The romantics of Jodha Akbar
India, the land of kings and queens bear witness to some of the legendary love stories that happen to defy religious and social norms of the time. The timeless classic of Jodha and Akbar is yet another tale of love, trust, and acceptance. The bond between a Hindu princess and a Mughal king in itself seems to be a big scandal of the Mughal era, but much to our surprise the story is remembered as a faithful love encounter between two individuals of opposing ideologies.
While many claim this story to be just a piece of fiction without many evidential records, there lay others who still remember the duo as the epitome of pure love. Though the sacred bond of marriage was born out of conflicts and conspiracies, the love that followed overthrow every question raised against the Hindu princess within the Imperial family. Let’s take a look at the magical tale of Jodha Akbar.
The Enchanting Tale of Jodha Akbar
The wisdom of Vedanta is the wisdom of Sufism.
Be it a clash of civilizations as their commonality or a threat from the rising Mughal Empire, at the heart of it lays Jalal Ud-din Muhammad Akbar and Mariam-uz-Zamani. In contemporary literature there is no mention of Akbar’s Hindu Queen by the name Jodha, in fact, she was called Mariam-uz-Zamani. Her birth name remains unknown and the latter was given to her when she gave birth to Jahangir, the first surviving son of Akbar and the fourth Mughal Ruler. Names provided by various sources suggest Harka Bai, Jiya Rani, Maanmati, Harika, or Shahi-Bai, however, the popular name remains Jodha Bai.
Mariam-uz-Zamani was the daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amber. She was married to Mughal ruler Akbar in a political alliance. To be brief, this marriage was never intended or arranged but perhaps happened by chance. When Akbar was returning to Agra from Ajmer after offering his prayers at the tomb of Moinuddin Chishti, he was contacted by Raja Bharmal of Amber. Raja Bharmal was facing harassment from Sharif-ud-din (Akbar’s brother-in-law), and so asked Akbar for his interference. Akbar agreed on a political alliance between the two kingdoms but asked Mariam-uz-Zamani in marriage as proof of Bharmal’s personal submission. Akbar was 18 years old and Jodha was 17 when they tied the knot at the imperial military camp in Sambhar, Rajasthan.
Hailing from a Hindu background and accepting a new lifestyle wasn’t easy for Jodha but Akbar did whatever he could to make her comfortable. She was never forced for conversion and was allowed to perform customary Hindu rites freely. Jodha was a dire devotee of Lord Krishna and thus Akbar even build a temple inside her harem. Occasionally, Akbar would too pray alongside the Rajput Princess. This naturally makes people believe that Akbar was a religiously tolerant person and respected the differences unlike the majority of Mughal rulers.
Additionally, he established a library solely for women in Fatehpur Sikri and encouraged both Hindu and Muslim children to seek education. He sort of promoted unified indo- Persian cultural-educational institutes to let people study each other culture. Disillusioned with orthodox Islam and perhaps hoping to bring about religious unity within his empire, Akbar promulgated Din-i-Ilahi, a syncretic creed derived mainly from Islam and Hinduism as well as some parts of Zoroastrianism and Christianity. The major credit to these milestones goes to Mariam-uz-Zamani who enlightened Akbar with the beauty of diversity.
Though Akbar had more than 35 wives his heart belonged solely to Jodha who is considered Akbar’s first and last love. She also became one of the chief wives of Akbar and the only woman capable of ordering a Farman. Despite being a Hindu, Jodha holds a prestigious position in the history of the Mughal Empire. When she gave birth to Jahangir, she was honored with the title Mariam-uz-Zamani which means “Mary of the Age”. Along with this, she hailed several other titles such as Mallika-e-Muezzama, Mallika-e-Hindustan, and Wali Nimat Begam which means the Gift of God.
The Timeless Myth of Jodha
The myths regarding the existence of Jodha Bai never seem to die. The fact that there is no mention of Mughal Queen by the name Jodha only seems to add more mystery. While historians do claim that Mariam- uz- Zamani was in fact Jodha, new studies often put a question mark on the statement. Some even claim that Jodha was not the mother of Jahangir but his wife and Akbar’s daughter-in-law! But if you go by the folktales, she was wife to Mughal Emperor Akbar. In essence, Jodha Bai is a mysterious Rajput Princess everyone knows about but has no existence in the books.
It’s true that Akbar married Amber ruler Raja Bharmal’s eldest daughter but her name was not Jodha. Even Emperor Jahangir in his memoir didn’t mention anything from his mother’s side except for her name Mariam-uz-Zamani. A new twist in the story came from Goan Professor of History, Luis de Assis Correia who has claimed in his book “Portuguese India and Mughal Relations 1510-1735”, that Jodha was not a Hindu princess but indeed a Portuguese woman. Her real name was Dona Maria Mascaren. She was rescued from the pirates by Bahadur Shah Zafar of Gujarat and presented in the Royal court along with his sister Juliana. Akbar was 18 when he married her. But Portuguese couldn’t admit the fact that one of their own was living in a Mughal household and Muslims too couldn’t accept a ‘firangi’ as their Emperor’s wife, and thus they forged the tale and created fictitious character Jodha.
Thus whether she existed or not or was she Jodha Bai or was Dona Maria Mascaren, doesn’t really matter that much. The fact that Akbar was profoundly in love with the woman of different cultures and aesthetics in itself proves that love sees no limits. It didn’t matter what her name was, the only thing that matters was their story- a story worth remembering.