As part of our #TheseMughalWomen campaign, we gave our Instagram followers on a fun challenge. With just 6 clues, they had to guess which woman from the Mughal Court we were talking about. Before we reveal who it was, why not take the challenge yourself. Look at the video below and tell us if you could guess!
Did you get it?
(P.S. We think Clue 6 was a big give away!)
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The correct answer is Jahanara!
Daughter of Shah Jahan and Padshah Begum of the Mughal Empire, Jahanara Begum was one multi-talented woman. Her father’s favourite and eldest daughter, she wielded much influence in the Mughal court. In addition to her political power,she was a remarkable businesswoman, patron of arts and architecture, biographer, and a devout Sufi. If Jahanara lived today, she would come close to what us millenials call a #bosslady!
Do you want to know more about her fabulous life? Here are the clues with answers –
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1. She was a skillful political negotiator
Jahanara had a lot of influence on political matters- even Shah Jahan used to take her advice and listen to her. That is why when Aurangzeb had a falling out with Shah Jahan, Jahanara came to the rescue. That’s when he was finally pardoned. Talk about the power of persuasion!
2. She was a devout Sufi
Did you know Dara Shukoh introduced Jahanara to Sufism? She got so committed to Sufi ideology that even her pir (teacher) Mullah Shah Badakhshi was impressed. Had she been a man, he would have named her his successor! But as the rules stood, women were not allowed this position. Despite this, Jahanara remained devoted and ended up writing two books on Sufi saints, commissioning a tomb for her guru and commissioned the writing of other Sufi texts.
3. She wrote two biographies
Jahanara had a flair for writing. She wrote the biography of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, the founder of the Chishtiya sect of Sufism. It was called the ‘Mu’nis al-Arwāḥ’. In the book, she signed herself off as ‘Jahanara, a speck of dust at the feet of the sages of Chisht’- such was her humility.
She also wrote the ‘Risālah-i Ṣāḥibīyah’ (“The Mistress’ Treatise”), the biography of Mullah Shah and her discipleship under him. Both books were praised for their literary quality.
4. She conducted trade with the English and the Dutch
Like other Mughal women, Jahanara took to trade in a big way. Her ship, Sahibi, was docked in Surat from where she engaged in business. The revenues from the trade added to her income which was already 1 million rupees in today’s amount.
5. She designed the Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi
Jahanara was a keen patron of the arts but it was Chandni Chowk (literally meaning ‘Moonlit Intersection’) that we get a real idea of her aesthetic sense. She supported her father in several architectural projects in Shahjanahabad. By herself, she commissioned several gems including caravanserais, mosques, gardens, etc. The Jami Masjid in Agra and the Begami Dalan ( a white marble pillared porch near the entrance of Ajmer Sharif Dargah) were also her own endeavours.
6. She enjoyed the finer things in life, including wine.
Italian traveller Niccolo Manucci wrote that Jahanara ‘lived in a state of magnificence’. She had many pastimes like dancing and singing. It is said that her revenue fro Surat went straight to her betel nut expenses! Wine-drinking among Mughal ladies is well documented. Jahanara also enjoyed wine, which was specially imported for her.
Manucci writes a lot of court gossip, including the fact that Jahanara had several lovers or that sometimes she was so drunk that she couldn’t stand. But, like all gossip, we should probably take Manucci’s words with a grain of salt 😛
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