As she carved up a significant position for herself in the Mughal Empire's male-dominated political system, Empress Noorjahan is regarded as something of a historical phenomenon.
She was a very wise woman who accepted her lot once her husband, Jahangir, lost power. Noorjahan had a legendary status in the Mughal Empire prior to her departure, and because her husband had given her the majority of his imperial authority, her word was regarded as gospel. Shahjahan was given access by Noorjahan to join the ruling trio, but their relationship broke down once Jahangir's dysfunction made it clear that Noorjahan would be the only thing standing in the way of his ascension to the throne.
As the heir apparent known as Prince Khurram, Shahjahan had administered the empire alongside Noorjahan as part of a troika consisting of him, Noorjahan, and her brother Asaf Khan, who was also his father-in-law. Shahjahan was admiring but wary of her talents as a careful politico-administrator. Shahjahan kept an eye on the deposed empress despite the fact that Noorjahan was related to her through her niece Arjumand Bano, the daughter of Asaf Khan, who would later become famous as Mumtaz Mahal. This woman had a unique quality that propelled her to share control over the broad subcontinent with her spouse. She was a 35-year-old widow of Sher Afgun who had a dispute with the Mughal emperor before she captured Jahangir's attention.
At the age of 16, she wed Ali Quli Istajlu, an Iranian immigrant working for Mughal lord Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan. Ali Quli heroically participated in numerous campaigns for Prince Salim and was given the title Sher Afgun (lion-slayer). Sadly, once Salim rebelled against Akbar, Sher Afgun lost the prince's favour, yet this breakup was in no way the fault of Noorjahan. Jahangir moved Sher Afgun to Burdwan in Bengal after pardoning him and taking the throne. As fate would have it, the impulsive Sher Afgun perished in a fight with Bengal Governor Qutbuddin Khan.
The widowed Noorjahan and her daughter Ladli Begum were placed under the privileged attachment of the late Emperor Akbar's wife Salima Sultana Begum since her father had gained prominence as Chief Minister of Jahangir. During her four years of service to the royal harem, her exquisite manners and embroidery and sewing skills became famous. For the harem ladies, she created vibrantly coloured brocades, tissues, and silks. She frequently established fashion trends with her highly sought-after creations. For front-opening dresses called peshwaz, she created Dudami (flowered muslin), while for veils called ohnis, she created pancholi, badlah (metal-strip embroidery), kinari (lace), and farsh-i-chandani (white cloth for floor covering). She is also noted for creating decorations made of gold with sophisticated new patterns. She was quite well known in harem circles as an embodiment of good taste.
Noorjahan was a skilled speaker as well as well-versed in the finer aspects of art, literature, and philosophy when she served as Empress. She frequently joined Jahangir on tiger hunts and was known for her accuracy. As the greatest collector of fine arts in the history of the Mughal Empire, she expertly assisted Jahangir in his pursuit of art and painting. Attar, or the essence of roses, was discovered by her mother Asmat Begum, but Noorjahan distilled and popularised it. In addition, she cared for orphans, particularly girls, and is thought to have helped or arranged weddings for 500 of them. She supported architecture and constructed numerous exquisite palaces, gardens, and mosques. The tomb she built for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg in Agra is one of the exquisite examples of Indo-Persian architecture and is known to be a precursor to the Taj Mahal.
According to Mughal historians, Noorjahan's control over a smitten Jahangir led to the latter's favourite son rising against him and a general discontent among the nobility, especially after Mahabat Khan tried to capture both him and her. She has been characterised by many historians as a cunning, ambitious person who took advantage of Jahangir's propensity for indolence, alcohol, and opium. However, it is evident that throughout her 16 years in power, she collaborated closely with her brother, the chief minister, and prince Khurram, the future emperor. A feeble monarch named Jahangir was kept afloat by the strength of their combined policies; otherwise, calamity was just around the corner. Most likely, the bias against her reflects the pervasive anti-feminist prejudice of many modern historians, which has frequently been repeated uncritically by others.
However, she had a significant impact on Jahangir, who frankly acknowledged his need and gave her control of the kingdom. As Jahangir was frequently ill, she took careful care of him and gradually began to get involved in governmental issues, all with his consent. Jahangir elevated her prominence because she understood him so well. She held all the rights of a ruler in the Empire, with the exception of khutbah (prayer for the current monarch). Grants were awarded with her seal, and farmans or edicts were issued in her honour. From 1623-27 coins were also struck in her name bearing the words: Ba-hukm Shah e Jahangir yaft sad zewar (front) by order of the King Jahangir, gold has a hundred splendours added to it Za naam e Noorjahan Badshah Begum zar (on reverse) By receiving the impression of the name of Noorjahan, the Queen Begum.
She is the only woman in Mughal history to have been granted the right to have her name printed on official currency. She also had the opportunity to participate in the unique jharokha darshan ritual, in which Jahangir would personally appear before the whole populace.
Noorjahan was wise enough to recognise that her time had come to an end upon the death of Jahangir in 1627. She graciously retreated to a tiny jagir in Lahore after immediately ceasing all public involvement. She continued to live for another 18 years during the reign of Shahjahan, but nothing bad ever happened to her because she devoted her entire life to humanitarian work up to her death in 1645 at the age of 72.
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