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92 pages

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A landmark in Indian historical fiction in English, this sumptuous, richly detailed saga of India’s most enigmatic and powerful Mughal empress is magnificently told, by an author herself steeped in Rajput tradition.
Jehangir retorted:
“Nurjahan, I flavour my existence with opium just as you flavour yours with power…” Nurjahan’s thoughts raced. Khusro, Khurram, Mahabat Khan. The three most dangerous men in Hindustan. Three men she dared not trust. She must be careful, thought Nurjahan. The Emperor must believe that the decision was his…



Publié par
Date de parution 01 janvier 1994
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9788194566182
Langue English

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Choosing her words carefully, the Persian Sultana continued, “I’m going to talk very frankly with you, Mehrunnisa. My volatile stepson will one day control the destiny of this vast empire. Many will try to manipulate him for questionable ends, but perhaps you, as his consort, could prevent all that and mould him into a perfect sovereign.”
“What do you mean, Gracious One?” cried Mehrunnisa, while her eyes sparkled with keen interest.
“You are much too intelligent to miss my meaning, Mehrunnisa. Do you think I’m blind to the romantic attachment blossoming between you and Salim?”
Fear and hope jostled wildly in Mehrunnisa’s mind as she followed the Sultana downstairs. A dream took shape, and she imagined herself entering the castle of Agra at the head of a triumphant wedding procession, with Salim riding by her side.


Author’s Note

Leaning against Jehangir’s arm, Nurjahan said, softly, “What shall I ask of you, Sire? You have dowered me with all Hindustan…”
Author’s Note

B y a strange series of events, a young woman came to control one of history’s most fabulous empires, long enough to become a living legend. She was Nurjahan, the Empress of India.
Historically, the name India applied to the whole subcontinent south of the Himalayas, comprising the modern nations of India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Its vast size, and frequent invasions from its vulnerable mountain passes and unguarded seacoast, led to the development of small kingdoms with their different races, languages, religions and cultures. India’s wealth became a fatal burden for its own people and a target for many hardy conquerors.
The Mughals who conquered North India or Hindustan unified the greater part of this immense subcontinent under their rule despite tenacious local resistance. Driven out of his principalities of Samarkand and Fargana, the Timurid Prince, Babur, established the Mughal empire in 1526 by defeating the Sultan of Delhi and then the Rajput confederacy led by Rana Sanga of Mewar. In 1530, Humayun succeeded his brilliant father and experienced many ups and downs, winning and losing his kingdom. Betrayed by his half-brothers who grabbed Kabul and Lahore, and often defeated by Afghan and Rajput armies, Humayun was forced to seek shelter in Persia after the birth of his son and heir, Akbar. There, Humayun acquired a great taste for Persian art and literature at the Safavid court of Shah Tahmasp. The great Afghan soldier and administrator Sher Shah Suri ruled for a brief, but brilliant period. But Humayun was able to win back North India before he stumbled out of life by breaking his neck on his library steps in Delhi as he knelt to answer the evening call to prayer.
The second Mughal conquest of Hindustan in 1556 was due to the efforts of Bairam Khan, whom Humayun had appointed ataliq (tutor and guardian) to his fourteen-year-old successor, Akbar. This courageous, free-spirited boy-king could not endure tutelage, frequently indulging in madcap escapades to show his guardian Bairam Khan – and his protective mother Hamida Begum, his domineering head nurse Maham Anaga, and his demanding Mughal aunts – that they couldn’t manipulate him. By eighteen, Akbar had won enough battles to banish his Lord Protector. Bairam Khan was murdered at Surat by some Afghan enemies before he could embark on the pilgrimage to Mecca ordered by his youthful master.
Akbar’s dream of an Indian empire became a reality even though the Mughals were foreign immigrants. Descendents of Changhiz (Genghis) Khan and Timur (Tamerlane), the Mughals felt they were Indians despite their Turkish and Mongol blood, Persian acculturation and Arab religion. A practical visionary, Akbar was shrewd enough to see that any stable rule in India must enjoy the support of the Hindus, who were in overwhelming majority. But religious tolerance did not originate with Akbar. It was an ancient Indian tradition honoured even by earlier Islamic warrior kings like Allaudin Khilji, Muhammud Bin Tughlaq and Sher Shah.
The Mughal empire rested on four pillars – the Emperor’s personality, the policy of religious tolerance, the Rajput alliance and the balance of power. This last took two forms, external and internal. The external balance was with the Safavids, with whom the Mughals shared control of the Iranian plateau. The symbol of their rivalry was the strategic trade centre, Kandahar, held by the Mughals from 1522 till 1649, then finally captured by the Persians. But neither side wanted to expand and overthrow the other. For the Mughals, the Persians were a safeguard, leaving them free to conquer South India. For the Safavids, the Mughals kept the restless Afghans and Uzbeks in check, giving them comparative security to deal with the expansionist Ottoman Turks to the west.
The internal balance of power was provided by the independent states of South India and the Rajput kings in the north. Akbar, Jehangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb fought many wars with the turbulent Rajputs, who constantly threatened the Mughal power centres, Agra and Delhi. The nearest Rajput state, Amber (modern Jaipur), was won over first by a system of mutual accommodation and hard-won concessions. In 1568-69, the two great fortresses of Chittor and Ranthambore were captured. Despite this, Mewar (modern Udaipur) maintained some independence in its remote rocky jungles. But the rest of Rajputana accepted Mughal supremacy.
After that, Akbar’s conquests followed steadily. By the time of his death in 1605, Akbar controlled a huge sweep of territory between the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, including Afghanistan, Balkh and Badakshan up north. In the south, Bijapur, Golconda (modern Hyderabad), Mysore (modern Karnataka), parts of Kerala and the Portuguese colony of Goa remained independent. The Nizam Shahi kingdom of Ahmednagar became a vassal state, revolting frequently till Shah Jahan finally annexed it in 1633.
Akbar took several steps to sustain this empire. He prohibited the enslavement of Hindu prisoners of war, gave Hindus important government posts, abolished jezia (a hated poll tax on non-Muslims) and the pilgrim tax on everyone. And he married Hindu princesses, encouraging them to practise their religious rites and social customs within the Mughal household. The mothers of his heir Salim and his grandsons Khusro, Khurram (Emperor Shah Jahan) and Shahryar were the Hindu princesses of Amber and Marwar (modern Jodhpur). These matrimonial alliances brought Akbar and his successor Jehangir powerful Rajput brothers-in-law with their armies and administrative skills.
Controversy surrounds these Rajput–Mughal marriages. But there were historical precedents for such matrimonial alliances between

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