|Dilras Banu Begum|
|Empress of the Mughal Empire
Azam Shah, Mughal Emperor
Sultan Muhammad Akbar
|House||House of Safavi (by birth)
House of Timur (by marriage)
|Father||Shah Nawaz Khan Safavi|
|Mother||Nauras Banu Begum|
|Died||October 8, 1657
|Burial||Bibi Ka Maqbara|
Dilras Banu (1622 – 1657) was Empress of the Mughal Empire as the first wife and chief consort of Emperor Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughal Emperors. She is also known by her posthumous title, Rabia-ud-Daurani. The Bibi Ka Maqbara at Aurangabad was commissioned by her husband as her final resting place.
Dilras mothered five children by Aurangzeb, including Muhammad Azam Shah, the heir apparent anointed by Aurangzeb, who succeeded his father as Mughal Emperor, the poet Princess Zeb-un-Nissa, her father's favourite child, Princess Zinat-un-Nissa (titled Padshah Begum), and Sultan Muhammad Akbar, the Emperor's best loved son.
Family and lineage
Dilras Banu Begum was born a princess of the prominent, Safavid dynasty, the ruling dynasty of Iran (Persia) and one of its most significant ruling dynasties. She was the daughter of Mirza Badi-uz-Zaman Safavi (titled Shahnawaz Khan and popularly known as Mirza Deccan) whose great-grandfather was the son of Shah Ismail I Safavi. Shahnawaz Khan was the governor of Gujarat. He loved pomp and grandeur, which was very evident in the lavish and grand marriage celebrations of his daughter, Dilras to Prince Muhi-ud-Din. Dilras' mother, Nauras Banu Begum, was the daughter of Mirza Muhammad Sharif. While her paternal grandfather was Mirza Rustam Safavi, who rose to eminence during Emperor Jahangir's reign.
In 1638, Dilras' younger sister, Sakina Begum, married Aurangzeb's youngest brother, Prince Murad Baksh, further strengthening the ties between the imperial family and Shah Nawaz Khan's family, and as an extension, the Safavid dynasty.
Dilras married Prince Muhi-ud-Din (later known as Aurangzeb) on 8 May, 1637 at Agra; he was the third son of Emperor Shah Jahan and his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. The marriage proposal was put forth by Shah Jahan and was accepted by Dilras' father which led to their betrothal. Aurangzeb was lovingly called by the Emperor from the Deccan where he was campaigning and arrived at Agra on 15 April, 1637 for his wedding.
As decided by the imperial court astrologers, their marriage ceremony was held at four hours to dawn, amid lavish and grand celebrations and took place at Shahnawaz Khan's mansion. The grandeur of the celebrations are described by chronicler, Khafi Khan, "The burst of fireworks transformed the earth into another sky," and the charms of the singers and dancers would've been the envy "even of Venus." The qazi married the couple in the Emperor's presence, and the mehr was fixed at 4,00,000 rupees. After the wedding, a reception (walima) was held on 14 May at Aurangzeb's mansion, where Emperor Shah Jahan gave wedding gifts to amirs.
The newly married couple spent more than three happy months at Agra with the Emperor before taking their leave for the Deccan on 4 September, 1637, where Aurangzeb was serving as viceroy. During their stay at Agra, Dilras had become pregnant with Aurangzeb's first child: the gifted poet Princess Zeb-un-Nissa. She was born nine months later on 15 February, 1638 at Daulatabad, Deccan, and was her father's favourite child. Over the next nineteen years, the imperial couple would have four more children, all of whom were favoured by Aurangzeb above the rest of his children from his secondary wives.
As Aurangzeb's chief consort, she wielded considerable influence over him, and ruled his zenana and harem. She was amongst the highest ranked figures at the Mughal court unlike her husband's secondary wives, who were very unpopular at court. However, Dilras did not take part in court politics and in administrative affairs as her husband did not seemed to have allowed even her to interfere in such matters.
Her known physical and personal attributes describe her as being beautiful, vivacious, charming, and fair coloured. Pertaining to her character, she seems to have been a proud and self-willed woman and her husband stood in some awe of her. She was reputed to have been irascible, and was, says Aurangzeb, a woman of "extreme imperiousness, but to the end of her life I continued to love her and never once did I wound her feelings."
Her proud nature did not create problems in her marriage, as Aurangzeb always acted humbly with his imperious wife and had great respect and admiration for her. From all accounts it appears that she was not dissimilar in character to her husband either. Both of them were strong-willed, pious and comparatively indifferent to the normal scheme of material values.
Aurangzeb's other marriages to his two secondary wives were meaningless. As a result, these two inferior wives, though they produced four more children for him, remained isolated from their husband. The affection, status, power and authority of being the imperial consort was reserved for Dilras only. She retained her influence over her husband till the end of her life and always remained his favourite as well as his principal consort. Even after her untimely death, her position at court and in her husband's life was not taken by either of his secondary wives.
Her initial pregnancies took place at lengths of at least four years, Annie Krieger-Krynicki states that Aurangzeb may not have wanted to put a strain on her fragile health by imposing too many pregnancies on her frequently, as Shah Jahan, fatally, had done with Mumtaz Mahal. During the course of their twenty years of marriage, the imperial couple became parents of five children:
- Shahzadi Zeb-un-Nissa Begum (15 February 1638 – 26 May 1702) never married.
- Shahzadi Zinat-un-Nissa Begum (5 October 1643 – 7 May 1721) never married.
- Shahzadi Zubdat-un-Nissa Begum (2 September 1651 – 17 February 1707) married her first cousin, Prince Siphir Shikoh, son of her uncle, Dara Shikoh; had issue.
- Shahzada Muhammad Azam Shahi Ali Jah (28 June 1653 – 8 June 1707) succeeded his father as Mughal Emperor, married his first cousin, Princess Jahanzeb Banu; had issue.
- Shahzada Muhammad Akbar (11 September 1657 – 31 March 1706) married his cousin, Princess Salima, the granddaughter of his uncle, Dara Shikoh; had issue.
After giving birth to her fifth child, Muhammad Akbar, Dilras possibly suffered from puerperal fever, due to complications caused by the delivery and died a month after the birth of her son. Upon her death, Aurangzeb's pain was extreme and their eldest son, Prince Azam, was so grieved that he had a nervous breakdown. It became Dilras' eldest daughter, Princess Zeb-un-Nissa's responsibility to take charge of her newborn brother. Zeb-un-Nissa doted on her brother a lot, and at the same time, Aurangzeb greatly indulged his motherless son and the prince soon became his best loved son.
Three years after her death, in 1660, her husband commissioned a mausoleum at Aurangabad as her final resting place, known as Bibi Ka Maqbara ("Tomb of the Lady"). It is notable that Aurangzeb never raised monumental edifices during his half-a-century reign, but made just one exception, i.e. to build the mausoleum of his wife. Here, Dilras was buried under the posthumous title of "Rabia-ud-Daurani". The Bibi Ka Maqbara bears a striking resemblance to the famous Taj Mahal, the mausoleum of Dilras' mother-in-law, Empress Mumtaz Mahal, who herself died in childbirth.
Bibi Ka Maqbara was the largest structure that Aurangzeb had to his credit. In the following years, her tomb was repaired by her son Azam under Aurangzeb's orders. Aurangzeb, himself, is buried a few kilometers away from her mausoleum in Khuldabad.
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