|Jahanara Begum Sahib|
|Shahzadi of the Mughal Empire|
|Mother||Arjumand Banu Begum|
|Born||2 April 1614|
|Died||16 September 1681|
|Burial||Nizamuddin Dargah, New Delhi|
Shahzadi (Imperial Princess) Jahanara Begum Sahib (Urdu: شاهزادی جہاں آرا بیگم صاحب) (April 2, 1614 – September 16, 1681) was the eldest daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan and Empress Mumtaz Mahal. She was also the older sister of her father's successor and the sixth Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
Upon the death of Mumtaz in 1631, Jahanara, aged 17, took the place of her mother as First Lady of the Empire, despite her father having three other wives. As well as caring for her younger brothers and sisters, she is also credited with bringing her father out of mourning and restoring normality to a court darkened by her mother's death and her father's grief.
One of her tasks after the death of her mother was to oversee the betrothal and wedding of her brother, Dara Shikoh to Begum Nadira Banu, which had been originally planned by Mumtaz Mahal, but postponed by her death. Jahanara's mother, Arjumand Banu Begum, Empress Mumtaz Mahal died from complications of giving birth to her fourteenth child, some time after the birth.
Her father frequently took her advice and entrusted her with charge of the Imperial Seal. Shah Jahan's fondness for his daughter was reflected in the multiple titles that he bestowed upon her, which included: Sahibat al-Zamani (Lady of the Age) and Padishah Begum (Lady Emperor), or Begum Sahib (Princess of Princesses). Her power was such that, unlike the other royal princesses, she was allowed to live in her own palace, outside the confines of the Agra Fort.
In 1644, just days after her thirtieth birthday, Jahanara’s garments, doused in fragrant perfume oils, caught fire, leaving Jahanara seriously injured. Shah Jahan, so concerned for the welfare of his favourite daughter, nursed her back to health himself. After the accident, the princess went on a pilgrimage to Moinuddin Chishti’s shrine in Ajmer.
After her recovery, Shah Jahan gave her rare gems and jewellery and bestowed upon her the revenues of the port of Surat. She later visited Ajmer, following the example set by her great-grandfather Akbar.
Relations with family
There is record of disagreements between Jahanara and her younger brother Aurangzeb whom she had referred to as the "white serpent" (presumably due to Aurangzeb's fair complexion) also referring to him as a tiger and panther. There also seemed to be some sort of tension with her younger sister, Roshanara Begum, three years her junior who seemingly, resented her elder sister's position as First Lady of the Empire. Jahanara took the side of Dara Shikoh in the struggle for the throne (Whilst Roshanara sided with Aurangzeb). Dara had promised her to lift the ban on marriage for Mughal princesses, which Akbar had introduced. Had he triumphed, her power would likely have continued. On Aurangzeb's ascent to the throne, Jahanara joined her father in imprisonment at the Agra Fort, where she devoted herself to his care until his death.
After the death of their father, Jahanara and Aurangzeb were reconciled. He gave her the title, Empress of Princesses and she replaced Roshanara as First Lady.
Jahanara was soon secure enough in her position to occasionally argue with Aurangzeb and have certain special privileges which other women did not possess. She argued against Aurangzeb's strict regulation of public life in accordance with his conservative religious beliefs and his decision in 1679 to restore the poll tax on non-Muslims, which she said would alienate his Hindu subjects.
Upon her death, Aurangzeb gave her the posthumous title: Sahibat-uz-Zamani (Mistress of the Age). Jahanara is buried in a tomb in the Nizamuddin Dargah complex in New Delhi, which is considered "remarkable for its simplicity". The inscription on the tomb reads as follows:
Allah is the Living, the Sustaining.
Let no one cover my grave except with greenery,
For this very grass suffices as a tomb cover for the poor.
The mortal simplistic Princess Jahanara,
Disciple of the Khwaja Moin-ud-Din Chishti,
Daughter of Shah Jahan the Conqueror
May Allah illuminate his proof.
1092 [1681 AD]
Jahanara was known for her active part in looking after the poor and financing the building of mosques and wise.
For example, when the Sahibi (a ship constructed by herself), was going to set sail for its first journey (on 29 October 1643), she ordered that the ship make its voyage to Mecca and Medina and "... that every year fifty koni (One Koni was 4 Muns or 151 pounds) of rice should be sent by the ship for distribution among the destitute and needy of Mecca."
She also made a significant impact on the landscape of the capital city of Shahjahanabad. Of the eighteen buildings in the city of Shahjahanabad commissioned by women, Jahanara commissioned five of them. All of Jahanara's building projects were completed around the year 1650, inside the city walls of Shahjahanabad. The best known of her projects is Chandni Chowk, the central bazaar.
Together with her brother Dara Shikoh, she was a disciple of Mullah Shah Badakhshi, who initiated her into the Qadiriyya Sufi order in 1641. Jahanara Begum made such progress on the Sufi path that Mullah Shah would have named her his successor in the Qadiriyya, but the rules of the order did not allow this.
She wrote a biography of Moinuddin Chishti, the founder of the Chishtiyah order, titled Mu’nis al-Arwāḥ, as well as a biography of Mullah Shah, titled Risālah-i Ṣāḥibīyah, in which she also described her initiation by him. Her biography of Moinuddin Chishti is highly regarded for its judgment and literary quality. In it she regarded him as having initiated her spiritually four centuries after his death, described her pilgrimage to Ajmer and spoke of herself as a faqīrah to signify her vocation as a Sufi woman.
Jahanara Begum stated that she and her brother Dārā were the only descendants of Timur to embrace Sufism. However, Aurangzeb was spiritually trained as a follower of Sufism as well. As a patron of Sufi literature, she commissioned translations of and commentaries on many works of classical literature.
In popular culture
Her early life is depicted in The Royal Diaries book series as Jahanara: Princess of Princesses, India - 1627 by Kathryn Lasky. Jahanara is the protagonist of the novel Beneath a Marble Sky, by John Shors. She is the main character in the novel Shadow Princess by Indu Sundaresan, published on 23 March 2010. She is also the main character in Jean Bothwell's An Omen for a Princess (1963). Actresses Mala Sinha and Manisha Koirala have portrayed the role of Jahanara in their respective films, namely Jahan Ara (1964) and Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story (2005).
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