Mughal Queen Nur Jahan broke many barriers

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Mughal Queen

AN UNPARALLELED MUGHAL QUEEN

Nur Jahan, the twentieth wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir (reign: 1605 – 1627), was an extraordinarily powerful Mughal queen. With the approval of her husband, she often became his equal partner in taking imperial decisions. On many occasions, she would be present beside the emperor when the imperial court was in session. Indeed, she would even take charge of the court, when Jahangir fell ill. Nur Jahan was the only Mughal queen who had coins minted in her name. She had the authority over the imperial seal, indicating court decisions could be legalized only with her consent. According to some historians, Nur Jahan was the real source of power behind the throne during Jahangir’s reign.

BIRTH AND RISE OF NUR JAHAN

Nur Jahan’s maiden name was Mehr un-Nissa. She was born to Mirza Ghyas Baig, a Persian nobleman, and his wife Asmat Begum, on May 31, 1577, in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Later Mirza Baig became one of the important nobles during emperor Akbar’s reign. By dint of his power and position, he ensured that her fourth child, Mehr un-Nissa, received the best of education and training in various arts. This childhood training stood her in good stead, in later days when she assumed the role of a unique Mughal queen.

At the age of 17, Mehr un-Nissa married Sher Afghan Khan, who was also of Persian origin and later made it to high ranks under Akbar and Jahangir. Sher Afghan died in 1607. Some have held Jahangir responsible for his death, accusing the emperor of securing Mehr un-Nissa in his harem by killing her husband. However, there is little evidence to prove such allegations.

Jahangir married Mehr un-Nissa in 1611. And from then on the Mughal queen never looked back. The emperor was deeply in love with her new wife, and immediately gave her the title of Nur Mahal. Five years later, by the time she had clearly rooted a deep influence on Jahangir, the emperor titled her Nur Jahan or The Light of the World.

NUR JAHAN AS THE POWER-CENTRE

One must remember that the world in which Nur Jahan aspired to shine henceforth, was overwhelmingly a man’s world. And being ‘manly’ was considered a sine qua non for women to wield power. The new Mughal queen had that in ample quantities. For example, she was an extraordinary marksperson. She regularly went hunting with the emperor, and if fabled to have once killed four tigers with six bullets. All this helped the Mughal queen break the glass ceiling and play an unprecedented role in running the empire’s affairs. Jahangir’s courtiers and nobles quickly learnt to accept her as a power-center, only second to the emperor himself.

Nur Jahan was also deft in the war-field. This saved the life of the Emperor when in 1626, a rebel leader Mahabat Khan kidnapped him. The Mughal queen’s first attempt to free Jahangir failed, and she was herself captured. But soon Nur Jahan escaped from captivity, raised an army, and freed Jahangir.

However, Jahangir died within one year of this incident. And a battle of succession followed particularly between prince Shahryar and Prince Khurram. The latter titled himself Shah Jahan, executed Shahryar executed, exiled Nur Jahan to Lahore, and became the emperor in 1628. The extraordinary Mughal queen spent the last years of her life in comfortable exile and passed away on 17 December 1645.

 

(Written by Author and Translator Nilanjan Hajra)

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