Category Archives: Mughal

Man bai – A Life in waiting

Man bai or Shah Begum meaning “Kings wife” was first wife of Emperor Jehangir aka Prince Salim. Man Bai was born in 1570 and died on 16th May 1604. She was the daughter of Raja Bhagwan Das of Amer(jaipur) and his wife. She was younger sister of Raja Man singh the supreme commander in chief of Mughal army and King of Amer.  She was the neice of Marium uz Zamani Hira Kunwari and mother of Prince Salim. The marriage of Man Bai with Prince Salim was conducted in Amer palace(Jaipur) on 1th February 1585. This marriage was one of the grandest wedding witnessed ever even among royal mughals. Akbar himself went with his family and ministers and nobels to Amer for the wedding. The wedding took place both in Hindu and Muslim rituals. The dowry for Man Bai was fixed as 2 crore silver coins and many other gifts like horses, elephants, gold, silver and even servants both boys and girls. Even the Amirs who came with Akbar were given rich gifts. Akbar ordered gold and precious stones to be littered on the way entourage proceeds from amer to agra. People got tired picking the precious stones after the marriage ceremony passed through the path.

Bhagwan das said after marriage “My daughter is honour of your palace and we are your salves”.

Akbar replied “Your daughter is Queen of our palace and you are our great Lords”.

Man Bai was Emperor Akbars favourite daughter in law. Man Bai gave birth to two children elder daughter Sultan un Nissa Begum on 26th April 1586.Sultan un Nissa Begum remained unmarried all her life and built Khusrau Bagh in Allahabad where her mother Man Bai and brother Khusrau are buried. She could not live in peace as Nur Jahan made her life miserable because of her brothers rebellion. She spent her life till her late sixty’s caring for her brother Khusrau’s children as her own. Second son was Khusrau Mizra who was born on 6th August 1587. Khusrau Mirza was a favourite of his grand father Akbar and was supported by Akbar, Aziz Koka, Man singh and Abdul Rahim to be successor to Akbar. Khusrau was competing with his father Salim for throne and even called him Shah Bhai instead of father. Both Khusrau and Khurram were brought up in Akbar’s household rather than their father Salim’s. That made Khusrau hate his father and compete with him for throne. Akbar himself disliked Salim and gave preference to grandsons over his son Salim. That led to lot of bad blood between Salim and Khusrau which ended in Khusrau’s revolt and blinding.

Man Bai was very beautiful to look at and was highly devoted to her husband. But she is said to have had a fiery temper and any offence to her will she felt would flare up into big fights in harem.  She even fought with Salim on slightest offence. She had mental health issues and took up to heavy drinking and opium eating just like her husband Prince Salim. Prince Salim after 1592 was hardly in agra(or Lahore) house. But his family(wife and kids) stayed usually with royal family rather than husband. Hence Man Bai got lonely. Salim was always on campaigns, travelling to regions where he was governor or on rebellion. Remaining time he had friends for company. Man bai’s son Khusrau wanted to be next emperor supported by Man Singh and others. Man bai tried her best to counsel Khusrau but when he did not listen she killed herself by overdose of opium dose. She just got caught in crossfire between an husband and son both wanting to be emperor.

Jehangir’s description of event is given below

In  Jehangirnama, Prince Salim describes her death as following verses. “His mother, while I was prince, in grief at his ways and behaviour and the misconduct of her brother Madho Singh, and killed herself by swallowing opium (tirydq).’What shall I write of her excellences and goodness ? She had perfect intelligence, and her devotion to me was such that she would have sacrificed a thousand sons and brothers for one hair of mine. She constantly wrote to Khusrau and urged him to be sincere and affectionate to me. When she saw that it was of no use and that it was unknown how far he would be led away, she from the indignation and high spirit which are inherent in the Rajput character determined upon death. Her mind was several times disturbed, for such feelings were hereditary, and her ancestors and her brothers had occasionally showed signs of madness, but after a time had recovered. At a time when I had gone hunting, on Zi-1-lrijja 26th, 1013 1 (May 6th, 1605), she in her agitation swallowed a quantity of opium, and quickly passed away. It was as if she had foreseen this behaviour of her unworthy son. My first marriage and that at the commencement of my adolescence was with her. After Khusrau’s birth I gave her the title of Shah Begam. When she could not endure the bad conduct of her son and brother towards me she became disgusted with life and died, thereby escaping the present grief and sorrow. In consequence of her death, from the attachment I had for her, I passed some days without any kind of pleasure in life or existence, and for four days, which amount to 32 watches, I took nothing in the shape of food or drink. When this tale was told to my revered father, a letter of condolence of excessive kindness and affection reached this devoted disciple, and he sent me a robe of honour and the auspicious turban tied just as he had taken it off his head. This favour threw water on the flame of my grief and afforded complete quiet and repose to my unquietude and disturbance. My intention in relating these circumstances is to point out that no evil fortune is greater than when a son, through the impropriety”.

Thus ended Man Bai’s life at the very young age of 34 years. The politics, the intrigues of the mughal family and harem were too much for Man Bai to handle. In the 1590s, there was a major tension between Akbar and Salim once. The reason was younger son Prince Daniyal’s marriage to an hindu widow. Prince Daniyal had saved a young hindu widow and fell in love with her. He was young in his early 20’s and asked permission to marry this young hindu girl. Akbar obviously would not accept such proposals for his son. Daniyal became adamant and it was Prince Salim who helped him at that time. This angered Akbar to a large extent and both were at logger heads. Prince Salim was away on campaigns to Rajputhana at that time. At that time once Man Bai and Jodha Bai went to attend a wedding of their relative in Rajputhana. Man Bai along with Jodha Bai risked anger of Akbar and went to meet Prince Salim in his war camp. This incident showed how much Man Bai cared and loved Prince Salim that she went all way to Rajputhana just to meet him on his war campaign trail. That is why Prince Salim waxes elequoent to her in his memories saying ”What shall I write of her excellences and goodness ? She had perfect intelligence, and her devotion to me was such that she would have sacrificed a thousand sons and brothers for one hair of mine.”

Whether Man Bai was mentally not well(heridetary as Salim says in Jehangirnama) or became addicted to wine and opium etc but a major reason for that must be the mughal harem culture and the mughal men be it her son Khusrau, her husband Salim or her brothers Madhav Singh and Man Singh or may be even Akbars policy of pitting son against father for the throne.  She seemed to be one who cannot accept insubordination and had high idealism of whats right and wrong. She also was highly loyal to her husband and hence could not come to terms that her son with help of her brothers was challenging her husband to the mughal throne. Above that her married life did not seem so happy and ideal, she had other wives and women with whom she had to compete for her husbands love and affection. Basically her idea of life, love, loyalty did not meet the standards of the 16th century that too a mughal harem where loyalty shifted based on who was in power or could be in power in future. She also seems not to know the art of being pleasant and diplomatic on face while being manipulative and playing games behind that was an essential criteria to survive in the mughal harem. That led her to take the extreme step of ending her own life with high dose of opium.

When salim returned from hunt that day Man Bai was dead. When Salim saw that she died he was shaken up, may be guilty too. He went into mourning and not drinking or eating for four days. She was buried in Khusrau bagh(named later) in Allahabad. Salim was in Allahabad at that time. That time he was in direct competition with Khusrau his elder son for mughal throne. A few weeks later he went back to agra to his family. Akbar was unwell and Salim thought it wise to stay close to seat of power. On his death bed, Akbar called Salim and anointed him next emperor by giving him the sword and his head gear. He made all ministers swear loyalty to Prince Salim. He died the next day on 27th October 1605.



Empress Nur jahan – A life of ambition

nur jahan

nur jahan

Nur Jahan was an administrator par excellence and a politician who had no parallel in Mughal history among women. Nur Jahan was born on 31st May 1577 in Kandahar region of Afgahistan into a Persian family. Her father was Mirza Ghiaz Beg and mother Asmat Begum. Mirza Ghiaz Beg was travelling with his family to India in search of job at Emperor Akbar’s court when they were attacked by robbers. After losing all their possession and unable to fend a just born Meherunissa, the family left her in bushes to her fate and proceeded further. But a merchant found the baby in bush and searched her family and handed baby Meherunissa back to her parents. Thus her early days of life was a tough one saved by a whisker of luck abandoned by her own parents.

Ghiaz Beg came to Emperor Akbar’s court in 1578 and found a small treasurer job. Beng astute and hardworking and machivellian he rose to become treasurer of Kabul province. By late 1590s he rose to become the Minister in Emperor Akbar’s court and was given title Itimad-ud-Daula or “Pillar of state”.  In the year 1595 Meherunisas was married off to Ali Quli Khan also called Sher Afghan at age of 17 years.  There were rumors that Prince Salim was in love with Meherunissa so Akbar ordered her marriage to Ali Quli, but there is no historical proof that Prince Salim loved Meherunissa as a youngster. Ali Quli Khan was an Persian brought up in Afghanistan and a slave of a Persian noble. He became a wanderer and a looter(petty theif) after his Persian master’s death and later joined Akbar’s army under Salim in Rajputhana. The story goes that once a big Mughal commander was saved during Maharana Pratap’s jungle raid by Ali Quli hence he came in contact with Akbars army. Meherunissa and Ali Quli had a daughter called Ladli Begum who was born in 1605. Meherunisas had many miscarriages almost 7 of them before Ladli Begum survived. Ali Quli served under Prince Salim in the mughal army.

In 1605 Akbar died and Prince Salim ascended the mughal throne.  When Prince Salim was ascending the throne of mughal empire there were two camps in court, one was Prince Salim and another of his son Khusrau led by powerful commanders and ministers like Man Singh, Aziz Koka and Abdul Rahim Kan-e-khana.  It is said that Ali Quli sided with Khusrau along with Meherunissa’s brother Muhammad Sharif. Jehangir after coming to power got them all arrested but pardoned everyone except Muhammad Sharif. Muhammad Sharif was put to death, Ali Quli was made governor of Bengal, Abdul Rahim was sent to war in Deccan but Aziz Koka was banished from court.

In 1607, Jehnagir got complaints regarding Ali Quli involved in anti state activities. He sent his milk brother and childhood friend Qutubuddin Koka to get Ali Quli to court. Ali Quli refused and there was a fight and Qutubuddin Koka was killed in the fight. Qutubuddin Koka’s gaurds pounced on Ali Quli and killed him. Meherunissa and her daughter were brought to court and became attendants to Rquaiah Begum, the dowager Queen. Meherunissa served Ruqaiah Begum for four years earnestly. In 1611 during Meena Bazaar Jehangir saw Meherunissa and fell in love with her and married her the same year.

By 1615 Meherunissa completely took up political administration along with Prince Khurram. Emperor Jehangir who was already sick with heart disease, asthama etc was happy to relax and drink wine and eat meat and listen to music and paint etc. Jodha Bai gave her stiff opposition in initial years of marriage but by 1615 with her shrewd, cunning capability Meherunissa replaced all old ministers and nobels with her well wishers and family members. Her father who was arrested by Jehangir on charges of corruption as he had siphoned off loads of royal treasury money in 30 years of service in mughal court was pardoned and became Prime Minister of mughal empire. Her brother became Wazir(Finance Minister) beating others with more sevice and capability. She displeased loyalists like Mahabat Khan by arresting his son in law etc. Mahabat Khan staged a coup because of this and it was Nur Jahan with her scheming that saved Jehangir and other royal family members.

But the biggest games she played was in mughal harem within the mughal family. She completely destroyed relations between Jehangir’s family members with her games and manipulations. Her first target was Jodha Bai. Prior to marrying Nur Jahan, Jodha Bai was Jehangir’s favourite wife and his chief consort. Once Nur Jahan married Jehangir she started competing with Jodha Bai on every aspects. Jodha Bai was an excellent archer and swordsman. Once when Jehangir, Nur Jahan and Jodha Bai went on a hunt in jungle a tiger attacked Jehangir’s elephant and Jodha Bai took a gun and killed tiger before it attacked Jehangir. Nur Jahan who was frozen in fear was chided by Jehangir to learn something from Jodha Bai. He even praised her sky high and gifted her many jewels. This made Nur Jahan jealous of Jodha Bai and she started learning archery and sword fight.

She started doing everything to please Jehangir and soon within a span of 3-4 years Jehangir was completely over awed by her.  Such was her power at court and hold upon the Emperor that soon after she was declared Badshah Begum (the first lady of the court), she started signing royal decrees with an authority even the Emperor could not invalidate. No other Mughal empress ever had her name imprinted on currency. She sent Jehangirs childhood friend Mahabhat Khan away to Kandahar on pertex of rebellion so he cannot over rule her decisions and influence Jehangir.

Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador of the king of England, who stayed in the Mughal court from 1615-1618 has remarked, “All power vested in the clique (‘Jinta” or purse) of Nur Jahan at that time. It was impossible to get any work done without the help of her brother Asaf Khan and his son-in-law Prince Khurram. Her influence had increased so much that even powerful Amirs like Mahabat Khan feared her. Jahangir himself was in pleasure day and night, resigning the entire administration to her”. Thomas Roe called the mughal court the kitchen cabinet of Nur Jahan in one letter. He even went on to say that Jehangir had become her slave.

“The Conqueror of the World was the slave of a woman – his consort, Nur Mahal or Mehrunnisa ”   wrote William Foster, The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to India

Niccalo Maccuni writes “However, the way she expressed her love for her husband wasn’t the subservient way. Mehr-un-Nisaa had entered the Mughal harem as the twent fifth wife of Jahangir and at age 34 years. So she chose a radically different path. She was a demanding wife. She chose to argue with him at times and not speak to him when such arguments happened. She made sure in some way or the other she was always the centre of his attention. Instead of her giving in completely to him, it was the other way round she made him give in to her. Once when Jehangir slapped her because she was speaking ill of Pince Khurram she slapped him back in front of musicians in garden”


“She gave Jahangir to understand that the only way of being pardoned for the affront was to throw himself at her feet” –  Niccolao Manucci, Italian traveller


Noor Jahan wanted to marry ladli Begum her daughter to Prince Khurram. But Prince Khurram was in love with her neice Arjunmand Bano, Asaf Khan’s daughter and refused. So Noor Jahan asked Khusrau who was in custody of Asaf Khan that if he marries Ladli begum she will free him and also make him emperor. Khusrau flatly refused as he loved his only wife. So finally Noor Jahan married Ladli begum to Jehangir’s youngest son Shariyar. Through her daughter’s husband Noor Jahan wanted to control the empire after Jehangir’s death. This angered Prince Khurram and he rebelled. He refused to go to war in Kandahar or send his troops there and hence Persia took over Kandahar. Prince Khurram got too scared that in his absence and Jehangirs ill health she may make Shariyar next emperor. He took Khusrau with him to Deccan and killed him in custody.  Further he wrote letters to emperor Jehangir with rebellious streak and harsh words for Nur Jahan.

This was the year 1622 and Khurram rebelled. Khurram was declared a traitor and was chased though out India as a fugitive with his wife and kids for company. Mahabhat Khan defeated Prince Khurram many times once in agra, then Mandu, then Gujarath etc.  Once Jehangir only reached to face Prince Khurram in war field. Prince Khurram was not ready to face his father in war field and withdrew the next day. When Jehangir went to meet him in his camp at night, Prince Khurram did not relent and stop the war and his rebellion. This angered Jehangir and he declared declared him a traitor. Finally after many defeats Shah Jahan wrote letter to Jehangir seeking pardon. Finally Shah Jahan was forgiven but Aurangzeb and Dara Sikoh were taken as hostage for his good behaviour by Nur Jahan.

Mahabhat khan became close to Prince parvez in this campaign and hence Nur jahan became insecure. Mahabhat was loyal to Jehangir not her. She hence sent Mahabhat to Bengal and parvez to Bhuranpur. Nur Jahan cleverly arranged for his son in law to be arrested on false charges and make Mahbhat rebel. Mahabhat took Jehangir hostage and Nur Jahan rescued them with her tactic and sweet tounge. Mahabhat ran and joined Shah Jahan in Deccan. Within a year of this Jehangir died. Shah Jahan killed many male relatives and ascended throne. Asaf Khan betrayed Nur Jahan and sided with Shah Jahan.  He sent Nur Jahan to Lahore where she lived 18 years and commissioned Jehangir and her grave with pension she got.  She died in 1645 a lonely death with only daughter Ladli begum for company.

Nur Jahan had everything going for her from a traitors widow who killed emperors milk brother,to an Empress at the age of 34 years a middle age when hardly any emperor will marry a woman of her age that too a widow. Prince Khurram the unofficial crown Prince of mughal empire who was in her junta, father a Prime Minister, brother a Finance Minister, a husband who adored and worshipped her she squandered away everything in her ambition to retain power after her husbands death. Her scheming ways, her manipulations, her machivellian stratergies brought the mughal empire and mughal family on its knees. The mughal princes were known for their violence to gain throne but even they were no match for a Nur Jahan’s tactic and cunning manovering. Prince Khurram got so scared by her tactics that he  rebelled and later killed many male members of his family immediately after becoming an emperor. Nur Jahan wanted her son in law Shariyar to be next emperor, Jehangir wanted Dawar Baksh, Khusrau’s elder son to be emperor, the nobels were split between Dawar Baksh, Prince Parvez second son of Jehangir and Prince Khurram.

Prince Parvez died mysteriously in Deccan just like Prince Khusrau. No one ever knew was it a murder or natural death. Khusrau was murdered by Prince Khurram in his custody. But Parvez was sent with Khan Jahan a loyalist of Nur Jahan to deccan, did Nur Jahan get him killed to get Shariyar a chance to throne no one will ever know. Prince Khurram was too strong too tactical to get him killed. Jehangir although angry at Khurram for killing Khusrau and losing Kandahar to Persians yet had soft corners for his previous favourite son. The family got destroyed in the ambition between Nur Jahan and Prince Khurram(Shah Jahan). Like two swords cannot stay in one sheath similarly both Nur Jahan and Khurram were highly tactical, manipulative, machivellian and strong characters none lesser than the other. Prince Khurram won in the end thanks to Asaf Khan who betrayed Nur Jahan. And may be the nobels, ministers and commanders were fed up of hankering to whims and fancy of Empress Nur Jahan. They just tolerated her for Emperor Jehangir’s sake. In a way Nur Jahan saved mughal empire as Jehnagir was too disinterested in administration, but in reality did she save the empire or destroy it with her manipulations. In her abscence could not may be Jodha Bai or Prince Khurram handle mughal empire better than her for Jehangir? Or a Mahabhat Khan and Prince Khurram could they not handle the empire better than a Nur Jahan and her junta without destroying foundations of mughal empire and creating strife in family. These will all remain hypothetical questions.


Empress Jodha Bai – Chief Consort of Jehangir

Jodha Bai

Jodha Bai

Jodha Bai was born on 13 May 1573 to Mota Raja Udai Singh of Jodhpur(marwar) and Rani Manrang Devi. Jodha Bai’s royal family were called Suryavanshi’s and they traced direct decendancy to Lord Rama and through him to Lord Surya. They originally ruled UP state of Kannauj. Jodha Bai also called Manmathi Lalji Bhaisa was grand daughter of Rao Maldeo a powerful marwar king of Rajputhana. Rani Manrang Devi was the daughter of Raja Askaram Bhimvrajot of Gwalior. She was also given title Taj Bibi Bilqis Makhani Begum Sahiba after her death in April 18th 1619 and was buried in Suhagpura (Agra).  Her only issue from emperor Jehangir was Prince Khurram(Shah Jahan). Jodha Bai was the third wife of Prince Salim and his Chief Consort from 1605 till 1615. She was the tenth daughter of Mota raja Udai Singh. Raja Udai singh and Akbar were friends from teenage times only. Jodha Bai’s dowry included 75 lakhs of silver coins a little less than the 2 crore silver coins given during Prince Salim’s first wife Man Bai’s marriage.

There is an interesting story of how Jodha Bai was married to Prince Salim. Akbar had personal issues to settle with Jodhpur royals as they refused to help Humayun when he was running to save his family from forces of Sher Shah Suri. Akbar attacked Jodhpur and Nagore fort and took Udai Singh as hostage to Agra fort to ensure his father Rao Maldeos good behaviour. Rao Maldeo died in 1562 and his younger brother Chandra Sen seized throne in absence of Udai Singh after farticide. In 1564 Akbar attacked Jodhpur again and defeated Chandra Sen and appointed Raja Udai Singh as the incharge. By 1581 he was promoted to the title of Raja and was crowned King of Jodhpur on 4th Augus 1583 and all the lands returned to his family by Emperor Akbar. Akbar became good friends with him when Udai Singh was an hostage and later joined imperial services in 1562 after his fathers death. In 1581 only Raja Udai Singh married his youngest sister born after his father Rao Maldeo’s death Princess Rukmavathi Lalji Bhaisa to Emperor Akbar(Akbar was 39 years, Rukmavathi  was 17 years). Once Prince Salim accompanied his step mother Rukmavathi Lalji Bhaisa to a wedding ceremony and there he saw Jodha Bai, her neice and his cousin(Hira Kunwari his mother’s aunty was married to Rao Maldeo the grandfather of Jodha Bai). Prince Salim conveyed his desire to marry Jodha Bai to his mothers and grandmother after returning from the wedding. Thus Prince Salim married Princess Jodha Bai on 26th June 1586.

The marriage was not an easy affair. Kalyan Das Rathore of Siwana threatened to kill both Mota Raja Udai Singh and Prince Salim if this marriage took place. Akbar had to send mughal imperial forces and attack Siwana where Kalyan Das died fighting the mughal army. Marrying a Rajputh Princess to a mughal was considered an humiliation and degradation to Rajputhana. Thus the marriage took place with lot of strife and objections. Jodha Bai and Prince Salim married in both Hindu and muslim rituals at Raja Udai Singh palace in Fatekpur Sikri.

Jagat Gosain

A young Jodha Bai (Prince Salim wife and Shah Jahan’s mother)

Jodha soon endeared herself to her husband and his family members by her wit, political acumen, courage in using weapons and even warfare. Once when Jehangir was on a hunt in forest when a tiger jumped at Jehangir who could not shoot it on time and Jodha Bai fired and killed the animal in an instant. Nur Jahan was also with Jehangir during that hunt. Jehangir was highly impressed with her hunting skills and rewarded her for saving his life. Salim’s favourite wife was Jodha Bai till Nur Jahan in 1611 arrived in his life and ensured he never again cared for any other wife again. Emperor Jehangir had a love for wine and opium from adult life only. That love for wine and opium destroyed his physical health to such an extent that by the time he was in late 20s he once collapsed in his palace. The physician warned him that if he continued drinking 20-30 glasses of wine a day he will not live many more months. From that day Prince Salim reduced his consumption of wine.

But his health was failing by the time he was in late 30s he had heart attack, asthama and also other health issues. This helped Nur Jahan to get a grip on administration and she removed all old ministers and commanders and put her loyal men especially family members to those positions. She also very cunningly ensured that Jehangir was taken away from family members he liked or loved that included his wives like Jodha Bai, childhood friends Mahabhat Khan etc. Jodha definetly was no push over but Nur Jahan succedded in ensuring Jehangir hand over all power to her. By 1615 Nur Jahan had completely taken over the administration and even Jehangirs mind. Jehangir who anyway was unwell and had not much interest in politics was too happy to hand over his responsibility to Nur Jahan and enjoy his wine and meat.

Nur Jahan truly made all his other wives life miserable with her cunning political plays, she only seems to have hastened Jodha Bai’s death at young age of 46 years. Jodha Bai seemed to have taken Jehangir’s disinterest in her life after Nur Jahan’s arrival a bit seriously only. Her marriage life was not full of roses as anyone thought it would be because Prince Salim loved her immensely.  Jodha had powerful relations backing her in mughal family and court, Prince Salim mother Maharani Hira Kunwari was her grand aunt in relation from maternal side,  Maharani Rukmavathi Lalji Bhaisa one of the top ten wives of Akbar was her own father Udai Singh’s sister, Raja Bhagwan das was her uncle(paternal aunty’s husband), Man Singh was her brother in law and cousin brother(he married her sister), Man Bai, Prince Salim’s first wife was her cousin sister, many of other Rajputh wives of Akbar like Raj Kunwari and Nathi Bai were her auntys in relation. She had so many people who were out there to support her both in mughal court and mughal family that her life looked like a bed of roses. Also many kings and emperors in relation were her maternal uncles like Sher Shah Suri, Muhammad Bahadur Shah, Haji Khan, Daulat Khan, Maharana Pratap etc. But her life was filled with tragedies of great propotions.

She lost her first child a baby daughter named Begum sultan in 1590. In those days a wife’s importance was based on her ability to give birth to a male child. For 7 years after marriage she could not give birth to a baby boy. This distressed her greatly. Man Bai and other wife of Jehangir had already given him two male heirs. But Jodha Bai despite being a favourite of Prince Salim could not give him a male heir. Man Bai had become a favourite of Akbar by giving birth to Salim’s eldest Khusrau already.  This made her insecure and she did lots of worships in various temples and fasted to pray for a son. She even undertook the strenuous journey of walking from agra to Ajmer Sharif on bare foot with Prince Salim to pray for a son (like Akbar had done). Finally her only surviving child her baby son was born in 1592 and named Prince Khurram(Shah Jahan).

In the meanwhile, Prince Salim was usually away from agra and family either he was governor of Ajmer or sent on wars with Persia or Maharana Pratap, rajpuths etc. During Akbar’s time 21 wars were fought between Maharana Pratap and Akbar and majority of the time it was Prince Salim commanding the army. Only 3-4 times Murad, Man Singh or other commanders commanded the army against Maharana Pratap. Prince Salim being away from family(wife and kids) took a toll on his wives. His kids got highly influenced by other relatives than their own father and these relatives sowed seeds of hatred in heart of kids against their own father Salim.  Like Khusrau was closer to Man Singh, Aziz Koka, Abdul rahim and Akbar and Khurram  was closer to Akbar, Ruqaiah and Nur Jahan his maid caretaker than to his mother Jodha Bai or Salim. Man Bai drowned her worry of being away from husband Salim and Khusrau(as he lived in Akbars household) by taking to heavy drinking.

Meanwhile a great tragedy struck Jodha Bai too. After 7 years of prayers, fasting and tears finally she gave birth to a son Prince Khurram on 5th January 1592. When Prince Khurram was born the court astrologer predicted that Prince Khurram fame will be more than Akbar and Prince Salim. When Ruqaiah Begum, his first wife heard of this she asked her husband to hand over Prince Khurram to her for upbringing. Already Akbar had started getting wary of Salim and he agreed to hand over 6 day old baby under Ruqaiah Begum’s care. Thus Jodha Bai’s only hope her son was taken away from her and brought up in Akbar’s household. Prince Khusrau Salim’s elder son was already being brought up in Akbars household and called Salim Shah Bhai (Prince brother) instead of father. Now Prnce Khurram too was taken away from Salim’s household. That caused great wedge in Akbar and Salim’s already strained relationship. Ruqaiah was highly possessive of Prince Khurram and restrained meeting time of Khurram with Jodha Bai. Further tragedy struck a lonely Jodha Bai, her baby daughter, her last child died in 1597 soon after birth.

In year 1597 Prince Salim who had just returned from campaigns of five years was being forced to again go on campaign to Deccan. He resisted it, but finally Akbar forced him to go on campaign to Rajputhana in 1599. Prince Salim started his rebellion in Ajmer and this lasted till 1604. In 1605 after Akbar’s death Prince Khurram was returned to his fathers household. He started staying with his mother-father at age 14 years. But by then he could not establish the close bond a child and mother had and was closer to Ruqaiah Begum only for many more years. Add to that Nur jahan was his nurse maid as a kid so he was close to Nur Jahan too after her marriage to Jehangir. Jodha felt isolated by both husband and son and Nur Jahan’s cunning polity started having impact on her health. Jehangir who himself was not in great health left the empire work in hands of Nur Jahan and Prince Khurram after 1615.

By 1617-18, Nur Jahan started playing political games to consolidate her powers after Jehangirs death. She first proposed that her daughter Ladli Begum marry Prince Khurram which was opposed strongly by Arjumand Bano(Mumtaz Mahal) and Prince Khurram told her for him Ladli Begum was like a sister and hence rejected proposal.  Then she asked Prince Khusrau(who was in prison and blinded) to marry her daughter(From first marriage) and said that he will get fredom from prison and become emperor  and he too refused. Finally she married Ladli Begum to Jehangir’s youngest son Shariyar and started grooming him to be next emperor. When Prince Khurram realized Nur Jahan’s games, he was highly unimpressed. For decades he had respected her and sided with Nur Jahan against his mother Jodha Bai only to be betrayed by Nur Jahan. But it was too late as his mother Jodha Bai died a year after only in 1619 at young age of 46 years. This death shook Prince Khurram badly and he mourned her for many days. He was so broken by her death that Jehangir took him to his palace to console him out of grief. Thus ended life of Empress Jodha Bai, Chief Consort of Emperor Jehangir from 1605-1615 and his Chief Queen till 1619. She was buried in Sughagpura, mughal gardens in agra. This tomb and garden was blown up by British in 1832. Her tomb was never traced back or shifted as Mughals were arch rivals of British and also in first war of Independence.

Thus ended an Empress lonely and tough life, being away from an ambitious rebel husband for long years as a young married woman, a son and only child snatched away from her womb  at tender age of 6 days to fulfil an emperors(Akbar) chief consorts(Ruqaiah) wish to raise a future emperor (Shah Jahan), an chief consort position snatched away after few years of happiness and bliss with husband for a new rival in harem(Nur Jahan) who made her life tough with political and machivellian games, a son who considered a foster mother Ruqaiah as his own and favoured his fathers favourite wife Nur Jahan for his future political ambitions. Her life can only be compared to another of her contemporary Man Bai, her husband Salim’s first wife in terms of the tragedy and fortune reversals. She had everything going for her, her husbands favourite, a heir to boast of, an Empress and chief consort position and yet in reality had nothing truly. She died a lonely death at a very young age of 46 years when many mughal princess and begums actually lived longer than the Emperor/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.