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.