Harka Bai or Jodha Bai or Hira Kunwar or Mariam –Uz – Zamani, The name is well-known in the history either as Emperor Akbar’s wife or as Jahangir’s mother. However, nothing much is said about the person as an individual. Her identity is still rolled between a Mughal Emperor’s wife and mother. Here I reveal certain facts and data about the Rajput Princess-Mughal Begum beyond these identities –
The Early Years Spent in Amer
Harka Bai (aka Jodha Bai) born on October 1, 1542 in Amer (currently Jaipur) was the eldest daughter of Bharmal as per historical records. When she was born she was not a daughter of the King but a cousin to the King. Ratan Singh, the then King was Bharmal’s (Jodha’s father) immediate nephew who had suceeded the throne after his father Bhim Singh’s demisal. At a very young age, Jodha had witnessed the fight for the succession of the throne as there were lot of political rivalry between Ratan Singh (the grandson of Prithvi Raj through Rani Apurva Devi) and Askaran (the grandson of Prithvi Raj through his Tanwar Queen). However, it finally ended with Askaran killing Ratan Singh and forcefully sitting on the throne the very next day. Hira Kunwari was just 6 years old that time. However, Askaran was deposed by the nobles, following which Jodha’s father Bharmal, the fourth son of Prithvi Raj and Rani Apurva Devi became the Raja of Amer in 1548.
Jodha Bai when young was very fond of her step-cousin brother Surajmal or Suja, who was the direct successor of the Amer throne and the victim of the political rivalry in the family. However, he could not get the throne as he was very small when his father King Puranmal (direct successor and eldest son of Prithvi Raj through his Tanwar queen) died helping the Mughal Emperor Humayan to recapture his fort of Bayana (a town in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan) from other Muslim Rulers.
Jodha and Suja’s relationship as brother and sister were way beyond their family rivalaries. However, when Raja Bharmal declared his son Bhagwant Das as his successor, the dispossed Suja broke all the ties and took shelter in his Tanwar family.
The Extraordinary Marriage
The decision of marrying Jodha Bai to the Mughal King Jallaludin was a political alliance between the King of Amer and the future Badshah of Hindustaan. However, although the relation portrays Bharmal as a weak ruler, it only illustrates Jodha as a strong, gutsy and courageous women who for her father and kingdom married a Muslim ruler and did not attempt suicide unlike other RAJPUT women.
Akbar, being intelligient knew how to give shape to this new alliance and so allowed Jodha to remain a devotee of Lord Krishna even after her conversion. Her palace had an idol of Krishna and even now you can witness the fortress with lot of Krishna frescoes and paintings. Jodha was neither Akbar’s favorite nor beloved Begum yet the union of Jodha-Akbar turned out to be a success. Credits to Jodha and Akbar’s common interest in religious tolerance. And when she gave birth to the long awaited Akbar’s heir, Prince Salim she was even bestowed with a title, “Mariam –Uz – Zamani”
The Role in Administration
After she got the title of Mariam-Uz-Zamani she is said to have politically involved in the administration throughout her life until Nur Jahan became the empresses. Like all the other important women of the Mughal court, Jodha aka Mariam-uz-Zamani too started issuing “farman”- official documents which was generally the elite privilege of the emperor. She also used her capital and control to build several wells, gardens and mosques around India.
Later, for taking the relationship of Amer-Agra forward by the next generation, she at the age of 44 even arranged the marriage of Prince Salim with her niece Princess Manmati aka Princess Manbhawati (daughter of Raja Bhagwant Das and sister of Maan Singh). She was the mother of Jahangir’s eldest son Khusrau Mirza, who was blinded by Jahangir himself and killed by Shah Jahan (son of another Rajput wife of Jahangir – Jagat Gosain)
At the age of 71 years old and during the time of Jahangir’s rule, Jodha Bai owned and managed the ships that carried the Haj pilgrims to and from the holy city of Mecca. In 1the year 1613, Rahimi, one of her ships carrying 600 to 700 pilgrims was captured by Portuguese pirates along with the cargo.
When the Portuguese refused to return the passengers and the ship, the uproar at the Moghul court was very rigorous. It was then Jodha’s son, the Indian emperor Jahangir structured the attack of the Portuguese town, Daman which they could capture easily.
Jodha Bai or Mariam-Uz-Zamani died at the age of 80 in 1622. Born as Hindu, she was buried as per the Islamic customs. As per her last wishes, a vav – step well was built by Jahangir.
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