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Early Modern India
The Mughals: Jahangir
by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, 1 June 2009
Nuruddin Mohammed Salim ('Jahangir') was born in
1569. He was named Salim, because he was born after the blessings
of the Sufi saint, Sheikh Salim Chisti.
Akbar had already lost his
first two sons in their infancy. Jahangir was the third in line to
succeed him. He was the son of Akbar and Hira Kunwari, also known as Mariam uz Zamani, the daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amer
(Jaipur, in Rajasthan).
There are different
stories about Jahangir's mother. Some call her Jodhabai, but some
sources insist her name was Hirakunwari, and Jodhabai was in fact
the other name of Jahangir's second wife, Jagat Gosain, the princess
of Jodhpur and the mother of Khurram (later Emperor Shah Jahan).
Jahangir's first wife was Manbai, daughter of Raja Bhagwandas and
the sister of Raja Man Singh, both of
Amer. She became the mother of Prince Khusrav. Prince Parvez was the third son of Jahangir from Begum Sahib
i Jamaal. Jahangir also had a son, Shaharyar, from one of his
concubines, and in his later years he married Nur
Jahan. Nur Jahan wielded considerable influence over Jahangir and is
said to have made many decisions on Jahangir's behalf.
Salim assumed the name 'Padshah Jahangir Gazi' after his coronation
in 1605. 'Jahangir' literally means 'conqueror of the world'.
Jahangir's eldest son, Khusrav, is said to have revolted twice against
Jahangir at the behest of his uncle, Man Singh, and father in law,
Mirza Aziz Koka. Prince Khusrav had also been allegedly supported by
the Sikh guru, Arjundev.
Jahangir did forgive Khusrav once, but after the second attempt,
Jahangir apparently gave orders for Khusrav to be blinded. Khusrav
was later assassinated in the Deccan, allegedly at the orders of
his brother and rival to the throne, Prince Khurram. Jahangir even
imprisoned, tortured and killed Arjundev for his support of Khusrav. This started the drawn-out bitterness between
the Sikhs and the Mughals.
Jahangir's Mewar campaign
Jahangir continued Akbar's campaigning against the Rajputs of Mewar. Rana Amar
Singh, son of Rana Pratap Singh, was offering stiff resistance to the Mughal challenge. From time to
time, Jahangir had
despatched many of his famed nobles like Mahabbat Khan, Prince Parvez,
Abdullah Khan, Mirza Aziz Koka, Raja Basu, and Prince Khurram
to challenge the Rajputs. After many battles between 1605 and
1615, the Rajputs under Amar Singh agreed to sign a peace treaty (on the advice of Amar
Singh's courtiers and his son, Prince Karan Singh). Amar Singh, apparently not very happy with his submission to
the Mughals, retired to the confines of the lonely Nan chauki.
The Mughals The Rise and Fall of the
Mughals (dead link)
A miniature portrait of Jahangir by Bichitr in around 1625
The Rajputs agreed to the suzerainty of the
Mughals. In return, all the
territories of Mewar were magnanimously restored to the rajputs. Prince Karan
Singh was deputed to the Mughal court and given a high
rank there, along with a 'mansab' of 5000 'sawar' (cavalry) and 5000
'jat ' (foot soldiers).
Jahangir's other miscellaneous conquests were Fort Kangra in
Punjab, Kharda in Orissa, and Kishtwar in Kashmir.
Jahangir's southern Indian campaign
Jahangir's southern campaign was challenged by Malik Amber, an
Abyssinian general of Nizam Shah, the ruler of Ahmednagar (in
present day Maharashtra). Malik Ambar resisted the Mughal intrusions
till 1617, when he was forced to sign a peace treaty with the
Mughals led by Prince Khurram. That was when Prince Khurram was
given the title 'Shah Jahan' by Jahangir. But Malik Ambar didn't
adhere to the treaty and Prince Khurram was again sent to the Deccan to
subdue him. Malik Ambar again entered into a peace treaty
with Khurram in 1621. This time he had to cede a major part of the Ahmednagar territory to the
Mughals, along with lakhs (hundreds of thousands) of rupees in
But differences between Jahangir and his son, Khurram, and later a
revolt by his general, Mahabat khan, forced Jahangir to abandon his
One of the most important events of Jahangir's life was his marriage
to Nur Jahan. Nur Jahan was born Mehr un Nisa to Mirza Ghiyas Beg,
a Persian courtier of Akbar's. She was the wife of Jahangir's deceased
officer, Sher Afghan. When Mehr un Nisa was brought before Jahangir,
he fell in love with her.
Mehr un Nisa was almost thirty-four when she married Jahangir.
She was said to be very beautiful, multi-talented and wielded
considerable influence over Jahangir (especially when he was in an
inebriated state). Her daughter from her previous marriage, Ladli Begum, had been married to
Prince Shaharyar. Her brother, Asaf Khan,
had married his daughter to Prince Khurram.
Both wanted their sons-in-law to succeed Jahangir. Shah
Jahan resented Nur Jahan's influence over Jahangir, and revolted against
his father in 1623. However, his father-in-law, Asaf Khan, didn't
support Shah Jahan in his revolt against the emperor. Maybe his
loyalty for Jahangir overrode his ambition for his son-in-law.
The city of Fatehpur Sikri in the district of Agra was Akbar's
new capital, but it had been abandoned when Jahangir was sixteen
due to a lack of water
Jahangir shoots an arrow through the head of Malik Ambar in a
nineteenth century copy of a painting dated to 1616 by Abu'l
Mahabat Khan, another of Jahangir's
generals, who was close to Prince Parvez, also disliked Nur Jahan and Asaf
Khan. They were instrumental
in keeping him away from the Mughal court by sending him on expeditions or
by using other pretexts. He also felt humiliated by them (after his campaigns in Bengal and Bihar against the rebel Shah Jahan),
when he was asked to submit details of the captured property before
the Mughal court. Furthermore, his son-in-law, Barkhurdar, had also
had his own property
confiscated at the behest of Nur Jahan and Asaf Khan.
Angry, Mahabat Khan revolted against Jahangir and joined forces with
Taking advantage of Shah Jahan's revolt, the Persians captured
Jahangir was furious. He came down heavily on Shah Jahan. Asaf Khan
too refused to side with Shah Jahan. Mahabat Khan, realising the
futility of the situation, had also switched sides. All of the nobles,
who themselves disliked Nur Jahan, failed to side with Shah Jahan against the
emperor. Therefore Shah Jahan was isolated and forced to surrender to Jahangir.
He was pardoned by Jahangir and let off relatively
easily (in comparison to Prince Khusrav).
Jahangir's death and reign
Jahangir, who was addicted to drinking wine, was losing his health.
The revolts had also taken their toll on him. On 7 November
1627, while returning from Kashmir, Jahangir fell ill and died. He
was buried in Lahore, where Nur Jahan erected a beautiful mausoleum
on his grave.
Today, historians view Jahangir differently. While European
historians have been somewhat harsh against him, their Indian
counterparts have been fairly lenient while accessing his reign.
True, Jahangir was addicted to wine, was prone to pleasure seeking
and he led an easy way of life. But he never did so at the cost of
his administration. Barring the instances of revolts by his
rebellious sons, Khusrav, Khurram, and his general, Mahabat Khan, he
was successful in maintaining the loyalties of the people around
him. Jahangir had even once revolted against his father, but it was
more to stress his identity as an individual and not for any
personal ambitions. Even though he was trained in the use of arms, he
never led his army in battle. But he had some able commanders doing
efficient work at his behest. Jahangir was successfully able to
maintain the empire he inherited from his father. In fact he only added
His single loss was Kandahar to the Persians, and that to because of
the distraction he felt because due to Khurram's revolt. Jahangir even
achieved the loyalty of Mewar, something even Akbar wasn't able to
achieve in his lifetime. Jahangir was also famous for his sense of
justice. After his coronation, he erected a huge bell outside his
palace. Anyone who needed justice could seek Jahangir's attention by
ringing the bell.
Jahangir was well educated and erudite. He had a good command
of Persian, Arabic and Turkish. He wrote his own autobiography, the
'Tuzuk i Jahangiri'. He encouraged poets from Persia alongside his
support of the
vernacular poets of the country.
The tomb of Jahangir in Lahore, Punjab
Jahangir is said to have been an
expert in paintings, and often boasted that he can spot the source
of any artwork. He constructed beautiful gardens,
fountains, monuments and buildings. The mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandara, the tomb of Itimad ud Daula near Agra, the grand mosque
in Lahore and the gardens in Kashmir are a testimony to Jahangir's
aesthetic sense. He beautified his coins, the little things
around him and even the dresses he and his wives wore.
Jahangir also wasn't bigoted, and apart from a few instances, he was
considered to be quite impartial towards both Hindus and Muslims. He
participated in all Hindu festivals. He even employed European
teachers for his grandsons. All in all he pursued the religious
policy enunciated by his father, Akbar. His individual decisions,
such as the blinding of Khusrav or the killing of Guru Arjundev, were
carried out more in a fit of
rage than any sense of premeditation. Otherwise he was considered to
be a loyal
friend, an affectionate father and a loving husband. After the death
of his wife, Manbai, death, he is said to have abstained from food or water for the
initial three days of his mourning.
In spite of all his qualities, his personality has remained an enigma
for all historians. Jahangir's evident competency can therefore be
said to have been eclipsed by the greatness of his father, Akbar, and
by the grandeur of his son, Shah Jahan.
Jahangir's resting place inside the tomb
Prasad, L - Studies in Indian History,
Cosmos Bookhive, Gurgaon, 2000
Spear, Percival - The History of