Saturday, 20 December 2014

Mariam-Uz-Zamani, Mogul ruler Akbar's well-known Hindu wife

"Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar & Mariam uz-Zaman
 Mariam-Uz-Zamani, requently  referred to as the Queen Mother of
Hindustan, during the reign of the Great Mogul Emperor Akbar was the famous Hindu wife of Akbar. Her other name is  Rajkumari Heer Kunwari.
Heer kunwari palace, Fatehpor Sikhri. en.wikipedia.org. en.wikipedia.org
Akbar's marriage with Rajkumari  Heer  Kunwari was a significant event in  the Mogul history. Upon this inter religious marriage, there  was  a gradual change  in Akbar's  religious and social policies. in general one could see an overall change in many perspectives vis-a-vis administration of his kingdom, etc. Heer Kunwari  was instrumental in bringing about  some  radical changes in  the administration of Akbar's empire that exemplified  Mogul kings'  tolerance of religious differences and their inclusive policies within an expanding multi-ethnic and geographical expansion of the empire. This kept Akbar in good-stead.
Heer Kunwari,  the princess of Amer /Amber  and daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amer (modern day Jaipur) was married to Akbar on February 6, 1562 at Sambhar near Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Heer Kunwari became the third wife of Akbar after Ruqaiya Sultan Begum, who was Akbar's first wife. She was the longest serving Hindu Mogul Empress. Her tenure, from 6th February, 1562 to 27th October, 1605, was   over 43 years. She happened to be the eldest daughter of Raja Bharmal, of Amer (modern day Jaipur) and  the grand daughter of Raja  Prithvi Singh I of Amer.

Though she remained a Hindu through out her life, Heer Kunwari was honored with the title Mariam-uz-Zamani ("Mary of the Age") after she gave birth to Jahangir. Despite her being a non-Muslim wife, she was held in great respect and honor in the Mogul household. She is also the grand mother of Shahjahan, the builder of  Taj Mahal  and father of Aurangazeb.  Heer also held the titles of Mallika-e-Muezzama, meaning  exceedingly chaste, innocent and honored, Mallika-e-Hind (Hindustan), referring to Queen of India and Wali Nimat Begam,meaning  the Gift of God. Heer had the fortune of holding the titles throughout her lifetime and even issued farmans (official documents) using the title of Wali Nimat Mariam-uz-Zamani Begum.
A painting of Rajkumari Heer Kunwari- wife of Akbar, giving birth to Jehangir, forth child. en.wikipedia. org
Though not common, among the Hindu rulers,  the custom of giving their daughters in marriage to Muslim rulers was much prevalent in the northern states, but almost absent in southern Indian states. Such policies of inter-religious marriages promoted religious eclecticism and fusion of two great cultures. One could look at as  sort of political convenience on the part of the rulers. As for Akbar, this marriage helped him get the active support of the powerful Rajputs who were  a force to reckon with and who were known for their loyalty and integrity. Being a maverick and had the heart to respect the sentiments of other faiths, among the Mogul rulers, Akbar  stood tall and apart. Hence he won  such  valuable title as the Badshah or Shahenshah of his whole people - Hindus and Muslims.

Her son Jahangir used to pay respect to Heer Kunwari, his mother  by way of touching her feet, a rare thing among Muslims. Such courtesies demonstrate that she was held in highest esteem by the people around her. In the beginning of 1569, Akbar was happy that   Heer Kunwari was expecting a child,  the first of the three sons promised by Sheikh Salim Chisti, a  holy man of great repute. He was living at Sikri in a humble place where on 30 August 1569, Heer Kunwari gave birth to a boy  who was named  Salim  as a token of Akbar's   reverence for Sheikh Salim Chisti.

An interesting fact is Akbar, being secular, never interfered in Heer Kumari's  religious faiths and rites. He allowed to remain a Hindu through out her life and had a temple built in the palace itself  for her convenience and spiritual requirements and with joy took part in the Pooja activities without any reservation or inhibition. Being an ardent devotee of  of Lord  Krishna, her  palace had   paintings of Lord Krishna and frescoes.

Mariam uz-Zamani, who died  in 1623 was  Akbar's only wife buried close to him, as per Islamic custom, though she was a Hindu till her death and her tomb is a kilometer from the Mausoleum of Akbar, the Great. Her tomb, built in 1623-27, is on the Tantpur road now in Jyoti Nagar. Her grave is in the underground and one has to reach it through a flight of steps. Unlike other Muslim tombs, this tomb's back and front  parts are quite identical. Her son Jahangir as per her wish, had  a Vav or step well built in her honor.

Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani, Sikandra, Agra en.wikipedia.
In the city of Lahore now in Pakistan, the name of  Mariam-uz-Zamani alias Rajkumari  Heer  Kunwari, is well etched in the Islamic history in the form of a mosque built by her first beloved son Salim. This mosque is not only one of the early mosques in Lahore, but is the biggest one in Pakistan.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariam-uz-Zamani

                    (Revised and corrected October 07, 2016)