Empress Nur Jahan ruled Hindustan for sixteen long years. While her story is often told with wonder and awe historians and writers ignore the tale of her daughter Laadli: the reluctant princess who found herself sucked in the maelstrom of her insensitive mother ruthless ambitions. Destiny having thrust royalty on her Laadli was trapped into living a life dictated by her ambitious mother. She travelled through tragic events of her life with a stoic optimism.
The novel is a peep into the pages of history a saga of broken hearts place intrigues ruthless machinations, endless tussles for power and riches decadence and debauchery. Set against the background of the opulence of the mughal empire Nur Jahan’s Daughter is the story of a royal lineage plunged into fratricidal friction, tracery, unbelievable loyalty and passion: a colorful tapestry woven with the splendorous skeins of life in medieval India and the mughal courts. Nur Jahan’s Daughter presents a vibrant and pulsating view of those times through a fascinating kaleidoscope of events.
Tanushree Podder has written on diverse subjects ranging from travel, fiction, health and fitness and spiritual. Many of her short stories have won prizes.
History is replete with fascinating tales about powerful personalities. One such story particularly interesting because it concerns a woman who controlled a powerful empire from behind the walls of the harem is of empress Nur Jahan who ruled successfully for sixteen long years. While her story is often told with wonder and awe historians and writers have largely ignored her daughter, Laddli. She was the reluctant princess on whom destiny had thrust royalty. Trapped into a life dictated by a ambitious mother the girl travelled through tragic events of her life with stoic optimism.
The mughals ruled Hindustan for close to 250 years. Their empire stretched across the entire subcontinent south of the Himalayas and included Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.
In the early sixteenth century a young prince fled across the deserts in Uzbekistan to escape treacherous noble who had usurped his land. Babur then a minor, eluded death raced towards Afghanistan, where he captured sizeable chunks of land. This young prince was a military genius. Not content with the conquest of Afghanistan he cast a covetous eye on Hindustan and soon wrested a portion of this prosperous land after defeating Ibrahim Lodi, the ruler of Delhi. By the time he died four years later babur had extended his rule over much of the northern India. He was the first of the great Mughals.
His son Humayun, ascended the throne after him. But it was Babur grandson who deserves the credit for extending strengthening and uniting the great empire. Akbar inherited the throne at the tender age of thirteen and went on to rule for half a century. He forged alliances with the proud Rajputs and garnered their support. He promoted art and music: to him goes the credit of bringing the Persian painters from whose work evolved the mughal school of miniature painting which later gave rise to the Rajasthani styles.
Akbar was a connoisseur of art and architecture. His son Jahansir had inherited his father interests. It was during the time of this luxury loving emperor that art music and architecture flourished unfettered.
Originating from the timurid dynasty the Mughals were mongol by blood and bore a strong affinity to the Persian culture. They brought and nurtured Persian art literature and architecture and beautiful gardens to Hindustan. Much of what is known as urdu language actually originated from of lyrical amalgamation of the Persian language with Hindi.
Contrary to the common belief the Mughal empresses were not helpless and vulnerable women. Although they remained invisible they wielded significant power over their menfolk and advised them on various issues. Humayun’s wife mariam Makani had great influence over akbar. Mughal women like Nur Jahan and Jahanara were able planners administrators and designers.
Of all the mughal empresses Nur Jahan was perhaps the most influential one. As the favorite wife of the powerful Mughal emperor Jahangir she found herself uniquely positioned to brilliantly utilize her skills in administration polities economics and culture.
Nur jahan nee Meherunnisa was born into an aristocratic Persian family who had immigrated to India she grew up within the confines of the mughal harem amusing emperor Akkbar wife. It wasn’t surprising that young prince salim soon fell in love with her mesmerizing beauty and quick wit. In a bid to free Salim for her clutches Akbar arranged a match between seventeen year old Meherunnisa and Sher Afghan Persian soldier a much admired military officer.
Sher afghan was later mysteriously murdered leaving Nur Jahan a widow with a daughter called Laadli. In 1607 Nur Jahan was brought to court to serve as a lady in waiting to one of Jahangir court women. It was here at the spring festival of Nauroz in 1611 that Jahangir set eyes again upon her. Jahangir married her within a couple of months. He first gave her the title Nur Mahal which he later changed to Nur Jahan or light of the world.
At the time of her marriage Nur Jahan was no spring chicken. She was a wisdom of a man who had lost favour with the emperor and was only one of many other wives and concubines of the emperor with whom he had children. Yet within nine years Nur Jahan acquired all the rights of sovereignty and government normally due to the emperor becoming virtually in charge of the whole empire until the emperor died in 1627. The key to her success was Jahangir addiction to druge and alcohol and his complete adoration of Nur Jahan above everyone else in his vast zenana the women quarters writhin the court.
Since women were not allowed to appear face to face with men in court nur jhan ruled through trusted male envoys. But it was she who approved all orders and grants of appointment in Jahangir name and controlled all promotions and demotions within the royal government. She took special interest in the affairs of women; she gave land and dowries to or orphan girl. She had coins struck in her name collected duties on goods from merchants who passed through the empire and traded with Europeans who brought luxury goods from the continent given her ability to obstruct or facilitate the opening up of both foreign and domestic trade her patronage was eagerly sought and paid for. She herself owned ships which took pilgrims as well as cargo to mecca. Her business connections and wealth grew. Her officers were everywhere. The cosmopolitan city of Agra the Mughal capital grew as a crossroad of commerce.
Nur Jahan also ruled to emperor vast zenana which housed hundreds of people including Jahangir wives ladies in waiting concubines servants salves female guards spices entertainers carts people visiting relative eunuchs and all the children belonging to the women. Nur Jahan greatly influences the zenana tastes in cosmetics fashions food and artistic expression. She spent money lavishly experimenting with new perfumes hair ointments jeweler silks brocades porcelain and cuisine from other lands. Fashions at court highly influenced by Persian culture began to blend with local styles. Women clothing were modified to take account of the hot weather. Nut Jahan came from a line of poets and she wrote too and encouraged this among the court women. Poetry contests were held and favorite female poets from beyond the courts were sometimes sponsored by the queen such as the Persian poet Mehri.
Both Jahangir and Nur Jahan were devotees of the elegant ad sophisticated Mughal artistic style. The emperor owned an admirable collection of exquisite miniature painting and together with Nur Jahan constructed beautiful gardens notably in the court summer retreat at Kashmir nur jahan used some gardens for official functions other were opened up for the public in general to use. Architecture too was an important imperial activity some of the mosques caravanserais and tombs Nur Jahan had built are still in existence.
Laadli Bano Nur Jahan daughter from her first husband sher afghan was an artist poet and a musician. Laadli’s story is that of a vulnerable and sensitive child who went through a gamut of emotions and turbulence right from her childhood. Never happy in the milieu of the zenana Laadli was a pawn in the hands of her mother ambitious machinations. Yet she was the crutch that provided the empress the stability and security to plod through the rough patches in her life. Hers is a story of unflinching devotion loyalty and steadfast support for a mother. Laadli life traverses through the zenith of power to the nadir of deception and depravity.
I have been captivated by Nur Jahan character ever since my childhood. Hers is an enigmatic character both storing and vulnerable by turns. Although many books have been written about the empress hardly anything has been penned about Nur Jahan as a mother. That facet of her personality has been totally ignored so much so that many people are not even aware that she had a daughter.
Mughal history is full of interesting characters some prominent and some obscure. It is the shadowy characters that are more interesting because of the veil of mystery that shrouds them. One such character is Laadli Begum. Her life has remained unveiled by historians although it is more has remained unveiled by historians although it is more interesting than many. The more information I uncovered about her the more I felt that her character needed to be brought out in the open; too long it had remained hidden amongst the duty tomes of history. Laadli begum has been very close to my heart and with the publishing of this book I feel her ghost has been laid to rest. Although this is a work of fiction I have strived to stay as close to history as possible.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend