Post No.7576

Date uploaded in London – 15 February 2020

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The daughter of an impoverished Persian noble and a foundling, Nur Jahaan, whose life story reads like a real romance, rose to be the greatest Muslim Queen of India. Her father Mirzaa Beg was the scion of a distinguished family of Persia which had fallen upon bad days. Finding his life in Persia, ( Iran ), to be intolerable, he started for India with his wife and children under the protection of a caravan led by a rich merchant named Malik Masud. With his kind help they travelled to Agra, the capital of emperor Akbar. Their benefactor who had influential friends at the court, got Mirza Beg and his two sons presented to Akbar who appointed them to certain petty offices. This was the beginning of Nurjahan’s phenomenal rise to greatness, for she soon became a favourite with the ladies of the royal household and frequented the palace in the company of her mother,


Her first romantic meeting with Jahaangir, then Prince Salim, happened in a garden of the royal palace, when her girlish innocence and ready wit captured the young prince’s heart and he wanted to marry her. Jahangir was deeply touched by her beauty, grace and wisdom. She was however married at the age of seventeen to Ali Quli Khan, whom Akbar appointed as the Governor of Burdwan. But when in 1605 Prince ascended to the throne fate contrived to bring them together. Ali Quili Khan was suspected of complicity in treason and Jahangir’s brother was asked to punish him. His men fell upon him and cut him into pieces. His palace was surrounded and Nur Jahan was captured and taken to the royal court.

Four years later she was married to the emperor at the age of thirty four.

She received successively the titles Nur Mahal, the light of the palace, Nur Jahan, the light of the world. She now found a vast field for the exercise of her varied talents, gaining fame for charitable deeds, clever innovations in food, jewellery and dress, skill in riding and the use of weapons. For eleven years she carried on the administration of the greatest empire in the world of the time by her wise statesmanship and her great influence on the emperor. She, as a matter of fact, dominated her royal husband as no woman in Indian history, has ever done  so that Jahangir had left most of the state of affairs to her care contenting himself with a life of ease and comfort. Firmans were issued under her seal, and her name was struck on coins, one of which bore the legend,


By the command of Emperor Jahangir,

Gold has acquired a hundred fold beauty

With the name on it of Nur Jahan,

The emperor’s royal consort.

Her father was promoted to the rank of prime minister with the title of Iti madd -ud-daulaa, while his sons received responsible posts.


History and legend have surrounded Nurjahan’s personality with many stories. She is reputed to have the inventor of the Attar of Roses, though the credit really belongs to her mother. On one occasion she is said to have shot four tigers with gun and arrows; the emperor was so pleased with her skill and he presented her with a diamond ring worth one lakh rupees, and distributed one thousand gold mohurs among the poor and needy. The story of how a stray arrow  from her bow killed a washer man on the river bank near the palace, and how on a complaint from the dead man’s wife, Jahangir ordered Nur Jahan to be brought to his court of justice like any ordinary criminal is a well-known story.

But the last few years of her married life was not happy. Prince Khurram, later known as Shah Jahaan, Jahangir’s eldest son was a dominating  personality and he was the obvious successor to the throne. His cause was championed by Asaf Khan, whose daughter the famous Mumtaaz Mahal was married to him. Nur Jahan on the other hand, did not like the idea. She wanted Shahryar, the youngest son of Jahangir, to succeed his father, and for this purpose she married her daughter by her former husband to this docile prince whom she could use as her tool.,

This led to a revolt by Khurram (Shah Jahan). Mahabhat Khan, who first helped Nur Jahan to subdue the revolt, later captured both Nur Jahan and Jahangir in a surprise attack. Nur Jahan escaped and rallied the emperor’s loyal troops and attacked Mahabhat Khan. Nur Jahan rode on an elephant and boldly drove into the swollen river, while her followers couldn’t do that. She was captured again, but her womanly tact succeeded where the military strategy had failed and both herself and emperor Jahangir got released. Jahangir , however, did not survive this episode long. Because he was drinking too much he died on his way from Kashmir to Lahore in 1627. He was laid to rest in a garden at Lahore planted by Nur Jahan.

Nur Jahan’s life, after the demise of her loving husband, was spent in quiet solitude, lighted up only by the memories of past glory. Shah Jahan, the new emperor, treated her kindly enough, but she had now lost all interest in life. She lived to the advanced age of seventy two, dying in 1646, nineteen years after her husband.

A sadly neglected, unpretentious dome now covers her mortal remains, standing not far from Jahangir s splendid mausoleum and bearing the pathetic inscription,


On our lone grave no roses bloom

No nightingale would sing!

No friendly lamp dispels the gloom

No moth ever burns its wing.

But she lives in the memory of millions of people, not only as a great queen, but more as a woman of extraordinary charm, who could sway the hearts of the highest and the mightiest of her contemporaries.

Summarised from Great Women of India, Advaita Ashrama, 1953.

Xxx Subham xxx