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Although there are not many rights for women in Islam. But when we talk about the respect of women by the Mughal emperors, then this protest looks the opposite. Of all the women in the Mughal harem, some of them had enormous powers. The Mughal rulers respected women a lot. Today in this blog we will learn about who were the powerful women of the Mughal Empire. Must read the article till the end and know the truth of history.

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Powerful Women of the Mughal Empire: Who Had Extraordinary Powers

Powerful Women of the Mughal Empire

Asan Daulat Begum Sahib was thoughtful and resourceful. She was a very visionary and intelligent woman. Most of the work was done with her advice.

These are the words of Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire, which he said about his grandmother in his memoir ‘Baburnama’. The preface to the same book states that since the death of Babur’s father in 1494, Asan Daulat Begum remained her greatest guide and helper in overcoming political crises, the real power and administrative matters being in her hands.

The Mughal emperor used to carry his mother’s palanquin

During the Mughal period, except for Nur Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, the first lady was usually the mother of the emperor and not his queen. After the death of the mother, the queen takes her place. All the Mughal emperors after Babur respected their mothers a lot.

The Mughal emperor used to carry his mother's palanquin

SM Edwards writes in ‘Babur, Diarist and Despot’ that Esan Daulat Begum (Babur’s grandmother) and Katalagh Nagar played a major role in shaping Babur’s life. Babur inherited his intellectual power from his mother.

Radheshyam writes in his book “Babur” that “Mother Katalagh Nagar Khanum was also a close advisor of Babur during the period of Jihad.” Educated in Turkish and Persian, Khanum accompanied him on most of his campaigns and during his reign.

Babur also had access to Maham Begum, his wife, and Humayun’s mother, in his distant campaigns in Badakhshan and Transaxonia.

According to Romerguden Mahim was strong and young and it seems that Babur did not forbid him from doing anything.

Bibi Mubaraka was also one of the desired wives of Babur. By marrying her, Babur ended his association with the Yousafzai clan and strengthened his hold on Afghanistan.

However, Maham Begum enjoyed a high position and was allowed to sit on the throne alongside her husband.

Researcher SA Tirmizi writes that Humayun was fortunate to have the protection of his mother, Maham Begum. “She was well-educated, intelligent, and broad-minded.”

Humayun’s Sister Gul Badan Begum’s book ‘Humayun Nama’ is the only known book written by a woman in 16th century Mughal India. Gul Badan was brought up and educated by Maham Begum.

When Humayun received his first responsibility as the governor of Badakhshan, Mahim Begum accompanied him in running the affairs during this period of training. Helping in Humayun’s succession indicates his important position.

Writer Rubylal wrote British writer A.S. Beveridge is quoted as saying, ‘As both wife and queen mother, Mahim appears to be a shrewd woman of wisdom, position, and authority, who prefers to give advice and guidance to her younger children. She considered it her duty to lead. , And maintain the name and honor of her family.’

Apart from her, the role of Hamida Banu Begum was also important in political matters, she hardly agreed to marry Humayun.

This incident is described in the ‘Hamayunnama’ as follows: ‘For 40 days Hamida Banu Begum was reluctant [to marry] and she was not agreeing in any way. At last, my mother Dildar Begum told her that she would marry someone. Then who can be better than the king? Begum replied, yes, I will marry the one whose neck I can reach. Not the man whose feet, I know, my hand cannot reach. My mother gave her lots of advice and finally convinced her.

She was given the title of Mariam Makani by her son Akbar.

After marriage, Hamida Banu had to face hardship and exile with Humayun. Within a year of Akbar’s birth in Amarkot, Sindh, leaving him with a midwife, she accompanied Humayun on a perilous journey to Kandahar and then to Persia (Iran).

They forged a political alliance against Bairam Khan’s wishes by arranging Akbar’s marriage with the granddaughter of Humayun’s confidant Amir Munaim Khan. Hamida Banu held a high position in the royal harem and had the authority to issue decrees.

According to the Mayan Nama, after the coronation ceremony, known as Jashn-i-Jalus, the emperor first went to visit his mother and other relatives.

Abul Fazl has written that Akbar respected his mother Mariam Makani very much and used to come out of the capital to welcome her.

Once Akbar’s mother was carried from Lahore to Agra in a palanquin. Akbar traveled with her carrying her palanquin on his shoulders from one place to another and carrying it from one bank of the river to the other.

It is written in ‘Akbarnama’ that Prince Salim was not given the honor of Bariyabi for some time by Emperor Akbar due to excessive drinking and bad company. But on the request of Mariam Makani (Hameeda Banu Begum), he is allowed to play Cornish.

Prince Salim once again rebelled and took up the imperial position at Allahabad. To settle the matter, Akbar took the help of his most trusted advisor, Abul Fazl. But on the way Salim killed Abul Fazl. Akbar was very sad and bored.

It was Maryam Makani and Gul Badan Begum who apologized on behalf of Salim. Akbar accepted her wish and asked his sister and wife Salima Sultana Begum to inform the prince of his pardon and present him at the court. Bakhtul-Nisa, the daughter of Salima and Mah Chochak Begum, made a reconciliation between the two.

This Salim became Emperor Jahangir.

According to Tajuk-i-Jahangiri, Jahangir had great respect for his mother Jodhabai (Mariam-uz-Jani). It was in his house that the king was weighed and the marriages of princes took place.

Love sisters

After the death of Maham Begum, Babur made his elder sister Khanzada Begum the head of the harem with the title of Padshah Begum. Gul Badan used to address her as ‘the sweetest woman’ or ‘Ake Janam’.

She remained in this post during the reign of Humayun. During Humayun’s reign, Khanzada Begum played the role of a peacemaker and tried to settle disputes between Humayun and his brothers Hindal, Kamran, and Askari.

Gul Badan Begum has given many examples in Humayun Nama which show the love of Babur and Humayun towards their sisters. If a sister becomes a widow, the brother is always ready to give her shelter.

Mughal's Love sisters

When Gul Mishka Begum became a widow, Humayun ordered her to be brought back to Agra. Jahangir mentions his sisters Shukr-ul-Nasa Begum and Uram Banu Begum in his memoirs, although they were born to different mothers.

Daughters of the Mughal family

The Mughal emperors were very fond of their daughters and made great arrangements for their education and to nurture their talents.

But many of them, especially after the time of Akbar, remained unmarried. Many writers and foreign travelers like Manuchi have blamed Akbar for starting this tradition, but many writers disagree because Akbar married his sisters and daughters to eligible men. However, Akbar disliked marriage between close relatives.

There were some restrictions on the marriage of princesses till the time of Shah Jahan. This was probably done to limit the number of claimants to the throne. But Aurangzeb got some of his daughters and nieces married to the children of his brothers and sisters.

Arrangements were made for the education of Mughal princesses.

Babur’s daughter, who engaged herself in literary pursuits, was Gul Badan Begum. She is known for her famous work ‘Humayun Nama’.

According to the Akbarnama, Humayun’s wife, Bega Begum, popularly known as Haji Begum, was an educated woman. She was familiar with the technique of writing and had a deep knowledge of medicine.

Humayun’s niece Salima Sultana Begum was well-versed in the Persian language and literature.

Emperor Akbar had very little formal education of his own. But he was very interested in the educational process and the education of princes and princesses. He is said to have established a school for girls in his Fatehpur Sikri palace. The Mughal princesses were tutored inside the palaces by educated women or elders.

Akbar is said to have established a school for girls in his Fatehpur Sikri palace

During the reign of Akbar, a woman Jan Begum was awarded five thousand dinars by the emperor of India for writing a commentary on the Quran.

Jahan Ara, the daughter of Shah Jahan and Queen Mumtaz Begum, was renowned for her wisdom and grace. The mention of the elders of the Chishti dynasty composed by him, ‘Monus-ul-Arwah’ is a very useful book for researchers even today.

Zaib-ul-Nisa is a famous poetess and Sahib Diwan among the Mughal princesses. Her Persian Ghazals were highly respected.

Soma Mukherjee writes that if the queen was childless, she was allowed to adopt another woman’s child.

Humayun’s mother Maham Begum lost four children after his birth. She was brought up by Hindal and Gul Badan, the children of his second wife, Dildar Begum. Akbar’s childless first wife Rukiya Sultan Begum was given to Prince Salim’s son Khurram after the birth of a child.

According to Ira Mukhoti, Akbar encouraged widows to remarry and did not consider widowhood and divorce to be stigmatizing. Before him was the shining example of Khanzada Begum, twice divorced, and still held in high esteem.

After initially praising the women who practiced Sati, he became disgusted with the system and criticized the men who supported it.

When daughters were born, according to Abul Fazl, Akbar ordered an elaborate celebration for the birth of sons.

Emperor Akbar disliked the practice of early marriage in society. Akbar implemented marriage-related rules and tried to curb such practices as much as possible by imposing the duty of Kotwal in the cities.

Respect for women without discrimination

The respect of the Mughal emperors was not limited to their mothers or sister.

When Babur defeated King Ibrahim Lodhi, he treated his mother with respect, assigning her land and a palace. Babur called her ‘mother’. But they conspired to mix poison in the emperor’s food.

The emperor had eaten very little food but fell ill. It was later revealed that the symptoms were from poison given by Ibrahim’s mother. Despite this, Babur bowed down.

Others involved in the plot were killed but the woman was deported to Kabul. However, she escaped from her guards and committed suicide by jumping into the Indus River.

Besides his mother, the emperor held great respect for the other senior women in the harem. Babur himself often used to visit him. On getting the news of his arrival, he used to go outside and sometimes on foot to welcome her.

It is written in Humayunnama that he used to visit elderly women on Fridays. It was a hot day. The queen said, “Loo is running.” What if you don’t go there that Friday? Babur replied that those who do not have father and brothers, if their mind is not happy, then I will do them.

Like his father, Humayun personally visited the elderly women of the harem and spoke to them with kindness. Programs were also organized in her honor. Akbar also respected his aunt Gul Badan. Gul Badan wrote ‘Humayun Nama’ at her behest.

Land, Money, and Charity

Babur introduced the practice of granting Parganas (a number of mausoleums of land from which revenue was collected) to the women of the harem.

He had given a Pargana worth 7 lakhs to Ibrahim Lodhi’s mother. He also assigned some houses and land to the women of the harem. Humayun used to give precious gifts in the form of Ashrafis and shah rakhis to the women of the harem at Sufi feasts.

Apart from their daily needs, royal women used to organize charity and feasts with this money.

After Babur’s death, Maham Begum used to feed the people twice a day. She organized a grand feast when Humayun ascended the throne in 1530 and feasted 7000 people.

Humayun’s wife Haji Begum also spent a large part of her personal allowance on charity. She distributed a lot of charity in Hajj to Mecca. These royal women of the harem used to give priceless gifts to their loved ones on special occasions.

Foster mothers were no less important

Apart from the real mothers, there were also foster mothers in the Mughal family. These foster mothers, called Angas, were highly respected by the Mughals.

Akbar’s foster mother Mahim Anga was the most powerful after the emperor.

Jahangir reported the death of his foster mother in his memoir ‘Tazak Jahangiri’ in these words: “The mother of Qutb-ud-din Khan Koka who nurtured me and was like a mother to me.” My own kind mother is Gone at the mercy of God. I put his coat on my shoulders near his feet and carried him to the grave. In great sorrow, he did not feel like eating or changing clothes for a few days.

Royal women power

Afzal Hussain writes that the Mughal harem contained women of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Iranian, Turani, Portuguese, and many other European nationalities from different regions of the country. In this way, they indirectly teach different languages to their spouses and others and introduce them to different regional cultures and arts.

Rajdeep Sinha and Annapurna Singhdas of Visva Bharati University researched that in Mughal India, royal women had many legal rights and extraordinary powers. She had the right to issue many government documents like Farman, Farman, Sanket, and Parwan.

During the reign of Shah Jahan, the royal seal was handed over to Queen Mumtaz Mahal. After the death of Mumtaz Mahal, the dowry was given to Begum Sahiba i.e. daughter Jahan Ara.

Along with the emperor, Jahangir’s queen Noorjahan also appeared in Jharuka Darshan. Thus the administration practically came into the hands of Nur Jahan and no important decision regarding the state could be taken without her consent.

Nur Jahan’s seal and signature were also recorded along with Jahangir’s royal decrees.

Nur Jahan’s name was also inscribed on the silver and gold coins of Jahangir’s time. This verse is engraved on a large coin of this period.

As per the orders of Shah Jahangir, he got a hundred gems.

Nur Jahan Badshah Begum, Jar

The German Orientalist Ann Marie Schmal wrote these words of Jahangir: ‘I have entrusted the work of government to Nur Jahan; I don’t want a glass full of wine and nothing half full of meat.’

But the commentator Alexander Dow says: ‘Nur Jahan broke all restrictions and customs and gained power by her own ability rather than by Jahangir’s weakness.’

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