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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Glory of Faith - Akbar with Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Painting

Hi EveryOne..

This article Deals with a POPULAR picture of Mughal Emperor Akbar with HIS HINDU Queen Mariam-Uz-Zamani .... This picture was published in a popular newspaper of the time - "The StatesMan" , on 14th November, 1916... along with a research paper presented to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, by Father Hosten. In this Post, i will mention the relevant content from that Research Paper.

Note that, this is NOT THE ORIGINAL painting, but an artistic illustration, after recent modification with water colors....The ORIGINAL painting was in black and white...The painting present here is an altered version of the Original One which was a PENCIL Sketch...

" Glory of Faith - Jalal-ud-din Akbar with Mariam Zamani Begum "

The painting had a Persian Inscription, which reads in English as .. "Glory of Faith - Jalal-ud-din Akbar with Mariam Zamani Begum" ... In Persian the reading is as follows - "Jalal-ud-din Akbar ma Mariam Zamani Begum".


In the painting, Akbar is seated, and holds a hookah/smokepipe in his right hand, and his left arm is thrown round the neck of his Queen, who is present leaning against him, and supports his left hand with hers....

The picture is Most Definitely suited to the taste of Akbar...This can be gauged from following facts...

1. Here, Akbar has been shown with a shaved beard, only sporting a moustache. Only Akbar and Jahangir followed this practice among all the Mughals.. Rest all the Mughals kept beards..
2. According to the Ain-i-Akbari, Volume-1, Page-88 (by Abu'l Fazl, translated by Henry Beveridge..) , Akbar had ordered that the takauchiyah(the buttons on his Jama/Upper Garment) shall be tied to the right side, though formerly it was tied to the Left..

The picture clearly emphasizes the above 2 points..

Answers to FAQ's associated with this painting:

Note that, in those days, the Paintings were made at the instance of the Emperor....The Emperor 'dictated' the hulia(face) of the Queen, and then the painters made the paintings...It is CLEAR that this Painting is heavily modified and is presented to us in "colored" form...

a. The clothes have also been modified, as such an EXPLICIT Pose is not in sync with those times...

b. In this painting Akbar is wearing ear-rings (which is not UNcommon as there are recorded instances when Akbar adorned ear-rings) .. but this is slightly perplexing...Perhaps, this is the reason that this paining was titled - "Glory of Faith" , as here Akbar(though a Mughal) appears wearing Rajputana specifics and Mariam Uz Zamani vice-versa .

c. On comparison of the present painting with the sketch, it was found that the conception was exactly the same...But, the floral designs on the costumes and tapestry, and some trifling other details are different.. This should clarify the issues pertaining to not so modest outfit...The costumes have been altered from the original sketch and it was clearly a personal memento which had been converted into a proper painting LATER, infact, much much later..

d. Such illustrations were made depending on the Creative Liberty and the Painter Concerned..Every painter had a different style.

e. In every painting concerned, Akbar is shown OLD(with white hair) and his Queen Mariam-Uz-Zamani(with black hair) is shown Young .. 
                  This is Due to the fact - Akbar, due to his Hectic LifeStyle / Stress and Strain (coupled with Genetic Factors) , appeared OLDer than his age, which was normal for Kings in those times..The paintings portray him with White hair, which can be attributed to premature greying of hair. 
                   The Queen Mariam-Uz-Zamani appears Young, owing to the Purdah System those days, and they lived with all luxuries in their palaces, hence had very less aging impact.



1. The practice of wearing ear-rings was introduced by Jahangir, owing to his roots from his mother's side, as his mother(Harka Bai) was a Hindu Rajput..It was the Rajputana Custom to wear ear-rings..Jahangir introduced this custom in Mughals.. Akbar DID wear ear-rings at specific festivals, but Jahangir gave permanent establishment to this custom in Mughals.!.

2. Mariam-Uz-Zamani / Heer Kunwari / Harka Bai, adapted to her surroundings quite well..Her dressing sense had BOTH Mughal and Rajputana influence. She did not want to draw the ire of the religious Ulemas due to her HINDU faith. Hence she professed her religious activities in the Harem(her place of residence) . Somehow this news got leaked to the staunch conservatives and they began to spread discontent among the public. But Akbar remained firm in favor of his Queen on this matter, by Joining her in her prayers....This is from Badayuni's Writings..He had criticized the King for this..He felt, the King had fallen in to the 'trap' of the beautiful daughter of Raja Bharmal..


This picture resulted in END-Less Debates in the NewsPapers of Calcutta, in the late 1910's.. The prominent newspapers which were flooded with the Articles based on this paintings appeared were "The EnglishMan" and "The StatesMan".... If possible, i will Upload those Old Articles here..

Though, that time, scholars had various views related to this picture (as some tried to lay stress on the fact that this is the Christian Wife of Akbar) , but the Only undisputed fact is that - The picture itself contains the Persian Inscription saying it to be of "Akbar and Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum" , who we know, was mother of Jahangir..

Historically, there is NO evidence to suggest any Christian Wife of Akbar..The Wife often confused with the Christian Wife is Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum(Princess of Amer) ONLY..

Special Thanks to my friends - Ms. Kamal, Lizzy and Ann for the inputs for this article..

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  1. Replies

    1. Thank You Tamy. You look quite happy, reading this post. :D

  2. Beautiful painting. Loved your discription.

  3. hey history geek! great post as ever!!
    maybe its only me but i think that this painting not only symbolises the hindu muslim and rajput mughal ties but also the love and reationship of these two great personalities...while MUZBS was busy helping muslims on their pilgrimage to mecca, shehenshah akbar was in the court removing the tax on hindu pilgrimages and facing his own courtiers and ulemas!! he participate in hindu pujas n festivals and she died (buried) as a muslim... as if these two said to each other one night.. u know, these differences over religion are stupid so u promote islam and il keep hinduism thriving!!

    1. Gauri,

      Your thoughts are in sync with mine.
      Even the painting is called - "Glory of Faith" . :)

    2. Gauri,

      That's a really wonderful thought.

      I don't know if HK died or was buried as a muslim. But she did go to dargahs, learn about the Quran, keep roza etc. Even the dressing was a mix of Rajput and Mughal traditions. :)

  4. After reading ,one get the picture of this true unity between two culture and two soul mates ,and also it brings jahangirs love for his mother and respect he showed by his action just like his father
    Father and son truly treasured her .and I agree with gauri,beautiful thought .

    1. Well summarized, and i agree with your assessment on Jahangir when it comes to his mother.

  5. Could it be also, since Akbar had given the description of his queen, he imagined her to be this young and flawless as beauty lies in the eye of the beholder? ;-) And the original version was just a sketch, colors were added later, so MUZ's apparent youngness could be attributed to artist's imagination na?

    1. Both cases are quite possible, infact the only possibilities... :)

      1. As i mentioned, in those days, the Hulia(face) of the Queen was explained to the painter by the King, and this explanation was as per his own visualization of HIS Lady... It is possible that the King imagined her as young in his comparison and the taste of the painters also play a role in appearance of the painting.

      2. The later colorful version was for sure an artistic interpretation. :)

  6. The possibility that whoever added colors to the sketch purposely made the lady look younger and more "glamorous according to the fashion of the time" is high. :)

    Artists generally show the personality rather than actual physical attributes in their portraits. This was esp true among medieval painters. So, the youthful innocent looks of MUZ and the wise and mature looks of Akbar may be more in sync with the perception Akbar wanted to be conveyed rather than how they actually looked. The pose may also have been deliberately employed to convey a deep, abiding love and the eternal togetherness of legendary lovers.

    1. Nice point. :)

      I read that in Europe this practice of REpainting the Old paintings was prevalent. The change in this painting is also on similar lines, as the elements in this MODIFIED painting are not of Pure Hindustani flavor. :)

  7. Abhay on "india forums", not to say that Jodha, but someone else has another story about Jodhine jelly that Akbar wanted to marry her, a maid installed that stole the ring, and that Akbar had that scare, or something. E I still have one question: is Akbar loved even a wife Jodha before or after Jodha, read for Anarkali, but she was 10 god.elder than Salim.I saw a picture in which Salim and Anarkali, cuddled, given the know more about it, because with us they say "where there's smoke, there's fire."

    I hope you will not mind, but I somehow doubt that Akbar, could someone sincerely loves, with so many women, and that he instead gave the title and poklone.Interesantno that he had contacts with the Sultan Suleiman (Ottoman imperia) , Sul.Sul. loved only one woman Hurem, her married and remained faithful to the end of life, all slaves of the harem got married for Age (title in the Ottoman Empire)

  8. Tanja,
    Read this comment of a member who has experienced polygamy in her family. The thing is that, even in polygamous settings, some wife is surely given importance and is loved more than others. Polygamy was the norm in medieval India and we have rulers who had their favorites, it can be for many reasons, for MUZ i would her talent and qualities made her endeared to Akbar.
    Link :
    There was no Anarkali as per my readings. I know there are many articles on Internet, but as far as i have dug up many are based on rumors and exaggerations.! I have to make a post on Anarkali, when i complete i will post it here. :)