Life of Mughal Princesses-Lonely and yet not so Lonely

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There was commotion in the Mughal harem……………… !!!

The Emperor was getting married-perhaps for the 20th time!

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Amidst the rustle of silks and brocades, melodious sounds of songs, music and dance, the elderly dowagers voiced their advises, interrupted by the clank of the silver and gold ‘paan-daan’ lid opening and shutting frequently, the deep gurgle of the scented ‘hookkah’! Young girls’ rippled laughter as they flitted from place to place all around the harem, the dignified queens, in all regalia of brocade and gems, well perfumed and looking like ethereal beauties, commanded the slaves and eunuchs with made up faces, abundant jewelry on them and dressed to the hilt, to prepare for the festivities.

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Then floated in the sisters, and daughters of the Emperor! They were as beautiful and dainty as the nymphs of yonder world. As fair as ivory, with limpid pools of dark eyes, a complexion like sandal and cream, flowing tresses, scented with attar of Khus and Sandalwood  and bejeweled. They too were smiling but their beautiful eyes betrayed them. There was emptiness, a pain, lonely disappointment embedded in them. They had beautiful eyes accentuated by ‘kaajal’, but there was no mirthful twinkle in them.

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Belonging to the Mughal royals, they were denied love, forbidden from marrying! Was it true then-the myth of Emperor Akbar banning the marriage of Mughal princess? Is this why they wore no insignia of marriage?

Mughal Emperor Akbar is supposed to be responsible for banning of marriages of Mughal princess (daughters, granddaughters, great granddaughters etc.). But neither Akbarnama, Jehangirnama, Shahjahannama or Aurangzeb’s royal court chronicles have ever mention Akbar or any emperor banning Mughal princess marriage. Is this is just a rumor then?

Not really, but the Mughals had one practice, that they all married only within their close relatives.

“Akbar had married Ruqaiah Begum and Salima Begum his cousin sisters initially, and the later of course he wedded outside princesses.

It is known that all of Akbar’s daughters were married except Aram Banu who stayed with her brother Jehangir till his death, she died after him.

Akbar’s two daughters Aram and Khanum are buried in his tomb at Sikandara.

Then, Jehangir himself married three of his cousins, initially. His first three marriages were to his Rajput cousin sisters Manwati aka Jagat Gosain, Jodh Bai etc.

Jehangir had two daughters. One of them was Khusro’s real sister- Princess Sultan Nithar Begam. Nur Jahan had made her life miserable since her brother Khusrau had rebelled against Jehangir. She was never married and stayed with her father Jehangir.

Another reason, behind her unwed status was that both Daniyal and Murad’s sons were very much younger compared to her, hence she had no suitable groom to marry. She was obliged to live a lonely life in company of her brothers and sisters at Agra fort.

She however, oversaw construction of Khusrau bagh in Allahabad where her mother Manwati Bai and brother Khusrau was buried. She herself was buried next to her brother and mother after death. Since her brother and sister-in-law were in house arrest at Agra fort, after the rebellion, she took up responsibility to bring up Khusrau’s children.

Jehangir’s younger daughter married Jehangir’s younger brother Daniyal’s son and lived a happy life till Shahjahan killed her husband after her father’s (Jahangir’s) death.

Jehangir’s younger daughter preferred to be buried next to her grandfather after death and not her father. Her grave is in Sikandra in Akbar’s tomb.

Shah Jahan’s both daughters could never marry, not because someone banned Mughal princess marriage but because Shah Jahan had killed all his male relatives. He killed all his brothers their sons and all of Jehangir’s brother’s- Daniyal and Murad’s son’s and their sons and all of Akabr’s step brother’s sons and grandsons. So no male relative was actually left to marry Jahanara and Roshanara in that generation.

In the next generation again, Aurangzeb’s other daughters married their uncle Shah Sujah and Dara Sukoh’s sons”.

Majority of the Mughal princes and emperor’s favourite wives were their own cousins.

Coming back to our story of the Emperors 20th wedding……

So, was it that most of the emperor’s sisters and daughters found no close relatives to marry them? Perhaps yes.

History as usual had repeated itself – loneliness had crept into the lives of these princesses, not because someone banned Mughal princess marriage but because the emperor in order to ascend the throne had eliminated all his male relatives- all his brothers their sons and all of his brother’s sons and their sons and all of the step brothers their sons and grandsons.

So no male was actually left to marry that generation of royal princesses- the emperor’s daughters and sisters!

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The reason of marriage of princesses with only their close relatives…..

This problem was instigated by Akbar’s brother-in-law and son-in-law both. They had rebelled because they wanted to be emperor and were not his close relatives.

Mughals did not want a son-in-law competing for the Mughal throne, so usually they inter married within brothers and sisters children. Hence if, even a son-in-law became the emperor he would be a blood relative of emperor.

Another reason was that Mughals did not want their daughters and sisters, marrying anyone lower in status to them which was a stigma as well a cause of rebellions. incidents like rebellion of Sharifuddin (brother in law of Akbar), had been fanned owing to this reason.

A further reason was that Mughal men although married Hindu princess themselves, they did not want their daughters and sisters marrying a Hindu prince and converting to another religion.

This was also because of stringent rules in the Hindu society at that time, wherein a wife, widow etc. did not have many rights whereas Muslim girls had the liberty of being able to divorce, remarry. They had no sati system and also their status did not change with husband death. For example, Hamida Banu (mother of Akbar) remained Mailka-e-Azam after husband’s (Humayun’s) death.

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Hence, the Mughal princesses could only marry within the family to avoid these issues or they could remain unmarried if they did not wish to marry or were unable to get suitable grooms within relatives.

The Lament of a Princess

“hujuum-e-Gam mein mere saath chal sako to chalo
qadam qadam pe hai mushkil sambhal sako to chalo”

“hamaare beech hai rasm-o-rivaaj kii deewaar
tum us ko toD ke aage nikal sako to chalo”

“ye raah-e-ishq nahii.n aag kaa samandar hai
lapakatii mauj mein gar tum sambhal sako to chalo”

“tumhari kashti-e-ulfat hai Gam ke tufaan mein
meri tarah ruKh-e-tufaaN badal sako to chalo”

Provided by Rana Safvi

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