How Princess Jahanara caught in fire?
Jahanara Begum defied all stereotypes of being a Mughal princess. Her life neither revolved around the men of the family nor did she spend her days in the harem as a woman was expected to. She was the eldest daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan and the older sister of Prince Dara Shikoh and Emperor Aurangzeb. She became the First Lady (Padshah Begum) of the Mughal Empire at the tender age of 17 after her mother’s death.
The eldest child of Emperor Shah Jahan and his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, Jahanara was born in Ajmer on 23rd March 1614. Growing up in one of the richest and most splendid empires in the world, the young princess spent her childhood in opulent palaces, humming with family feuds, battle intrigues, royal bequests and harem politics.
She was taught by many tutors, including Mumtaz Mahal’s secretary, Sati-un Nissa, who was known for her knowledge of the Qur’an and Persian literature. She was often found playing chess with her father Shah Jahan. Jahanara was her father’s preferred child and he bestowed upon her titles such as ‘Begum Sahib’. She was allowed to live in her own palace, outside the confines of Agra Fort. French traveler François Bernier wrote: “Shah Jahan reposed unbounded confidence in his favorite child; she watched over his safety, and so cautiously observant, that no dish was permitted to appear upon the royal table which had not been prepared under her superintendence”.
Italian traveler Niccolao Manucci, who visited India during that period, wrote: “Jahanara was loved by all, and lived in a state of magnificence.” The Taj Tours
But tragedy struck the young princess’s life with the untimely demise of her beloved mother, Mumtaz, in 1631. At the tender age of 17, she was entrusted with the charge of the Imperial Seal and made Malika-e-Hindustan Padshah Begum—the First Lady of the Indian Empire—by the shattered Emperor, whose grief kept him away from his royal duties. It was only on Jahanara’s behest that the inconsolable Shah Jahan came out of mourning.
In the years to follow, she became her father’s closest confidante and advisor. Highly educated and skilled in diplomatic dealings, her word became so powerful that it could change the fortunes of people. Her favor was much sought-after by foreign emissaries. The Taj Tours
In 1654, Shah Jahan attacked Raja Prithvichand of Srinagar. Despairing of success in the battle, the Raja sent a plea for mercy to Jahanara. The Princess asked him to send his son, Medini Singh, as a sign of his loyalty to the Mughal Empire, thereby getting him a pardon from the Emperor.
The following year, when Aurangzeb was the viceroy of the Deccan, he was bent on annexing Golconda, ruled by Abdul Qutb Shah. The Golconda ruler wrote an arzdast (royal request) to the Princess, who intervened on his behalf. Qutb Shah was pardoned by Shah Jahan (against Aurangzeb’s wishes) and secured his safety on payment of tax.
Interestingly, Jahanara was also one of the few Mughal women who owned a ship and traded as an independent entity.
Named ‘Sahibi’ after its owner, Jahanara’s ship would carry the goods made at her karkhanas (factories) and dock at her very own port in Surat; its revenue and the colossal profits she made via trade significantly boosted her annual income of three million rupees!
But Jahanara’s political and economic clout failed to have an impact on the bitter war of succession between her brothers, Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb. She made several attempts to mediate between them, but as Ira Mukhoty writes in her book Daughters of the Sun, she had “underestimated the corrosive loathing that Aurangzeb has for Dara, whom he blames for his father’s cold criticism throughout his career”. The Taj Tours
Aurangzeb ultimately killed Dara Shikoh and placed an ill Shah Jahan under house arrest in Agra Fort’s Muthamman Burj (Jasmine Tower). Faithful to her father, Jahanara set aside her lucrative trade and luxurious lifestyle to accompany him into imprisonment.
A constant presence beside Shah Jahan in his exile, she took care of him for eight years, till he breathed his last in 1666.
It says much for her stature in the Mughal court that after Shah Jahan’s death, Aurangzeb restored her title of Padshah Begum and gave her a pension along with the new title of Sahibat al-Zamani (Lady of the Age)—befitting for a woman who was ahead of her time. Unlike other royal Mughal princesses, she was also allowed to live in her own mansion outside the confines of the Agra Fort. The Taj Tours
Influence of Sufism on Jahanara
People often referred to Jahanara Begum as Faqirah (ascetic) due to her devotion to Sufism. She suggested that she and her brother Dara Shikoh were the only descendants of Timur to truly embrace Sufism. She commissioned translations and commentaries on many works of classic literature.
Jahanara was the disciple of Mullah Shah Badakhshi, who initiated her into the Qadiriyya Sufi Order in 1641. She made such progress on the Sufi path that Mullah Shah would have named her the successor in the Qadiriyya, but the rules didn’t allow it. Her book Risālah-i-Sāhibīyahwas was based on the life of her spiritual mentor, Mullah Shah.
War of Succession
The Passing of Shah Jahan beside his daughter and caretaker Princess Jahanara. Shah Jahan became seriously ill in 1657. A war of succession broke out among his four sons, Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh.
During the war of succession Jahanara supported her brother Dara Shikoh, eldest son of Shah Jahan. When Dara Shikoh’s generals sustained a defeat at Dharmat (1658) at the hands of Aurangzeb, Jahanara wrote a letter to Aurangzeb and advised him not to disobey his father and fight with his brother. She was unsuccessful. Dara was badly defeated in the Battle of Samugarh (29 May 1658) and fled towards Delhi. Shah Jahan did everything he could to stop the planned invasion of Agra. He asked Jahanara to use her feminine diplomacy to convince Murad and Shuja not to throw their weight on the side of Aurangzeb. The Taj Tours
In June 1658, Aurangzeb besieged his father Shah Jahan in the Agra Fort forcing him to surrender unconditionally by cutting off the water supply. Jahanara came to Aurangzeb on 10 June proposing a partition of the empire. Dara Shikoh would be given the Punjab and adjoining territories; Shuja would get Bengal; Murad would get Gujarat; Aurangzeb’s son Sultan Muhammad would get the Deccan and the rest of the empire would go to Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb refused Jahanara’s proposition on the grounds that Dara Shikoh was an infidel. On Aurangzeb’s ascent to the throne, Jahanara joined her father in imprisonment at the Agra Fort, where she devoted herself to his care until his death in 1666.
Aurangzeb becomes Emperor
Although Jahanara had openly sided with Dara Shikoh during the succession wars, but later she soon secure enough in her position to occasionally argue with Aurangzeb and have certain special privileges which other women did not possess. She argued against Aurangzeb’s strict regulation of public life in accordance with his conservative religious beliefs and his decision in 1679 to restore the poll tax on non-Muslims, which she said would alienate his Hindu subjects.
Upon Mumtaz Mahal’s death, half her property worth ten million was given to Jahanara. The royal seal was entrusted to her and her annual stipend was raised from Rs. 6 lakhs to Rs. 10 lakhs. Later, Aurangzeb then increased to Rs. 17 lakhs. The Taj Tours
Upon her recovery after her fateful accident, she was also given the revenues of the port of Surat. Jahanara was allotted an income from a number of villages and owned gardens including, Bagh-i-Jahanara, Bagh-i-Nur, Bagh-i-Safa. The Pargana of Panipat was also granted to her. Her jagir included the villages of Farjhara, Achchol and the sarkars of Doharah, Safapur and Bachchol.
Endeavors and Legacy
Jahanara contributed significantly to the capital city of Shahjahanabad. She sponsored the construction of the Jama Masjid in 1648. Her most well known architectural endeavor is probably Chandni Chowk – the principal bazaar of Shahjahanabad. A tree-lined esplanade also used to be situated there.
She also designed a caravan serai for Persian and Uzbek merchants in that area, decorated with canals and gardens. The Town Hall in Delhi stands where her Sarai used to be. This Sarai came to be known as ‘Begumabad’ or ‘Begum ka Baag’. It was her most ambitious project. It was an enclosed space of 50 acres designed solely for the women and children of the royal family.
The paradise canal flowed directly into the garden and ponds, and summerhouses stood beside the canal. Enclosed within a high stone wall on all sides, it had pools and channels for running water. There were fountains and canopies supported on 12 pillars of red stone (bara dari). These provided cool resting places for the people who came to the garden. The water in the channels came from a special canal system and helped irrigate the countless colorful trees, flowering plants and fruit trees. The Taj Tours
Jahanara continued the tradition of her family and maintained trade relationships with the English and the Dutch. When ‘Sahibi’ (a ship she constructed herself) was to set sail for its first journey, she ordered that the ship make its voyage to Mecca and Medina and, “… that every year fifty koni [one koni was 4 muns or 151 pounds] of rice should be sent by the ship for distribution among the destitute and needy of Mecca.”
She was also incredibly well known for her charitable donations. She organised alms giving on important days and was engaged with famine relief trusts and supported pilgrimages to Mecca. Jahanara made important financial contributions in support of learning and the arts. She supported the publication of a series of works on Islamic mysticism.
How Princess Jahanara caught in fire?
In 1644, two days after Jahanara’s thirtieth birthday, her garments caught fire and she was seriously burnt. Some say Jahanara’s garments, doused in fragrant perfume oils, caught fire. Others accounts assert that the princess’s favorite dancing-woman’s dress caught fire and the princess coming to her aid and was burnt. None of the court physicians could heal her and this greatly distressed the emperor. She was cured by the mendicant named Hanum.
The same year, she went on a pilgrimage to Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s shrine in Ajmer. Within a year of the accident, she had completely recovered. In gratitude, Jahanara built the shrine’s marble pavilion known as Begumi Salam and wrote Mu’nis al- Arwā – Moinuddin Chisti’s biography that is acclaimed for its literary craftsmanship.
How Princess Jahanara caught in fire?
Jahanara built her tomb in her lifetime. It is made of white marble inside the Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah Complex in New Delhi and is known for its remarkable simplicity. She died on 16th September 1681 at the age of 67. She was conferred with the posthumous title ‘Sahibat-uz-Zamani‘(Lady of the Age).