court by Akbar and being questioned, seeds of revolt and misunderstanding between him and Akbar were more strengthened.

In 1593 Akbar requested Salim to go on a expedition to Deccan (South India) but Salim refused. So Akbar sent Prince Daniyal on the expedition but Daniyal was a young and immature at war fields faced defeats and also got heavily addicted to drinks. So Akbar sent Salim on expedition to Rajputhana in 1596 again after Maharana Pratap and went to Deccan himself. During Akbars time, Mughals and Maharana Pratap’s army met in battle almost 21 times and majority of these times Prince Salim was involved in these wars. Prince Salim got bored of going to these futile wars and stopped at Ajmer and set up his base there and refused to go to any war with Mahrana Pratap. For a year or so he enjoyed his time in Rajputhana with his childhood friends like Mahabat Khan(Rajputh) and Qutubuddin Koka(Sheikh Salim Chisti’s grandson) and Karan Singh(his cousin brother) etc. Finally someone suggested him that if he loots the treasury of agra fort he can declare himself a independent ruler as Akbar is away in Deccan. Prince Salim went back and camped in outskirts of agra. The inchage of agra fort closed its gates refusing Prince Salim and his friends entry into the fort. Prince Salim camped outside agra city, the situation got really tensed for weeks. Finally Hamida Banu and Princess Rukmavathi and Salima Begum decided to go and meet him and find his reasons for camping outside agra with a huge army. When Salim heard his grand mother and step mothers are coming to meet him, he refused to meet them and went in boat to Allahabad and told his army to come later. Thus a potentially explosive situation was handled cleverly by the mughal women.  This also shows how Prince Salim revered and respected his grandmother and step mothers and felt guilty facing them after his revolt. Apart from Salima Begum only Maharani Rukmavathi went to meet Prince Salim in Allahabad fort to bring reconciliation between her husband Akbar and son Prince Salim. This shows that apart from Salima Begum, even Maharani Rukmavathi had huge influence on Prince Salim’s decisions be it political or personal.

Emperor Jehangir pardoned Shakti Singh (of mewar) brother of Maharana Pratap for helping Maharana Pratap escape from battle field of Haldighatti by giving his horse and killing two mughal commanders who were following his elder brother because Princess Rukmavathi requested him to do so. Princess Rukmavathi’s one elder sister was married to Maharana Pratap and another to Shakti Singh of Mewar(Udaipur, Chittorgarh). Prince Salim mother Hira Kunwari and Rukmavathi were first cousin sisters as Hira Kunwari aunty(Bharamal’s sister) was married to Rao Maldeo.  Rukmavathi was not only active in politics but also built gardens in agra and other places. It is said that Prince Salim was so close to Princess Rukmavathi that he incurred warth of Akbar by pardoning Shakti Singh once for helping Maharana Pratap.

The same closeness with Princess Rukmavathi led to once Prince Salim returning a Princess of Mewar with full honours (a daughter of Maharana Pratap) when she was captured by the Mughal forces during heights of the war between Mughal and Mewar forces in jungle rather than leverage it as his commanders suggested in 1580s.

This same closeness with Princess Rukmavathi and Jodha Bai stopped Emperor Jehangir from launching an attack on Maharana Karan Singh of Udaipur (Karan Singh’s grand mother(step) Roop Kanwar was sister of Princess Rukmavathi)  when Prince Khurram took shelter there at height of his revolt with Mugahl Empire at Udaipur(Prince Khurram’s first wife was the grand neice of Rukmavathi and neice of Jodha Bai). Prince Salim had major issues with his mother Hira Kunwari’s Amer family in later years once he revolted against Akbar and hence he grew quiet close to the Jodhpur royals. Rukmavathi and Jodha Bai had major roles to play in developing his close relation with Jodhpur royals. Rukmavathi was his favourite step mother apart from Salima Begum and Rukmavathi was also his mother Hira Kunwari’s first cousin sister. Hence Prince Salim trusted her and his favourite wife Jodha Bai’s advice completely.

Princess Rukmavathi along with Princess Jodha held sway of the Jodhpur dynasty over the politics of Mughal Empire by their closeness to Akbar and Jehangir.  Mota raja Udia Singh was Akbar’s childhood friend he only gave him the affectionate title “Mota raja”. Akbar was very fond of both Rukmavathi and Jodha Bai apart from Man Bai because they were all born and brought up in front of his eyes. Mota Raja Udai Singh was taken an hostage in Akbar’s court and then in his services for long till 1583 after which he became independent ruler of Jodhapur. Mota raja Udai Singh had palace in both Fatekpur Sikri and Agra. Although Rukmavathi did not give him an heir or any children yet both Akbar and his son Salim listened and respected her advice and wise counsel and adhered to it. Prince Salim was just 5 years younger to Princess Rukmavathi. This relation continued in future with Jodhpur Princesses marrying Mughal Princes and Emperors like Shah Jahan, Dara Sikoh and Fraukshiyar in later times too. But none had an influence that Maharani Rukmavathi or Empress Jodha Bai had over empire politics and emperors decision making in later times.

Shah Jahan’s children

Mumtaz Mahal children : Mumtaz Mahal had 14 children in total and the ones who lived are following

Jahanara Begum:  23rd March 1614 – 16th September 1681

Mumahammad Dara Sikoh: 20th March 1615 -30th August 1659 (killed by Aurangzeb)

Shah Shuja: 26th June 1616 Death date not known (Disappeared while running away from Aurangzeb army)

Roshanara Begum: 3rd September 1617 – 11th September 1671

Aurangzeb: 3rd November 1618 – 3rd March 1707

Muhammad Murad Baksh: 9th October 1624 – 14th December 1661 (Killed in Aurangzeb custody)

Gauhar Begum: 17th June 1631 – 1706

Ahmed Baksh: Died young

Luftullah Mirza: Died Young

Daulat Afza Mirza: Died Young

The other children of Shah Jahan rom other wives include

Hamza Banu Begum: Born in 1610

Parez Banu Begum: Born in 1611

Hurunnisa Begum: Born to Persian Princess and Shah Jahan in 1613

A daughter from Rajputh Princess Manavati Baiji Lal Sahiba of Jodhpur born in 1615

Jahan Afroz: Born to Hasina Begum (Son)

Husnara Begum: Born in 1630

Dahar Ara Begum: Born 1631

Suraiya Banu Begum

Purunhar Banu Begum

Nazar Ara Begum

This is not exhaustive list

Women Status in Harem – Mughal Period Part II

The practice of dowry was widely prevalent than even among muslims. Hence a girl child became a burden and undesirable even in muslims.

Dowry was a big menace of the time that led to female infanticide. When Man Bai married Prince Salim her father Bhagwan das provided 100 elephants, several horses, utensils of Gold and silver that was too huge to be accounted for in monetary terms and male and female slaves of Indian, Abyssinian and Circassian origin. This practice of dowry in Muslims only remained among royalty initially but later on percolated down to commoners.

The menace of dowry crossed all limits between 13th – 15th century so much that Royals and Kings had to sponsor dowry to marry off girls of less privileged. Firoz Shah Tughlaq created a department Diwan i Khairiat to look into genuine cases and sponsor marriages of underprivileged girl children, Nur Jahan too sponsored many dowry of under privileged girls every year

Divorce was very rare among Indians, almost unthinkable in hindu society. Muslims did divorce but it was too few and far. Like Babur’s wife Ayesha divorced him and left him at a young age, Kanzada Begum too divorced her second husband after Shibani Khan, Misri Begum daughter of Asaf Jah divorced son of Asaf Khan. Sometimes a man was forced to divorce his wife like Abul Wasi was forced to divorce his wife Daulat Shad as Akbar fell for her.

Divorce was a taboo in society and only the very rich or royals could afford it. The parents and brothers would refuse to care for a divorced daughter and her children and she could not obviously go out and fend for herself leading the woman to bear abuse and neglect in husbands house quietly.

The men had it easier, neither religious or society sanctions constrained their desires. Men married often and to much younger ladies. The concept of Muta marriage or temporary marriage was introduced by Akbar when clerics objected to marrying more than 4 women. This concept percolated to the commoners too. Royals and nobels kept cocubbines, women from lower strata of society without formal marriage to fulfil their desires. Shibani Khan, the war lord wanted to marry Baburs elder sister Kanzada Begum and hence divorced his wife Mihir Nigar Chatagi her maternal aunt.

Remarriage was permitted and was common in muslim royalty. Akbars sister Bakshi Bau was married to Mirza Ibrahim and upon his death to Mirza Sharifuddin. Faruk un nisa begum the daughter of Humayun first was married to Shah Abul Maali and after his death to Khwaja Hassan Naqshbandi. Akbar himself married Salima  Sultan after death of her husband Bairam Khan and Jehangir married Nur Jahan after her husband death. Humayuns widow was married to Mirza Qasim Haider. When Daniyal Mirza died his entire harem of more than 400-500 women was transferred under care of Prince Salim. Prince Salim sent for them and asked them that if anyone wants to remarry they should inform him the name of the person so he can arrange for same. Even when Akbar died Prince Salim called a meeting of all the younger wives of Akbar and asked them if anyone wanted to remarry. Women who were elder were exempted from remarriage. But usually wives of the great and rich men refrained from marrying again.

Elderly women and sisters were respected most in mughals. Akbar had great respect for Hamida Bano his mother and even carried her palanquin across the river on one occasion. The ambassadors in Jehangir court like Thomas Roe and Hawking tell of his great respect for his mother. Once when his mother came to the fort, Jehangir performed her sajdah(kneeling and touching ones forehead to the ground or feet of the person) and salutations to her. This was when he was in his mid 40s after he became an emperor. He would even carried her palanquin on his shoulders when she would go to visit religious places when he was with her.  Aurangzebs love for sisters Roshanara and Jahanara is well recorded.

Women Status in Harem – Mughal Period Part I

Indian women were considered very low and second class in the 13-18th century.  The females suffered discrimination from birth to death compared to males. Having been cut off from outer world in the four walls of harem or house they had only one duty to rear and bring up children. Some women dared carve a niche for themselves based on their quality but the fact was provided they appealed to their masters i.e. husbands.

Even the famous Amir Khusrau wrote “ I wish you were not born and if you were it would be better you were a boy” after birth of his daughter.

Gradually a female child was considered an misfortune or curse and in some Raputh clans a child was killed soon after birth. This practice was not only in Rajpuths but Muslims too.

Emperor Jehangir in Jehangirnama states “Also when a daughter is born to a man without means, they put her to death with strangulation. They alley themselves with hindus and both give and take girls. I ordered that hence forth no such thing should take place and guilty shall face capital punishment.

The kings themselves were no less guilty of a preference for boys. Gulbadan in Humayunnama mentions Baburs desire for a son before Hindal is born.  Akbar too took the laborious task of walking all way from agra to ajmer Chisti’s shrine for a son and Shah Jahan too took a similar pilgrimage to pray for a son after birth of three elder daughters before Dara Sikoh was born. The society as such was

There was great rejoicing and festivities if a son was born and none at all at birth of a daughter. This was true of royals too. When  a prince was born the entire court joined in festivities and paintings were commissioned to rejoice a royal sons birth. But when a daughter was born only the harem ladies feasted and celebrated. When Akbar odered feasting and rejoicing on birth of Affat Banu daughter of Prince Salim, Abul Fazl was shocked as it was contrary to customs of that time.

Finch the European traveller at time of Akbar wrote that girls were usually married at age 5-6 years and boys by 9-10 years and it were a norm. Further huge age difference existed between groom and bride. Sometimes 40 year olds married girls who were barely 10-12 years. Hence Akbar issued orders that age difference between groom and bride should be not more than 12 years. But the practice still continued in society to marry aged men to young girls especially among poor class.

The mughal prince and princess themselves married quiet young at age of 14-15 years. The mughal princess married a bit later than commoner girls at age 14-15 years. Ayesha was betrothed to Babur at age of 5 years although the marriage took place when she was 16 years. Hamida Banu married Humayun at the age of 14 years. Baburs daughters Gulchehra Begum was married at 13 years, Gulrang Begum at 15 years and Gulbadan Begum at age 14 years. Bakshi Bano married at age of 9 years. Arjumand Bano was betrothed to Shah Jahan at age of 14 years and married at age 19 years.

The mughal princess were no different. Salim married at age of 16 years Murad was 17 years at time of first marriage and Aurangzeb was 18 years. Dara Sikoh was 19 years and Kam Baksh was hardly 14 years at time of his marriage.

Child marriages had drastic effect on the bride and groom children. Especially the girls had many health issues and could not conceive after age of 30 years. This made men take in more wives to fulfil their desires of more progeny leading to polygamy.