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Sunday, November 30, 2014

When a Mughal Prince asked Pardon from HIS LADY

Hi Friends,

Today, i am sharing 2 paintings, one from Mughal Court, and other from outside the court. The painting is not so important as such, but one thing which caught my eyes was the message it was trying to convey. Hope you all will decode it. :D

In the painting a Mughal prince (name unknown) was asking pardon from his lady. 


I. A prince approaches his lady. The placement appears to be that of a terrace. The lady is attended by her maid. The prince is bowing in petition. But the reaction from the lady was that of an anger/resentment. She turns her face away despite the maid trying to mediate of behalf of the prince. It seems she has been wronged/hurt by some action of this prince, and here he trying to persuade her to forgive him, but she seems NOT to be in a mood to forgive him easily. Looks like a scene from an Old Hindi Movie. Or, a normal scene where a lover tries to make-up with the beloved.?. Isn't it ? :-P

II. This is another painting. This was drawn outside the Mughal Court, but here also a similar message is conveyed. Here the lady is showing more visible signs of her resentment, only if one is able to analyze the facial expressions properly. :-P The prince begs forgiveness, this time even genuflecting at the feet of the lady he has wronged, either through his neglect or perhaps through straying with another. His hands are raised in supplication, but she is still angry and withnot turning her face away from him, she is drawing her veil across her face in rejection, and looking at him through her veil. This scene is also set on a terrace outside a white pavilion. 

The lady is sitting on her bed placed outside in the hot weather, under a beautiful red shamiana which hangs from underneath the heavy chajja or eave of the pavilion. The couple’s clothes and the details of the pavilion are painted in brilliant colours against an almost entirely white scenario, the bamboo blind with a design of repeating poppies with a brocade cover with irises rolled above it. This painting is not as beautiful as the previous one, where we could see many more details. Hope you all, will point it out.


The portraits depicting angry / neglected ladies is one of the most reflecting and telling portraits of the Hindustani past. There have been such tales in the reign of Humayun also and in the case of Akbar we have real incidence, add to this the ample amount of folklores.!!

One such incident is narrated by Gulbadan Begum in Humayun Nama, where she tells us about the anger of Bega Begum towards Humayun. Bega Begum complained that - while Humayun spent ample time with all the ladies, like his mother, foster mothers, aunt, sisters, etc. and talked with them , but not with her. On one occasion she even taunted him and expressed her anger by asking - "If the way to her home was full of prickles which stopped him from coming there.!!" 

Finally, Humayun was compelled to call a meeting of harem ladies to sort out these issues.!!!!.

What interests me here is the normal accepted trend in today's time that no one could raise her opinion against the wrong being done in medieval age. But that is not the writing on the wall. There were exceptions here and here one such case of Humayun has been mentioned, where Bega Begum showed her "nakhraS" to Humayun. These paintings, after a critical study do reflect many such happenings of those times. 

The "basics" of the relationships of a couple were same those days also, like it is in present times. They may be King-Queen for the outsiders, but for each other they were just human beings also. Isn't it.? In my opinion, these portraits try to paint the normal "anger-reconciliation" scenarios which happen even in today's times.!. 

Afterall, times may have changed, world can change from medieval to modern, but the human emotions remain the same. :)

This article has been posted under the Miscellaneous topics section of history_geek's Blog.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

The MYTH of 5000 women in Akbar's Harem

Hi friends,

Since many of you have asked a question regarding the size of Akbar's harem. Here is a piece of reality check. It seems you want to confirm about the 5000 women in Akbar's harem.

So, as per HISTORY, following is the answer.


Akbar DID NOT have 5000 women/concubines there.

Just see how things are blown out of proportion, by writing any non-sense in the name of history, hatching any story.

This issue of 5000 concubines aroused from Digital Media and some books, which "claim" that Abu'l Fazl mentioned this in his accounts.

Abul Fazl DID Not say that these are concubines/or for his service. He just mentioned the total number of ALL THE FOLKS present in the Imperial Harem. He DID put the number at 5000, but he did say NOT say these are concubines. 


Actually, Abul Fazl in Ain-e-Akbari, I, 44, said that, these harem folks include the following:

1. Darogahs
2. Superintendents
3. Writers of Harem
4. Accountant of Cash
5. Accountant of Stores
6. Taha-wil-daars
7. General Treasurers
8. Sub - Taha-wil-daars
9. Eunuchs for guard
10. Other Administrators
11. Cooks
12. Menials

Finally, add to this :

13. Foster mothers
14. Foster sisters
15. Own wives
16. So called "other" wives
17. Other Royal Princesses(daughters)
18. And, the progeny of ALL above
19. Point to be noted --> "Each Royal Lady ALSO had Multiple guards / maids".


Inside Fatehpur Sikri

Along with this, seeing the size of the Imperial Harem complex, that is the architecture which is present in Fatehpur Sikri, this number is vastly exaggerated by Abul Fazl, just for showing the "might/praise" of His Majesty/Akbar. He wanted to show that so many people have been employed in the service of the harem.

If one reads government accounts, this issue is clearly sorted out there. That, Fazl has given a highly exaggerated number, because keeping in mind the architecture of the place, such a number is not possible. I am giving the reference, where ^^^this is mentioned:


Fatehpur Sikri, By Archaeological Survey of India, Gov. of India

Published by
The Director General
Archaeological Survey of India
New Delhi, 2002


I hope this clears the issue of perception of "5000" and won't haunt us again.!.
Neither Akbar had 5000 concubines.
Nor he had hundreds of wives. Infact, as mentioned above, the size of the palace/architecture at Agra dismisses that there could have been so many ladies staying there. Normally Internet sites give a list of approx. 36 wives. The myth of his 300 wives was generated by the Christian missionary in Akbar's court. That could have been the total number of royal ladies present there. The list of his wives will be updated in future.

Harem was a place where so many people stayed. Not all the people staying inside were "for Akbar". Akbar had many things to be done, he had many reforms to be brought about, other than being busy in his harem as his image is projected normally by giving this "5000" number. Polygamy was the norm of the age. Akbar was no exception, today we have monogamy, those days it was polygamy.

Harem was the female residential place. His mother, foster mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, relatives, etc. too stayed there. The digital media, normally presents a very "derogatory" image of this word, which is not the actual case as you have seen above.!!

This article has been posted under the Mughals(Akbar) section of history_geek's BLOG.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

November 27 2014 Jodha Akbar | 383 Farzand Falls Foul of the Emperor..!!

Hi Friends,

After a long time, I saw JA tonight. It was a mixed bag for me. Sharing my feelings and thoughts about the episode with you.

I missed the initial scenes, including Rahim touching Jodha's feet and begging forgiveness for what his mother had done. Jodha assured him that he didn't need to do that. I started watching from Ruq’s smirk with Resham standing in the background. I don’t really know or care what she was thinking.

The next scene was interesting and poignant. Salima Begum is a sad and lonely figure, shedding silent tears, in her hojra under nazar band. Jodha Begum walks in. with tears glistening in her eyes too. I was touched for a moment. I thought she had come to empathize with Salima Begum, share her sorrow and reassure her that the guilty would be found soon. It was apparent that Salima Begum too felt like me.

She stood up happily and pronounced that she had known that Jodha would come to meet her, even if no one else did. She was happy that at least Jodha believed in her innocence and came to give her a hug of gratitude and love.

But Jodha didn’t return the hug. She said, as if in a daze, that she no longer knew what trust was. She could not believe that Salima would do such a thing, being a mother to Salim. In fact, she elaborated that no mother would harm her child like this. But then, and here Jodha chose her words carefully and said that all the evidence was against Salima.

This broke Salima internally, for she responded by saying that Jodha knew how to wield the sword as well as how to use her words like a sword to hurt others. She said in a hurt voice that Jodha knew well that the injuries inflicted by a sword could heal but not those inflicted by tongue. The latter only brought a gap in relationships and she didn’t want any distance in her relationship with Jodha.

Jodha asked her why then she had accepted Jalal’s accusations silently in court and not offered any tark in her favor. At this Salima said that she was innocent but she could not oppose her husband’s and emperor’s judgment because it would have been wrong. She reminded Jodha that she too had been held in nazar band a few years back, though that didn’t imply that she was guilty. Similarly, Salima too might be in nazar band, but was innocent. In fact, she reasoned that if Jalal really thought her to be guilty of giving afeem to Salim, he would have punished, beheaded or buried her alive in a wall.

Jodha asked her about the evidence and what Salim had told them. Salima didn’t take Ruq’s name even once but she hinted darkly that the glass of milk had passed through the hands of 2 begums. Jodha entreated her to tell her the entire truth but Salima only kept iterating that the truth would be out soon and Salima would then be free.  For good measure, she indirectly told off Jodha too that in the interim period, it would be better to hold her tongue because words are very hurtful.

I love Salima Begum. She is frank and forthright and if someone has hurt her, she doesn’t wring her hands and cry. She tells them to their face, in a matter of fact manner, that they have hurt her and they should not do so again. I so wish everyone would be as direct and plain speaking as her. This world would be a much better place then.

But in spite of her own sorrow, she understands Jodha’s position too, as MUZ and Salim’s mother. She tells her that Jodha should not feel unduly guilty because she had only been trying to protect her son. And she warns Jodha to guard Salim carefully.

Historically, Salima Begum had such a beautiful relationship with Salim. She even went to Allahabad to mediate between him and Akbar, when the former revolted against his father. What a travesty of beautiful, pure relationships!

Today (and hopefully tomorrow), Jodha seemed at least partially awake and in her senses. She felt that Ruq may have framed Salima with a false accusation, but she doesn’t say anything further and the scene ends here.

Now, here is where the CVs really BUG me. The next scene had a pensive looking Jalal and Jodha in private conversation. I was expecting that Jodha had her fears about Ruq framing Salima. But I was way off the mark.

Jodha again goes back to her pet line how she can’t believe that Salima could do it. Hey, she just came away convinced that Salima didn’t do it. Then why is she again asking the same doubt? Did someone knock her on her head between Salima’s and Jalal’s hojras?

Todarmal seeks and is granted audience with Jalal. Jodha is still present. I loved how TM called her MUZ.

He has brought an anonymous letter that states that Salima has given afeem only but someone else who is very close to Jalal wants to kill Salim. My third point of confusion. I thought the letter was about Ruq but now it’s apparent that it was sent by Ruq to Jalal to frame MS. But didn’t Jalal and co wonder how an outsider knew so soon that Salima had given afeem to Salim?

Anyway the letter warned that a fatal attack would be made on the prince the next day as he was going for some ceremony in which he will probably be officially made the wali-ahad.
TM wants to postpone the ceremony but Jalal says that he will not change his plans because of some threats and that they just needed to increase security. After TM leaves, Jalal assures Jodha that nothing will happen to Salim.

Jalal then has a meeting with his navratnas. This is good – at least, in such meetings, we are assured that all are present in the show still. Though Tansen was absent today. MS echoes Jalal’s sentiments that they cannot postpone official engagements because of some threats.
All those present voice their opinions except Birbal. (It was a treat to see Birbal in the first episode I saw after a long time. Missed him!) Jalal asks him what he is thinking. Birbal says the attack would happen the next day, so it would be prudent to move the prince out immediately as a commoner and hide him near the place of the ceremony till required. Jalal agrees with this plan.

But MS expresses his inability to accompany the prince because he has to see the arrangements for the ceremony. Jalal asks the others to dress up as commoners and accompany Salim in a palki to a secret hiding place. He also tells them that no one outside this circle should know about the changed plan to whisk Salim out of the palace that night itself.

Then how did Ruq come to know of the plan? Did she eavesdrop on the discussion or is there a mole of Ruq in the navratnas?

Later MS also receives an anonymous letter as he is getting ready in his hojra. The letter writer asks MS to meet him near a hill for details about a conspiracy to kill Salim. MS makes a huge blunder here. He just leaves such an important letter lying around his hojra and goes out to meet the letter writer.

He meets with a group of armed men whose leader shows his unveiled face and says that that should be enough for MS to trust him and that he is also a Rajvanshi.  (Actually, he’s just another Mughal servant of Ruq.) He says that the conspirators have discovered that Salim is being taken out that night only and have planned to attack him at that time.

MS leaves to warn the others and prevent the attack.

The group of men laugh that they have misguided MS and leave to attack Salim’s convoy.
They attack the convoy and TM, Rahim, etc fight with them. Salim sees the fight from within the palki and is scared. Suddenly, MS comes there and sees the attack. Before he can react, the letter writer - leader of the group welcomes him, as if he was expecting him to come and says that he is glad of MS’ support. Both Rahim and MS are shocked to hear this. Anyway MS joins the fight and sees one of the attackers trying to take away Salim. He saves Salim and holding him with one hand, tries to fight the attackers with his free hand. The leader of the attack again comes there and congratulates him for getting hold of Salim. Rahim is angered by this and snatched Salim away from MS. Suddenly all the soldiers and nobles accompanying Salim surround MS and arrest him for planning the attack on Salim and for treason. MS tries to protest his innocence but to no avail.

The next scene is the DEK. MS is standing as accused in front of a very angry, hurt and shocked Jalal, while Jodha cannot believe what she is witnessing.

MS’ treachery is recounted and Jalal asks him what he has to say for himself. MS states his case. At this point, Birbal comes to MS’ help (I felt so) and says that MS can just produce the letter he received as proof of his innocence. MS says the letter is in his hojra. Jalal sends Rahim to fetch the letter and read it aloud. Obviously, the letter has been changed. It states that the letter writer is very happy to receive support from MS and that MS should meet him near the hill to discuss the details of the attack on Salim. The letter further states that this action of MS would make the Rajvanshis happy because it would erase the bitter memories of the compromise Bharmal had made with Jalal by giving his daughter’s hand in marriage to him.

MS says that now he knows the conspiracy was against him and not Salim. Jalal says that he was giving MS one more chance to prove his innocence but, of course, MS has no proof and just swears on God that he is innocent. Jodha is in tears as Jalal orders him to be sent to prison, pending further investigation. Thankfully, at least, there will be some investigation, instead of just taking MS to be guilty on the basis of concocted circumstantial evidence.
The pained look on Jalal’s face after this spoke volumes of his relationship with MS, the small boy he had brought with him to Agra, wishing to make him a legendary soldier in his own mould.

It was obvious that MS had been trapped because he had taken Ruq’s place next to Jalal in the jashn. And Ruq never forgets or forgives.

Ruq gloats to herself that she has succeeded in eliminating both Salima and MS and next only Jodha remained.


I LOVED Jodha in this scene. I hope it plays out well tomorrow.

Jalal is slightly angry and irritated with her and asks her where she was coming from so late at night.

Jodha replies that she had gone to meet MS. Attagirl! I love people who have the guts to speak the truth to the face.

Jalal grits his teeth and says that she was aware that MS was a traitor and had tried to kill their son. Jodha says that she does not believe this could be possible. Jalal asks her if she had forgotten that she was the MUZ?

Jodha does not turn her gaze away for a second nor does she flinch or need time to collect her thoughts. As soon as the words escape Jalal’s mouth, she boldly cross-questions him. She wants him to tell her what adhikaar(rights/powers) a MUZ has.?

If I could whistle, I would have whistled. This is what I was asking for ever since the CVs turned Jodha into a doormat. I wanted her to assume the position of MUZ and flex her muscles. Show some love for justice and fight for what she believes in.  Initially, Jodha used to flex her position as the Shahenshah’s begum with the likes of Adham to make them fall in line. I hope we get that kind of queen back who knows she is powerful and knows how to use that power to guard justice and the downtrodden. A queen who through her counsels guides the king towards the right decisions.

Tomorrow, I hope we finally see the MUZ assert herself and fight for the causes of Salima Begum and Man Singh. Tomorrow, I hope we finally get to see the MUZ we read about in books. 

Last Post:  November 9 2014 Jodha Akbar | The Miasmatic (Step) mother

You all are welcome to share your views, and discuss the episode... 
This article has been posted under the  Jodha-Akbar section of  history_geek's BLOG.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

British Reminisces | Are we losing our tolerance.?


Removing symbols of British rule in India will not erase their part in the subcontinent’s history..

Dumping of emblems of the British era, which actually began in the 1950s, seems to be back in operation and the main target is Victoria Regina who, though an alien queen, was nevertheless regarded as a benevolent benefactress of the post-1857 reconciliation. Delhi had a number of statues of hers, besides the one at the Town Hall which made the area look like St Mark’s Square in Venice because of the teeming pigeons it attracted. That statue did not somehow find a place in Coronation Park but in the Delhi College of Art. Others are untraceable, though the bust at the erstwhile Victoria Zenana Hospital was looked upon by women both as a symbol of fertility (the Queen had several children) and as a talisman of sorts for a safe delivery. The Hajjan Buas or matriarchs of Jama Masjid still swear by Malika Victoria as the doyenne of womanhood and so do the matajis of Chandni Chowk, Chawri Bazar and Daryaganj. As a matter of fact, Agra and other towns of North India also seem to harbour this belief. The reason probably is that she filled the vacuum after the era of native queens and princesses (shahzadis) with whom housewives could easily empathize.

Talking about Victoria’s popularity, would it surprise you to know that even lal-masoor-ki-dal was named after her as Malika Masoor; vying with Delhi for Queen Victoria statues were Calcutta and Agra. The latter had three magnificent ones, one of which occupied pride of place in MacDonald Park, opposite the Taj Mahal, now named after Shah Jahan. One remembers being present at the park when the statue was being taken down in 1957 as father’s press photographer. This statue and the other two were deposited in the Police Lines from where they were recently brought to the local Paliwal Park, the earlier Hewett Park. While Hewett was a high-profile administrator, S.K.D. Paliwal lived near the park after resigning as Food Minister in Govind Ballabh Pant’s Uttar Pradesh government following his second marriage to a Begum of a well-known Allahabad family. The resignation was compared to the abdication by Edward VIII after his marriage to the divorced Mrs Simpson of the US.

It was planned to set up the Victoria statues in a Paliwal Park Museum of the Raj days but Bajrang Dal volunteers had other ideas. They dumped them behind the nearby John’s Public Library. This library, as per the Dal’s demand, should be renamed after Dr Ram Vilas Sharma, a Hindi litterateur, who left Agra to lead a retired life in Delhi’s Vikaspuri until his death at a very old age. It is pertinent to point out that Dr Sharma, a Communist leader, was actually head of the department of English in B.R. College, Agra and taught English romantic poetry with great relish despite his Leftist views. The library was built by the John family, which was actually Greek, originally named Joanides. Their ancestor, Antonious Joanides took the simpler name of Anthony John when he started life in the city of the Taj as a diamond merchant in 1801 and some of his descendents are still there after 213 years of habitation. They were neither British nor colonialists but philanthropic mill-owners who employed hundred of people in Delhi, Agra and Lucknow and gifted the library to the Municipal Committee in 1925, soon after its construction.

It is worth noting that after Victoria was crowned Empress of India in 1858, romantic as she was, felt that she had merely become ruler in succession to Bahadur Shah Zafar to continue the tradition of the Mughals. Though her desire to visit the country did not materialize, she had Munshi Abdul Karim appointed as her Urdu teacher so that she could understand her new subjects better. The Munshi became a much loved member of her household and his father too, a doctor in the Central Jail, was invited to visit England and made Khan Bahadur. Not only that, a party of qawwals was also invited to entertain the Queen who went into ecstasy on hearing the performance. Is it any surprise then that countless girls in the country were named Victoria? The Queen even met Wajid Ali Shah’s mother despite much opposition.

Statues of such an India-loving monarch should, therefore, not be dumped here and there but preserved to commemorate a part of our history which cannot be wished away. Delhi has shown the way with Coronation Park and other cities can follow suit. After all the Mughals too had come from another country and made India their home and have a good share in our heritage. Do we tend to dump their memory likewise? Kolkata is spending a great deal of money to renovate the Victoria Memorial, which happens to be one of the best historical sites of that city. Surely Agra can do the same, though Hewett Park can remain Paliwal Park as a reminder of Edward VIII’s Indian counterpart who renounced a powerful post to marry the one who had stolen his heart. Incidentally, the rationing system as we know it was first introduced by Shri Krishan Dutt Paliwal and it continues to this day while some of his descendents have become owners of parts of the buildings of the old Johns Mills in Jeoni Mandi on the Yamuna bank, overlooking the Taj.

This article has been posted under the Miscellaneous and Historical accounts and FolkLore section of history_geek's Blog.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

When a Mughal Begum Faked her Pregnancy

Hi friends,

Today, i am posting an interesting historical anecdote. This is about a Mughal Begum who had faked her pregnancy. I am posting this, as i was asked many many times, few months back, if there was any possibility of a Begum faking her pregnancy ? Didn't they care/fear for their lives if such a thing was done by any one in reality, as the truth would come out some day or the other ? How could someone even think of doing so ? These questions were especially asked during the Ruqaiyya Begum's fake pregnancy track in Ekta Kapoor's Jodha Akbar. That time, without denying any such possibility, i had replied that harem was a place where the best possible conspiracies could be hatched, and one can expect the impossible to be possible there. Today i am posting the present example as one such case.

We know that the Imperial Harem was a complex hierarchical setting. It was a place where the mothers, foster mothers, wives, servants, daughters, grand-daughters, sisters, etc. relatives of the Emperor stayed. With several wives living there, often trying to attain the King’s attention or to keep the king at a distance from other ones, rivalry among them could not have been kept on the hold for long. Sometimes rivalry for his attention could take absurd forms, which were normally not considered royal. There are several anecdotes of this type registered in various accounts. I am taking one such incident narrated by Gulbadan Begum in this regard.

She tells us an interesting story about Humayun’s mother Maham Begum, who was very keen and wanted to see the birth of a grandson to Humayun as soon as possible, after the death of Babur(1530). Hence she suggested of his marriage to Meywa Jan, a daughter of one of her high-level attendants. On the same day, by the evening, the marriage took place without any hassle. Three days after this marriage, one of Humayun’s wives, Bega Begum (she was later taken captive in the Battle of Chausa, 27th-28th June 1539, though returned back with respect, by Sher Shah Suri), who is mentioned as his favorite wife in the accounts, arrived from Kabul and announced her own pregnancy. In due course of time, Bega Begum gave birth to a daughter who was named Aqiqa Sultan Begum(she was lost at the Battle of Chausa, 27th June 1539 and never found)

At the same time, Meywa Jan Begum also made a similar announcement for her pregnancy, as done by Bega Begum earlier. The announcement made by Meywa Jan Begum was a fake one and was made by her to attract the attention towards herself instead of Bega Begum. After the birth of a daughter to Bega Begum, Maham Begum felt certain that the other baby would be a son, and she kept repeating the same sentence for months, with Meywa remaining the centre of attraction. In anticipation, various preparations for the reception of the "much awaited baby" were made, but there was no sign of the baby even after 10 months. The 11th month began to raise eyebrows and even then she tried to persuade the harem that sometimes babies took as much as a whole year to materialize. She also gave an example of her maternal aunt, who had given birth to a son with Mirza Ulugh Beg in 12th month. Mirza Ulugh Beg was the paternal uncle of Babur, Humayun's father. At this the preparations for the reception of awaited child continued. Even 12th month came, and then her fraudulent claim was exposed. She, however, reveled in all the attention that was hers for all those months, stretching for about an year, which should have been reserved for Bega Begum.!!!!

Note that this marriage of Humayun with Meywa Jan Begum took place in 1531, which was long before Humayun's marriage to Hamida Bano Begum(1541).

The English translation, summed up account from the pen of Gulbadan Begum is present here(Pg-113). This has been sourced from the Persian account of Humayun-Nama few lines before section22a, and then between 22a and 22b.

My lady, who was Maham Begum, had a great longing and desire to see a son of Humayun. Wherever there was a good-looking and nice girl, she used to bring her into his service(get married). Meywa Jan, a daughter of Khadang , the chamberlain (yasawal;man of rank of gold/silver staff) was in my employ. One day (after) the death of His Majesty(Babur), my lady said : ' Humayun, Meywa Jan is not bad. Why you not take her into your service ?' So, at her word, Humayun married and took her that very night.

Three days later Bega Begum came from Kabul. She became in the family way. In due time(b'ad az yak sal), she had a daughter, whom they named Aqiqa. Meywa said to Lady (Aka) Maham Begum, ' I am in the family way, too.' Then my lady got ready two sets of weapons, and said : 'Whichever of you bears a son, I will give him good arms.' Then she packed up the arms, and got ready gold and silver walnuts. She procured also the (special) arms of a Mughal commander, and was very happy, and kept saying :'Perhaps one of them will have a son.' She kept watch till Bega Begum's Aqiqa was born. Then she kept an eye on Meywa. Ten months went by. The eleventh also passed. Meywa said : 'My maternal aunt was in Mirza Ulugh Beg's harem. She had a son in the 12th month ; perhaps I am like her.' So they sewed tents(khirgaha dokhta, it should be 'pitched tents') and filled pillows(means made all preparations). But in the end everyone knew she was a fraud.


I hope this sheds some light upon the options/acts which could be taken up by the harem inmates, for various reasons, often for jealousy with other wives or for being the most noted one in eyes of the Emperor, or for gaining his attention(this was the present case), or for attaining the highest place in the Imperial Harem. There are examples present in almost all the categories, provided we search the dust of chronicles.

In fact, it was under Akbar that the harem became a very powerful institution functioning like an administrative authority, noted by Abu'l Fazl.!!!. The ladies became influential during this time, like Akbar's mother, foster mothers, his aunt, wives, daughters.

This article has been posted under the Mughals(Akbar) and Jodha-Akbar section of history_geek's BLOG.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum at Lahore | Pictures, Persian Inscriptions, English Translations, Explanations and MORE...

Hi all,

Though, i was supposed to post about the anecdotes involving Salim(Jahangir) and his mother Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum, which depicted the exceptional regard and respect Jahangir reserved for her. But for time being keeping that post on hold, today i am posting about the Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum, also called Begum Shahi Mosque, present in the Walled City of Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. It was built under the patronage of her son, Mughal Emperor Jahangir, and named after his mother. This post also, reflects the amount of respect Jahangir reserved for his mother. 

This post contains - best possible pictures, snapshots of Arabic-Persian inscriptions from rare sources(many of these inscriptions have faded now), their English translations, their explanations, and the best possible researched-verified material possible for this topic. I hope, this post will transform you 400 years back; and as much as i enjoyed collecting the material and writing it here, you will like it too. Enjoy the journey.!

This is one of tho most ancient mosques of the Old Lahore city. It is situated close to the Masti Gate of the city, opposite the eastern walls of the Lahore Fort, or the street opposite Akbar’s Masjidi Darwaza (Masti Gate is a corruption of the term Masjidi) /Akbari Gateway of the fort. If one stands at the Akbari Gateway’s entrance, the domes of the mosque are clearly visible.

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Interior Frescoes

As an inscription on the northern gateway shows, it was built in 1023 Hijri Year (1614. A. D.), during the reign of Jahangir. The foundation of this holy place was laid by his mother, Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum, or Harka Bai, the eldest daughter of Raja BharMal of Amer. It was constructed under the patronage of her son Jahangir, the designing came from his mother also. It was named after her, in her honor. 

The historians of Lahore, maintain that the color combination and frescoes of this mosque were unrivaled for the beauty in their prime. This mosque is celebrated for two very important features: the double domes with which the prayer chamber is crowned, and the exquisite fresco paintings on the interior surface. The mosque covers an area 135 feet by 127 feet. Constructed of brick masonry and rendered with plaster, it is a massive structure representing a transitional phase of architecture between the Lodhi/Pathan and the Mughal periods. The lofty aiwan gateway at the mosque's north entrance, provides access to the courtyard (128' x 82'), a few feet below the adjacent road level. Once boasting three lofty entrances (on north, south and east facades), the mosque today is hemmed in by later constructions, almost entirely concealing this jewel-like edifice. The superb combination of colours is also noteworthy. Shades of green, ochre, red, blue, yellow, and black have been used with subtlety.

The beautiful interior of the dome of Begum Shahi Mosque with its painted frescoes

The courtyard was originally enclosed by cloisters consisting of rows of cells on the north and south, some portions of which still exists. On the east along the gate is a 17-foot-wide platform, on which stands an enclosure consisting of an octagonal domed tomb and some other modern graves.

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Front with the tank for ablutions

It's massive domes, one large and two side ones, and bulky arches, are in the old Pathan style, but the gateways, the balconies and the side rooms are in more Mughal in their construction than Pathan. The mosque is surmounted with 4 arched towers, one at each corner. It is built of bricks, cemented by domnar oil plaster of the best quality, so excellent indeed, that the strength of the building seems to depend entirely on its adhesive properties. In the centre of the court-yard of the mosque is a fountain of water for the ablutions of the faithful.  The construction of this mosque was under the superintendence of an officer Jawahar Mal Mistry.

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Main Dome

The Mariam-Uz-Zamani mosque is said to be among the most beautiful Mughal structures. The beautiful contrasting colors, the stunning frescoes and the decorated arches are extremely impressive and speak volumes of the taste and aesthetics of the builder. Throughout the interior one can see floral and geometrical patterns in rich colors which together with the crowned double domed prayer chamber are the most striking features of the mosque. The similar colored frescoes are also visible on the ceilings of the Palace of Mariam-Uz-Zamani in Fatehpur Sikri.

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Frescoes

In the centre of the courtyard is a tank for ablutions measuring 31 feet 5 inches by 26 feet 3 inches, now much repaired. A modern roof of reinforced cement concrete supported by two rows of round pillars partially covers the tank. The courtyard must have been paved with brick tiles in usual Mughal fashion, but it has now been completely re-laid in modern brick. On the northwest and southwest corners beside the prayer chamber are the old staircases leading to the roof. Similar staircases on the northeast and southeast corners led to the roof of the cells. Only traces are left now.

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Corner Jeweled Frescoes

The prayer chamber of the mosque is an oblong structure measuring internally 130.5 feet from south to north and 34 feet from east to west. It has five compartments divided by heavy engaged arches supported by massive jambs and surmounted by high domes. The central double dome is the highest, placed on a high, round neck (11 feet 1 inch). The double dome consists of two shells, the inner one being of stucco. A wooden frame connects the two shells for reinforcement. The outer shell (3.5 feet thick) has a small arched opening to the west. The front openings of the chambers, five in number, possess four central arches, the central one being the highest, with a high parapet and a projected frame. The whole outer surface of the front has been treated with thick lime plaster, creating decorative arched panels in recess.

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Interior treated with Lime Plaster

Inside the prayer chamber, there is a series of high, deep arched recesses set in all five compartments on the west. The central mihrab has an engrailed arch treated specially with profuse stucco ornaments which are geometric, floral, and inscriptional. The half-domed niche of the central arched opening and the mihrab has been filled with low stalactites. The remaining four compartments have the same engrailed arch treatment, though comparatively smaller and less decorative.

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Geometric Patterns.Click for the full size image.

At the four corners of the prayer chamber are placed small, square pavilions (6 feet 10 inches) with four arched openings surrounded by cupolas placed on octagonal drums. Originally, the cupolas were crowned with a low cresting and finials, like the five bigger domes over the main prayer chamber. These have now considerably decayed.

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Central Chamber

The mosque stands out for its unique fresco decoration, with which the whole interior surface of the prayer chamber is replete. The paintings are unrivalled for their delicacy, liveliness, perfection of technique, and variety of subject. The endless variety of geometric, floral, and inscriptional designs spread over the interior surface in a subtle colour scheme is not seen elsewhere. The surface has been divided into various panels of different shapes and dimensions according to the space available, and all the soffits, niches, squinches, arches, dome interiors, and apex are covered with these paintings.
Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - THE famous beautiful Central Arch

The squinches have been provided with low stalactites painted with small flower twigs, while the adjoining areas are divided into arched panels which have bold interwoven floral patterns. Some of the borders of the panels have geometric schemes of decoration. The patterns have been mainly created by carving slightly incised lines in white. The interior of the dome has similarly been divided into honeycombed geometric patterns, filled with delicate floral tracery. The small space in between is filled elegantly with stars which bear some of the attributes of Allah done in Naskh characters.

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Originally a Fountain was present

Comparatively small in size, its present exterior hardly provides the foretaste of the wealth of decoration in the prayer hall. ---The central dome rises above the remaining domes and is carried on a drum; while those on the flanking bays are rather flat hemispherical cupolas. The treatment of the enormous dome itself is remarkable in its muqarnas (stalactite squinches) and elegantly painted fresco network.

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Top view of above picture

The mosque was used during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh as a gunpowder manufactory, and on that account it came to be called the Barudkhana Wali Masjid, i.e., The Mosque of GunPowder. The mosque was restored back to the civilians by Major McGregor , the Deputy Commisioner of Lahore, in 1850 along with shops and houses attached to it.

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Front Main Dome Interior


The mosque possesses several inscriptions, both Quranic and Non-Quranic, executed exclusively in plaster in high and bold relief, a characteristic feature, first met with here among the historic Mughal monuments of Lahore. Among the non-Quranic inscriptions, the one executed over the arch of the  entrance gate and one executed on the high facade of the prayer chamber are important, as they record the names and the date of construction of the mosque.

I could find 3 contemporary inscriptions on this mosque, after a lot of digging .!!! 

A 4th inscription was also present,  but i could not scan the clear picture as the archive was badly torn and beyond scanning capability. It was a beautiful passage from The Holy Quran.

The inscription on the entrance gate is in Nastaliq characters, and that on the facade of the prayer chamber is in Naskh-Suls. Here, are the snapshots...


a. Inscription on the Northern Gateway

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Inscription on North Gate

The verses read in Arabic-Persian as follows:
{Thanks to my friend Tamy for reading the Persian lines for me.}

" Allahu Akbar

minat izdak rak e akar ghast karaz ibteda 
hum betafeeq khuda o hukum sahab masnade 
Hazrat Mariam Zamani bali HazMalkaan 
kaz anayat illahi sakhta e jayi hadye 
azpaye tarikh khatam ain e banaye chawan behsaht
fikar mi ker dum ke akhir yaftem khush masjid se "

The verses read after English translation are as follows: 

{I have tried my best to give as correct translation as possible.}

" God is great
God be thanked through whose grace/poise
Under the auspices/divine-token of His Majesty{i.e.,Jahangir} this building was completed.

To the founder of this edifice - of this place of salvation is the Queen Hazrat Mariam Zamani.
For the completion of this edifice which resembles paradise/heaven/jannat/swarga ,
I was thinking (of the date) when at last i found it in words - 'What a fine mosque'! "


The inscription thanks God for the elegance bestowed, and mentions the building was constructed under the 'divine token' of Jahangir. 

Finally, the inscription dedicates the last three lines to Hazrat Mariam-Uz-Zamani, mentioning her as the founder of this imposing building. It is possible that the foundation stone of this building was laid down by her. Further, it adds that, this place is as beautiful as heaven. And then, it seems that the inscription is saying to Mariam-Uz-Zamani - what a fine mosque it has been.

Till date where ever, i have found any mention of Mariam-Uz-Zamani, by her son Jahangir, i have always found this word preceded by the Arabic title - 'Hazrat' . This title lends a divine meaning to the person, on whom it is bestowed upon. In English, it translates to "Her Highness", "Your honor", "Her Holiness". Jahangir has used this title ONLY for his mother, not even for his father Akbar, or no second person.

The piousness of lending this title to his mother can be concluded from the fact that, this title is used for The Prophet - Muhammad Sahab(salla Allahu ʿalay-hi wa-sallam), attaching respect to him.

Jahangir has placed his mother above ALL, in terms of giving her respect. My next post, will deal with this topic in details. This was a brief mention.

b. Inscription on the Eastern Gateway

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Inscription on East Gate

The verses read in Arabic-Persian as follows:

" Shah Alamgir Nur-ud-din Muhammad Badshaah

baad ya raab dr jahan roshan cho loor mehr o mah "

The verses read after English translation are as follows: 

" May the world conqueror Badshaah Nur-ud-din Muhammad
Shine in this world like the sun and moon, O God ! "


The inscription 'prays' to God on behalf of Jahangir, and asks that he may shine in the world like the sun and the moon. The mention of sun along with the moon is very interesting. Moon generally reflects the Muslim association, and sun is revered by the Hindus. This somehow points to 2 conclusions:
i. Jahangir's inclinations towards the faith of his mother.
ii. Jahangir's inclinations towards the other religions keeping in sync with the harmonious leanings of his father Akbar. 

We all know Sun has an important place in the Hindu Mythology. Akbar held Sun in high regard, and started worshiping Sun at some point of his life(not initially), which brought him into conflict with the orthodox Ulemas.!!
It is also certain that this inscription is a prayer from Mariam-Uz-Zamani for her son, considering the kind of words used.

c. Inscription on the Northern Arch

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Inscription on Central Arch

The verses read in Arabic-Persian as follows:

qaala Rasool Sallallaho Allahi Wa sallam al momin fi masjid ka lasmak fi alma "

The verses read after English translation are as follows:

" So, May the Almighty grant him the honor and grant him peace ! The faithful is in a mosque, as the fish is in water. "


Like a fish finds blessings(life) from water, in a similar manner the faithful one finds blessings from the place of worship(mosque), this is what is said by Muhammad Sahab, who may grant to the faithful - mercy and blessings.

Radical Changes witnessed by the mosque in 1890's :

We know that this mosque was handed to the civilians, in 1850. Later, around 1880's it was repaired. This mosque witnessed an unfortunate occurrence after over 280 years of it's construction. The following notice was engraved on the wall of this historic Mosque in 1895 .

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - The Inscription ADDED LATER in 1895

The 'declaration' appears to be in Urdu:{people who understand normal Hindi also can decipher the meaning as mentioned below}

" ba ittefaq-e-anjuman-e-hanafiah wa hukm-e-shara-sharif yeh qarar paya keh koi wahabi, rafizi, naturi wa mirzai masji haaza mein na aaway aur khilaf-e-mazhab-e-hanafi koi baat na karay – faqir ghulam qadir mutwalli masjid begum shahi 1313 Hijri "

The English translation of this 'declaration' is as follows:

" With the consent of the Hanafi Muslim Association and also in accordance with the Islamic Sharia, this was decided that no Wahabi (Salafi), Rafizi (Shia), Naturi (rationalist Muslim) and Mirzai (Ahmadi) is allowed to enter this mosque nor is anyone allowed to say anything against Hanafi sect in this mosque. 

 - By Faqir Ghulam Qadir, Custodian of the Begum Shahi Mosque, 1313 Hijri (1895 A.D.) "


Hanafi Muslims (comprising Barelvis and Deobandis) represent majority of Muslims in Pakistan. By an estimate, Shias represent 20%, Wahabis represent 10% while Ahmadis are estimated to be 3% of Pakistan’s Muslim population.

In sum, the above notice identifies four sects or groups of Muslims who are in numerical minority in Pakistan, and remain subject to various forms of social stereotypes/persecution are barred from entering this historic mosque. The details are NOT related to my topic, nor i would be discussing it here, but i thought of mentioning briefly, as this inscription is present in the mosque precincts now. This info was ONLY for informational purpose.

Present State of the Mosque:

Today, this beautiful mosque lies in a pathetic condition. Time and again several Pakistani newspapers have been demanding and raising the issue of restoration of this mosque and safeguarding it from the illegal encroachment. The articles are listed below with 2 videos.

Mosque of Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum - Encroachment

Here are some of the newspaper articles.

I am looking forward to reading your views on this topic. I will be discussing the topic of this mosque in finer details as comments on this post only.

This article has been posted under the Mughals(Akbar) section of this history BLOG.

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