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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Royal Women's Hajj - An Unusual Haraman Initiative During Akbar's Reign..!!

According to the Akbarnama, Akbar was at the center of everything that happened in his empire. However, the collective royal women's pilgrimage to Mecca is an exceptional moment in the history of the Mughals. It is one of those rare moments that shakes the patriarchal language of the Mughal chronicles, which otherwise swirl around only the emperor and his achievements. 

Akbar and his biographer Abul Fazl tried to project the harem as being inaccessible to the outside world. However, the harem inmates (haraman) lost no opportunity to show that they could not be so easily domesticated or entombed in bejeweled marble palaces. We have discussed the undertakings of the various begums in other posts on the blog. People may think that it was only Jehangir who allowed Nur Jehan so much sway in his reign. But, in reality, the image of the emperor as the ultimate power center and being at the helm of affairs was never more shaken than by Akbar's harem.

This is best illustrated by the hajj initiative of Gulbadan Begum in the 157os.The Akbarnama has covered this pilgrimage in detail.

As I said before, this independent journey by the royal women way back in the 16th century, when women were confined to the purdah, raises many questions about the absoluteness of Akbar as the monarch (zil-i-ilahi), the making of the harem and the unusual initiatives of the women within the confines of the harem.

Abul Fazl refers to this trip as "the visit to the Hijaz of the veiled ladies of the Caliphate."

Gulbadan Begum, Akbar's aunt (and Humayun's sister) had "long ago, made a vow to visit the holy places." The Akbarnama records that she had been unable to fulfill this vow because the route to Mecca from Gujarat was unsafe, especially for women. When relative calm returned to Gujarat and "the masters of the European islands" ("amiran-i-jazair-i-farang") had become submissive, Gulbadan Begum broached the topic with Akbar. Akbar instantly gave her permission along with a large sum of money and goods. Abul Fazl says the caravan left on 8/9 October, 1575 and stayed for three and a half years in Mecca!!!. (This time is exclusive of the travel time. ) 

Even by today's standards, it would be amazing for a group of elderly women to go and stay alone in Mecca for so long!

Gulbadan Begum's Request to go for Hajj is Granted

Note: The dates of departure and return are not known exactly. But the Akbarnama notes the date of return as 13 April, 1582, which is not compatible with the suggestion that the women stayed in Mecca for three and a half years. Henry Beveridge, who translated the Akbarnama, suggests that the royal party may have started back in 1580 or the beginning of 1581. Then the voyage to Surat, the detention in Gujarat, the journey to Ajmer for a supplementary pilgrimage, and then onto Fatehpur Sikri would have taken another year.

Who were the women who accompanied Gulbadan Begum?

Hamida Banu Begum was conspicuous by her absence from the trip. She had a very important intercessory role in Akbar's court. The presence and support of senior women was critical to the running of the empire and so one or 2 senior women from the harem, including Hamida Banu Begum and the trusted Bibi Fatima, stayed back to support Akbar. Hamida Banu Begum was required to advise, to intervene, to conciliate, and even to conduct the administration sometimesSuch occasions had to be considered in advance. (She took charge of Delhi on one occasion around 1580's when Akbar marched to Kabul to suppress a conspiracy to install Mirza Hakim as the emperor. This shows the immense amount of respect Akbar had for his mother and his belief in her capabilities as Malika-i-Azam. I cannot recall any other Mughal emperor who showed so much faith in his mother, except perhaps Babur.) 

Note: Abhay had mentioned that Hamida Banu Begum may have gone alone on a separate Hajj pilgrimage before this trip by Gulbadan Begum. He had also talked about this Hajj pilgrimage by Gulbadan Begum and Salima Sultan Begum therein. Link | See Point #26.

The other elderly women of the harem including mothers, aunts and other senior women accompanied Gulbadan Begum. They included Salima Sultan Begum (Akbar's wife), the daughters of Mirza Kamran (Akbar's step-sisters) - Haji Begum and Gul'azar Begum, a wife of Mirza Askari - Sultan Beguma wife of Babur - Gulnar Agha and old servants - Bibi Safiya, Bibi Sarw Sahi and Shaham Agha. The only relatively young people were Gulbadan Begum's granddaughter - Kulsum Khanam (nothing is known about her) and Salima Khanum (daughter of Khizr Khvaja Khan). Note that Salima Sultan was the only wife of Akbar who went on the trip. No young wife of Akbar was included. 

This shows perhaps the privilege and respect enjoyed by the elderly women in the harem. Of course, the senior women felt a greater need to go on the trip, given their advanced age. And the younger women may have been kept back for their protection.

The Hajjis

Note: Pls see both the pictures above for the list of the names of the women who went on the pilgrimage. 

It is interesting to see the women who formed Akbar's harem. They included many senior women like Babur's wives, his father's and uncle's wives and their servants too. Though there may have been much rancour among the men for the throne, Akbar took all the women and children under his protection. This respect for women was part of his Mughal-Timurid tehzeeb and something that we should appreciate. It was this tradition that passed on to the other generations and enabled the other emperors to value their wives and mothers / sisters.

The Return of the Hajjis

There was much rejoicing when the women finally returned home. In Abul Fazl's words, when the litter of "that chaste lady" Gulbadan Banu Begum reached Ajmer, Prince Salim, "the pearl of the crown",  was sent off to meet her. Every day, one court noble would be sent to convey their salutations. After Akbar himself joined the cortege of women, "there were hospitalities, and that night they remained awake and in pleasing discourses." The next day, a glorious homecoming to Fatehpur Sikri was arranged for the hajjis.

Home Come the Hajjis to a Glorious Reception by Akbar Himself

Note: Pls see the last sentence in this picture carefully. It clearly mentions that the ladies had spent 3 years and 6 months in that country. Like I said earlier, this was the period of stay in Mecca and didn't include travel time.

What a mark of respect Akbar showed his aunt and the other ladies! It is so heartwarming to see that he went all the way to Ajmer to receive them personally and to bring them back to Fatehpur Sikri. Which emperor would do that?   

Other accounts also recorded the return of these chaste women.

"When his aunt returned from Mekka, the king had the street-pavements covered with silken shawls, and conducted her himself to her palace in a gorgeous litter, scattering largesse meanwhile to the crowd."

How the Trip had been Planned and Undertaken

No doubt Akbar supported the women generously and showed immense respect to his aunt for taking the onerous initiative. However, we will be doing the women a great disservice if we do not take their own varied concerns/interests while planning activities and undertaking initiatives. The chronicles describe how the women themselves did the planning to a great deal

Gulbadan Begum, while "preparing for a journey to Mecca", was staying at Surat. As a diplomatic overture to the Portuguese so that they would cooperate, she gave them the town of Butzar (or Bulsar).  

It is interesting to note that the young princes Salim(aged only 6) and Murad(aged only 5) were also sent by Akbar, to pay respects/accompany the ladies till the shore of the ocean, but "turned back" by Gulbadan Begum.

This was a really major decision - not to take any royal male escort. The faith the ladies had in themselves and the faith Akbar had in them is reflected in this decision.
A shipwreck and the consequent stay of the women at Aden for a year also indicate a most unusual enterprise by mostly elderly women of that era. Even by today's standards, it was a bold and highly significant adventure given the constraints of the passage and other restrictive circumstances.  

Badauni says that both the routes that could be taken for the Haj were inaccessible at the time. One route was through Shia Iraq (the Mughals were mostly Sunnis) and the other through Gujarat, across the Arabian Sea, that required a pass that "bore the idolatrous stamp of the heads of the Virgin Mary and of Jesus Christ ('on whom be peace')". It would have been quite disconcerting to the hajjis to accept the stamp of Jesus Christ on their passes!

Abul Fazl also says that Akbar was aware of the problems associated with the trip and had instructed "the great amirs, the officers of every territory, the guardians of the passes, the watchmen of the borders, the river-police and the harbour masters" to perform "good services" for the ladies.

Recall that in the 1570s, Akbar had started debates on spirituality and religion in the Ibadat Khana at Fatehpur Sikri. He may have permitted the trip for a political purpose - to reinforce the Islamic face of the Mughal empire to his people, facing as he was rebellions and charges from Muslims that he was venturing outside the limits of Islam. But the keenness of the women to perform the pilgrimage must also have weighed down on him.

Of all hajj trips undertaken by Mughal women, this trip was surely special because it was solely a women's hajj trip, with no royal male escort! Whatever compulsions may have driven Akbar, he supported this trip whole-heartedly. This is most remarkable because such an incident did not recur in the reign of any of his successors. May be they felt no need to "consolidate" their power. Or may be because the subsequent kings successfully kept the women under wraps and did not provide them with the opportunity to undertake exceptional initiatives, such as this trip.    

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

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  1. Awesome Post Radhika.
    So many insights, in one single post.!! :)

    The memoirs written by Abul Fazl are completely in sync with the patriarchal setting. Compare it with the Memoirs of Humayun written by Gulbadan Begum and you will see the difference, where a lot of importance is being shown to the royal ladies.

    You are right in saying that, this particular incident demonstrates the capability those women had in those days, and they were indeed assigned important role in the administration.

    I have been constantly mentioning that it was during Akbar's time that the harem became so much involved in administration. The incident of Gulbadan Begum assigning a town to the Portuguese reinforces the point. :)

  2. treasure aftr treasure nd yet another treasure.. i hv said b4 n i say now tat 'tis blog iz coming up wid posts breaking many stereotypes abt medieval society. it iz no small a feat 2 go 2 mecca haj tat 2 widout senior male members.
    gr8 going radhika. ur posts lend deep meaning 2 d events.

  3. Thank you so much Radhika for this beautiful post.

  4. Iqra,

    This post is dedicated to you. :) I was thinking of you as I was writing this and I knew it would be more special and significant for you than for many of us.

    Even today, going to a Muslim country alone (without male escorts) and staying there for such a long period is quite a feat for many women. And then added to this were the difficult passage and other problems that cropped up during the travel, which these courageous ladies bore all alone. I was really stunned by this incident - what magnificent women!!! What courage, what resilience, what self-reliance and what self-confidence on their part!

    And what liberality in letting the women go alone on Akbar's part! He must have been so proud when they returned triumphant that he gave them a victorious warrior's welcome with complete state honours. Just most awesome!

  5. Sindhu,

    Welcome :) It's woman power to the fore :)

  6. Abhay

    Nothing slips by you! :)

    Yes, the difference between Abul Fazl and other male historians' writing and Gulbadan Begum's writing is great. They wrote keeping Akbar (or other emperors of the time) in mind. Women were relegated to minor footnotes, with even mothers of crown princes being barely mentioned.

    Gulbadan Begum wrote about the domestic affairs, the evolution of the harem, the relations of the emperors with the harem folk, and the influence of the harem women on the empire and its administration. She gave an intimate and eye witness account of the evolution and consolidation of the Mughal empire in Hindustan from the time of Babur to Akbar. The details she knew and the access she had to the most private aspects of family life lends an unparalleled richness to her accounts. She wrote with affection and candor in a matter-of-fact manner without ever coloring any event with personal bias. I feel AKbar made the best decision of his life when he encouraged her to compile the memoirs.

    Still many people rely only on Akbarnama, Ain-i-Akbari and the like to learn about the Mughal sultanat, passing over her memoirs as being of trivial consequence. They do not know what they are missing.

    I was also surprised that she went to Surat to prepare for the trip and even had the power to grant a whole town to foreigners! Those women that we dismiss as living behind the purdah and being 16th century submissive ones were no pushovers. They had tremendous rights and power and associated status and influence in the court.

    When I read about the power of MUZ and Nur Jehan, I kept going back in time. And what a surprise! The women right upto the Mongol roots were all powerful and at par with the men. So if we talk about a Nur Jehan ruling the empire, it would be prudent to remember that she was only standing on the shoulders of these great women before her who had already laid down the tradition of women being equal partners in the administration.

  7. Excellent write-up Radhika.

    Loved to read that women from that era stood up courageously in undertaking an arduous pilgrimage to Mecca and back. They earned the respect of Akbar, who was aware of their capabilities, willingly sent them off on this lengthy trip and accorded them a respectful welcome upon their return three and a half years later.

    This article clearly proves that during the reign of Akbar, women were held in high respect and were not mere decorative pieces. Whether it was a Maham Anga, Mariam Makani, Gulbadan Begum, Salima Begum or Jodha Bai, all these women held positions of distinction in political matters and commanded respect by exhibiting their skills.

    An all-womens Haj trip is something spectacular and praiseworthy, especially considering the fact that it happened several hundreds of years ago.

    Thanks again for presenting this informative and enlightening article.

  8. Radhika,

    I completely agree with you. :)
    Gulbadan Begum recounted every thing ranging from those events where females played a major role. But, this thing is somewhat missing in Akbarnama. Though, here also at some points we have exceptions. :)

    I would like to mention that the translator of Akbarnama, Mr. Beveridge has given a critical note on Akbar and Abul Fazl. He seems quite annoyed with Abul Fazl for his "over-flattery/praise" of Akbar. He has written LONG note of many pages. :-P
    ^^This was as per Beveridge. :)

  9. This is another major difference that struck me as much as it did Mr. B.

    Abul Fazl could not be critical of Akbar and had to use sugar-coated language for recounting anything, lest Akbar should get angry. See how he described the build-up to Chittor war? Badauni was critical in his writing but afraid to publish his accounts during Akbar's time.

    This is where Gulbadan Begum scored - she was not afraid of Akbar and could be honest in her narrative.

    She had access to the Harem and could directly report what happened there. The male writers had to rely on what Akbar told them to write.

    Sometimes, I am beginning to think that we feel records have been erased by the later Mughals but the records may never have been made in the first place about ladies like MUZ because Akbar wanted to keep his women under wraps. (Now, don't jump at me for saying this, but this suspicion is growing in my mind.)

    Since very few instances of women-related stuff are mentioned by Abul Fazl, it's even more remarkable that Gulbadan Begum's Haj was covered in detail. Akbar must have been unduly impressed to get it chronicled, with the names. :)

  10. Mr. B. seems to be like me - for getting annoyed with the excessive praise and for making LONG notes LOL

  11. Radhika loved reading it

  12. thnk u radhika.
    i hv read 'tis post many a times since itz posted. loved every detail.
    not just me bt many mates frm my institution frequent 'tis blog.
    its amazing place 2 discuss history. wonderful initiative.

  13. Radhika,its Amaging, Its a Important informetion, Provide by refelects Many Points..
    GB, wrote about internal part of Harem, Sure its a Right +beneficial decision Because, Women, Psychology, +Man Psychology, Have a difference, so Women which will wite,it will show coin, other side also. or she wrote about Harem, internal side, so its Precious for others, or Even today also.

    But Clearly shows women will power, tough situations, tough way, she went, & Stayed, a big time. Women desires first respected by Akbar, & He tried to completed, them, Its Great, or in 16 cen. 21 cen, people less think,

    Akbar planned this trip, well arranged, manner, Even he thought, Ways problems,
    & worked on it, After reading, this How serial damaging the Image Of Akbar. If a person, Sees things to the Core, of depth, & solves coming problems, Which, is
    seen, indirectely, or we can say , Maybee Coming, so its shows cleary his Awareness.
    Realy he was king of Hindustan, managing system clearly seeing. if we count today's educational degrees, i think, Many Degree' honour goes to Akbar, Lol,

    He went, with his Childs (son), to welcome the ladies., or spending night in Ajmer
    they talked about, their memories. or what can we accept, a King.

    Salim +Murad went, Is Jodha also went,? Because Childs were not so big, if jodha not went,so child lived without, her MOM. (Have A fun, if this happened, Akbar surely realised, How Mother duty, is different to Father, or very tough, Lol.
    HB, sent to Delhi shows, HB intelligenci+Akbar knows how his Mother is Active +intelligent+or His Mother has working abilites. this point, clears, Akbar knows, Which time, which person is important, or , necessary.So he knows her Mother estemena.

    Is Ruk anytime also went for Hazz. Nurjaha.Or any begum?

    is any information, Jodha, went for Any TEerath?

    But this Post shows, in Internal side of Harem, Women have also a Life, they lived acc to own desires also. In Akbar time. you wrote about Babur wife, Babur wife when dead, is any information.

  14. What a delightful post, Radhika! I must say, u hv the ability to see thru n go into the depth of seemingly, simple incidents. :) U hv brought forth the hardship of all women's pilgrimmage in the 16th century, n how they were overcome by enthu women! Hats off to Gulbadan begum fr initiating such a wonderful , innovative thought !She might hv incurred resistance out of hesitation, inside harem n outside. But the thought of going to Mecca, must hv overcome all that, though.
    All ladies' journey must hv been not less than a picnic.:)Did MUZ/ Akbar took this pilgrimmage any time? Afterwards she was handlng this
    As far as chronicles r concerned, it is possible that Gulbadan might be knowing more conspiracy, n secrets than Abu'l Fazl, in the harem, I mean.:) She cud express that more freely, because there had been hardly any incident of begums being punished by kings in Mughal sultanat. They seem to be more linient n respectful towards women. :)

  15. Geeta

    So glad you liked it! :)

    I agree with your views. Gulbadan had the advantage of being Akbar's aunt and could get away with more than Abul Fazl, no matter how close Fazl was to Akbar. :)

    I am not aware as of now about Akbar or MUZ going to Haj. :) Will share with you if I ever read it.

  16. Ayushi,

    You have picked on all the critical points of the incident. :) And your questions are worth pondering over. Let me see if I can answer any of those in coming days. :) Or if anyone else can answer.

    I agree completely with your analysis of Akbar's character. Life is the biggest university and the degree it confers on an individual is more valuable than any other degree from any university. :)

  17. Sunram,

    So glad you liked it :) Pls share something more from your reading.

  18. Iqra,

    That is so good! :) Pls ask them to join the discussions here - the more, the better.

  19. There is no questn of not liking ur post:) That too on women's spirit .! But, Radhika, I wanted to point out to Abhay, that he has still not taken us on Ajmer trip yet.! And u hv already taken us to Hajj pilgrimagge via samunder marg, n came back also.:) We also had jashn without any obstacle.:)

  20. LOL Geeta ! When he takes you finally, you will remember it for life :)

  21. HO HO HO! MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL BLOG READERS. May this season bring joy and peace to all.

    Radhika as usual an insightful post. As Geeta said you have a knack for bringing
    out the unusual in a seemingly small event.
    I remember this incident when reading the Akbarnama but you have elucidated
    the significance beautifully. I have a lot to say about this incident along with questions for you folks. I hope this encourages an active discussion this post deserves :)

    1.Radhika you have talked about woman power but I can’t resist
    talking about the man behind this event . As in the passage you posted , Fazl himself said “ All his desire is that EVERY CLASS OF MANKIND may become religious and worship God in accordance with the measure of theirfaith”—In other words Suhl i kul. These lines give wonderful insight into his religious views at this time. Wonderful things were happening to Akbar around this time Radhika. You talked about the Ibadatkhana debates. It is in this exact year 1675
    that Akbar gave orders to build the Ibadatkhana where all those wonderful debates
    between various religions had taken place.

    His Journey from Jallaludin Mohammad Ghazi to Shehenshah Akbar had begun
    in earnest.

    Going on Hajj in those days was extremely perilous. Especially the voyage by sea. It was understandable that elder ladies would go. But that he would send his wife (one who was dear to him) on such a journey alone without him is truly remarkable.

    Another reason to pay my respects to this mightiest of Emperors!

    2. GULBADAN BEGUM: What a remarkable woman. Yes Radhika it is fortunate for us that the lost Humayunama was found. It gave us a unique insight into the Harem from the eyes of a Mughal lady. But guys why did she stop with Humayuns biography. Many historians have lamented that she never wrote a single line about Akbar’s harem and reign. Even though she lived until almost the very end of his reign. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if this gifted writer or Salima Begum (another gifted writer) had penned down some lines about the life and goings on in Akbar’s era?

    Can you share your sources about the planning of this trip by the ladies as well as her granting a town to the portugese? Does that mean that she could also issue
    farmaans? I would love to read about these chronicles

    3. SALIMA BEGUM: My respect for this lady grows by the day.
    BUT I am a bit taken aback by these events in someways. I disagree with you Radhika: I do not think 36 years is old. Its about the time Nur Jehan and Jehangir gotmarried.

    ** I am startled that a lady who is in the thick of ghar grihasthi would leave her husband and wards ( Murad and a daughter?) and embark on a long journey of 7 yrs from which there is small chance you won’t come back? Would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this

    4. There are many misconceptions about the ladies behind the
    veil of the Mughal Harem. There is a Portugese account about MUZ that is amazing ( Abhay you may have mentioned it somewhere also I think): Apparently MUZ was travelling towards a sea port for trading when her caravan was attacked. Shewas left without any money and some Jesuits priests helped her out Until Salim could get there to assist her. He was apparently serving in the deccan at that time as PRINCE SALIM. So it happened in Akbar’s reign. Try to imagine this guys! A Mughal Emperor whose ladies were supposedly sheltered from the outside world allows one of his chief wives to travel for her business outside of the Harem, Amazing!!! I thought Mughal ladies could not do that.

    5. The welcome they received when they came back should not
    surprise anyone. Any Muslim will tell you this that going to Hajj is a huge deal.
    When you come back your respect in the comminuity increases a lot and
    the returning Hajjis are given a hero’s welcome even today. The entire family and community comes out to greet you and there are huge celebrations that follow. Iqra and Tamy can vouch for that. So Akbar's celebrations would have been grand

  22. Preeti, I agree with u,contrary to the common belief regarding muslim women these women in ageold centuries were loving their independence, followed their own passion. However, we must also give credit to the men behind them, who made these things possible.Like in case of Zeb, how her wings were cut off by her own father. One of the fine poetess of this country, but nobody knows her name! It holds true irrespective of cast, creed, n religion. The environment around girls shud me made favourable fr their independent thinking. But sadly, today, fundamentalists r clipping girl's wings on trivial pretext.
    As far as returning frm pilgrimmage is concerned, we Hindus also hv that tradition of celebrating Teerthyatra, especially Kashiyatra.I remember, relatives frm far had come to meet n bow down to my mother in law after this yatra n we also had celebration as Kashisamaradhana :) If going to Kashi is celebrated thus, then we can imagine going out of country n it's uncertainties :)

  23. Hi Preeti

    You seem to have enjoyed Christmas a lot :)

    You have praised Akbar for supporting the trip and yet you seem to take it for a given that he should have welcomed the hajjis warmly "for that is how hajjis are welcomed back even today". :)

    I agree with you and Geeta that centuries back, any pilgrimage was fraught with peril and a safe return was not guaranteed. And hence the ritual of welcoming grandly pilgrims returning home even today.

    It is upto us to see the wonder in any event instead of dismissing it as being common place and something which even ordinary folk do. In that case, even ordinary folk celebrate the birth of a son (esp one born after much waiting) grandly and respect their mothers. But we still value the painting of Salim's birth and the fact that he respected his mother so much. Likewise, to me, it appeared a wonderful gesture that Akbar should go all the way to Ajmer to receive the Hajjis and welcome them grandly back home. And it didn't seem a grand gesture to me alone but even to his contemporaries, who have described it effusively. If it was common place to welcome Hajjis so grandly, why would the chroniclers mention it especially and that too in such a descriptive manner instead of dismissing it like many other events by simply stating it in a single sentence? :)

    Akbar was opening up to other religions at that time and raising the hackles of the ulema. He may have supported this Haj trip to appease these people. Which is why he may have sent his wife (no where have I called her old, i have merely said the ladies were mostly elderly) in a symbolic gesture.

    Abhay has mentioned that Salima had no children of her own and Murad was only given to her for a few years initially for upbringing. So she was not reneging on any responsibility when she went on Haj.

    The information for this article has been verified from the Akbarnama, which you have already read. Another book that I read was

    Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World by Ruby Lal.

    You can read this book too - it's a treat and you can verify the contents of this article from both places. :)

    Btw, Iqra has already has shared her views on this article. :) She was moved by the account of women going for this pious trip in spite of the odds they faced.

  24. Hi Everyone,

    Every article of mine is verified by Abhay before it is posted on blog. Even the comments I write are checked by him.

    Both of us share what we read from genuine sources only. We have always been open about our sources and welcome anyone who wishes to verify them. :)

  25. Radhika, the question of doubting you or Abhay as to the authenticity of your posts never arises. It is the only reason why we keep coming to this blog. Please do not misunderstand our thirst for new information as doubting you in any way. I am only speaking for myself here: the reason for asking you for your sources is ONLY because I would have loved to read more about the planning for this amazing trip. I thought I had made that clear in my comments.
    Only by reading accounts personally can one truly appreciate the details. Thats exactly why I read the Jehangirnama personally even though Abhay had shared all that information with us repeatedly.
    My intent was never to offend you or Abhay in anyway :)

  26. Hi Preeti

    No offence, dear :)

    I myself started reading history because of my quest to learn more. It really works well for all of us to personally read as much as we can and share that here on the blog for greater dissemination of information as well as for greater authentication through cross-verification from multiple sources. :)

  27. Hi Preeti,

    Belated Merry Christmas to you and all here.

    Bulk of this post was from Akbarnama itself, from it's different sections. And some part is from the Munthakhab-ut-Tawarikh. Other than this, Radhika mentioned the references.

    Haj in the times of Akbar was used a form of "punishment" also. The state offenders were often sent for Haj. Bairam Khan is most widely known example. :-P
    Hence, in this context, the Haj of Royal women assumes even more importance because this was an all-women trip and also a genuine Haj, i mean this Haj was not meant for punishment.

    Also, Salima Begum was childless, my views are clear on this issue. I have not known of a daughter of hers. Ofcourse, it is a noteworthy point that a biological mother would not leave her child back and go for such a LONG journey.

    Well.Abul Fazl has written a highly lubricated account in the praise of Akbar. But this journey had political considerations too, as mentioned by Radhika. Akbar aimed at multiple benefits or wanted to test the

    Akbar has met a Portuguese official earlier in 1573, i think. He had tried to arrive on some settlement with them regarding the sea control but it was not successful.
    When Gulbadan Begum went for Haj she assigned a town/village to the Portuguese as a "pass", so that they do not trouble them in the seas. And, when she set the foot back on Indian soil, she instructed the officials to take back the town from the Portuguese. :-P
    But this was NOT fair on the part of Mughals. A struggle ensued between the Mughal and Portuguese forces. During this time, Akbar 'pretended' before the Christian missionaries as if he was NOT knowing anything.!!

    You can refer the Modern India series by Spectrum for this episode. This is a local book.

    There is no issue in discussing any thing here. :D
    Hope this answers your query. :)

  28. Hi Preeti

    About references, about GB giving a town to Portugese:
    1. The Cambridge History of India, Volume 3 By Edward James Rap;son, Sir Wolseley Haig, Sir Richard Burn; page 128
    Akbar took back the town after the ladies returned from Hajj expedition.

    There must be more but among the share of books i have bookmarked, this is the only one i could turn up with. It is on Google Books.

    Salima was given Murad to be brought up. Many books clearly mention Murad was not Salima's son but of someone else. And particularly remain dubious, about the identity of the mother ;-) If you want references for this, please wait, or i am sure anyone can you help with it or simple a google search will.

    About Rahimi and it's patron, have a look at this link:

    This link tells us about the importance of the ship and how it was targetted by both English and Portugese, at different times.

  29. Preeti,
    This was a general comment to make sure that these posts are also equally valid. More so because, till now, ONLY i used to post on history. Now, Radhika also shares some thing which she reads on blog. The motive of this blog is only one thing - better dissemination of information. :)

  30. You are welcome :D

  31. Sav,

    Your link on Rahimi, which you mentioned here, made me remember a very old post where we discussed the capture of this ship. :)
    This ship was a bone of contention between the Mughals and Europeans. :)

  32. Charu,
    Well said. The more we read about those times from the accounts, the more stereotypes are being shed, about the women of those times. :)
    Even today, it is tough to travel for such a journey all alone. And see it happened 450 years back. :)

  33. I remember that very first post. Rahimi was captured more than once and i thought only once :P

  34. Sav

    Interesting references. Thanks for sharing :)

  35. Abhay

    It is quite interesting that individual Mughal women went for Hajj a few times. For instance, Haji Begum, wife of Humayun. But this was the only time a group of royal women went for Haj. Further, this event was covered in fine detail and given prominence. Because Akbar was beginning to consolidate his empire and was keen to establish his commitment to the Islamic nature of the empire, in spite of his own interest in other religions.

    Why was it so necessary for him to establish his Islamic credentials? Badauni's writings may indicate how much religious tension Akbar was facing at the time when he was keen to politically consolidate his empire and did not want distractions on his hand.

    The women's role cannot be ignored, of course. They were able to travel overseas for a long duration pilgrimage at a time when the protocols of the empire were still not firmly in place. :) Later women found it harder to break out of the harem restrictions once the empire was "established" and all its "rules and regulations" were laid down.

  36. m 2 waiting 4 'tis post radhika n geeta.

  37. Radhika,
    Clergy was very powerful that time. He had to maintain a balanced approach. He was ruling a land of predominantly Hindu population that time, but his nobility was of other religion. He had to maintain a right balance. Hence, it was required to establish his Islamic credentials. :)

    I agree about the rest of points.

  38. Abhay and Sav, thanks for your references and response. fascinated by the account of Akbar the wily emperor first giving the town and then promptly taking it back LOL. It is precisely for these anecdotes that I asked for references so we can read the small details.
    About Salima begum, no Abhay and Sav I do not need any references on whether she was childless or not... There are many sources which establish her as childless. in my comments I have referred to Murad and the daughter as her "wards" not kids. Wards implies that they were in her care. I stand by what I said earlier, even if they were not her biological kids, to leave them and go for so long on a perilous journey is remarkable... no criticism, just surprising. H Beveridge in a published paper for the Asiatic society has asserted that Salima was in charge of Akbar's Harem ( no mention of hindu harem vs Muslim harem). It is usually hard for a woman who is in the thick of domestic life to just pack up and leave and that too without her husband....she must have been of a very spiritually evolved to be able to do that.

  39. No issues Preeti. Salima Begum was childless as per what i know, and yes she was given charge of Murad. Though, the daughter Khannum Sultan was given to Mariam Makani - Hamida Bano Begum.
    About the references, i know your thirst is same is many of us, that is to know more and read more. :-P :)
    It's fine.

  40. In 1579, Akbar requested the Archbishop of Goa to send two learned priests. There is also a Goa in Indonesia, but this Goa which Akbar was talking about was the one in India. Goa is an Indian state. :)