Here is Mughal history the way we’ve never read it before. History has often been dictated or glorified record of the accomplishments . of brave men. Too often! Hence, women’s achievements are overlooked most of the time. What about them? Ira Mukhoty’s 2nd book, Daughters of the Sun: Empresses, Queens and Begums of the Mughal Empire narrates the lives of the real, flesh-and- blood women who were integral to the birth and success of the Mughal.
The author doesn’t ignore women like other historians; nor treat them as mere sexual fantasies. In contract, according to Mukhoty’s own research the harem was a place where:
Accomplished, educated, well – spoken, articulate and cultured women.
Readers hoping for scheming wives, frustrated princesses or seductive concubines will be extremely disappointed; as Daughters of the Sun is something the exact opposite. Trust the blogger! It’s about a royal woman’s glory and heroism. Women can also come cladding in shining armor and save the day. Can’t they?
The book details – how had he not had the support of his mother and sister- it was highly unlikely that Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, who ascended to the throne at the age of 12, would have constituted anything. The Mughal dynasty was not a matriarchy, and these royals didn’t limit a woman’s public life.
This humanistic yet unorthodoxed mindset continued for many generations. Infact, when he encountered the Rajputs and their treatment of women; including sati a practice the Mughals detested to the core – Babur’s grandson Akbar remarked on the:
Strange determination of the men that they should seek their salvation through the repression of their women.
The Mughal women were among the few members of their judiciary whose loyalty the kings and princes could depend on blindly. They travelled great distances, assisted in managing affairs both domestic and foreign, and gave them reliable advice. They were counselors, diplomats and much more.
Infact, an incident penned down in Baburnama elaborates that; Babur was forced to sacrifice his 23-years-old elder sister, Khanzada Begum, by apparently giving her in marriage to Shaybani Khan from Uzbekistan. Babur was then, free to leave Samarkand for Kabul; which he conquered, eventually taking over what was, back then, the whole of India. Meanwhile, his sister was divorced by Shaybani Khan; and forced into marriage with a man of lower rank. It took her another 10 years to be reunited with her brother. However, none from the Mughals attach any ounce of shame to her name. Instead, she was respected more than before.
In Mukhoty’s words:
If any Timurid woman ‘falls’ to an enemy; no stigma is ever attached to her ( including Khanzada)… reintegrated into Babur’s household as a woman whose sacrifice for the safety of the Parshah will be celebrated not only by Babur and his entire haraman, but by his son Humayun.
Khanzada was honored as a true Parshah Begum, childless, twice-divorced, with neither a son nor husband to support and what not, but deserving of this title in recognition of the courage of her sacrifice…… Salute 🖖
Daughters of the Sun doesn’t simply tells the tales of women but men as well. We learn about their relationships with their wives, sisters and mothers, and how deeply attentive they were as fathers. We know all of this mostly because of Babur’s daughter Gulbadan Bano Begum, who wrote the Humayunnama, a detailed autobiography on the life of brother. She was requested by King Akbar- Humayun’s son to write that book. And, she started giving words to her observation henceforth.
Mukhoty tells the story of Hamida Bano Begum, Humayun’s wife and Akbar’s mother as well; who was a famous writer and continued writing till Akbar became the King. During Akbar’s reign there were many women traders. They commissioned many buildings; and left their mark as builders till 1857. The king also had armed women guards to protect him. However, Abu Fazl was the only one who was not much pleased with the idea of having women as guards. Tch tch…..
Then, Mukhoty also writes about Jahanara Begum, daughter of Akbar’s grandson Shah Jehan. After her mother’s death, she was declared Parshah Begum. She was 1 of the most wealthiest women in the world; she owned businesses, helped in managing her father’s affairs, authored many books, was a religious scholar and commissioned many buildings in Delhi at that time. She was buried at the dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi- a place that bans women from entering nowadays. Doesn’t it?
Although, these women were never queens in the true sense of the word- except for King Jahangir’s wife Noor Jahan Began- the writer argues that those who became Parshah Begum’s or queens were exceptional in their own right. Had it not been for their contributions the Mughal Empire could never be as grand as it is today. No denying their efforts! Right?
The book is a well-researched presentation about the authority exercised by these women, their remarkably fierce loyalty and their sacrifices, their tolerance, their aspirations and their relationships.
Mukhoty gives us the historical perspective to all those incidences; along with making sure that the readers are easily able to decipher the unsaid.
In conclusion, Miss Rebellious! recommends the book because it’s an amazing narrative, awesomely – researched, informative, entertaining, extremely engaging, and challenging.
Who knows if you read it, you might get inspired to write like Hamida Bano Begum or Gulbadan Bano Begum, or Khanzada Begum’s undying courage teaches you something, you get motivated to become a business woman like Jahanara Begum or something else. We women are inspiring achievers in any thing we do after all. Cheers to woman hood!