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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jahanara - Her Father's Daughter

Hi Friends,

Continuing with the story of Princess Jahanara. Here is the previous post..
Jahanara Begum - Padshah Begum or Sufi Fakeera

Princess Jahanara was very much her father's daughter, extremely devoted to him till the end and inheriting his love for buildings and gardens. Shah Jahan too was so fond of her and so dependent on her, specially after the demise of Mumtaz Mahal, that it was said that his affection for her 'exceeded all that he felt towards his other children' and he could not say no to her for anything.  

The Princess Almost Dies...

One particular incident that occurred in 1644 clearly illustrates the deep bond shared by father and daughter. One April night, while she was passing through a hall at night to her sleeping apartment, the border of her delicate dress caught fire from a lamp left burning in the middle of the hall.

'as her consecrated clothing had been saturated with perfume and scented oil, the fire engulfed it completely in the winking of an eye; the flames shot up high, and in a flash the source of happiness and purity became like a moth in a flame.'

The princess was immediately engulfed in flames and almost died! Four servant girls threw themselves on top of her to douse the flames, but their efforts proved unavailing and they too suffered severe burns. It all happened so quickly that before an alarm could be raised and water brought to extinguish the rising flames, 'the back and hands and both sides of the body of that mine of excellence were dreadfully burned'. 

Shah Jahan was inconsolable. He kept donating alms so that the recipients would pray for Jahanara's recovery. Whenever she seemed to be getting a little better, he donated a thousand rupees a day and freed prisoners. He himself took great personal care of her.

Jahanara took over 8 months to recover and walk unassisted

The Iranian doctor who finally cured her was rewarded and given a small mansab. Jahanara's recovery was celebrated grandly. At this celebration, Shah Jahan donated 80,000 rupees. He also gave his daughter 139 unpierced pearls, a diamond and the port of Surat. 

Jahanara herself went on a pilgrimage to Ajmer Sharif to offer thanks for her recovery, in the tradition of her ancestors.

A Passion for Buildings

Apart from her own passion for poetry and painting, Jahanara also inherited her father's love for aesthetically built and grandly designed buildings. 

She had inherited half of her mother's immense fortune upon the latter's passing away. She also received a handsome annual allowance from the emperor and made profits from her maritime business, especially from her trade with the Dutch. 

In Shahjahanabad, which was constructed by her father, she laid out the Chandni Chowk, a palace, a bathhouse, and several gardens. Between 1634 and 1640, she was involved in making alterations to a garden in Kashmir. In 1648, she donated a mosque made of white marble and red sandstone to Agra. This mosque is now known as the Jami mosque.

She used to ensure that the widows of the mansabdars were taken care of. 

An Excellent Education

Jahanara had received the best education of that time. One of her teachers was Satti Khanum, who had been a lady-in-waiting for her mother and was also the sister of Jahangir's poet laureate, Talib-i-Amuli. She taught the princess classical Persian and the Qur'an.

Note: When Satti Khanum died (1637), she was buried in an octagonal mausoleum near the Taj Mahal, like other women who had been closely associated with the Mughal family.

Putting her erudition to good use, Jahanara contributed a lot to the arts and to learning. She got compiled a series of works on Islamic mysticism, including numerous commentaries on Rumi's Mathnawi

The books written by her are listed in the earlier post on Jahanara.
Jahanara Begum - Padshah Begum or Sufi Fakeera

Looking After the Family

Jahanara, popularly known as Begum Sahib, had been responsible for the harem since her mother died. She had also taken care of her younger siblings, including arranging their weddings.  

She had lovingly made the arrangements for her brother Dara's wedding to his cousin Nadira Banu and spent lavishly on the festivities. For the first time since Mumtaz's death, Shah Jahan permitted singing and dancing in court.

When her father was imprisoned, she devoted 8 years of her life to taking care of him in prison. She tended to the dying Shah Jahan like a mother and was beside him when he breathed his last. 

Jahanara was the only one who could criticize Aurangzeb and his bigotic policies.That someone like Aurangzeb continued to hold her in high esteem, despite her criticism of his actions and her earlier support to Dara, speaks volumes about her venerable persona. 

Aurangzeb's daughter Zeb-un-nisa (born in 1639)  was close to her aunt, Jahanara. She was more of a spiritual person rather than a practical or assertive one. Like her aunt, Zeb devoted her life to poetry and mysticism and remained unmarried. 

Zeb received the Tees Hazari, the imposing garden house of Jahanara as her property. Here she built one of the best libraries of her time.

Jahanara adopted Dara's daughter, Jani Begum. Jani was totally devoid of bitterness and hatred despite her tragic background. Just how loving a person she was can be gauged by the fact that Aurangzeb also became extremely fond of her and personally asked Jahanara for Jani's hand in marriage to his favorite son, Azam. The wedding was celebrated in a grand manner.   

While Suleiman Shikoh, Dara's son, was killed by Aurangzeb, Jahanara was able to get Dara's younger son, Siphir Shikoh pardoned by Aurangzeb.

Jahanara must have played a crucial role in also arranging the weddings of the other children of her siblings with the children of Aurangzeb. This must have been quite a challenge considering how much Aurangzeb hated his brothers and got them killed. 

Suleiman Shikoh's daughter Salima Begum was married to Aurangzeb's son Muhammad Akbar. Siphir Shikoh was married to Aurangzeb's daughter, Zubdatunnisa Begum. Murad Baksh's son, Izid Baksh was married to Aurangzeb's daughter, Mehrunnisa Begum.  

Begum Sahib Jahanara passed away on September 7th, 1681. But she is still remembered with respect and affection even today. 

This topic was posted under the Miscellaneous Topics section of history_geek's blog.

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  1. Radhika,

    Another nice post. It seems to me that, chronologically after MUZ, the lady which has aroused your curiosity level to know more, is Jahanara Begum. :)

    And why not.?. She was a nice lady in many aspects. Contrast her with his father and her brother Aurangzeb, and we find a difference of heaven and earths in it.!!!!!

    I want to share a brief anecdote about her burning. Adding some insights to the points already mentioned in your post. :)

    As you mentioned , Shah Jahan was in anguish and pain at that accident. He was to be present ever at her bed-side and apply medicine to her wounds, and food used to enter her mouth through the hands of her father. He took great care of hers.

    All but the most urgent State affairs were neglected ; the daily Mughal durbar , the Diwan-e-Aam, was reduced to a few minutes. Every physician of note from far and near was assembled for treating her.

    Vast sums were daily given away in charity to receive the blessings for her cure. About the donation of Rs.1000 there is an interesting story. Every night a sum of Rs.1000 was kept under her pillow, and next morning distributed to the beggars.

    Officials who were undergoing imprisonment for failure to account for their property or for embezzlement of funds were set free, and their debts, amounting to 7 lacs were written off.!!!

    Every evening Shah Jahan knelt down till midnight, weeping and imploring God for her recovery.

    For 4 months she hovered between life and death. There were less chances of her survival. Indeed, there was little hope of her recovery. Two of her four maids, though less severely burnt, died in a few weeks. This further added to the worry regarding her life.

    By good fortune(for Jahanara) , the doctor of the previous king of Iran, who had fled from that country due to the wrath of his successor, reached Agra twenty days after Jahanara was burnt. His magical medicines removed many of her troubles like her fever and weakness.

    But both he and the royal physician of Shifa Khana of Delhi, failed to heal her burn wounds "completely". Finally, her wounds were healed "completely" by a "strange healing lep" of a slave in Delhi named Aarif.

    And the rest of the story has been mentioned here. An interesting post. :)

  2. Abhay,

    Thank you for adding these details, making the post complete. :)

    Yes, two maids lost their lives, poor things.:(

    Jahanara's faith in Sufism also enabled her to recover and must have strengthened her beliefs for life.

    The slave, Aarif, must have been richly rewarded.

    Shah Jahan was pretty close to the women in his life and seemed to be excessively attached to them. Whether Mumtaz Mahal or Jahanara, he seemed to break down emotionally and psychologically, if anything happened to them.

    Is it true that Shah Jahan was angry with Aurangzeb because the latter didn't come immediately to see Jahanara after the fire accident?

  3. Abhay

    It's not just Jahanara; I am intrigued by all the leading Mughal ladies.

    MUZ has you, Preeti, Iqra and many others to read / write about her. But the other ladies are ensconced in obscurity when they too deserve at least a footnote in history. :)

  4. Radhika,
    I have read this that Shah Jahan was angry with Aurangzeb when he was late in coming to meet Jahanara.
    I have not read this from a well researched book/authority, hence i have no confirmation of this fact at present. :)

  5. Radhika, n Abhay, very interesting n enlightening post.! We can say , her whole life was spent dedicated to the services of her family if she would do only good things,study good literature,. Passing of her mother at an early age must hv made her motherly figure, n thrown a huge responsibility on her young shoulder.
    It's a tragedy that such a beautiful natured woman shud hv encountered such a horrific accident ! In the absense of advanced medicine n plastic surgery, it's a miracle that she survived.I thank both of u fr this heartening post!!

  6. Welcome, Geeta!

    You are right - it must have been horrific to recover from those extensive burns with the medicines available in those days. I read that her body was still "burning" when she undertook the trip to Ajmer Sharif. How she must have suffered! The experience of suffering ennobles some people even more.

  7. Radhika, you have presented a beautiful and informative write-up elucidating the personality and talents of the apple of Shah Jahan's eye, Jahanara Begum.

    Their relationship justifies the saying of Euripides, 'to a father growing old, nothing is dearer than a daughter'. A compassionate and selfless lady, she took care of him with the devotion equivalent to a mothers' during the last days of his life.

    I cannot imagine Shah Jahan's pain and despair when his loving child suffered burn injuries.There was limited care available, for burn related trauma, several hundreds of years ago. I do not even wish to visualize the enormity of Jahanara Begum's pain. I am inclined to believe that her recovery from this unfortunate incident, is nothing short of a miracle, accomplished due to her unshakeable faith in the Prophet.

    She was a proficient writer and authored her views on Sufism for future generations to benefit from. She was also a poetess and painter. Her influence for learning rubbed off on Zeb-un-nissa, daughter of Aurangzeb, who paid the ultimate tribute to her aunt, by building a library on a piece of land that she inherited from her ( Jahanara Begum ).

    This multitalented lady also had a keen eye for tasteful architecture and made numerous contributions by constructing gardens and mosques.

    Her humanitarian side is seen from the care that she provided for the widows of the high ranking officials of the sultanate. This nurturing side of her nature, extended to family members too. She arranged for suitable alliances for her sibling, nieces and nephews. Even a person as authoritative and rigid as Aurangzeb loved and respected her. This aspect alone, speaks volumes about her amiable personality.

    She was an extraordinary lady who commanded the love and respect of everyone she interacted with. I an not surprised that she was the favorite child of Shah Jahan.

    I appreciate your efforts for compiling this brilliant post that has educated me on facts about the admirable daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal : Jahanara Begum.

  8. radhika dear - excellent informative post. u r making me crave 4 mor . i can c thru y aurangzeb was in awe of 'tis sister. becoz saints do not fear ny1. dere magic works on all. 'tis iz 4 jahanara fakeera -

    Az kar aan ta ba kar aan lash kare zulam hast agar
    Az azal ta ba abad fur sate durve shaan hast

  9. Iqra,

    Can you pls translate these lines of verse? :)

    If we read about the Mughal women, they were all vibrant, dynamic ladies, pretty sure of themselves and wonderfully educated and talented. I am really fascinated by their lives, Iqra. And it was so sad that the life that women even today desire - to have a home and husband/kids of their own, was denied to them. But nowhere do they appear like they led incomplete lives. They found meaning and satisfaction in other pursuits and left a lasting legacy.

  10. Charu,

    Thanks :) You have summarized the personality of Jahanara beautifully!

  11. Radhika,
    A doubt.Why are the mughal princess denied to marry?Is it because they don't have cousins..

  12. Thanks Radhika for sharing this highly interesting and informative post.

  13. Yes Priya. This is one of the biggest reasons. :)

  14. radhika - meaning iz -- tat saints do not fear anyone even if der iz danger every where. the translation iz --
    if from one horizon to the other der iz an an army of invaders
    even den from the beginning till d end saints r free 4rm fear

  15. Priya,

    Wonderful to hear from you again!

    Abhay gave the answer recently - there were no suitable grooms at par with the Mughal princesses, or the suitors were considered dangerous (that is, they might lay claim to the throne), or there were no cousins.

    Priya and Abhay,

    Mughals had this practice of foster mothers. Foster children and genetic children are considered equal / siblings and not permitted to marry each other. A new born prince would be nursed for a time by different noblewomen for the first few months of his life. The children of such foster mothers would be considered siblings. In this way, a closed network of relationships would be formed.

    This may have been done to prevent princes from marrying into the families of close associates of the emperor, which would have caused political problems.

  16. Thanks for the detailed explanation and information radhika.
    Despite the trying situations the way jahanara took her life
    and lived is so inspiring.No wonder she was special to shahjahan and aurangazeeb

  17. thank u Radhika...great to read about her...actually after MUZ, it is only her makes me feel knowing more.

  18. thanks Abhay for the details...weren't they typical father-daughter? :))

  19. The more I read about Jahanara Begum, the more intriguing her personality seems to be Radhika :)....Such a hold she has on her father, brothers and even nieces/nephews (this despite so much dislike/bloodshed within this royal family)....
    PS: A few months back I read something about Shahjahan-Jahanara Begum relationship which left a bad taste in my mouth.....Don't know if it is true or a malicious attempt by enemies.......If you or Abhay can clarify, then please do.......

  20. Pallavi,
    It is a rumor, the point which you are mentioning, which was propelled by some contemporary accounts (read gossips). It is tough to say, I am not sure if that is true or not. But, I do not want to believe it. :)

  21. Pallavi

    Only one person wrote like that - Niccolao Manucci, Italian writer. It was refuted strongly by Francois Bernier, the French physician and traveller.

    I don't give credence to such stories.

    Jahanara had her flaws, but she was also a Sufi and would never have entered into any forbidden relationship.

  22. Tamy,

    They are not the only ones. There are many other interesting women in the Mughal empire. We can discover them slowly. :)

  23. welcome, PRiya! GLad you liked it! :)

  24. Thank you Abhay and Radhika :) ......Me too do not want to believe it, especially considering the various facets of this very spiritual, religious, strong yet simple lady :) ....

  25. Mughal women having so much authority makes me feel a proud Muslim girl :)))
    share more once u get to know.

  26. Tamy,

    Definitely! I want to learn about and share with everyone the wonderful lives of these lovely, talented ladies :)

    You have a great culture to be proud of. :) I esp like the language - it's so poetic and regal. I so longed to hear some beautiful Urdu dialogues, shayari, songs in JA, but was vastly disappointed. Even Tansen didn't get any good songs/music. :(