SULTANA

In the embellished line of the kings of the Mughal empire,

Came she, with the ferocity of fire,

Justifying her name, sun among women,

Bold, courageous and maverick yet feminine,

Women most endearing,

Princesses of the most noble bearing,

Couldn’t lay hands on the one man they all wanted,

Because she stood in their way, undaunted,

From behind her veil the played the empire’s game,

Emperor, just not only in name,

For she was Empress Nur Jahan, the Queen Begum,

Spreading light from her four walls of the harem.

Many queens have been known to fight endlessly to stop their sovereignty going into the hands of the colonial powers, but what do you do when the  enemies or rather enemies are very well inside the palace. One such Empress I read about recently Empress Nur Jahan, thee main queen during the reign of Emperor Jahangir. She was his twentieth wife but she wielded so much power over him that, after her he never married and considered rather did what she said in the imperial matters. Farmans (royal orders)  were signed and coins minted in her name, fulfilling two out of three conditions to be a sovereign. The third was that during prayers the rulers name was to be called out.

Many Englishmen who came to India  during the reign of Jahangir out-rightly point out that the king was a puppet in the hands of the queen because of which he was even ridiculed, but he did not mind it. Nur Jahan was even able to regulate the Jahangir’s intake of opium and wine which clearly pointed out her influence. She commanded lands that were most fertile or involved with in a heavy amount of trade and an amount of horses that was more than that of an army commander or even the princes.

She was born In Kandahar, practically in a tent without basic amenities. The family, fleeing from Persia, did not have enough money to feed themselves, were perplexed about how to feed the new member of the family and thus decided to leave her to fend for herself at birth. But, destiny had to have its way, she found her way back to them. She grew up in Agra into a striking beauty but ore admirable was her insatiable thirst for knowledge and she realised pretty soon that it was knowledge that  brought power. Empress at the time, Ruqayya Begum, wife of Jahangir’s father King Akbar employed her as a lady in waiting and she was her favourite. She showed her the ropes of the ways of the imperial harem which later proved to be very useful to vanquish her most prominent rival at the harem Jagat Gosini, Jahangir’s second wife and the mother of the next emperor Shah Jahan.

Nur Jahan started her journey as Mehrunnisa or Sun among Women, married first to Ali Quili, later titled as Sher Afghan as he saved Jahangir from a tiger attack, as Akbar wanted Ali Quilli to be a part of the imperial army imparting, this need to his intelligence at valour at the battlefield. After thirteen years of marriage, a girl was born to the oddly matched couple. Mehrunnisa named her Ladli or the Loved One. But soon after her birth Quili died but not before killing Mirza Aziz Koka, a brother like entity to Jahangir. After four years, Ruqayya Begum was instrumental in rekindling lost love between the King and her most beloved Begum.

Jahangir’s harem consisted of more than 300 hundred women but none came close to Nur Jahan, a title bestowed by the king himself at the wedding. She defeated powerful enemies like Mahabat Khan & Muhammad Sharif, childhood cohorts of the king and ofcourse, Jagat Gosini, the Empress before her with the patience and agility of a fox, she slowly spread her tentacles into everything that came under the purview of the Emperor. She even managed to play both the Portuguese and the English into providing security to her ships from each other. She signed and entered into treaties. Her seal couldn’t be revoked even by the king himself.

Probably the only failed was getting a suitable groom for her daughter. She wanted her to marry Prince Khurram later Shah Jahan, the next emperor. But, because he was so deeply in love with Arjumand Begum or Mumtaz Mahal, evident from the construction of the greatest monument on the face of the earth: The Taj Mahal and the fact that he did not marry after her death. But jahangir was a niche higher. he had handed over practically the entire empire in her hands albeit he did not construct a monument as grand as his son’s creation yet he and Mehrunnisa were considered one entity later on.

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