Hamida Banu Begum

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Hamida Banu Begam
Mughal Empress
Hamida Banu Begum, wife of Mughal Emperor Humayun.jpg
Hamida Banu Begum
Spouse Humayun
Issue Akbar
Father Shaikh Ali Akbar Jami
Mother Mah Afroz Begum
Born 1527
Died 29 August 1604 (aged 77)
Agra, Mughal Empire
Burial Humayun's Tomb, Delhi
Religion Shia Islam

Hamida Banu Begam, 'Maryam Makani' (1527 – 29 August 1604) was a wife of the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun, and the mother of Mughal Emperor, Akbar.[1] She built Humayun's mausoleum by a mix of Persian and Hindustani artisans.[2]


Akbar's mother travels by boat to Agra

Hamida Banu Begum was born in 1527 to Shaikh Ali Akbar Jami, a Persian Shia, and a friend and preceptor to Mughal prince Hindal Mirza, the youngest son of the first Mughal Emperor Babar. Ali Akbar Jami was also known as Mir Baba Dost, who belonged to the lineage of Ahmad Jami Zinda-fil. Hamida Banu's mother was Mah Afraz Begum, who married Ali Akbar Jami in Paat, Sindh. As suggested by her lineage, Hamida was a devout Muslim.[3]

Meeting with Humayun[edit]

She met Humayun, as a fourteen-year-old girl and frequenting Mirza Hindal's household, at a banquet given by Dildar Begum, Babar's wife and Humayun's stepmother in Alwar. Humayun was in exile after his exodus from Delhi, due to the armies of Sher Shah Suri, who had ambitions of restoring Afghan rule in Delhi.[4]

When negotiations for Humayun's marriage with Hamida Banu Begum were going on, both Hamida and Hindal vehemently opposed the marriage proposal, possibly because they were involved with each other.[5] It is seems probable that Hamida was in love with Hindal, though there is only circumstantial evidence for it.[5] In her book, the Humayun-nama, Hindal's sister and Hamida's close friend, Gulbadan Begum, pointed out that Hamida was frequently seen in Hindal's palace during those days, and often attended parties organised by their mother, Dildar Begum.[6]

Initially, Hamida refused to meet the Emperor, eventually after forty days of pursuit and at the insistence of Dildar Begum, she agreed to marry him. She refers to her initial reluctance in her book the Humayunama,



The marriage took place on a day chosen by the Emperor, an avid astrologer, himself employing his astrolabe, at mid-day on a Monday in September, 1541 (Jumada al-awwal 948 AH) at Patr. Thus she became his junior wife, after Bega Begum (later known as Haji Begum, after Hajji), who was his first wife and chief consort.[1][8][9] Hamida Banu Begum is also known as Maryam Makani. The marriage became "politically beneficial" to Humayun as he got help from the rival Shia groups during times of war.[10]

Two years later, after a perilous journey through the desert, on 22 August 1542, she and Emperor Humayun reached at the Umerkot ruled by Rana Prasad, a Hindu Sodha Rajput, at a small desert town, and the Rana gave them asylum. Two months later she gave birth future Emperor, Akbar on the early morning of 15 October 1542 (fourth day of Rajab, 949 AH), he was given the name Humayun had heard in his dream at Lahore – the Emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar [11][12][13][14][15]

Humayun's Tomb, where Hamida Bano Begum was buried after her death
Cenotaph of Hamida Bano Begum along with that of Dara Shikoh and others, in a side chamber of Humayun's Tomb, Delhi.

In coming years, she took on numerous tough journeys to follow her husband, who was still in flight. First the beginning of the following December she and her new born went into camp at Jūn, after traveling for ten or twelve days. Then in 1543, she made the perilous journey from Sindh, which had Qandahar for its goal, but in course of which Humayun had to take hasty flight from Shal-mastan, ‘through a desert and waterless waste.’ Leaving her little son behind, she accompanied her husband to Persia, here they visited the shrines of her ancestor, Ahmad-e Jami and Shiites shrine, of Ardabil in Iran, the place of origin of Safavid dynasty which helped them immensely in the following years . In 1544, at a camp at Sabzawar, 93 miles south of Herat, she gave birth to a daughter, thereafter she returned from Persia with the army given to Humayun by Shah of Iran, Tahmasp I, and at Kandahar met Dildar Begum, and her son, Mirza Hindal. Thus, it was not until 15 November 1545 (Ramdan 10th, 952 AH) that she saw her son Akbar again, the scene of young Akbar recognizing his mother amongst a group of women has been keenly illustrated in Akbar's biography, Akbarnama. In 1548, she and Akbar accompanied Humayun to Kabul.[15]

Mughal Queen[edit]

During the reign of Akbar, there are many instances where, royal ladies interfered in matters of the court to ask pardon for a wrong doer. Though once Hamida Banu did so, her pleas went to deaf ears as Akbar refused to forgive a Sunni Muslim from Lahore who killed a Shia Muslim.[16]

Empress dowager[edit]

Meanwhile, Sher Shah Suri died in May 1545, and after that his son and successor, Islam Shah died too in 1554, disintegrating the Suri dynasty rule. In November 1554, when Humayun set out for India, she stayed back in Kabul. Though he took control of Delhi in 1555, he died within a year of his return, by falling down the steps of his library at Purana Qila, Delhi, in 1556 at the age of 47, leaving behind a thirteen-year-old heir, Akbar, who was to become one of greatest emperors of the empire. Hamida Banu joined Akbar from Kabul, only during his second year of reign, 1557 CE, and stayed with him thereafter, she even intervened into politics on various occasions, most notable during the ouster of Mughal minister, Bairam Khan, when Akbar came of age in 1560.[15]

Death and aftermath[edit]

She was buried at Humayun's Tomb after her death on 29 August 1604 (19th Shahriyar, 1013 AH) in Agra, just a year before the death of her son Akbar and almost half a century after death of her husband, Humayun. Throughout her years, she was held in high regard by her son Akbar, as English traveler Thomas Coryat recorded, Akbar carrying her palanquin himself across the river, during one of her journeys from Lahore to Agra. Later when Prince Salim, future emperor Jahangir, revolted against his father Akbar, she took upon the case of her grandson, and a reconciliation ensued thereafter, even though Salim had plotted and got Akbar's favorite minister Abu'l-Fazl killed. Akbar shaved his head and chin only on two occasions, one at the death of foster-mother Jiji Anga and another at the death of his mother.[17][18][19]

She was given the title, Maryam-makānī, dwelling with Mary, posthumously, as she was considered, 'epitome of innocence' by Akbar.[20] Details of her life are also found in Humayun Nama, written by Gulbadan Begum, sister of Humayun,[21][22] as well as in Akbarnama and Ain-i-Akbari, both written during the reign of his son, Akbar.

In popular culture[edit]

In Jodhaa Akbar, a 2008 Indian epic film, directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, the character of Hamida Bano was portrayed by Poonam Sinha.[23] Previously in Hindi epic film Humayun (1945) directed by Mehboob Khan, her role was portrayed by actor, Nargis[24]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Humayun Nama: Gulbadan Begum's forgotten chronicle Yasmeen Murshed, The Daily Star, 27 June 2004.
  2. ^ http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/bringing-it-back-to-glory/article6089251.ece?secpage=true&secname=entertainment
  3. ^ Dr. B. P. Saha. Begams, concubines, and memsahibs. Vikas Pub. House. p. 20. 
  4. ^ Mukherjee, p.119
  5. ^ a b Eraly, Abraham (2000). Emperors of the Peacock Throne : The Saga of the Great Mughals ([Rev. ed.]. ed.). Penguin books. pp. 65, 526. ISBN 9780141001432. 
  6. ^ Wade, Bonnie C. (1998). Imaging Sound : an Ethnomusicological Study of Music, Art, and Culture in Mughal India. Univ. of Chicago Press. p. 62. ISBN 9780226868417. 
  7. ^ Mukherjee, p.120
  8. ^ Nasiruddin Humayun The Muntakhabu-’rūkh by Al-Badāoni, Packard Humanities Institute.
  9. ^ Bose, Mandakranta (2000). Faces of the feminine in ancient, medieval, and modern India. US: Oxford University Press. p. 203. ISBN 0-19-512229-1. Retrieved 6 August 2009. 
  10. ^ Mukherjee, p.120
  11. ^ Part 10:..the birth of Akbar Humayun nama by Gulbadan Begum.
  12. ^ Conversion of Islamic and Christian dates (Dual) As per the date converter Akbar's birth date, as per Humayun nama, of 04 Rajab, 949 AH, corresponds to 14 October 1542.
  13. ^ Amarkot Genealogy Queensland University.
  14. ^ Akbar, Jellaladin Mahommed Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. .
  15. ^ a b c Schimmel, Annemarie; Burzine K. Waghmar (2004). The empire of the great Mughals. Reaktion Books. p. 146. ISBN 1-86189-185-7. .
  16. ^ Mukherjee, p.130
  17. ^ Genealogy of Hamida Begum
  18. ^ Mukhia, Harbans (2004). The Mughals of India. India: Wiley. p. 115. ISBN 81-265-1877-4. 
  19. ^ Hamida Banu Faces of the feminine in ancient, medieval, and modern India, by Mandakranta Bose. Oxford University Press US, 2000. ISBN 0-19-512229-1. Page 203.
  20. ^ Mausoleum that Humayun never built The Hindu, April 28, 2003.
  21. ^ Humayun-Nama : The History of Humayun by Gul-Badan Begam. Translated by Annette S. Beveridge. New Delhi, Goodword, 2001,ISBN 81-87570-99-7. Page 149.
  22. ^ LXXXIII. Ḥamīda-bānū Begam Maryam-makānī Humayun-nama Chapter 57, Appendix A. Biographical Notices of the Women mentioned by Babar, Gulbadan Begum, and Haidar.LXXXIII.. Packard Humanities Institute
  23. ^ Jodhaa Akbar at the Internet Movie Database
  24. ^ Humayun at the Internet Movie Database. On 18th June 2013, Zee TV started airing a TV series titled Jodhaa Akbar with Rajat Tokas and Paridhi Sharma in the lead. Hamida Banu Begum is portrayed as a main character and is played by Chhaya Ali Khan.


  • Soma Mukherjee. Royal Mughal Ladies and Their Contributions. Gyan Books. ISBN 9788121207607. 

External links[edit]