Jahangir – Muslim Warrior

jahangir

Nur-ud-din Mohammad Salim, known by his imperial name Jahangir (Persian name) “conqueror of the world” (August 31, 1569 – November 7, 1627), was the fourth Mughal Emperor who ruled from 1605 until his death in 1627. His throne name Jahangir means ‘conqueror of the world’, ‘world-conqueror’ or ‘world-seizer’ (Jahan = world, gir the root of the Persian verb gereftan, gireftan = to seize, to grab). Much romance has gathered around his name, and the tale of his illicit relationship with the Mughal courtesan, Anarkali, has been widely adapted into the literature, art and cinema of India.

Jahangir was the eldest surviving son of Mughal Emperor Akbar and was declared successor to his father from an early age. Impatient for power, however, he revolted in 1599 while Akbar was engaged in the Deccan. Jahangir was defeated, but ultimately succeeded his father as Emperor in 1605 because of the immense support and efforts of the ladies in Akbar’s harem like Ruqaiya Sultan Begum, Salima Sultan Begum and his grandmother Maryam Makani. The ladies wielded considerable influence over Akbar and favoured Jahangir as his successor. The first year of Jahangir’s reign saw a rebellion organized by his eldest son Khusrau. The rebellion was soon put down; Khusrau was brought before his father in chains. After subduing and executing nearly 2000 members of the rebellion, Jahangir blinded his renegade son.

Jahangir built on his father’s foundations of excellent administration and his reign was characterized by political stability, a strong economy and impressive cultural achievements. The imperial frontiers continued to move forward—in Bengal, Mewar, Ahmadnagar and the Deccan. Later during his rule, Jahangir was battling his rebellious son Khurram in Hindustan. The rebellion of Khurram absorbed Jahangir’s attention, so in the spring of 1623 he negotiated a diplomatic end to the conflict. Much of India was politically pacified; Jahangir’s dealings with the Hindu rulers of Rajputana were particularly successful, and he settled the conflicts inherited from his father. The Hindu rulers all accepted Mughal supremacy and in return were given high ranks in the Mughal aristocracy.

Jahangir was fascinated with art, science and architecture. From a young age he showed a leaning towards painting and had an atelier of his own. His interest in portraiture led to much development in this artform. The art of Mughal painting reached great heights under Jahangir’s reign. His interest in painting also served his scientific interests in nature. The painter Ustad Mansur became one of the best artists to document the animals and plants which Jahangir either encountered on his military exhibitions or received as donations from emissaries of other countries. Jahangir maintained a huge aviary and a large zoo, kept a record of every specimen and organised experiments. Jahangir patronized the European and Persian arts. He promoted Persian culture throughout his empire. This was especially so during the period when he came under the influence of his Persian Empress, Nur Jahan and her relatives, who from 1611 had dominated Mughal politics. Amongst the most highly regarded Mughal architecture dating from Jahangir’s reign is the famous Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir. The world’s first seamless celestial globe was built by Mughal scientists under the patronage of Jahangir.

Jahangir, like his father, was a proper Sunni Muslim with tolerance; he allowed, for example, the continuation of his father’s tradition of public debate between different religions. The Jesuits were allowed to dispute publicly with Muslim ulema (theologians) and to preach the Gospel. Jahangir specifically warned his nobles that they “should not force Islam on anyone”. Jizya was not imposed by Jahangir. Edward Terry, an English chaplain in India at the time, saw a ruler under which “all Religions are tolerated and their Priests [held] in good esteem.” Jahangir enjoyed debating theological subtleties with Brahmins, especially about the possible existence of avatars. Both Sunnis and Shias were welcome at court and members of both sects gained high office. Sir Thomas Roe, England’s first ambassador to the Mughal court, went as far as labelling Jahangir, who was sympathetic to Christianity, an atheist.

Jahangir was not without his vices. He set the precedent for sons rebelling against their emperor fathers and was much criticised for his addiction to alcohol, opium, and women. He was thought of allowing his wife, Nur Jahan, too much power and her continuous plotting at court is considered to have destabilized the imperium in the final years of his rule. The situation developed into open crisis when Jahangir’s son, Khurram, fearing to be excluded from the throne, rebelled in 1622. Jahangir’s forces chased Khurram and his troops from Fatehpur Sikri to the Deccan, to Bengal and back to the Deccan, until Khurram surrendered unconditionally in 1626. The rebellion and court intrigues that followed took a heavy toll on Jahangir’s health. He died in 1627 and was succeeded by Khurram, who took the imperial throne of Hindustan as the Emperor Shah Jahan.

1.Early life
Prince Salim forcefully succeeded to the throne on Thursday, 21st Jumadi II, 1014 AH/ November 3, 1605, eight days after his father’s death emerging victorious in the vicious struggle for succession between the five prominent and legitimate sons. Salim ascended to the throne with the title of Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir Badshah Ghazi and thus began his 22-year reign at the age of 36. Jahangir soon after had to fend off his own son, Prince Khusrau Mirza, when the latter attempted to claim the throne based on Akbar’s will to become his next heir. Khusrau Mirza was defeated in 1606 and confined in the fort of Agra. As punishment Khusrau Mirza was blinded.

Jahangir considered his third son Prince Khurram(future Shah Jahan), his favourite. In 1622, Khurram murdered his blinded elder brother KhusrauKhusrau Mirza in order to eliminate all possible contenders to the throne.

Rana of Mewar and Prince Khurram had a standoff that resulted in a treaty acceptable to both parties. Khurram was kept busy with several campaigns in Bengal and Kashmir. Jahangir claimed the victories of Khurram – Shah Jahan as his own.

Jahangir’s rule was characterized by the same religious tolerance as his father Akbar, with the exception of his hostility with the Sikhs, which was forged so early on in his rule. In 1606 Jahangir ordered the Sikh Guru Arjan Dev(the fifth Sikh guru) to be tortured and sentenced to death after he refused to remove all Islamic and Hindu references from the Holy book. He was made to sit on a burning hot sheet while hot sand was poured over his body. After enduring five days of unrelenting torture Guru Arjan was taken for a bath in the Ravi river. As thousands watched he entered the river never to be seen again.

2.Foreign Relations
In the year 1623, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, sent his Tahwildar, Khan Alam to Safavid Persia, accompanied by 800 Sepoys, scribes and scholars along with 10 Howdahs well decorated in gold and silver, in order to negotiate peace with Abbas I of Persia after a brief conflict in the region around Kandahar.[citation needed] Khan Alam soon returned with valuable gifts and groups of Mir Shikar(Hunt Masters) from both Safavid Persia and even the Khanates of Central Asia.

In the year 1626, Jahangir began to contemplate an alliance between the Ottomans, Mughals and Uzbeks against the Safavids, who had defeated the Mughals at Kandahar. He even wrote a letter to the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV, Jahangir’s ambition however did not materialize due to his death in 1627.

3.Marriage
Salim was made a Mansabdar of ten thousand (Das-Hazari), the highest military rank of the empire, after the emperor. He independently commanded a regiment in the Kabul campaign of 1581, when he was barely twelve. His Mansab was raised to Twelve Thousand, in 1585, at the time of his betrothal to his cousin Rajkumari Manbhawati Bai, daughter of Bhagwant Das of Amer. Bhagwant Das, was the son of Raja Bharmal and the brother of Akbar’s Hindu wife and Salim’s mother Mariam uz-Zamani.

The marriage with Manbhawati Bai took place on February 13, 1585. Jahangir named her Shah Begum, and gave birth to Khusrau Mirza. Thereafter, Salim married, in quick succession, a number of accomplished girls from the aristocratic Mughal and Rajput families. One of his early favourite wives was a Rajput Princess, Jagat Gosain Begum. Jahangir named her Taj Bibi Bilqis Makani and she gave birth to Prince Khurram, the future Shah Jahan, Jahangir’s successor to the throne.

On July 7, 1586 he married a daughter of Raja Rai Singh, Maharaja of Bikaner. In July 1586, he married Malika Shikar Begum, daughter of Sultan Abu Said Khan Jagatai, Sultan of Kashghar. In 1586, he married Sahib-i-Jamal Begum, daughter of Khwaja Hassan, of Herat, a cousin of Zain Khan Koka. In 1587, he married Malika Jahan Begum, daughter of Bhim Singh, Maharaja of Jaisalmer. He also married a daughter of Raja Darya Malbhas. In October 1590, he married Zohra Begum, daughter of Mirza Sanjar Hazara. In 1591, he married Karamnasi Begum, daughter of Raja Kesho Das Rathore, of Mertia. On January 11, 1592, he married Kanwal Rani, daughter of Ali Sher Khan, by his wife, Gul Khatun. In October 1592, he married a daughter of Husain Chak, of Kashmir. In January/March 1593, he married Nur un-nisa Begum, daughter of Ibrahim Husain Mirza, by his wife, Gulrukh Begum, daughter of Kamran Mirza. In September 1593, he married a daughter of Ali Khan Faruqi, Raja of Khandesh. He also married a daughter of Abdullah Khan Baluch. On June 28, 1596, he married Khas Mahal Begum, daughter of Zain Khan Koka, sometime Subadar of Kabul and Lahore. In 1608, he married Saliha Banu Begum, daughter of Qasim Khan, a senior member of the Imperial Household. On June 17, 1608, he married Koka Kumari Begum, eldest daughter of Jagat singh, Yuvraj of Amber.

Jahangir married the extremely beautiful and intelligent Mehr-un-Nisaa (better known by her subsequent title of Nur Jahan) on May 25, 1611. She was the widow of Sher Afgan. Mehr-un-Nisaa became his indisputable chief consort and favourite wife immediately after their marriage. She was witty, intelligent and beautiful, which was what attracted Jahangir to her. Before being awarded the title of Nur Jahan(‘Light of the World’), she was called Nur Mahal(‘Light of the Palace’). Her abilities are said to range from fashion designing to hunting. There is also a myth that she had once killed four tigers with six bullets.

4.Death
He was trying to restore his health by visiting Kashmir and Kabul. He went from Kabul to Kashmir but returned to Lahore on account of a severe cold.

Jahangir died on the way back from Kashmir near Sarai Saadabad in 1627. To preserve his body, the entrails were removed and buried in the Baghsar Fort, Kashmir. The body was then transferred to Lahore to be buried in Shahdara Bagh, a suburb of Lahore, Punjab. He was succeeded by his third son, Prince Khurram who took the title of Shah Jahan. Jahangir’s elegant mausoleum is located in the Shahdara locale of Lahore and is a popular tourist attraction in Lahore.

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