book excerptise:   a book unexamined is wasting trees

Studies in Mughal India

Jadunath Sarkar

Sarkar, Jadunath;

Studies in Mughal India

M. C. Sarkar & Sons, Calcutta / W. Heffer & Sons, Cambridge, 1919, 313 pages

ISBN 1153169061, 9781153169066

topics: |  history | india | mughal |

		I'm no moth, that in some impetuous way
		flies into a flame and dies ... better to say
		I am a candle that with an inner passion
		slowly and silently, keeps burning away.
				rubAi attributed to Zeb-un-nissa, tr. Paul Smith

				[see below for Sarkar's comments on the moth
				symbolism in persian poetry]

in the west, children can read intricate details about roman times, but the average indian citizen is completely in the dark about much of our history. i feel sad that many of us are more knowledgeable about guy fawkes or joan of arc than about sher shah or rani laxmibai.

the poem above, is by the princess Zeb-un-nissa, daughter of aurangzeb. she is one of the fascinating personalities dealt with in this collection of essays on mughal times. by age seven, she learned to recite the Quran and was declared a Hafiz, an event celebrated with great pomp by her doting father. she emerged as a major patron for islamic studies and literature. but in 1681, she was involved in a failed revolt by her brother akbar, and aurangzeb imprisoned her till she died 20 years later. yet at her death, aurangzeb felt an intense loss and her funeral was conducted with full imperial regalia.

but how come so many of us indians don't know her story?

partly this is because works like this have disappeared from our shared consciousness. I am sure the volume would sell well if an enterprising publisher were to bring out the volume at a price of about rs. 200. but despair not - an e-book version is available for download at [get the b/w pdf version. (avoid OCR-ed formats like epub - full of errors)

unlike the dry arguments of the serious historian, this is a lively collection of eminently readable stories. Yet the narrative is authentic, and a wide range of sources are cited at every turn.

so after downloading, don't just file it away, please do read it!!

Jadunath Sarkar

Jadunath Sarkar writes with a light touch that comes out of complete
mastery of his subject matter.  He is our scholar par excellence when it
comes to Mughal history.  He pioneered a path focusing on the vast
written record, particularly the narratives of those close to the
empire, (mostly in Persian), and relegating the second-hand tales of
European visitors like Bernier for occasional cross-validation (with many
charges of inaccuracy).

Born in 1870 to a local zamindar in Natore (in today's N. Bangladesh),
Sarkar shone in college and was a Premchand-Roychand scholar (1897).  He
taught in Presidency College, Patna College and in the BHU.  His work
gradually gained acceptance in the colonial-minded orientalist school of
Mughal historiography.

the e-book is an autographed edition.  it may have originally been with
the library of Sarkar's contemporary, Maharaja Prodyot Coomar Tagore; 
it was digitized from the Robarts library, Univ. Toronto

Working at the turn of the century, Sarkar's diction harks back to an
even older time.  Some of the words and spellings were already antique
(e.g. "to-day").

    aurangzeb in prayer.  in 1681 at Bukhara, he paused midway through a
    battle, dismounted from his elephant and peacefully prayed while the
    battle raged. (p.36)


1. The daily life of Shah Jahan

Popular view wrong

We are afraid that most Europeans still lie under the spell of the popular
novelists.  With them, all Oriental kings were heartless brainless despots,
full of pride and ignorance, surrounded by pimps and sycophants, squeezing
the last farthing out of a down-trodden peasantry, and spending their
hoards on sensual pleasure or childish show — who passed their lives in
toying with women in the harem, in listening to the fulsome praise of
faithless courtiers, or in stupefying themselves with intoxicants, men
whose animal existence was never ennobled by intellectual exercise or
spiritual musing, aesthetic culture or the discipline of work.  Such is the
Sultan (or Rajah) of nearly every English novel, with his jewelled turban,
curled up moustaches, bloodshot eyes, nose high up in the air, and a small
arsenal thrust into his waist-band.  This idea has been impressed on the
general public of Europe by popular writers, who sacrifice truth to
literary effect, and whose ignorance of Eastern history is only equalled by
their pride in everything Western.

But a little reflection will show that this view canunot possibly be
true. From Akbar to Aurangzib we had four great rulers, who reigned in
unbroken succession for a century and a half (1556-1707), extended their
dominion, maintained peace at home and respect abroad, developed an
administrative system in all its branches, and carried many arts towards
perfection. Could this work have been done by sleepy voluptuaries? The
world is not so easily governed. Inefficiency has a very short lease even
in the East. An empire like that of the "Great Mughals" in its best days
could not have been a dead machine; administration, arts and wealth would
not have developed, as they did develop in that period, if we had had only
faineants on the throne, in the council-chamber, and at the head of

Emperor's Daily Routine

Happily the contemporary Persian histories fully describe the Emperor's
daily routine of work and enable us to picture the life of his Court. Let
us see how Shah Jahan lived and worked in his beloved palace oi
Agra. (True, he founded New Delhi and named it after himself, but Agra
was the city of his heart.)

	  4    	: Wakes — Prayer — Reading.
	  6-45 	: Appears at Darshan window — elephant combats
	       	  review of cavalry.
	  7-40 	: Public Darbar (Diwan-i-am).
	  9-40 	: Private Audience (Diwan-i-khas).
	  11-40	: Secret Consultation in the Shah Burj.
	  12   	: In harem —meal — siesta — charity to women.
	  4    	: Public Audience — Evening prayer,
	  6-30 	: Evening assembly in the Diwan-i-khas.
	  8    	: Secret Council in the Shah Burj.
	  8-30 	: In the harem — music,
	  10   	: Hears books read.
	  10-30 - 4 a.m. : Sleeps.

2. The Wealth Of Ind, 1650

When Milton wrote,
	High on a throne of royal state, which far
	Outshone the wealth of Ormuz and of Ind,
	Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
	Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,
			[Paradise Lost book 2]

could he have been thinking of India under Shah Jahan, the builder of the
Taj and the Peacock Throne?  For, the finest example of eastern royal
magnificence was afforded by that king's Court. The contemporary history of
Abdul Hamid Lahori enables us to estimate accurately the wealth of the
Mughal Emperor in 1648.

A rupee of that time was woith 2s. 3d., but its purchasing power was about
seven times that of to-day.  The Revenue was 20 krores of rupees (22 1/2
million pounds), of which the newly acquired provinces.  Daulatabad,
Telingana, and Baglana,- yielded 1 1/2 krores.  The Crown-lands supplied
the Emperor's privy purse with three krores of rupees (3 1/2 million pounds

In the first twenty years of his reign, Shah Jahan spent 91/2 krores of
rupees in rewards and gifts, about 41/2 krores in cash and 5 krores in
kind. His Buildings absorbed more than three millions sterling, as the
following list will show :-

At Agra—
	The Pearl Mosque and the palaces and gardens in
		the fort 				6o lakhs
	The Taj Mahal   				50 lakhs

At Delhi
	Palaces						50 lakhs
	Jumma Masjid 					10 lakhs
	New wall around Delhi 				4 lakhs
	The Iddgah outside Delhi      			1/2 lakhs
At Lahore
	Palaces, gardens, and canal			50 lakhs
At Kabul
	Mosque, palace, fort, city-wall			12 lakhs
In Kashmir
	Royal buildings and gardens			8 lakhs
At Qandahar, etc.
	Forts of Qandahar, Bist, and Zamindawar		8 lakhs
At Ajmir etc.
	Ajmir Ahmadabad & c.				12 lakhs
At Mukhlispur
	Imperial palaces				6 lakhs
	Crown Prince Dara Shikhoh's palace		2 lakhs
						Total:	272.5 lakhs
						= 3 mn pounds

The imperial jewellery was worth 5 krores of rupees besides two krores
worth given away to princes and others.   Of the former, the emperor wore
on his head neck, arms and waist fully two krores worth; these were kept in
the harem in charge of the women servants while the remainder (worth 3
krores) was deposited in the outer apartments in the custody of the

On 12 March 1635, Shah Jahan sat for the first time on the newly finished
peacock throne.

"Many gems had been collected by three generations of emperors, - Akbar,
Jahangir, and Shah Jahan.  Of what use were they if the people could not
gaze at them?"  asks the court annalist, Abdul Hamid Lahori.

So, all the jewels in the outer palace (worth 2 krores) were ordered to be
shown to the emperor, and out of them he chose the very best, valued at 16
lakhs.  With one lakh tolahs (= 3255 lbs. Troy) of pure gold, equivalent to
14 lakh rupees the artisans of the Imperial gold-smith department under the
superintendence of Bebadal Khan, constructed a throne 3 1/4 yards long, 2
1/2 yards broad, and 5 yards high, and studded it with these jewels. The
inner roof was enamelled and had only a few stones set here and there; but
the outside was covered with rubies, yaquts (topaz?), and other gems.
Twelve pillars of emerald supported this roof. Above it were placed two
figures of peacocks ornamented with jewels, and between them a tree set
with rubies, diamonds, emeralds, and pearls.

3. The companion of an Empress

Sati-un-nissa (lit. 'the lance-head among women') was the daughter of a
respectable native of Mazendran [N. Persia, on the Caspian], and belonged
to a family of scholars and physicians.  Her brother Taliba Amuli, was
unrivalled in his age in the choice of words and the power of clothing fine
sense in equally fine phrases, and earned the title of "Prince of Poets" at
the Court of Jahangir.

When her husband Nasira, a brother of the great physician Raknai Kashi,
died in India, Sati-un-nissa entered the service of Mumtaz Mahal, the
renowned Empress of Shah Jahan.  Here her ability, charm of speech, perfect
mastery of the proper conduct of a dependent, and knowledge of medicine and
various kinds of treatment, won her royal mistress's heart, and she was
promoted above all the old servants and entrusted with the Empress's seal,
the badge of the head of her establishment. She was a good elocutionist and
could recite the Quran well and read Persian works in prose and verse
properly. For her literary accomplishments she was appointed tutoress to
the Princess Royal Jahanara, and very soon taught her to read the Quran and
write Persian.

When the Empress died (7th June, 1631, Sati-un-nissa, as her chief servant
and agent. accompanied the corpse to its last resting-place at Agra (the
Taj Mahal).

Shah Jahan, as a loving husband, faithfully cherished her memory and did
not marry again, though he survived her by 35 years. The duties of the late
Empress, as the female head of the Imperial family, now fell to her eldest
daughter Jahanara, and she had to play her mother's part in conducting
marriage ceremonies, entertaining female guests, and performing other
social functions peculiar to the mistress of a household. In this task she
was ably assisted by her former tutor, Sati-un-nissa, to whom she gave her
seal and control of her household staff, on her mother's death.

At every marriage of a prince of the blood royal, Sati-un-nissa, as a sort
of female major domo, conveyed the Imperial presents to the bride's house.
The male officers who accompanied her stayed outside, while she entered the
harem and made over the gifts to the bride's mother, from whom she received
liberal rewards for her pains.  Mumtaz Mahal before her death used to lay
aside money, jewels and precious articles, in view of her sons' marriage
when they would grow up. Jahanara constantly added to them.  At the time of
marriage these were spent in offering tribute to the Emperor, gifts to the
princes and Begams, and presents and robes to the nobles and courtiers.  At
the marriage of the Crown Prince Dara Shukoh, (11th November, 1632), these
amounted to sixteen lakhs of rupees, — seven lakhs in jewels, one lakh in
cash, four lakhs in gold and silver ornaments and rare articles of all
countries in the world, and the balance in elephants and horses.

By order of Jahanara, Sati-un-nissa arranged all this vast collection for
display in the spacious courtyard of Agra Fort in front of the window at
which the Emperor used to show his face to his adoring subjects.

At night the whole place was illuminated, forming a sort of exhibition. The
courtiers and nobles feasted their eyes on the treasures, and even the
Emperor condescended to pay a visit.

So, too, at the marriage of the second prince, Shujah (23rd February,
1633), a display was made of wedding presents worth 10 lakhs of rupees, all
supplied by Mumtaz Mahal and Jahanara. Sati-un-nissa's capacity for
organisation and artistic taste must have found ample scope for exercise in
getting up such exhibitions.

In addition to being the head servant of Jahanara, Sati-un-nissa was also
made by the Emperor the Sadar or Superintendent of the harem, in reward of
her fidelity and obedience. She had also to wait at the Emperor's table and
serve him with provisions, — as the most honoured and trusted of women
attendants. Thus she was constantly in the Emperor's eyes and was most
kindly treated by him.

She had no child of her own, but adopted the two daughters of her late
brother, Taliba. On them she lavished all the love and maternal yearnings
of a childless widow's heart. The younger of the two, on whom she
particularly doted, was married to Hakim Zia-ud-din, a nephew of her late
husband. The bridegroom was brought over from Persia and cherished at the
Imperial Court through her influence.  But this young woman, the centre of
all Sati-un-nissa's affection, died of a long illness following childbirth
(10th January^ 1647).  A mother's grief is too strong for any earthly
control.  Sati-un-nissa, "in spite of her wisdom and philosophy, cast off
all patience, and abandoned herself to mourning for eleven days in her
house, outside the citadel of Lahore."

But Shah Jahan was the kindest of men, a model husband, father and master
of household. He could not neglect an old servant. On 22nd January, hoping
that her grief had now somewhat abated, he kindly had her brought to her
official residence within the Imperial harem, went there in the company of
Jahanara, consoled her in many ways, and took her with himself to the

Next day, as the Emperor went out to hunt, Sati-un-nissa returned to her
own house for some necessary works. After eating her meal and saying the
evening prayers, she betook herself to reading the Quran.

At about 8 P.M. she suddenly cried out, "I feel like being choked," and
rapidly grew worse. The Persian doctor Masih-uz-Zaman, a distant relative,
was immediately summoned. At his arrival, she bowed to salute him, then
raised her head, and at once sank down on her side. The pulse was still
beating ; the doctor and her son-in-law continued applying remedies for
fainting, but to no purpose.  When the pulse failed, they knew that she had
left the world.  Thus she followed her daughter in death by a fortnight

Next day (24th January) the news reached Shah Jahan in the hunting camp.
He was deeply touched, and ordered all honour to be shown to her mortal
remains- and Rs, 10,000 to be spent on her funeral.  After more than a year
the body was taken out and finally buried west of the Taj Mahal, close to
the outer quadrangle, in a tomb built by Government at an expense of
Rs. 30,000.  A village yielding Rs. 3,000 a year was assigned for the pay
of its attendants.  Thus she was not parted from her beloved master and
mistress even in death.

4. Who built the Taj Mahal?

Mumtaz Mahal's Death

In 1607 A. D., when Shah Jahan (then Prince Khurram) was 15 years old, his
father Jahangir betrothed him to Arjmand Banu Begum (afterwards surnamed
Mumtaz Mahal), a daughter of Nur Jahan's brother, Asaf Khan. Five years
afterwards (1612), the marriage was celebrated : the bridegroom was then 20
years and 3 months of age, and the bride just 14 months younger. 27

After 19 years of wedded life, in which she bore 14 children to her royal
husband, the Begam died of the pain of child-birth, prolonged for 30 hours,
at Burhanpur, on Tuesday, 7th June, 1631 (17 Ziqada, 1040 A.H.)

Shah Jahan was so overpowered by grief that for one week he could not bring
himself to appear at the window of the Hall of Audience, or to attend to
any affair of State.  He said that he would have turned faqir for the rest
of his life, if kingship were not a sacred charge which no one can lay
aside at his pleasure.  He gave up the use of coloured dross, scents, and
jewels; forbade music and song at the annual coronation and birthday
ceremonies, indeed they now sounded strangely like dirges and wailing in
his ears. His beard which had not more than 20 grey hairs, now rapidly
turned white.  At every visit to her tomb, he used to shed "rivers of
tears" over her remains, and lament, saying, " Empire has no sweetness,
life itself has no relish left for me now!"  If he visited the harem, he
promptly returned weeping and sighing," Nobody's face can delight me now!"

True, Shah Jahan had married two other wives, the daughters of Muzaffar
Husain Miiza and Shah Nawaz Khan, 2 years before and 5 years after his
union with Mumtaz Mahal; but these were political alliances {ba
iqtiza-e-maslihate), not love-matches. Mumtaz Mahal so fully occupied his
heart that there was no space left there for any other love ; and the
Emperor in weal and woe, in settled residence and travel, never parted with
her company.  (Padishahnamah, i. 387, and Muntakhab-ul-Labab, i 459).

The following account of her death is given in a rare Persian manuscript
(the autobiography of Qasim Ali Afridi (1771-1827), affixed to his Diwan),
belonging to the Khuda Bakhsh Library [Patna].  The story seems to be
current at Agra, and is also found in a Ms. treatise on the Taj which has
been lent by the Khuda Bakhsh Library to the Victoria Memorial Mall. p.29

	Shah Jahan had, besides his four sons, four daughters; Anjuman-ara,
	Gaiti-ara, Jahan-ara, and Dahar-ara [Gauhar-ara].  It is said that
	just before the birth of the last, a sound of crying was heard in
	the womb of Mumtaz Mahal. Immediately on hearing it, the Begam
	despaired of her life, summoned the Emperor to her side, and said
	in plaintive accents, 'It is well-known that when the babe cries in
	the womb, the mother can never survive its birth. Now that it is my
	lot to leave this mortal sphere for the eternal home, O King!
	pardon aught that I may have said amiss. Pardon every fault that I
	may have committed, as I am about to set out on my last
	journey.....  Sir King! I shared your lot at the time of your
	captivity [in your father's reign] and other afflictions.  Now that
	the Lord God has given it to you to rule the world, I have, alas,
	to depart in sorrow!  Promise to keep my two last requests.'

	The Emperor promised 'on his life and soul,' and asked her to state
	her wishes.  She replied, 'God has given you four sons and four
	daughters. They are enough to preserve your name and fame. Raise
	not issue on any other woman, lest her children and mine should
	come to blows for the succession. My second prayer is that you
	should build over me such a mausoleum that the like of it may not
	be seen anywhere else in the world.' Then, a moment after giving
	birth to Dahar-ara, she died.  (Pp. 22b-23a).

But the above is merely a popular legend. The contemporary historian,
Abdul Hamid Lahori (author of the Padishahnamah) is silent about it. He
describes the death-scene thus:

	When the Begam learnt that her death was certain, she sent the
	Princess Jahan-ara to call the Emperor to her. He at once arrived
	in great concern and sorrow.  She commended her sons and her
	mother to his care and then set out on her last journey."
	(i. 386).

the building in the deer park [Ahukhana] where mumtaz's body
lay while the Taj Mahal was being constructed at Agra.
(across the Tapti in Zainabad) ] (image from the blog :

Her body was at first laid in the earth in a building within a garden on
the bank of the river Tapti opposite Burhanpur. On the 1st December
following her death, it was taken out and sent to
Agra in charge of Prince Shuja, arriving at the latter town on the 20th of
the month, (i. 402).


Burhanpur was founded in 1400 AD by the Faruqi King, Nasir Khan, on the
northwestern banks of the Tapti. The Faruqis ruled Burhanpur for the next
two centuries. In 1600, the Mughal Emperor Akbar captured Burhanpur, and
for a century thereafter, until Aurangzeb's death in 1707, it remained
integral to Mughal ambitions in the Deccan. The governor of the city was
invariably an individual of elevated rank, often a Mughal prince. Asirgarh
Fort, on the outskirts of the town, was known as Dakkhan ka Darwaza or the
Gateway of the Deccan.

Across the Tapti from Burhanpur is one of its most well known monuments,
the Akhukhana, literally "deer park, which was used as a hunting ground
during Faruqi and Mughal rule. This is also where Shah Jahan's most beloved
queen, Mumtaz mahal was buried. She died in Burhanpur in 1631 while giving
birth to their 14th child, princess Gauhara. The queen's body rested here
for several months until it was disinterred and travelled with the Mughal
court to Agra – there, later, to find a final home in the glorious Taj

The Taj, its builders and stones

A spacious tract of land, south of Agra city, was chosen for the burial
place, and purchased from its owner, Rajah Jai Singh, the grandson of Man
Singh (Padishahnamah, i, 403). Plans for the tomb were submitted by all the
master architects of the land. When one of these was approved by the
Emperor, a wooden model of it was first made (Diwan-i-Afridi, 23a).

Begun early in 1632, the Taj was completed in January 1643, under the
supervision of Mukarramat Khan and Mir Abdul Karim, at an expense of fifty
lakhs of rupees (Muntakhab-ul-Labab, i. 596, and Padishahnamah, ii. 322 et
seq). The Diwan-i-Afridi estimates the cost at 9 crores and 17 lakhs of
rupees and names the following artisans as employed in the construction : —

	(1) Amanat Khan Shirazi, writer of Tughra inscriptions, from Qandahar.
	(2) Master (ustad) Isa, mason, a citizen of Agra.
	(3) Master Pira, carpenter, a resident of Delhi.
	(4-6) Banuhar, Jhat Mal, and Zorawar, sculptors, from Delhi.
	(7) Ismail Khan Rumi, maker of the dome and the scaffolding (dhola)
		supporting it.
	(8) Ram Mai Kashmiri, gardener. (P. 23 a and b.)

Other workmen are named in a recent Urdu work on the Taj, but I know not on
what authority.

The following twenty kinds of precious stones were set in the Taj,
[Diwan-i-Afridi, 23b) : —

	(i) Cornelian from Qandahar.
	(2) Lapis lazuli from Ceylon.
	(3) Onyx from ' the upper world ' (?)
	(4) Patunja from the river Nile.
	(5) Gold [stone?] from Basrah and the sea of  Ormuz.
	(6) Khatu from the hill of Jodhpur.
	(7) Ajuba from the hill-rivers of Kumaon.
	(8) Marble from Makrana.
	(9) Mariama from the city of Basrah.
	(10) Badl-stone from the river Banas.
	(11) Yamini from Yemen.
	(12) Mungah from the Atlantic Ocean.
	(13) Ghori from Ghor-band.
	(14) Tamrah from the river Gandak.
	(15) Beryl from the hill of Baba Budhan.
	(16) Musai  (stone of Moses!) from Mount Sinai.
	(17) Gwaliori from the river of Gwalior.
	(18) Red [sand-] stone from all directions.
	(19) Jasper from Persia.
	(20) Dalchana from the river Asan.

Its endowment

On the 12th anniversary of her death, (27th January, 1643), Shah Jahan
visited the Taj Mahal, and bestowed in waqf 30 villages of the parganahs of
Agra and Nagarchin, yielding a revenue of 1 lakh of rupees, and the serais
and shops adjoining the tomb, producing another lakh of rupees in rent, for
the up-keep of the mausoleum and the support of the pious men placed in
it. The Padishahnamah (ii. 327) gives a list of these villages, (only 29,

zebunnissa - watercolour by abanindranath tagore, c.1921

4. Zeb-un-nissa : poet princess

Zeb-un-nissa, or the Ornament of Womankind, was the eldest child of
Aurangzib and his Persian wife Dilras Banu Begam.  Born at Daulatabad in
the Deccan on 15th February, 1638, she was educated by a learned lady named
Hafiza Mariam (the wife of Mirza Shukrullah of Kashmir whose family
originally came from Naishabur in Khurasan.)

She inherited her father's keenness of intellect and literary tastes, and
completely mastered the Arabic and Persian languages.  For her success in
committing the whole Quran to memory she received from her delighted father
a purse of 30,000 gold pieces.

[from the Diwan of Zeb-un-Nissa,
Magan Lal and Jessie Duncan Westbrook, 1913:
At seven years old she was a Hafiz — she knew the Koran by heart; and her
father gave a great feast to celebrate the occasion. We read that the whole
army was feasted in the great Maidan at Delhi, thirty thousand gold mohurs
were given to the poor, and the public offices were closed for two days. ]

She could write the different kinds of Persian hand, — nastaliq, n.askh,
and shikasta with neatness and grace. Her library surpassed all other
private collections of books, and she employed many scholars on liberal
salaries to produce new works or copy old manuscripts for her.


Aurangzib disliked poets as lying flatterers and their poetry as vain
babblings; but his daughter's liberality compensated for the lack of Court
patronage of literature in that reign, and most of the poets of the time
were maintained by her.  Supported by her bounty, Mulla Safiuddin Ardbeli
lived in comfort in Kashmir and translated the gigantic Arabic
Tafsir-i-Kabir (Great Commentary) into Persian and named it after his
patroness, Zeb-ut-tafasir. Other theological tracts and books, written by
her pensioners, bore her name.

Gifted poetess

Zeb-un-nissa is said to have written Persian poetry under the pseudonym of
Makhfi, or the Concealed One. But the extant Diwan-i-Makhfi cannot be her
work. [as fully discussed by Khan Sahib A. Muqtadir in the O P.L. Persian
Catalogue, Vol. III, pp. 250-1.]
The title of Makhfi was borne by several other poets, notably a wife of
Akbar, and Nur Jahan. (M. A.  538.)

Zeb-un-nissa is the heroine of some love-tales current in modern Indian
literary circles.  She was a gifted poetess and is alleged to have claimed
an artist's independence of morality.  Similar discreditable legends about
Kalidas's life have long circulated among our old school of Sanskritists,
but are discredited by sober historians {Ind. Atitiq., 1878, 115.) We shall
to-day try to ascertain whether the traditions about the Princess Royal of
Delhi bad a stronger basis in fact than those about the laureate poet of
the court of Ujjayini.

No mention of Zeb-un-nissa's love-intrigue with Aqil Khan, or indeed with
any person whatever, is made in any work of her father's reign or even for
half a century after his death. We can easily explain the silence of the
court historians and other official writers who would naturally suppress
every scandal about royalty.  But perfect freedom of speech was enjoyed by
the privatehistorians of the reign (especially the two Hindu authoi-s,
Bhimsen and Ishwardas), by Khafi Khan who wrote a quarter of a century
after Aurangzib's death, and by the author of the biographical dictionary
of the Mughal Peers (Masir-ul-umara), who lived a generation later still.

The European travellers, Bernier and Maniicei, wrote for the eyes of
foreigners, and had nothing to fear from the wrath of Aurangzib or his
posterity. Manucci, in particular, revelled in court scandals, so much so
that his History of the Mughals [Storia do Mogor) has been well called a
chronique scandaleuse.  Would he have passed over Zeb-un-nissa's
failings, if he had heard of any, as such a topic would have made excellent
"copy " for his book?  The gossipy and outspoken Khafi Khan does not assail
Zeb-un-nissa's character, though he openly proclaims the shames of Jahangir
and Nur Jahan.

The story of our heroine's love-intrigues is modern,— a growth of the 19th
century and the creation of Urdu romancists, probabiy of Lucknow. The
pretended Urdu Life of Zeb-un-nissa that holds the field at present is the
Durr-i-Maktum Munshi Ahmaduddin, B.A., of Lahor, who quotes from an earlier
work, Haiyat-i-Zeb-un-nissa by Munshi Muhammad-ud-din Khaliq.

This story, in its most developed form is conveniently summarised in
English (evidently from Ahmaduddin's Urdu work) in Mrs. Westbrook's
introduction to her Diwan of Zeb-un-nissa in the "Wisdom of the East
Series" (1913). She writes:

   In the beginning of 1662 Aurangzib was taken ill, and, his physicians
   prescribing change of air, he took his family and court with him to
   Lahore. At that time Aqil Khan, the son of his vizier, was governor of
   that city. He was famous for his beauty and bravery, and was also a
   poet. He had heard of Zeb-un-Nissa, and knew her verses, and was
   anxious to see her. On pretence of guarding the city, he used to ride
   round the walls of the palace, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. One
   day he was fortunate; he caught sight of her on the house-top at dawn,
   dressed in a robe of gul-anar, the colour of the flower of the

   He said,
		A vision in red appears on the roof of the palace.
   She heard and answered, completing the couplet:
		Supplications nor force nor gold can win her.

   She liked Lahor as a residence, and was laying out a garden there: one
   day Aqil Khan heard that she had gone with her companions to see a
   marble pavilion which was being built in it. He disguised himself as a
   mason, and, carrying a hod, managed to pass the guards and enter. She
   was playing chausar with some of her girl friends, and he, passing
   near, said: "In my longing for thee I have become as the dust wandering
   round the earth."  She understood and answered immediately: "Even if
   thou hadst become as the wind, thou shouldst not touch a tress of my

   They met again and again, but some rumour reached the ears of Aurangzib,
   who was at Delhi, and he hastened back. He wished to hush up the matter
   by hurrying her into marriage at once. Zeb-un-Nissa demanded freedom of
   choice, and asked that portraits of her suitors should be sent to her;
   and chose naturally that of Aqil Khan. Aurangzib sent for him; but a
   disappointed rival wrote to him: "It is no child's play to be the lover
   of a daughter of a king. Aurangzib knows your doings; as soon as you
   come to Delhi, you will reap the fruit of your love."

   Aqil Khan thought the Emperor planned revenge. So, alas for poor
   Zeb-un-Nissa! at the critical moment her lover proved a coward; he
   declined the marriage, and wrote to the king resigning his service.
   Zeb-un-Nissa was scornful and disappointed, and wrote: "I hear that Aqil
   Khan has left off paying homage to me" — or the words might also mean,
   "has resigned service" — "on account of some foolishness." He answered,
   also in verse, "Why should a wise man do that which he knows he will
   regret?" (Aqil also means, a wise man).

   But he came secretly to Delhi to see her again, perhaps regretting his
   fears. Again they met in her garden; the Emperor was told and came
   unexpectedly, and Zeb-un-Nissa, taken unawares, could think of no
   hiding-place for her lover but a deg, or large cooking-vessel. The
   Emperor asked, "What is in the deg?" and was answered, "Only water to be
   heated." "Put it on the fire, then," he ordered; and it was
   done. Zeb-un-Nissa at that moment thought more of her reputation than of
   her lover, and came near the deg and whispered, "Keep silence if you are
   my true lover, for the sake of my honour." One of her verses says, "What
   is the fate of a lover? It is to be crucified for the world's pleasure."

   One wonders if she thought of Aqil Khan's sacrifice of his life.
   [Note by JS - this conjecture is inappropriate: According to the
   conventions of Persian poetry the type of the perfect lover is the moth
   which consumes itself in the flame of a lamp without uttering a
   groan. Cf. Carlyle's 'Consume your own smoke'.]

   After this she was imprisoned in the fortress of Salimgarh." (Pp. 14-17.)
   [Salimgarh - between Red fort and the Jamuna, fort dates from Humayun's

Now, examining the above account in the light of known history we at once
find that the story of the smuggled lover being done to death in a deg in
the harem has been transferred to Zeb from her aunt Jahanara, of whom it is
told by Manucci (Storia, i. 218) and Bernier (p.13). The recorded facts of
the life of Aqil Khan also contradict the story in every particular.

Mir Askari, afterwards surnamed Aqil Khan, was a native of Khwaf (in
Persia) — and not the son of a Delhi vazir. He entered the service of
Aurangzib in Shah Jahan's reign and attended the Prince during his second
viceroyalty of the Deccan (1652-1657) as his equerry (jilaudar).  He had
already made his mark as a poet and adopted the pen-name of Razi from the
saint Burhanuddin Raz-ullah whom he venerated.

When Aurangzib started from the Deccan to contest the throne, he left his
family behind in the fort of Daulatabad (6th February —December, 1658), and
Aqil Khan acted as the governor of the city from 6th February and of the
fort from August 1658 till near the end of 1659. Arriving at Delhi on 8th
February 1660, he was, two months later made faujdar of the land between
the Ganges and the Jumna (Mian Duab), but replaced by another officer in
July, 1661.

In the following November he temporarily retired from service on the ground
of ill-health and was permitted to reside at Lahor on a pension of Rs. 750
a month. When in November 1663 Aurangzib was passing through Lahor with his
family, on his return from Kashmir, Aqil Khan waited on him (2nd November)
and was taken into the Emperor's train and appointed Superintendent of the
Hall of Private Audience, a position of very close contact with the
Emperor, (January, 1664).

Evidently he continued to enjoy high favour, being promoted in October 1666
and given a royal present in May next. Later on he was made
Postmaster-General (Darogha of Dak Chauki), but resigned in April 1669 and
seems to have lived under a cloud for the next seven years, as we find no
mention of him till October, 1676 when he was granted an allowance of
Rs. 1,000 a month.  In January, 1679 he was taken back into service as
Second Paymaster. Being appointed Subahdar of Delhi in October 1680, he
held that office till his death in 1696.

Thus we find that the story of young Aqil Khan having been roasted to death
in a cauldron by order of Auraugzib, is utterly false. No man below thirty
could have been put in charge of a fort containing Aurangzib's wives and
children on the eve of the war of succession, and, therefore, Aqil Khan
must have been an old man at the time of his death in 1696.

So far was Aqil Khan from being cut off in the prime of youth through the
vindictiveness of his mistress's father that he married, raised a family
and died at the age of more than seventy surrounded by his grandchildren.
The Letter of Mirza Bedil (a favourite of Aqil Khan, when governor
(subahdar) of Delhi towards the end of the 17th century,) mentions Qayyum
Khan as this noble's son, and Shukrullah Khan and Shakir Khan as his

[Aqil was among Bedil's patrons:
Āqil Ḫān Rāzī who was pay-master (baḫšī) and then governor (ṣuba-dār) of
Delhi and the author of three Sufi treatises, two of them expounding
Šaṭṭārī Sufi terminology and practices, was among Bedil’s teachers (Anṣārī
1969, pp. 523-525).]

And yet the Urdu biographer of Lahor has the audacity to say that
Dr. Bernier witnessed the boiling of young Aqil Khan in a cauldron in the
harem! Bernier's story refers to Jahanara's lover, and he took [the entire
story] from Manucci.

The Khan's temporary retirement from service and residence at Lahor away
from the court (November, 1661 - (October, 1663) could not have been due to
imperial displeasure as he was given a large pension all the time.  But his
long removal from the capital and Emperor's entourage for ten years
(1669-1679) during the first seven of which he was denied any imperial
bounty shows that he had for some reason, unknown to us, fallen under the
Emperor's wrath.

Was it a punishment for making love to Zeb-un-nissa?  A letter to her from
her brother Prince Akbar, written in 1680, contains the statement, "As the
Emperor has now ordered that no packet (nalwo) bearing the seal of Aqil
should be admitted to the ladies' apartments' of the palace, it is certain
that papers will have to be now sent [by me?] after careful consideration."

Was this Aqil her alleged lover Aqil Khan Razi tho poet? I think,
not. There was at this time in Akbar's camp a Mulla named Muhammad Aqil,
who afterwards signed a manifesto pronouncing canonical sentence of
deposition on Aurangzib in favour of Akbar, for which the luckless
theologian was imprisoned and severely bastinadoed when his patron's
rebellion failed. Zeb being herself a Quranic scholar and a patron of new
commentaries on the Muslim scripture, correspondence between her and a
noted theologian like Mulla Muhammad Aqil would naturally pass
unsuspected. The writer of the letter implies that his own confidential
letters to his sister used to be sent under cover of Aqil's envelopes,
which could reach her unchallenged, while packets bearing his own seal on
the cover might have been intercepted by his enemies. This is quite clear
from the concluding part of the letter : "The delay that has taken place in
my writing to you is solely due to the fear lest my letters should fall
into the hands of other people [lit., strangers, i.e., enemies.]"

The theory that the Emperor stopped the poet and noble Aqil Khan's
correspondence with his daughter on detecting an intrigue between them, is
discredited by the fact that only a few months afterwards he was appointed
to the highly responsible post of viceroy of Delhi, the very place where
she was sent as a State-Prisoner early next year.

Zeb-un-nissa was imprisoned by her father in January 1681, and the official
history establishes beyond dispute the fact that it was in punishment of
her complicity with Prince Akbar who had rebelled against the Emperor.

When Akbar's rebellion frizzled out and his abandoned camp near Ajmir was
seized by the imperialists (16th January, 1681), "Zeb-un-nissa's
correspondence with him was discovered, she was deprived of her pension of
four lakhs of rupees a year, her property was confiscated, and she was
lodged in the fort Salimgarh at Delhi." (Masir-i-Alamgiri, 204.) Here she
lived till her death on 26th May, 1702.

Another legend makes her fall in love with Shivaji the Maratha hero at
first sight on the occasion of his being presented to the Emperor at Agra
on 12th May, 1666.  Fifty years ago a novel was written by Bhudev Mnkherji
in Bengali describing how the lovers exchanged rings and parted.
[Westbrook's Diwan of Zeb-un-nissa: others say she was imprisoned because
of her sympathy with the Mahratta chieftain Sivaji.]
But it is a fiction and nothing more. Not to speak of the Persian histories
of the time, no Marathi life of Shivaji mentions that a Mughal princess
interested herself in the fate of the captive chieftain in her father's
capital. None of them gives the smallest hint of the champion of Hindu
revival having coquetted with a Muslim sweet-heart in the enemy's den.

Her captivity at Delhi does not seem to have been relaxed during her
life. The official history records her death thus : — "The Emperor learnt
from the news-letter of Delhi that the Princess Zeb-un-nissa had drawn on
her face the veil of God's Mercy and taken up her abode in the palace of
inexhaustible Forgiveness, [26th May, 1702].  At the parting of his child,
dear as his life, his heart was filled with grief and his eyes with tears.
He could not control the weakness that overpowered him.  [At last] he
recovered self-possession [somehow], and ordered Syed Amjad Khan, Shaikh
Ataullah, and Hafiz Khan to give away alms [at her funeral] and build a
place of repose for her, as had been decided beforehand, in the Garden of
Thirty Thousand [outside Delhi] which was a bequest from Jahanara."
(M..A., 4G2.)

[A poem attributed to Zeb-un-Nissa (from Diwan of Z-u-N)]:
	So long these fetters cling to my feet !
	My friends have become enemies, my relations are strangers to me.
	What more have I to do with being anxious to keep name undishonoured,
	When friends seek to disgrace me ?
	Seek not relief from the prison of grief, O Makhli
	thy release is not politic
	O Makhfi, no hope of release hast thou until the Day of Judgment come.
	Even from the grave of Majnun the voice comes to my ears—
	"O Leila, there is no rest for the victim of love even in the grave."
	I have spent all my life, and I have won nothing
	but sorrow, repentance, and the tears of unfulfilled desire...

5. Episodes from Aurangzib's Life

Campaign in Central Asia 1647

In 1647 Aurangzib was recalled from Guzerat and sent to Central Asia to
recover Balkh and Badakhshan, the cradle of the royal house of Timur.
Leaving Kabul on 7th April, 1647, he reached Balkh on 25th May, and
battled long and arduously with the fierce enemy. The bravest Rajputs shed
their blood in the Van of the Mughal army in that far off soil ; immense
quantities of stores, provisions and treasure were wasted ; but the Indian
army merely held the ground on which it encamped ; the hordes of Central
Asia, ' more numerous than ants and locusts," and all of them born
horsemen,— swarmed on all sides and could not be crushed once for all.

The barren and distant conquest could have been retained only at a ruinous
cost. So, a truce was patched up : Nazar Muhammad Khan, the ex-king of
Balkh, was sought out with much eagerness, and the Indian army beat a
hurried retreat to avoid the dreaded winter of that region. Many krores
of rupees of Indian revenue were thus wasted for absolutely no gain ;
the abandoned stores alone had cost several lakhs, and much property too
had to be sacrificed by the rearguard for lack of transport.

During this campaign Aurangzib did an act which made his fame ring
throughout the Islamic world.  While the Mughal army was fighting
desperately with the vast legions of Abdul Aziz Khan, King of Bukhara, the
time for the evening prayer {suhar) arrived. Disregarding the prohibitions
of his officers, Aurangzib dismounted from his elephant, knelt down on the
ground, and deliberately and peacefully went through all the ceremonies of
the prayer, in full view of both the armies. Abdul Aziz on hearing of it
cried out, 'To fight with such a man is to ruin one's self,' and suspended
the battle.

In the Deccan : Fruitless battle against the "slim" Marathas

	the unceasing but fruitless exertion for 26 years, the war with
	the "slim" Marathas, ruined the Emperor's health, the morale of
	his army, and the finances of the State,— a war of which all saw
	the futility and all were heartily tired, all save Aurangzib, who
	pursued one policy with increasing obstinacy, till at last the old
	man of 90 sank into the grave amidst despair, darkness, and chaos
	ready to overwhelm his family and empire. 48

	all of Aurangzib's generals and even his sons sent against the
	kingdoms of the Deccan had failed of conquest, and were rightly
	suspected of corruption.  So there was nothing left for Aurangzib
	but to conduct the war in person.  With this object he left Ajmir
	for the Deccan (8th September, 1681, never again to return to
	Northern India alive or dead.

	[Over the next 15 years, he used up all the resources of the
	empire in conquering Bijapur and Golconda, which had been allied
	states.  But this could still not bring stability, owing to the
	increasing militancy of the Marathas who had become emboldened by
	Shivaji's successes.

	In 1699, at the age of 81, he set out personally to besiege the
	Maratha forts, because] the mutual jealousies of his generals,
	Nusrat Jang and Firuz Jang, Shujaet Khan and Muhammad Murad Khan,
	Tarbiyat Khan and Fathullah Khan, spoiled his affairs...

	The rest of his life is a repetition of the same sickening tale :
	a hill fort captured by him after a great loss of time men and
	money, recovered by the Marathas from the weak Mughal garrison
	after a few months, and the siege begun again after a year or two!

Aurangzeb's movements 1695-1706

	A bare record of his sieges will suffice here.  [Starting from
	Islampuri (Brahmapuri) in Oct 1699, he marched 900 km]:
		BASANTGARH [Vasantgad] (surrenders 25th Nov., 1699).
			returned to Marathas in 1706]
		SATARA (siege, 8th Dec, 1699 — 21 Apr, 1700).
		PARLIGARH [Parali] near Satara (siege, 30th Apr — 9th June).
			  Halt at Khawaspur for the rainy season of 1700 —
			  (from 30t'h Aug.)
		PANHALA (siege, 9th Mar.—28th May, 1701), also
		PAWANGARH captured.
		Khatanun: Halt for the rainy season of 1701,
			(29th May — 7th Nov.).
		WARDHANGARH [Vardangad] (6th June, 1701), NANDGIR, CHANDAN
			and WANDAN (6th Oct.)  captured by Fathullah Khan.
		KHELNA [Vishalgad] (siege, 26th Dec, 1701 — 4th June, 1702).
 		Bahadurpur: Halt at for the rainy season of 1702,
			after a most painful march from l0th June to the
			third week of October !
		KONDANA [Sinhagarh] (siege, 27th December, r702 — 8th April,
		Puna : Halt for the ramy season of 1703,
		RAJGARH (siege, 2nd December, 1703 — i6th February, 1704).
			(ist May —l0th November).
		TORNA [near Rajgarh] (siege, 23rd February — l0th March).
		Khed : Halt for the rainy season of 1704 (17th April
			- 22nd October).
		WAKINKHERA [Wagingera, karnataka] (siege, 8 Feb — 27 Apr
			1705).  Halt at Dewapur, 6 miles from Wakinkhera
			for the rainy season of 1705, (May — 23rd October).

the 90-year old aurangzeb going by palanquin to lead an attack
during a siege.  the wikipedia page on the Siege of Wagingera
uses this image, but it could also be some other siege from
this period.  [painting by bhagavandas]

forts of maharashtra:
history sholapur district :

Aurangzib's character : Hatred of the Shias

Fierce as was Aurangzib's hatred of the Hindus (the vast majority of his
subjects), it was equalled by his aversion for the Shiahs, — who supplied
him with some of his best generals and all his ablest civil officers.  To
him the Shiah was a heretic {rAfizi) ; in one of his letters he quotes
with admiration the story of a Sunni who escaped to Turkey after
murdering a Shiah at Isfahan, and draws from it the moral, "Whoever acts
for truth and speaks up for truth, is befriended by the True God!"  In
another letter he tells us how he liked the naming of a dagger as the
'Shiah-slayer ' {Rafizi-kush), and ordered some more of the same name to
be made for him.  p.49

In his correspondence he never mentions the Shiahs without an abusive
epithet : 'corpse-eating demons' (ghul-i-bayAbAni), ' misbelievers'
(bAtil mazhabAn), are among his favourite phrases. Indeed, even the
highest Shiah officers had such a bad time of it in his Court that they
often played the hypocrite to please him.

Aurangzib threw the cloak of Sunni orthodoxy over his aggressive conquest
of Bijapur and Golkonda, of which the rulers were Shiahs.  The
Shaikh-ul-Islam (son of the Chief Qazi Abdul Wahhab and one of the purest
characters of the age, tried to dissuade the Emperor from these "wars
between Muslims" as opposed to Islam. But Aurangzib got displeased at the
opposition; the honest and manly Shaikh resigned his post, left the
Court, and for the rest of his life rejected the Emperor's repeated
solicitations to resume his high office.

in spite of his religious intolerance, narrowness of mind, and lack of
generosity and statesmanship, he was great in the possession of some
qualities which might have gained for him the highest place in any
sphere of life except the supreme one of rule over men.  He would have
made a successful general, minister, theologian, or school-master, and
an ideal departmental head. But the critical eminence of a throne on
which he was placed by a freak of Fortune, led to the failure of his
life and the blighting of his fame.

Aurangzib' s Daily Life

	Aurangzib Routine of work.
	  5	: Wakes — Morning Prayer — Devotional reading.
	  7-30	: Justice in Private Chamber.
	  8-30	: Darshan — Review — Elephant fights.
	  9-15	: Public Darbar
	  11	: Private Audience
	  11-50	: Harem — Siesta
	  2	: Zuhar Prayer.
	  2-30	: Private Chamber — Study — Business — Asar Prayer
			- State affairs
	  5-30	: Evening salute in the Private Audience Hall
			— Sunset Prayer
	  6-40	: Soiree in the Diwan-i-khas
	  7-40	: Court dismissed — Isha Prayer
	  8  	: In the Harem — Religious meditation and reading — Sleep

Why did Aurangzeb fail?

Jadunath Sarkar repeatedly remarks on how, unlike some of his
predecessors, Aurangzeb had few vices, was competent and industrious,
and had all the hallmarks of greatness.  Yet at the end of his life, his
empire lay crumbling - treasury exhausted, and a thousand rebellions on
all sides.  It would not survive even the immediate generation.

How did this happen?  Sarkar cites several reasons:
a) the emergence of Shivaji - which showed that the Mughal empire was not
b) Aurangzeb's inability to carry the populace - especially his harsh
   measures against the practice of Hinduism and also other sects aligned
   to Islam.
c) His inability to find trustwrorthy sons and lieutenants - this is what
   led to his having to lead the fight against the Marathas by himself.
   What is it that had led to such widespread corruption in the
   emperor's court?

Probably it is the last which is especially problematic.

[Reading this in the 2010s, what I find surprising is Aurangzeb's
inability to depute suitable princes and generals as had been the
norm.  It was partly the culture of immense centralization of power that
led to distrust.

Also, his policies of not supporting commanders who had been captured by
the Marathas, and the unrest generated among the population by his
anti-Hindu and anti-Shia steps, caused considerable unrest.  As an
example, Sarkar cites the rise of Chhatar Sal in Bundelkhand, who was
supported by all the Bundelas:

	The policy of temple destruction on which Aurangzib launched in
	1670, created an opening which Chhatra Sal at once seized. The
	Hindu population of Bundelkhand and the adjoining province of
	Malwa took up arms in defence of the altars of their gods.  They
	sighed for a bold leader who would repeat Champat's spirited
	defiance of the Mughal Emperor and protect their religion.
	Chhatra Sal was, therefore, hailed as the champion of the Hindu
	faith and Kshatriya honour. Even Sujan Singh, the loyal Buncdela
	Rajah of Urchha, sent him a secret message of praise and good

	Chhatra Sal followed the Maratha system of sparing the places that
	paid him a blackmail of one-fourth of their standard revenue
	(chauth). As Aurangzib be('arne more and more deeply entangled in
	the Deccan, Chhatra Sal achieved more brillian triumphs, including
	the capture of Kalinjar and Dhamuni and the loot of Bhilsa.
					[short life of aurangzzeb, p.405-6]

But what Sarkar does not mention - though he hints at it - as does Saksena
in his analysis of Shahjahan - is the fiscal irresponsibility of these
huge expenditures.

Perhaps Aurangzeb's greatest failure is not in terms of managing his
people or policies, but in terms of managing his finances.  The stable
subas of the settled north, with their vast revenues, were squandered
recklessly, when a more fiscally prudent military policy could have saved
the empire.

7. A Muslim Heroine

[Amir Khan] was subahdar (viceroy) of Afghanistan, and filled the post with
undimmed brilliancy till the day of his death, 28th April, 1698. p.111

Amir Khan's wife, Sahibji (=Her Ladyship), was a daughter of Ali Mardan
Khan, a highly gifted Persian, who rose to be the Premier Noble of the
Court of Shah Jahan. She was a wonderfully clever and expert woman. In
conducting the administration she was her husband's partner. His success in
many a difficulty was due to her wise suggestions and business
capacity. She was the real Governor of Kabul.

One night the Emperor Aurangzib learnt from the report of Kabul the news of
Amir Khan's death.  Immediately summoning Arshad Khan (who had formerly
acted as Diwan of Afghanistan), he said in concern, " A great difficulty
has cropped up. Amir Khan is dead. That province, which is ever ripe for a
thousand disturbances and troubles, has now none to govern it. A disaster
may happen before the arrival of his successor."

Arshad Khan boldly replied, "Amir Khan lives.  Who calls him dead?"

The Emperor handed him the report from Kabul.  The Khan read it and added,
"Yes ; but then it is Sahibji who governed and controlled the province. So
long as she lives your Majesty need not fear any disorder."

The Emperor at once wrote to the lady to guard the province till the
arrival of her husband's successor in office, which, however, happened two
years afterwards.

During this interval she was the sole Governor of Afghanistan, as she had
been in all but the name in her husband's lifetime.

Death overtook Amir Khan when he was out among the valleys. If the fact had
got wind, the Afghans would have taken heart and massacred his leaderless
escort in their narrow defiles.  Sahibji with great presence of mind
suppressed her grief, concealed his death, dressed a man like Amir Khan,
made him sit in a palki with glass doors, and thus marched long
distances.  Every day she inspected the troops and received their
salute. It was only after issuing safely from the hills that she went into

After her husband's death, all the Afghan chieftains sent their relatives
to condole with her. She treated them with great respect and sent word to
the headmen, "Take your customary dues. Do not rebel or rob, but remain
obedient as before. Otherwise I defy you to a fight. If I defeat you, my
name will remain famous to the end of time."
[defy you to a fight: Lit., " Here is the ball and here the polo field,"
i.e., a challenge to a contest.]

The headmen out of regard for fair play gave her new promises and
assurances of their loyalty and did not break out in lawlessness.

Her courage and presence of mind had been as conspicuous in her youth.
Years ago at Delhi she was passing by a lane in a chaudol (sedan
chair). The Emperor's own elephant — the chief of its species — appeared in
an infuriated {mast) condition before her.

Her attendants wanted to turn it back. But the mahouts as a class are
vicious, and this one was further proud of being the Emperor's own driver.
So he urged the elephant rashly onward. Her escort pulled out their arrows
from the quivers; but the brute flung its trunk on the chaudol to seize and
trample it down. The porters dropped it and fled. Quick as thought Sahibji
jumped out, ran into a money-changer's shop hard by, and shut the
door. This was no common feat of agility, as a Muslim noblewoman travelling
on the public road must have been securely wrapped up like a parcel sent by
post in the rainy season.

She had saved her life, but alas! she had broken pardah, — an unpardonable
offence against Indian etiquette. Amir Khan was angry at her audacity, and
for a few days lived in separation from her. Then the Emperor Shah Jahan
told him frankly, "She has played a man's part ; she has saved her own and
your honour at the same time. If the elephant had seized her and exposed
her (bare body) to the public, what privacy would have been left ?"

So she was taken back by her husband. Amir  Khan might have cried to his
heroic wife,
	"Bring forth men children only !
	For thy undaunted mettle should compose
	Nothing but males."

But unfortunately she was childless like Lady Macbeth. Her husband, in fear
of her, durst not take another wife, but kept a secret harem and had
children by them. At last Sahibji discovered it, but adopted and lovingly
brought up her step-sons.

On being relieved of the government of Kabul, she made a pilgrimage to
Mecca and Medina, where she spent large sums in charity and was highly
honoured by the Sheriff and other people.

[The materials of this sketch have been taken from the Persian
Masir-ul-umara i. 277 — 286.
Ma'asir al-Umara, written by Nawab Shams ud Daula Shah Nawaz Khan and his
son Abdul Hai Khan, at Aurangabad, is a Persian biography of notables in
the Mughal Empire approximately during 1556-1780.]


1. The daily life of Shah Jahan                                  2
2. The wealth of Ind, 1650                                       16
3. The companion of an empress                                   21
4. Who built the Taj Mahal?                                      27
      Mumtaz Mahal's death / Taj
      The Taj, its builders and stones
      Its endowment
5. Aurangzib (Life)                                              33
	Early Life (b.1618)
	War of succession (1657)
	Reign in N. India (1661-1681)
	Reign in the Deccan (1681-
	The last phase (1695-20th February, 1707)
		[repeated pattern: occupies a hill fort after difficult
		siege; regained by the Marathas again after a few months]
	Aurangzib's character
	Aurangzib' s Daily Life

6. Education of a Mughal Prince                                  72

	The Mughal government of India was essentially of the nature of a
	military occupation and the stability of the throne depended on
	the efficiency of the army, and the military capacity of the

	This is how Aurangzib advises his eldest son, Muhammad Sultan, then
	in his 15th year, marching to Ajmir to be presented to the Emperor
	Shah Jahan.

	"Whether you are in residence or on a march, get up from bed 72
	minutes before sunrise. After spending 48 minutes in bathing and
	getting ready, come out of your rooms for the morning prayer.  After
	saying the prayer and reciting set passages, read one section of
	the Quran.  Breakfast in the inner apartments will come next.  If
	you are on a march, take horse 48 minutes after sunrise. Should you
	hunt on the way, take care to reach the halting place appointed for
	that day punctually.  Arriving there, if you are so inclined or
	have the necessary time, read something in Arabic; otherwise take
	rest.  About 24 minutes after noon, when the sun begins to
	decline, come out of your tent for the zuhar prayer which
	should be performed in full congregation....

	After the asar prayer, read Arabic for a short time, and then, some
	24 minutes before sunset, hold a 'select audience,' where you
	should sit "till 48 minutes after nightfall. Then leave the chamber
	and read a section of the Quran, and retiring to the inner
	apartments, go to bed at 9 p.m.

7. Zeb-un-nissa                                                  79
8. The Nemesis of Aurangzib                                      91
	We all know that the Emperor Aurangzib
	gained the throne by deposing his father and
	murdering his brothers. But it is not so
	well-known that an exactly similar fate
	threatened him in 1681, when his fourth son,
	Muhammad Akbar, made an attempt to seize the

9. A Muslim heroine                                               111
10. Feringi pirates of Chatgaon                                   118
11. The conquest of Chatgaon                                      131
12. Shaista Khan in Bengal                                        153
13. The Revenue Regulations of Aurangzib                          168
14. Orissa in the 17th Century                                    198

15. A great Hindu Memoir-writer                                   231
	Bhimsen's Nuskha-i-Dilkasha : Bhimsen was
	a hereditary civil officer of the Mughal
	Government, passed his life in the Mughal
	cities and camps of the Deccan, and visited
	most places of India from Cape Comorin to

16. An old Hindu historian of Aurangzib                           242
	the Fatuhat-i-Alamgiri composed by Ishwar-das
	of Patan, Gujarat

17. William Irvine, historian of the late Mughals                 250
18. Khuda Bakhsh, the Indian Bodley                               270
19. Art in Mughal India                                           286
20. Education in Mughal India                                     300
21. Oriental Monarchies.                                          304

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This review by Amit Mukerjee was last updated on : 2015 Sep 08