|Rajkumari Heer Kunwari|
|Empress Consort of the Mughal Empire|
|Artistic depiction of Mariam-uz-Zamani alias Harka Bai|
|Reign||October 1 1562 – 27 October 1605|
|House||Kachwahas of Amer|
|Born||October 1, 1542
|Died||May 19, 1623 (aged 81)
|Burial||Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani, Sikandra, Agra|
Mariam-uz-Zamani, also known as Heer Kunwari, Jodha Bai, Hira Kunwari or Harka Bai, (October 1, 1542 – May 19, 1623) was an Empress of the Mughal Empire. She was his first and chief Rajput wife, and the mother of the next Mughal Emperor, Jahangir. She was also the grandmother of the following Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.
Mariam-Uz-Zamani was referred to as the Queen Mother of Hindustan, during the reign of the Great Mughal, Emperor Akbar. She was the longest serving Hindu Mughal Empress. Her tenure, from 6 February 1562 to 27 October 1605, is that of over 43 years.
Her marriage to Akbar led to a gradual shift in his religious and social policy. Akbar's marriage with Rajkumari Heer Kunwari was a very important event in Mughal history. She is widely regarded in modern Indian historiography as exemplifying Akbar's and the Mughal's tolerance of religious differences and their inclusive policies within an expanding multi-ethnic and multi-denominational empire.
Heer Kunwari was born a Rajput princess (Rajkumari) and was the eldest daughter of Raja Bharmal, of Amer(modern day Jaipur). She was the granddaughter of Raja Prithvi Singh I of Amer. Rajkumari Heer Kunwari was also the sister of Raja Bhagwan Das of Amer, and the aunt of Raja Man Singh I of Amer, who later became one of the Nine Jewels (Navaratnas) in the court of Akbar. Later, both occupied high offices in Akbar's court.
Akbar's marriage with Heer Kunwari had far-reaching results. It led Akbar to take a much more favorable view of Hinduism and his Hindu subjects. In a marriage of political alliance, Heer Kunwari was married to Akbar on February 6, 1562 at Sambhar near Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Heer Kunwari became the third wife of Akbar after Ruqaiya Sultan Begum, who was Akbar's first wife, and Salima Sultan Begum, the widow of his most trusted general, Bairam Khan. Mariam, as mother of the heir-apparent, took precedence over all the other wives of Akbar.
Though she remained a Hindu, Heer Kunwari was honoured with the title Mariam-uz-Zamani ("Mary of the Age") after she gave birth to Jahangir. Despite her being a non-Muslim wife, she held great respect and honour in the Mughal household.
In the beginning of 1569, Akbar was gladdened by the news that his first Hindu consort, Heer Kunwari was expecting a child, and that he might hope for the first of the three sons promised by Sheikh Salim Chisti, a reputed holy man who lived at Sikri. An expectant Heer was sent to Sheikh's humble dwelling at Sikri during the period of her pregnancy. On August 30, 1569, the boy was born and received the name Salim, in acknowledgement of his father's faith in the efficacy of the holy man's prayers.
Her title, Mariam-uz-zamani, 'the Mary of the Age', has been mistaken sometimes with Akbar's mother, whose title was Mariam-makani, 'dwelling with Mary'. Apart from the title of Mariam-uz-Zamani, Heer also held the title of Wali Nimat Begam which literally means the Gift of God. She held this title throughout her lifetime and even issued farmans (official documents) using this title.
Akbar's marriage with Hindu princess Heer Kunwari produced important effects on both on his personal rule of life and on his public policy. The custom of Hindu rulers offering their daughters for marriage to Muslim rulers, though not common, had been prevalent in the country for several centuries. Yet Akbar's marriage to princess of Amber/Amer is significant, as an early indication of his evolving policy of religious eclecticism. The marriage with the Amer princess secured the powerful support of her family throughout the reign, and offered a proof manifest to all the world that Akbar had decided to be the Badshah of his whole people i.e. Hindus as well as Muslims.
Akbar took other Rajput princesses in marriage. The rajas had much to gain from the link to imperial family. Akbar made such marriages respectable for rajputs.
Her niece, Manbhawati Bai or Manmati bai, daughter of her brother Bhagwan Das, married Prince Salim on 13 February 1585. Man bai later became mother to Prince Khusrau Mirza and was awarded the title of Shah Begum by Jahangir.
Jahangir paid obeisance to his mother by touching her feet. He records these instances with a sense of pride. His reference to his mother was preceded by epithet 'Hazrat', one that is usually reserved for His Majesty himself. These courtesies demonstrate the amount of respect and love he held for his mother, Mariam-uz-Zamani. A number of royal functions took place in the household of Mariam-uz-zamani like Jahangir's solar weighing, Jahangir's marriage to daughter of Jagat Singh, and Shehzada Parviz's wedding to daughter of Sultan Murad Mirza.
Akbar developed Hindu inclinations and allowed his Hindu wife to perform the customary rites in the royal palace. Thus, contrary to the usual practice of sultans, Akbar allowed her to remain a Hindu and to maintain a Hindu temple in the royal palace. He himself participated in the puja she performed. She was a devotee of Lord Krishna. Her palace was decorated with paintings of Lord Krishna and frescos.
Family advancement and Power consolidation
Akbar's friendly relations with the Rajputs began after his marriage with Heer Kunwari. This was an important step which profoundly influenced his future policies. The marriage, secured for him the support of her family, from among whom he drew his leading counsellors.
On his marriage with Heer Kunwari, Akbar summoned Raja Man Singh I, nephew of Heer Kunwari and son of Raja Bhagwan Das of Amer, the heir to the throne of Raja Bharmal, and took him into the imperial service, by giving him an office in his court. Raja Bhagwan Das was also enrolled amongst the nobility. Later, they both rose ultimately to high offices.
The Rajas of Amer especially benefitted from their close association with the Mughals, and acquired immense wealth and power. Of twenty-seven Rajputs in Abu'l-Fazl list of mansabdars, thirteen were of Amber clan, and some of them rose to positions as high as that of imperial princes. Raja Bhagwan Das, for instance, became commander of 5000, the highest position available at that time, and bore the proud title Amir-ul-Umara (Chief Noble). His son, Man Singh I, rose even higher to become commander of 7000. This position was not enjoyed by any one except the imperial princes. This marriage was thus, beneficial to both Mughals and Kachwaha Rajputs of Amer.
Political influence and power
Mariam uz-zamani was reported to have been a highly astute business woman, who ran an active international trade in spices, silk, etc., and thus, amassed a private fortune which dwarfed the treasury of many a European king. She was among the most prodigious women traders at the Mughal court. No other noblewoman on record seems to have been as adventurous a trader as the Queen mother.
Mariam Zamani owned ships that carried pilgrims to and from the Islamic holy city Mecca. In 1613, her ship, the Rahīmī was seized by Portuguese pirates along with the 600-700 passengers and the cargo. Rahīmī was the largest Indian ship sailing in the Red Sea and was known to the Europeans as the "great pilgrimage ship". When the Portuguese officially refused to return the ship and the passengers, the outcry at the Moghul court was quite unusually severe. The outrage was compounded by the fact that the owner and the patron of the ship was none other than the revered mother of the current emperor. Mariam-uz-Zamani's son, the Indian emperor Jahangir, ordered the seizure of the Portuguese town Daman. This episode is considered to be an example of the struggle for wealth that would later ensue and lead to colonization of the Indian sub-continent.
She was one of the only four members of the court (another was the emperor) and the only woman to have the rank of 12,000 cavalry, and was known to receive a jewel from every nobleman "according to his estate" each year on the occasion of New Year's festival. Like only a few other women at the Mughal court, Mariam-uz-Zamani was granted the right to issue official documents (singularly called farman), usually the exclusive privilege of the emperor. Issuing of such orders was confined to the highest ladies of the harem such as Hamida Banu Begum, Mariam-uz-Zamani, Nur Jehan, Mumtaz Mahal, Nadira Banu and Jahanara Begum. Mariam Zamani, like Nur Jehan, used her wealth and influence to build gardens, wells, and mosques around the countryside.
Mariam uz-Zamani died in 1623. Even in her death, she remained closest to her husband. She is Akbar's only wife to be buried close to him, as per her wish. A vav or step well was constructed by her son, Emperor Jahangir,as per her last wishes. The grave itself is underground with a flight of steps leading to it. Her tomb, built in 1623-27, is on the Tantpur road now known as in Jyoti Nagar. Though she remained a Hindu throughout her life, she was buried according to Islamic custom, near her husband's mausoleum. Mariam's Tomb is only a kilometre from Tomb of Akbar the Great. The tomb's location reduced its chances of becoming a tourist attraction, but likewise, its lack of visibility meant it fell into a state of disrepair. Later, taken over by ASI, her resting place is now dignified.
There are some interesting aspects to the tomb, principally the ASI slab at the entrance which proclaims the tomb to be that of Mariam Uz Zamani, the princess of Amer who married Akbar and later gave birth to Jahangir. Another interesting aspect of the tomb is that the building looks identical from the front and back and unlike other Mughal era structures, the back entrance is not a dummy.
The Mosque of Mariam Zamani Begum Sahiba was built by her son Nuruddin Salim Jahangir in her honour and is situated in the Walled City of Lahore, present day Pakistan. It is one of the earliest mosques in Lahore. The mosque also has a distinction of being one of the biggest mosques in present day Pakistan.
The misnomer of Jodhabai
There is a popular perception that the wife of Akbar, mother of Jahangir, was also known as "Jodha Bai".
Her name as in Mughal chronicles was Mariam-uz-Zamani. Tuzk-e-Jahangiri, the autobiography of Jahangir, doesn't mention Jodha Bai nor Harka Bai or Heer Kunwari. Therein, she is referred to as Mariam-uz-Zamani. Neither the Akbarnama (a biography of Akbar commissioned by Akbar himself), nor any historical text from the period refer to her as Jodha Bai.
According to Professor Shirin Moosvi, a historian of Aligarh Muslim University, the name "Jodha Bai" was first used to refer to Akbar's wife in the 18th and 19th centuries in historical writings. According to the historian Imtiaz Ahmad, the director of the Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library in Patna, it was Lieutenant-Colonel James Tod who first mentioned Jodhabai in his book Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan.
"In the Akbarnama, there is a mention of Akbar marrying a Rajput princess of Amer but her name is not Jodhaa," says historian and director of the Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library, Imtiaz Ahmad in Patna. She is referred to as Mariam Zamani (Mary of the Age). This is a title and not a name. It further says that Mariam Zamani is a title referred to the lady who gave birth to Prince Salim, who became Emperor Jehangir. But the name Jodha is not mentioned anywhere.
Professor N R Farooqi, a historian of Allahabad Central University, states that Jodha Bai was not the name of Akbar's queen instead it was the name of Jahangir's wife Taj Bibi Bilqis Makani the Princess of Jodhpur, whose real name was Jagat Gosain.
In popular culture
- Jodha Bai, a misnomer frequently used in reference to Mariam uz-Zamani, is a main character in the award-winning and legendary Indian film Mughal-e-Azam (1960), directed by K. Asif. Her character is played by Durga Khote.
- Jodha Bai is the lead character in the Indian epic film Jodhaa Akbar (2008), directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar. Aishwarya Rai played Jodha Bai.
- Mariam uz-Zamani is a character in Salman Rushdie's ninth novel The Enchantress of Florence (2008). She is also referred to in the book by her maiden name, Hira Kunwari.
- Jodha Bai is the title character in the Ekta Kapoor's historical serial Jodha Akbar (2013). The character is portrayed by Paridhi Sharma.
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