This is the story of Princess Nur Jahan.

The Mughal era was dominated by extraordinary men. It had the likes of great kings, great generals, great ministers, and great artists. Amongst these men, one name stands out and that is Nur Jahan. A rare fierce women leader in Mughal Era, who is aptly compared to a tigress. Her proactivity in administration saved the Mughal empire from falling. And she became a role model for royal wives in times to come.

Nur Jahan’s real name was, Mehr-un-Nissa and she was the daughter of a Wazir (minister) in Akbar’s court. At the time of her birth, his father was the head of governance of Kandahar, Afghanistan. She grew up to be physically stronger than her peer. And would accompany her father on hunting trips. The folks suggest that on one such trip, she killed a tiger all by herself.
Later when Akbar was visiting Kandahar, he heard of her deed and was highly impressed. He announced that a tigress like her should only marry a tiger. And he suggested the wedding of Mehr with his military general Sher Afghan Khan known as the ‘Tiger of Afghanistan’.

Akbar died in the year 1605. His death had started a series of rebellions across the country. One such rebellion was forming in the Bengal province. Akbar’s son Jahangir sent Sher Afghan to Bengal in order to suppress the uprising. But he was killed in the process. In order to honour his sacrifice, Jahangir called Mehr and her child to his own royal palace. Mehr was given the role of lady-in-waiting for Empress Ruqaiya, the widow of Akbar.

But destiny had its own plans. Jahangir fell in love with Mehr and proposed to marry her. She agreed and both of them were married. Jahangir gave her the name Nur Mahal meaning the light of the palace.

But the light of Nur Mahal could not keep Jahangir from venturing into the darkness of alcoholism. Once the rebellions died down, Jahangir became addicted to alcohol and would spend most of his time drunk. 

It was a period of darkness and the Mughal empire was looking weak. But soon, Nur Mahal decided to step up. She started attending court meetings in the absence of his husband. She did so by introducing the Jharka system. In this system, a veil was hung between the queen and the rest of the court. She could listen to their queries and demands and keep her face hidden as required by Islam.

Some years later, Jahangir came out of his hole of addiction. He was surprised by how well things were managed. When he got to know the work done by Nur Mahal he renamed her Nur Jahan, meaning Light of the world. He also sanctioned coins with her face, a first for a woman in the Mughal empire.

Nur Jahan’s niece Mumtaz married Shah Jahan, son of Jahangir and the next king. After the death of Jahangir, Nur Jahan respectfully retired from her role. She was given a royal palace to live in. Shah Jahan gave her a sum of Two Lakhs every year as an allowance.

Nur Jahan became an inspiration for folklore and poems in time to come. Indian poets and foreign travellers wrote about how a female figure efficiently ruled one of the largest Muslim empires. Her actions had a ripple effect beyond her kingdom and her time.

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