Nur Jahan’s and her “Junta’s’ Influence on Jahangir”.
At the outset it must be admitted that Nur Jahan emerged as the most powerful figure in contemporary history on account of her personality and influence on Jahangir.
In fact probably Nur Jahan was the only queen in the entire history of medieval India who exercised such a tremendous influence on an emperor Jahangir, her husband and consequently on the affairs of the state.
In Jahangir’s own words, “I have sold my kingdom to my beloved queen for a cup of wine and a dish of soup.” Before we discuss in detail the nature of influence and the impact of the influence of Nur Jahan and her ‘Junta’ on Jahangir and his administration, we may give her early career in brief.
Early life of Nur Jahan:
Nur Jahan (1575-1645) whose original name was Mihr-un-Nisa, was the daughter of Mirza Ghiyas Beg who belonged to a noble family of Persia. Evil days fell upon him and he had to leave his native place and in search of fortune he moved towards India. When he reached Qandhar, his wife gave birth to a daughter who later on became the most beloved queen of emperor Jahangir. With the help of a friend, he was able to get some job during Akbar’s time. On account of his talents, he gained importance in the court.
Marriage of Nur Jahan with Jahangir:
Divergent views have been expressed regarding the marriage of Nur Jahan with Jahangir. According to one version Jahangir earlier known as prince Salim chanced to see Mihr-un-Nisa when she used to come to the palace of emperor Akbar with her mother and fell in love with her. But Akbar got her married to an Afghan chief named Sher Afghan.
When Salim became the emperor of Delhi, he got Sher Afghan killed and married Mihr-un-Nisa and Nur Mahal (Light of the Palace) and later on Nur Jahan (Light of the World). However, according to the other version, there was no such romance.
Without going into details, here we quote only two historians.
Dr. Beni Prasad has rejected the story of romance between Mihr-un- Nisa and prince Salim and that Jahangir was involved in the incident of death of Sher Afghan. He writes: “An attentive study of contemporary authorities and of the well-established facts themselves knocks the bottom out of the whole romance and the character of Jahangir and Nur Jahan appear in a truer and more favourable light.” Dr. R.P. Tripathi and Dr. S.R. Sharma have on the other hand also supported the contention of Dr. Beni Prasad.
Dr. Ishwari Prasad writes: “A careful persual of contemporary chronicles leaves upon our minds the impression that the circumstances of Sher Afghan’s death are of a highly suspicious nature, although there is no conclusive evidence to prove that the Emperor was guilty of the crime.”
A contemporary Dutch writer De Laet, has described the romance of prince Salim with Mihr-un-Nisa in his famous work, Description of India and Fragment of Indian History in these words, “as she was engaged to Sher Afghan, Akbar did not permit her marriage with Salim. But Salim never forgot his love towards her.”
Character of Nur Jahan and her influence over Jahangir:
Nur Jahan was a cultured educated, intelligent and dominating lady. She was fond of music, painting and poetry. She composed verses in Persian. She designed new varieties of cotton and silk fabrics. She suggested models of jewellery. Thus she set the fashions of the age. About Nur Jahans’ influence over Jahangir, Dr. Beni Prasad has observed “Nur Jahan ruled him (Jahangir) for fourteen years and during the last five years of his reign, Nur Jahan alone controlled him.” Nur Jahan’s influence over Jahangir had positive as well as negative effects but the negative ones had serious effects on the running of the affairs of the state.
1. Somewhat sober effect on Jahangir’s Character:
Under the influence of Nur Jahan, Jahangir effected reduction in his consumption of wine.
2. Philanthropist work:
A kind and compassionate lady, she greatly helped the poor, the orphan and the widows.
3. Development of art and literature:
Herself a cultured lady, Nur Jahan patronized art and literature. She brought about a revolutionary change in dresses and designs of ornaments.
Negative and damaging effects:
1. Undue favours to her relatives.
2. Efforts to eliminate the influence of prince Khurram (later emperor Shah Jahan) resulting in his revolt.
3. Loss of Qandhar.
4. Revolt of Mahabat Khan, a trusted officer of Jahangir.
Two phases of the influence of Nur Jahan on Jahangir:
Nur Jahan’s influence on Jahangir may be divided into two phases first phase (1611-1622) and the second phase (1622-1627).
First phase of Nur Jahan’s influence (1611-1621):
NUR JAHAN JUNTA SOON after her marriage with Jahangir, Nur Jahan, as highly ambitious she was, formed a group of five—herself, her mother Asmat Begum, her father Ghias beg Itama-ud-Dulla, her brother Asaf Khan and prince Khurram (son-in-law of her brother Asaf Khan). First of all, Nur Jahan gave powerful posts to this group. Her father managed to occupy the position of the Prime Minister and her brother as Finance Minister.
Nur Jahan got her name struck upon the coins of all the firmans’ (royal orders), her name along with Jahangir appeared. She also often appeared in the ‘jharoka’ along with the emperor. She listened to the complaints of her subjects.
Nur Jahan and her ‘Junta’ exercised full control over state administration. The highest nobles and dignitaries of the state presented themselves before her and listened to her dictates. All important appointments, promotions, postings, transfers and dismissals were done at her behest and consent. “She was”, as Dr. V.A. Smith Says, “a power behind the throne.”
Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador of the king of England, who stayed in the Mughal court from 1615-1618 has remarked, “All power vested in the clique (‘Jinta”) of Nur Jahan at that time. It was impossible to get any work done without the help of her brother Asaf Khan and his son-in-law Prince Khurram. Her influence had increased so much that even powerful Amirs like Mahabat Khan feared her. Jahangir himself was in pleasure day and might, resigning the entire administration to her.”
Second phase of Nur Jahan’s influence (1622-1627):
During this period, Nur Jahan became all the more powerful. Several factors contributed to this. First, Jahangir’s health deteriorated. Second, Nur Jahan’s mother died in 1621 and her father in 1622. Therefore, she was deprived of the sober and beneficial influence of her parents. Thirdly, Nur Jahan’s daughter. Ladli Begum by her late husband Sher Afghan, was married to prince Shahryar (son of Jahangir).
She, therefore desired- that Shahryar and not prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) may become the emperor. So this marriage brought about a change in power-politics. Shahryar was not as capable as Khurram.
Prince Khurram’s revolt:
The fort of Qandhar was captured by Persia in 1622. Prince Khurram was asked to reconquer Qandhar. Khurram apprehended that his absence from the capital would be utilised by Nur Jahan to prejudice his claim to the throne and to strengthen her son-in-law Shahryar. He, therefore, refused to move. Not only this he rose in revolt.
Mahabat Khan was sent to crush the revolt. At last Khurram asked Jahangir’s pardon for his mistakes. Nur Jahan who at that time wanted to check the increasing power of Mahabat Khan, got prince Khurram pardoned by Jahangir.
Revolt of Mahabat Khan (1626):
Mahabat Khan was one of the most capable commanders of Jahangir. He was liked by Jahangir very much. Nur Jahan decided to break the power of Mahabat Khan. Mahabat Khan was humiliated in several ways. Ultimately he revolted.
Mahabat Khan had an upper hand in the beginning. Nur Jahan even had to surrender but very diplomatically, she sowed dissensions in the camp of Mahabat Khan and he was forced to seek pardon of Jahangir. Jahangir, keeping in view his past services, pardoned him. Thereafter, Mahabat Khan fled away to Sind.
Nur Jahan’s last years:
When Jahangir’s sudden death took place in December 1627, Nur Jahan declared Shahryar, her son-in-law to be the emperor of Delhi but Khurram’s father-in-law Asaf Khan (brother of Nur Jahan), cleverly defeated the plan of Nur Jahan. Prince Khurram who was in the Deccan, immediately came to Agra and imprisoned Nur Jahan and Shahryar.
Thereafter he sanctioned sufficient pension for Nur Jahan. She spent the remaining 18 years of her life peacefully without interfering with politics. She died in 1645 and was buried at Lahore, near the tomb of Jahangir.