Jahanzeb Banu Begum
|Jahanzeb Banu Begum|
|Shahzadi of the Mughal Empire|
|Issue||Sultan Bidar Bakht
Jawan Bakht Bahadur
Sikandar Shan Bahadur
|House||Timurid (by birth)|
|Mother||Nadira Banu Begum|
Jahanzeb Banu (died 1705) was a Mughal princess and a daughter of Crown Prince Dara Shikoh and his consort Nadira Banu Begum. Popularly known as Jani Begum, she was also a granddaughter of the fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.
The Italian writer and traveller, Niccolao Manucci, who worked under her father, described her as being beautiful and courageous. In 1669, she married her first cousin, Prince Azam Shah, the heir apparent to Emperor Aurangzeb, who briefly became Mughal emperor in 1707.
Jahanzeb was born to Crown Prince Dara Shikoh, (Emperor Shah Jahan's oldest and favourite son) and his beloved wife, Nadira Banu Begum. Her father was the eldest son of Shah Jahan and was favoured by the emperor as well as his elder sister, Princess Jahanara Begum as Shah Jahan's successor. Jahanara had always been an ardent partisan of Dara Shikoh and greatly supported him. Jahanzeb's mother, Nadira Banu Begum, was also a Mughal princess, being the daughter of Sultan Parviz Mirza (second son of Emperor Jahangir) and his wife Iffat Jahan Banu Begum. Thus, making Nadira the granddaughter of Emperor Jahangir and his wife Sahib-i-Jamal.
Nadira Begum died in 1659 of dysentery, and within the same year, Dara Shikoh was executed on Aurangzeb's orders after his victory over the latter in the war of succession. After the death of Dara Shikoh, who was the heir-apparent to Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb became the sixth Mughal Emperor. Jahanzeb subsequently became an orphan after the consecutive deaths of her parents. Her arrival before the throne of her father's murderer was vividly described by foreign chroniclers, as was her despair when she was handed over to her aunt, Princess Roshanara Begum, to take care of. Roshanara immediately started mistreating her.
She was therefore, forwarded to the Agra Fort by Aurangzeb where her grandfather, Shah Jahan, was being imprisoned. There, Jahanzeb was brought up by her eldest aunt, Jahanara Begum as her own daughter. Under her tutelage she grew up to be a remarkably beautiful and cultured princess. When Jahanara died in 1681, she bequeathed her finest gems to Jani, her favourite niece.
On 3 January 1669, she married her first cousin, Prince Muhammad Azam, the eldest son of her uncle, Aurangzeb and her aunt, Dilras Banu Begum. The marriage ceremony was arranged by Jahanara Begum, amidst the most lavish and grand celebrations and took place in her palace. Their marriage proved to be extremely happy. Jani was Azam's trusted companion and confidante as well as his favourite wife being greatly loved by him. She was also Aurangzeb's best-loved daughter-in-law.
She gave birth to Azam's eldest son on 4 August 1670. He was named 'Bidar Bakht' by his grandfather. Aurangzeb, throughout his life showed marks of exceptional love to these two and to their eldest son, Prince Bidar Bakht, a gallant, discreet and ever successful general, on all three of whom he used to constantly lavish gifts. Bidar Bakht was his grandfather's favourite grandchild in his old age.
After her marriage, Jahanzeb played multiple roles in her husbands's household. Two of them in particular stand out. The first can be broadly defined as military in nature, the second, less dramatic, but just as critical. The princess maintained harmonious household relations by cultivating a strong spirit of camaraderie and shared struggle among key members of the princely household. Her skill at this came to the fore in the winter of 1702, when a spat between Azam and his chief huntsman and koka Mir Hedayatullah occurred as the men were on a hunt. Azam was furious and he immediately threw his koka out of his household. It fell to Jani to persuade her husband to forgive Mir Hedayatullah, which she was able to do. After a few days, Mir Hedayatullah joined Azam's household in his old position.
The princess was also responsible for managing relations between Azam and their son, Prince Bidar Bakht. Unfortunately imperial favour poisoned relations between Bidar Bakht and his father. When Bidar was appointed viceroy of Malwa (contiguous to Gujarat where Azam was serving) in the early 1700s, Jahanzeb petitioned her uncle, Aurangzeb, to permit Bidar to come and visit her since she had not seen him in a long time. The young prince was granted seven days to visit his mother.
Jani's first role in her husband's household can be broadly defined as a military one. In 1679, the princess led her husband's military contingents for more than three weeks when the prince was forced to move ahead on an urgent summons from his father, Aurangzeb. Three years later, in 1682, Jani mounted her own elephant to encourage a lagging Mughal counterattack on a Maratha army. She is said to have personally handed out spears and paan and promised to commit suicide if the Mughal Army was overrun. She went into battle again in 1685-6 when Azam's forces had lost all hope during the invasion of Bijapur and is credited with whipping up morale.
Jahanzeb died in 1705 of an abscess in the right breast. The French doctor Mons. Martin had proposed that the princess should be examined by one of his female relatives then living in Delhi, (evidently an Indo-Portuguese Christian woman) who was skilled in surgery (haziqa) so that he might prescribe medicines according to her report. But the princess refused to be examined by a woman who drank wine, lest her body should be defiled by her touch. The disease lingered on for two years and she eventually died in great pain. Upon her death, Azam was filled with great sorrow and despair which darkened the remainder of his life.
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