Sharf-Un-Nissa or Nadira Begum was a slave girl who migrated to Lahore from Iran with a trader’s caravan. A servant in the royal harem of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, she was a skilled singer and a graceful dancer. One day when the empress ordered her to sing for the Emperor, she mesmerized him completely. He was so captivated with her voice as well as beauty that he entitled her with a suitable name of – “Anarkali – Bud of a Pomogrenate”.
Akbar fell prey to her beauty and even made her his concubine. She was a slave and so was made a concubine, I’m sure if should have been of blue blood, Anarkali would have been suitable to become the Emperor’s next queen. With her intelligence and beauty, Anarkali soon became Akbar’s favorite concubine. Not many in the royal harem were pleased with Akbar’s love for her and soon women got jealous of her. However, it was not just her beauty that captivated Akbar, it was Anarkali’s ability too.
Anarkali was greatly talented when it came to fine arts and this delighted the Emperor who was a great connoisseur of art himself. She was also a skilled miniaturist and even painted in the Lahore Palace. Historic records reveal that she was the mother of Prince Daniyal, Akbar’s second son after Prince Salim.
Anarkali and Prince Salim
It is not a secret that Prince Salim, the son of Akbar and Harkha Bai was a rude spoilt boy who spent most of his time in wine and women. Fed up of his bad habits, Akbar had sent Prince Salim to the army so that he could learn how to be a good ruler. Following which he was brought back to the kingdom.
It was the month of April, spring was in the year when Lahore was celebrating Akhri Charshumba, the second month of the Islamic calendar. The royal family male members were getting reading for the function. Sadqua, the offering of all kinds were getting ready in a gold plate with silver jowls of mustard oil and before offering the cold coins the male members were seeing their face. Salim too was offered the plate and while seeing his reflection, he saw the beautiful Anarkali. And this is how the passionate love affair started.
Soon the two met covertly in the gardens of Lahore, expressing their love to each other. However, true love like fire can’t be hidden for a long time and tales of their love soon started circulating. One of the jealous concubines then confronted the news to the Emperor. At first the emperor could not believe his ears and so he ordered his loyal eunuch to keep a watch on the two. The two lovers, however, were not aware of the watching spy and continued their romance. The eunuch soon confirmed the news to the Shahenshah who was furious with both, the betrayal of his concubine and the treachery of his son. And so he resolved to give her the exemplary punishment by sending Salim to another mission and punishing Anarkali brutally.
There are two entirely different versions of the end of this beautiful woman.
First, she was taken to the region near current Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore by Akbar’s guard men and buried alive in a large ditch after strapping her to a board of wood.
A second description of the story illustrates that the Emperor Akbar helped Anarkali run off from the trench through a series of secretive tunnels with her mother only with the guarantee of Anarkali to disappear from the Mughal Empire and never to return back. Thus it is not known whether Anarkali survived or not after 1599. This was the version adopted for the famous bollywood movie Mughal-e-Azam. The clip from the movie shows Salim trying to rescue Anarkali from Agra.
P.S: Anarkali was 44 when she was having an affair with Prince Salim who was 30. Prince Daniyal was 27 at that time, the story however doesn’t find any mention in the Akbar-Nama and Ain-i-Akbari for obvious reasons. The name Anarkali has been immortalized in a curious way in todays times – Anarkali Salwar suits and dresses, popular as formal wear, owe their name to her.
By Deepti Verma
Image Source:Salim And Anarkali