The myth of Jodha Bai as Jahangir’s mother | Rana Safvi

The myth of Jodha Bai as Jahangir’s mother

Aishwarya Rai in Jodha Akbar

Aishwarya Rai in Jodha Akbar

Having grown up in the 60’s  Mughle Azam was a must see- once a year movie for us.

As children we were fascinated by Akbar Jodha Bai’s story, not to forget Prithviraj Kapoor’s royal demeanour and booming voice and Durga Khote’s simplicity, dignity and dimples in the film. Years later their love story was further immortalised by Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai in Jodha Akbar.

According to popular legend, Akbar married the sister of Raja Man Singh of Amber, named Jodha Bai. Though she was reluctant at first, she later grew to love him and bore him a son through the blessings of Shaikh Salim Chisti, whom they named Salim after him. Salim later went on to ascend the Mughal throne after Akbar under the title Jahangir.

It’s a story which lends itself to imagination. The reality, however, is far more obscure.

In his memoirs, The Tuzuknama or Jahangirnama, Jahangir never once mentions the name of his mother even though he gives the names of many of his own and his father’s wives.

This is the only reference to her in his memoirs:

“When my mother came near the time of her delivery, he (Akbar) sent her to the Shaikh’s house that I might be born there.” (Page 2: Jahangirnama: http://persian.packhum.org/persian/main?url=pf%3Ffile%3D11001080%26ct%3D0

http://www.scribd.com/doc/45153562/Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri-Jahangir-Nama-or-Memoirs-of-Jahangir-english

Another of the myths is that Jodha Bai was the sister of Man Singh, but this is dispelled in this paragraph where Jahangir is describing his dispensations after becoming Emperor:

“I made Raja Mān Singh— who was one of the greatest and most trusted noble men of my father, and had obtained alliances with this illustrious family, inasmuch as his aunt had been in my father’s house (i.e. was his wife), and I had married his sister, and Khusrau and his sister Sultānu-n-nisā Begam, the latter of whom is my eldest child, were born of her—as before, ruler of the province of Bengal.” Page 28 Jahangirnama: http://www.scribd.com/doc/45153562/Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri-Jahangir-Nama-or-Memoirs-of-Jahangir-english

He refers to Man Singh’s aunt as his father’s wife not as his mother as is written in Wikipedia

“Mariam uz-Zamani Begum Sahiba (other names: Rukmavati Sahiba, Rajkumari Hira Kunwari and Harkha Bai) was a Rajput princess who became the Mughal Empress after her marriage to Mughal Emperor Akbar. She was the eldest daughter of Kachwaha Rajput, Raja Bharmal of Amber, the older name of the Rajput State of Jaipur .”

“She was also the mother of emperor Jahangir, her husband’s heir.”

“Hira Kunwari, Akbar’s first Rajput wife, was the eldest daughter of Raja Bhar Mal of Amber. She was also the sister of Bhagwandas and the aunt of Man Singh I of Amber.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jodha_Bai)

Even the writer duo of Alex-Rutherford in their book Ruler of the World in their popular historical fiction quintet of Empire of the Moghul, refer to jahangir’s mother as Hira Bai of Amber and he describes her relationship with Akbar as one of disdain and resentment for his treatment of Rajput kingdoms.

Jahangir details the birth of two of his brothers and one sister, not naming the mothers but referring to them as concubines. Clearly he didn’t feel that their status as concubines and not wives did not merit naming them.

“Three months after my birth, my sister, Shāhzāda Khānam, was born to one of the royal concubines; they gave her over to his (Akbar’s) mother, Maryam Makānī. After her a son was born to one of the concubines, and received the name of Shāh Murād. On the night of Jumādā-l-awwal 10th, A.H. 979 (September, 1572), another son was born to one of the concubines. As his birth took place at Ajmīr in the house of one of the attendants of the blessed shrine of the reverend Khwāja Mu‘īnu-d-dīn Chishtī, whose name was Shaikh Dāniyāl, this child was called Dāniyāl.”

In the case of these two daughters of Akbar he names the wife as Bībī Daulat-Shād and she must have been of noble lineage.

“After the birth of Dāniyāl a daughter was born to Bībī Daulat-Shād whom they named Shakaru-n-nisā Begam.”

“After some time another girl was born to this same Bībī Daulat-Shād, and he (Akbar) called her Ārām Bānū Begam.” Page 45 Jahangirnama: (http://www.scribd.com/doc/45153562/Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri-Jahangir-Nama-or-Memoirs-of-Jahangir-english)

Prof Shirin Moosvi, historian of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), says there is no mention of Jodhabai in ‘Akbarnama’, nor in any Mughal documents of the period. “Akbar did marry a princess of the Kachhawa clan, the daughter of Bhar Mal, but her name was not Jodhabai,” she said.

Moosvi, who presented a paper on Friday on Akbar at a seminar at the National College in Bandra, said a painting of Jehangir’s mother along with his grandmother showed her to be Indian but there was no name given.

According to prof Moosvi the name Jodh Bai first appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries in historical writings. (For more info: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2005-12-10/mumbai/27860291_1_anarkali-myth-jodhabai-he)

It is indeed a mystery to me why the very candid memoirs of Jahangir do not mention his mother by name. Had Jahangir been born to a daughter of a great Rajput kingdom, surely he would have wanted to boast of the fact considering that the Mughals were trying to forge strategic alliances with the Rajputs.

In college, we used to speculate that maybe she was not of noble birth or status and therefore Jahangir glossed over her name. But then that is only speculation.

(The views expressed in this column are the writer’s own)

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  • http://Website Fazal Ahmad

    Whoa! Just can’t believe. ” Shall I hate Jasn e bahara” song. Good Info.

    • http://www.tehelka.com Rana Safvi

      A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. The lady in question may just have another name but Jashn e Bahara remains .

  • http://Website Booksplease

    Fascinating

    • http://www.tehelka.com Rana Safvi

      thanks

  • http://Website Ruby

    Wow thats a lot of information…I would say a lot of our bollywoodish myths busted by this article.

    • http://www.tehelka.com Rana Safvi

      aah Bollywood! I don’t think they care for historical authenticity, not in this case at least

  • http://Website Kalyani

    i felt a tinge of sadness after reading this. not sure exactly why! nut true that ‘jodha akbar’ as a ‘story’ intrigues so the romance stays, the music stays :)

    • http://www.tehelka.com Rana Safvi

      The romance may be real for all we know. Its just that the name of the lady in question may be different.

  • http://Website Ishfaq Bokhari

    Rana safvi —How far its true that Rajputes initiated the idea of marriage with Mughals king Akbar

  • Zaheer Alam Kidvai

    Great piece. But that doesn’t take the beauty of the ‘false’ legend, anyway. I think both should be known and understood and loved :)

  • H.C.Godara

    I am fascinateted to know the name of Jodha Bai’s father.I was her father in my past lafe..My sister’s daughter was Jodha in her past life during P.L.R