Following this morning ritual, he would grant audiences in the grand Diwan-i-Am (the hall of common audience). This was a huge pavilion with enormous pillars of red sandstone supporting the ornate arches which sheltered the imperial terrace a dais skirted the grilles of wrought silver. When the emperor entered, there would be a fanfare of trumpets and a great beating of drums which would penetrate to the furthest corners of the Zenana. Then he would sit on his gold and silver throne, encrusted with precious stones, magnificent in its own right but a pale precursor to the future Peacock Throne. He would sit with his legs crossed in a posture called 'Pharaoh's mode' which was the privilege only of people of high status. At his feet, the Omrahs, or nobles and grand officers of the Empire, would stand around according to rank.
Ushers with gold maces would announce ambassadors and visiting dignitaries. Shah Jahan had simplified the sycophantic practices, particularly the Sajda (bowing low). It was abolished as it involved prostration, which according to the tenets of Islam is due to God alone. A second form of prostration which did not involve bowing in Sajda, but which was somewhat complex, was introduced. This involved bowing (from the waist) and touching one's forehead, eyes, and arms four times. Even this was considered against Muslim tradition. There seems to have been created a controversy between the Imperial grandeur and orthodoxy. It remained the court ceremony of salutation but an exception was made in regard to theologians of various degrees. They used only the common Muslim formula of wishing peace.
Apart from granting audiences, Shah Jahan would receive emissaries from the provinces and dictate letters to his scribes, send reprimands, grant compensations, and attend to other administrative functions of his office. Each Wednesday, he presided over the Chamber of Justice, judging cases that were beyond the capability of ordinary tribunals. These were usually disputes regarding finance, religious questions, and general affairs. This duty was close to his heart, as he liked to consider himself as having a special ability to administer true justice. Some historians hold that he proved to be a strong and fair judge.
After attending to the Diwan-i-Am, the Emperor would go to the Diwan-i-Khas, which consisted of three sections decorated with dentated arches. The throne here was simpler than the one in the Diwan-i-Am, sculpted from a single block of grey marble and lined with brocade cushions. When the Emperor had seated himself and was ready to hold audience, the ambassadors and grand officials waiting to meet him would rush to his feet and make their petitions. He also received his architects, with whom he would discuss the progress of the construction of his monuments, and painters and upholsterers would present their work to him, hoping for a commission. For secret meetings he would retire with his vizier, Dara Shikoh, and other officials who enjoyed his confidence, to the Shah Burj in the north-east corner of the fort. This was an octagonal tower surrounded by a gallery, from where there was a view of the Taj Mahal. Since this was still under construction, the sounds of the labourers, masons, and carvers of marble working could probably be heard. At the court of Agra, there were seats of gold, of silver and of precious woods inlaid with ivory pieces.
After lunch, the Emperor and the ladies would rest for the afternoon. Following this, Shah Jahan would hold court in the Zenana to hear the grievances and petitions of female supplicants, and also to deal with any matter relating to the harem which needed his attention. Charity was one of the state duties of the princesses. In fact, it was a matter of prestige among them to contribute funds or construct buildings like mosques, wells, bazaars, etc., for public benefit, and often the royal ladies would request an increase in their allowances from Shah Jahan in order to distribute more alms.
The female staff of the Mughal Zenanas was managed by a Mahaldar, a formidable matron who ruled her domain with an iron hand. Usually she would have only one rival, the chief eunuch or Nazir. These retainers would give orders to the ladies-in-waiting and servants, granting them leave according their rank: one month a year for the 1st grade, seven months for the 3rd, etc. The Mahaldar also disbursed salaries, each woman receiving, according to her rank, a salary that varied from 1,160 rupees per month down to 10. Her role was also political, for she was supposed to maintain a network of spies and keep watch over the activities of the royal family, reporting anything significant directly to the Emperor himself. It was important for these managers to be vigilant in everything and supervise each matter. If any of the lower-rank servants were found guilty of serious misdemeanours, they would be punished. The Mahaldar or Nazir would report the crime and the culprit would be tried by a domestic tribunal presided over by the Emperor himself. The Zenana would witness the more severe punishments. Disobedience was severely penalized by Shah Jahan. He would not tolerate a nobleman sitting in his presence even inadvertently, nor if the subject was fatigued. He was a very strict disciplinarian. On the other hand, he appreciated brave retorts and courtiers defending themselves in a clever and judicious manner.
In the evening, after attending to the Zenana, the Emperor would retire to the Moti Masjid to offer his prayers with his chosen courtiers. As he left the harem, the female members of his household would be murmuring respectful blessings and patting him, and often some lady petitioner whose request had been granted would be loudly calling down benefactions upon him. After prayers he would return to his duties with his viziers and ministers in the Diwan-i-Khas. With evening setting in, the tapers of the heavy, silver candelabra would be lit and the silk and gold tapestries would glitter brilliantly.
When his day's work was done, he would come back to the Zenana for supper. Finally, at ten at night, he would recline on his couch and listen to the scribes reading his favourite poems or other literary works to him, or to Qaris reciting verses from the Holy Quran. The princesses, ladies, and courtiers would be free for the evening. All the visitors, noblemen, and officials would leave the palace. The Rajput guards would be sent away to the outer walls and be replaced by Tartar, Uzbek, and Kashmiri guards. Female members of these mountain tribes would guard the harem. They would patrol the Zenana and gardens by the light of the stars or the moon. Thus ended a typical day in court of the Mughal Emperor.
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