Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Janni" the dutiful daughter Jahanara

“Janni” the dutiful daughter Jahanara

     She was born on a dark night in 1614,to most romantic couple, Khurram and wife, Arjumand Banu Begum,later Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.Her birth was inconsequential as it could not resolve the succession question of the Mughal throne. The meena bazaar at Agra fort the nuv roz festival  was organized by the  mughal court where the women of the Harem ran the stalls selling things as turban chadors gems and jwellery it was here they met for first time Arjumand was 14 and Khurram 20.The Empress Nur Jahan herself was helping the young Arjumand run her little shop and introduced her niece to  the prince. It was love at first sight and on May 10, 1612,the royal kazi pronounced the the nikah and Prince Khurram took Arjumand as his third wife.    

After  the birth of Jahanara, came the beloved first boy, Dara, born on March 30, 1615. Next came Shuja, another son, born on July 3, 1616, then another girl, Raushanara, born Spetember 3, 1617, then a boy, Aurangzeb, born November 3, 1618. Afterwards there followed numerous miscarriages by Arjumand.         

In 1620, when Emperor Jahangir fell seriously ill. Nur Jahan usurped power  to ensure favorable succession,married her daughter to one of Jahangir's sons by another queen, Shahryar. She wished for the couple to produce an heir to the throne if Jahangir died, which seemed very likely. Jahangir had despised the Persians of the court. With the present disputes in the Moghul courts, the Persians decided to take advantage and captured Qandahar, a Moghul  possession. When the dying Jahangir and Shahryar raised a rebellion against the Persians, Khurram denied them his assistance. A family rebellion exploded and he led his armies against his powerful father and Shahryar. However, he was defeated. Instead of being executed, Nur Jahan dictated her orders that Khurram should relocate his family. And that his sons Dara and Aurangzeb should be handed over as hostages.

The family had relocated to the Nizamshahi territory in the Deccan, a wasteland and breeding ground for rebels, traitors, and criminals. She and her family lived in huge tents, though they had riches of the world ate in gold and slept on ivory Jahanara grew up among splendor in the middle of nowhere. However, on October 28, 1627, hearing th death of Emperor Jahangir Khurram proclaimed himself Emperor. He ordered all other competitors to the throne, including Shahryar, executed, had Nur Jahan the powerful queen erstwhile defacto ruler placed in his captivity for ever. He became Shah Jahan, "king of the world", Arjumand became Mumtaz Mahal, "crown beauty of the palace", and Jahanara inherited the prestigous title of Begum Sahib, Princess of Princesses. At the age of 14.
At Fatehpur Sikri Jahanara's rooms can still be seen today, one could only imagine the splendor of its time. floral design of rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds were scattered across the walls her apartments, along with perfumed cool pool waters and vast marble and jeweled floors.
'Janni'.as called by the closest spent her nights with her father and mother, painting, writing poems, and helping her father plan reconstructions of other palaces and monuments.Jahanara truly was a gifted young woman. She spent her days with all the women of the court, from the lowest concubines to her step-mothers.She had a very good relationship with her brother Dara, who shared her love of the arts, but was hostile towards Roshanara and Aurangzeb,who were devious and disrespectful towards their mother and father,and even other minorities in the harem, such as the Hindu wife and Christian wife of shahjahan. All the royals Jahanara included were taught by many tutors,including Mumtaz's secretary,Sati-un Nissa,nicknamed sati. 

Jahanara spent her teenage years travelling all over the empire, visiting her father's many splendors with the court. The family visited the beautiful palace at Srinagar in Kashmir, where the harem often went for picnics on Silver Island on Lake Dal. And they also toured shahjahan's masterpiece, the Red Fort,  that rivaled any palace they had ever seen. Meena  Bazaar, which had simply died in Jahangir's later reign, even made a come back in Shahjahan's reign, which Jahanara took a part in. 

           However, tragedy struck the family in 1631. While giving birth to her 14th child, Mumtaz died on June 17. With the death of the empress, Jahanara became the uncrowned woman figure head next to her father. She took on many responsibilities, including all the responsibilities of operating the harem, from food to clothes to tutoring.Jahanara planned Dara's Nikah to Begum Nadira Banu, While attending a garden party in 1644, Jahanara's heavily perfumed kameez, trousers, and pairhan, robes, caught fire. She became seriously sick and shahjahan himself nursed his beloved daughter back to health, which took many weeks. 
After almost 30 years as the lead woman in the empire, Jahanara took on another duty to tend to her dying father. When shahjahan fell ill, his four sons (Dara, Aurangzeb, Shuja, and Murad) broke into wars against one another to succeed their father. Aurangzeb triumphed. He had Dara and Murad executed and Shuja fled. It is unclear how or where Shuja died. Although Jahan was still living, Auranzgeb declared himself the Emperor and had his father locked up in his Agra palaces Jahanara accompanied her father for the rest of his life.
In captivity and seclusion shahjahan ceaselessly watched his marble masterpiece rise into the sky. Started 1631-1648 there are evidences to suggest that.Jahanara herself was involved in its designing. 

Shah Jahan died on October 22, 1666, at the age of 74, with Jahanara at his side. she serenely supervised the modest burial of her legendary father. Jahanara returned to a changed court life after her father's death, ruled over now by Aurangzeb, Jahanara's orthodox brother. Aurangzeb had numerous luxuries banned. The Nine Days Bazaar was banned. Harem women were forced into strict seclusion, including many 'revealing' forms of clothing banned and the dismissal of all Christian, Hindu, and non-Islamic women.
Aurangzeb had a curious relation with her sister while he never forgave her for siding with Dara during succession struggle he also showered accolades on her and bestowed Jahanara many titles, many of which went against Aurangzeb's beliefs. He named her the Padishah Begum, the highest title in the harem meaning 'lady emperor After the death of their father Jahanara and Aurangzeb were reconciled. He gave her the title, 'Empress of Princesses' and she replaced Roshanara as first lady,and Sahibat al-Zamani, Mistress of the Age. Most importantly, Jahanara continued to hold the title 'Begum Sahib'--a title normally only applied to women when they gave birth to a male child for the emperor.
Jahanara continued to live an active personal head of the harem. she supervised the running of the household, like her father she took keen interest in  designing and building as she had done with her father when he was still alive. Her most famous structures are, the Chandni Chowk in Shahjahanbad.  a public bath south of chandni chowk  bazaar a caravanserai. Jahanara's most ambitious project was the Shiba Abad Garden, a large enclosed space of 50 acres designed especially for the royal family. Not much is known of Jahanara's private life a patroness of the arts, she was a skilled painter and poet who spent her days in seclusion away from the harem at Aurangzeb's court composing lyrical poetry and music and painting. Her family life had deteriorated. Both her parents had died, Aurangzeb, though he had bestowed many favors upon his older sister, was a chauvinist and a despot. Jahanara's sister Roshanara Begum was reportedly very jealous of her sister's return to power. 

Jahanara Begum stated that she and her brother Dārā were the only descendants of Timur to embrace Sufism. patronized Sufi literature,and commissioned translations of and commentaries on many works of classical literature Along with brother Dara Shikoh she was a disciple of Mullah Shah Badakshi, who initiated her into the Qadiriya order She wrote a biography of Moinuddin Chishti, the founder of the Chishtiya order, titled Mu’nis al-Arwā, as well as a biography of Mullah Shah, titled Risālah-i āibīyah, in which she also described her initiation by him Her biography of Moinuddin Chishti is highly regarded for its judgment and literary quality. In it she regarded him as having initiated her spiritually four centuries after his death, described her pilgrimage to Ajmer, and spoke of herself as a faqīrah to signify her vocation as a Sufi woman.

She argued against Aurangzeb's strict regulation of public life in accordance with his conservative religious beliefs and his decision in 1679 to restore the poll tax on non-Muslims, which she rightly,said would alienate his Hindu subjects. Jahanara died on September 6, 1681, at the age of sixty-seven. Throughout her life, Jahanara led a life that defied the strict codes of the Moghul Empire. A revered Indian figure today, Jahanara led a life of art and goodwill towards others. Throughout her last years, Jahanara openly defied her brother, Aurangzeb's bigot ism

Upon her death Aurangzeb gave her the posthumous title 'Sahibat-uz-Zamani' 'Mistress of the Age' Jahanara is buried in a tomb in the Nizamuddin Dargah complex in New Delhi which is remarkable for its simplicity

Source:Jahanara: Princess of Princesses, India, 1627 The Royal Diaries by Kathryn Lasky
Pic1:cover page of above book
Pic2:Jahanara, Roshanara and Dara grieving the death of their mother Mumtaz Mahal  a still from the movie 'Jahanara' 1964

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