(Last Updated on : 23/01/2012)
Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib is the Indian Imperial Princess born on April 2, 1614. She was the eldest daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. After the death of Mumtaz Mahal in 1631, Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib, who was just 17, took the place of her mother as first lady in the country. This happened despite Shah Jahan having two other wives. Other than looking after her younger brothers and sisters, Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib was also credited for bringing her father out of mourning and restoring regularity to the court that was darkened by her mother`s death and her father`s grief. Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib very well completed her task to oversee the betrothal and wedding of her brother, Dara Shikoh, to a begum, Nadira Banu which had been originally planned by Mumtaz Mahal but postponed by her death. This was a great responsibility bestowed on the shoulders of the elder sister after the death of Mumtaz Mahal.
Shah Jahan frequently took his elder daughter`s advice and entrusted her with the responsibility of the imperial seal. Shah Jahan`s fondness for Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib was reflected in the multiple titles he bestowed upon her, which includes Padishah Begum (Lady Emperor), Sahibat al-Zamani (Lady of the Age) and Begum Sahib (Princess of Princesses). The power of Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib was such that could not be compared with other royal princesses. She had a different aura of elegance that made her outstanding among the other children of Shah Jahan. Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib was allowed to live in her own palace, outside the boundaries of the Agra Fort
. Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib was not only a genuine person by heart but also a rare beauty alike her mother.
On the night of the 4 April 1644, while Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib was heading towards her sleeping quarters her silk nightgown brushed against a lamp left burning on the floor. Her garment caught fire and she was immediately enveloped in flames, giving almost no time to stop the ignition. Two of the attendants who had tried to help their mistress died of severe burns. The injuries of Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib were such that it was not until late that year that she was confirmed to be out of danger and an 8 day festival of thanks giving to the Almighty was celebrated. With the assistance of numerous physicians Shah Jahan
himself nursed Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib back to health. After the recovery of his beloved daughter, Shah Jahan gifted her extraordinary gems and jewellery and bestowed upon her the revenues of the port of Surat
The research done by the historians and literary scholars deduced that Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib shared a wonderful relationship with all her family members in all situations of crest and fall. Both Shah Jahan
and Mumtaz Mahal
loved their daughter immensely and often depended on her suggestions before taking important decisions. Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib possessed a genuine love and respect for her parents and stayed beside them in any moment of required assistance. It is known that she behaved like a guardian and almost brought up her younger siblings after her mother`s demise. On Aurangzeb`s usurpation of the throne, Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib went along with her father in imprisonment at the Agra Fort where she dedicated herself to his care until his death.
Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib had a heart with deep love and genuine liking between for her brother Dara Shikoh
, unlike the cool courtesy that existed between her another brother Aurangzeb
and herself. Legend says that once when Aurangzeb was severely sick and this elder sister took every care of him. Later when he asked Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib whether or not she would support him for the throne and she said that he would not be emperor, Aurangzeb became very angry because of this comment. Again when Aurangzeb fell out of favor with his father during the time of Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib`s period of recovery she is accredited for using the celebrations of her recovery to persuade her father to re-establish Aurangzeb to his former positions. The record in Indian History of the Mughals that speaks of the tensions with her sister Roshanara Begum, who was three years junior to Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib, disliked her elder sister`s position as first lady of the empire.
Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib took the side of Dara Shikoh
in the struggle for the throne. In return, Dara had promised her to lift the restriction on marriage for Moghul princesses, which Akbar had introduced earlier. Only if he actually won the throne, her power would likely have continued.
After the death of Shah Jahan, Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib and Aurangzeb were came into absolute mutual terms. He gave her the title - `Empress of Princesses` and Roshanara, as the first lady, succeeded her. Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib was glad enough to have her closed ones and loyal subjects around her than the power. She became close to Aurangzeb to an extent that they occasionally argued and quarreled about kingdom matters - something that usually resulted in the execution of anyone doing so. Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib also enjoyed certain rights which other women did not have.
Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib convinced her brother and asked him to lower down the strict regulation of public life in accordance with Aurangzeb`s conservative religious beliefs and his decision. In 1679 to restore the poll tax on non-Muslims, Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib said would alienate Aurangzeb`s Hindu subjects. After the death of Shahzadi Jahanara Begum Sahib, Aurangzeb gave her the posthumous title `Sahibat-uz-Zamani` (`Mistress of the Age`) and she was buried in a tomb in the Nizammuddin complex in New Delhi, which is noteworthy for its simplicity.