The Mughals- Conquerors of India 5: Jahangir

Nur-ud-din Mohammad Salim, known by his imperial name Jahangir,(30 August 1569-28 October 1627) was the fourth Mughal Emperor who ruled from 1605 until his death in 1627. He was the eldest surviving son who was unlikely to be appointed the successor of his father, Akbar, but due to the immense support of his step-mothers, Empress Ruqaiya Sultan Begum and Salima Sultan Begum, the coronation ceremony took place on October 24th 1605. The first year of reign saw a rebellion organized by his eldest son, Khusraw; it was soon put down and Jahangir’s renegade son was brought in chains. After subduing and executing nearly 2000 members of the rebellion, he blinded his renegade son of Khusrau. Jahangir also continued on the path of excellence; he built on the foundation his father had created, dealt better with the Imperial Forces, but he lost much along the way. However, let’s skip all of this for the end and continue with the main parts.

Prince Salim forcefully succeeded to the throne on 3 November 1605, eight days after his father’s death. Salim ascended to the throne with the title of Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir Badshah Ghazi, and thus began his 22-year reign at the age of 36.

Celebrations at the accession of Jahangir. In 1600, when Akbar was away from the capital on an expedition, Salim broke into an open rebellion, and declared himself Emperor. Akbar had to hastily return to Agra and restore order. There was a time when Akbar thought of putting his eldest grandson Khusrau Mirza on the throne instead of Salim.

Soon after his ascension to the throne, he had to fend off his son, Prince Khusrau Mirza, when he attempted to claim the throne based on Akbar’s will to become his next heir. Khusrau Mirza was defeated in 1606 and confined in the fort of Agra. As punishment Khusrau Mirza was blinded, and the Sikh Guru Arjan Dev (the fifth Sikh guru) tortured for five days until he disappeared while taking a bath in a river—for giving the then fugitive Khusrau Mirza money when he visited Guru Arjan.

It was then when Jahangir considered his third son, Prince Khurram (future Shah Jahan-born 1592 of Hindu Rajput princess Manmati), his favorite. In 1622, Khurram (Shah Jahan), younger brother of Khusrau Mirza, murdered the blinded Khusrau in a conspiracy to eliminate all possible contenders to the throne.

An aesthete, Jahangir decided to start his reign with a grand display of “Justice”, as he saw it. To this end, he enacted Twelve Decrees that are remarkable for their liberalism and foresight. During his reign, there was a significant increase in the size of the Mughal Empire, half a dozen rebellions were crushed, prisoners of war were released, and the work of his father, Akbar, continued to flourish. Like his father, Jahangir continued to expand the Mughal Emperor though conquests targeted at the people of Assam near the eastern frontier and bring a series of territories controlled by independent rajas in the Himalayan foothills from Kashmir to Bengal. Jahangir would challenge the hegemonic claim over Afghanistan by the Safavid rulers with an eye on Kabul, Peshawar and Kandahar which were important centers of the central Asian trade system that northern India operated within. In 1622, Jahangir would send his son Prince Khurram against the combined forces of Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda. After his victory Khurram would turn against his father and make a bid for power. As with the insurrection of his eldest son Khusraw, Jahangir was able to defeat the challenge from within his family and retain power.

Nur Jahan

Mehr-Un-Nisa or Nur Jahan occupies an important place in the history of Jahangir. She was the widow of a rebel officer, Sher Afghan, of Mughals. The governor of Bengal Qutubuddin Koka who was the emperor’s foster-brother and Sheikh Salim Chishti’s grandson was killed by him and consequently he suffered the same fate at the hands of the guards of the Governor. His widow, Mehr-un-Nisaa, was brought to Agra and placed in—or refused to be placed in—the Royal harem in 1607. Jahangir married her in 1611 and gave her the title of Nur Jahan or “Light of the World”. Jahangir was rumored to have had a hand in the death of her husband, but there is not any sufficient evidence to prove him guilt of that crime – in fact, in fact most travelers’ reports say that he met him after Sher Afghan’s death.

Jahangir loved his wife, Nur Jahan, so much that he began to mint coins in honor of his wife; they would have pictures or her name inscribed in coins. Nur Jahan was also not like most elegant-styled women – she occasionally went on hunting tours and in a memoir, Jahangir boasts about how she once killed a tiger. Simultaneously, Jahangir lost Kandahar to the Persians due to Prince Khurram’s refusal to obey orders.

Jahangir receives Prince Khurram on his return from the Deccan (10 October 1617)

An important conquest/battle was in 1613 when the Portuguese seized the Mughal ship, Rahimi, which had set out from Surat on its way with a large cargo of 100,000 rupees and Pilgrims, who were on their way to Mecca and Medina in order to attend the annual Hajj. Jahangir was outraged by the capture of the ship and the captivity of its crew and guests. The Mughal Emperor Jahangir, ordered the apprehension of all Portuguese within the Mughal Empire, he further confiscated churches that belonged to the Jesuits.

He was trying to restore tranquility by visiting Kashmir and Kabul. He went from Kabul to Kashmir but returned to Lahore on account of a severe cold.

Jahangir died on the way back from Kashmir near Sarai Saadabad in 1627. To preserve his body, the entrails were removed and buried in the Chingus Fort, Kashmir. The body was then transferred to Lahore to be buried in Shahdara Bagh, a suburb ofLahore, Punjab. He was succeeded by his third son, Prince Khurram who took the title of Shah Jahan. Jahangir’s elegant mausoleum is located in the Shahdara locale of Lahore and is a popular tourist attraction in Lahore.

Jahangir’s Mausoleum in Shahdara, Lahore

Next week, we’ll be looking at Shah Jahan who is best-known for the architectural era of the Mughal Empire. It was during his reign when the Mughal Empire’s architectural potential was brought up by Shah Jahan, but with consequences.



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