Article by Esha
History, I believed till a few years back, to be unadulterated relation of facts. Based on facts (written sources- which include official records, biographies or auto biographies) and also archeological sources. However, I would always be perplexed about different versions on similar topics. How could it be acceptable? How could historians twist facts to suit agendas of individuals? Why were different versions not challenged with facts and denounced? Questions which have not yet been answered to my satisfaction, today I will be taking up one such topic and hope will receive answers for my queries. I will lay before you all a much touted version and its counter.
Like many Indians, I too have grown up to the stories of Akbar-Jodhabai eternal love story but I few years back I came across a series of book written about the Mughal Dynasty written by Alex Rutherford (Empire of the Mughal). I was completely miffed after reading the complete series, the tales were very different from what I had read thus far.
The true colours of Akbar
Be it Bollywood movies, story books or other academic books Jodhabai has been named as Akbar’s wife, his Pathrani (the main queen) and his one true love. Imagine my surprise when I read that his wife and the mother of his first child, was the princess of Amber but her name was Hirabai, as recorded in page 119 of Empire of The Moghul Ruler of The World. Intrigued, I read on, Akbar, who is portrayed as a benevolent, just and kind ruler had no remorse on the mayhem he undertook during his campaign in Chittorgarh. Many brave Rajputs lost their lives in the battle. He was satisfied with the outcome as he believed a strong message has to be sent to all the rulers of Rajputana. The women had undertaken Jauhar (self-immolation) en masse and this had enraged many across Rajputana. Many, on the other hand, were subjugated into accepting the suzerainty of the Mughals.
One of the Rajput kings who extended his hand in friendship to Akbar was Raja Bhagwan Das, the king of Amber and the father of Man Singh. Akbar wanted to consolidate his hold on Rajputana and knew that brute force would help him win territories but not the trust of his subjects. So, he had planned to forge matrimonial alliances with friendly Rajput clans. The very first Rajput wife he chose was Raja Bhagwan Das’s daughter Hirabai. The proposal was offered and eagerly accepted. Akbar had chosen shrewdly as Bhagwan Das was not only powerful but also ambitious, but the quality which enamoured him to Akbar was his known enmity with the Rana of Mewar. Sadly, this enmity was nothing new among the Indian kings and was the main reason for the establishment of foreign rule in Bharat.
Though both father and brother had accepted the marriage proposal, Hirabai had to accept without being able to register her protest. Those were days when a daughter had to agree to the dictates of the elders in her family, so no one really knew what the princess actually had in her heart. Ignorant about Hirabai’s state of mind the wedding was concluded. Little suspecting what was in store, Akbar, entered eagerly to his wife’s bedchamber. The first encounter can be read in page 132, and it was wrought with hatred on the part of Hirabai and extreme surprise on the part of Akbar. Akbar was able to save himself from any harm as he had been warned by the expression on his wife’s face, before she could attack him with the knife she had with her.
He could not for his life understand why she had tried to kill him and when he confronted her, she told him, she wanted to avenge Chittorgarh. She did not change her stance, even on being threatened with death sentence. She however, maintained silence and went through with the marriage on being reminded about the dishonour it would bring to her family. Their first and only child (Salim later known as Jahangir) was born after a long gap and with the blessing of Shaikh Salim Chisthi. Thereafter she refused to have any relation with Akbar and told him to beget more sons from other queens. She was not even the Padshah Begum (King’s favourite) and cared nothing for it. Ruquyya Begum was the Padshah Begum and the closest to Akbar.
I come back to my dilemma regarding the variance in the narratives and also wonder at the motive behind it. The mystery surrounding the so called Jodhabai is heightened by another version doing the rounds- that she was a Portuguese lady.
Confounded, I leave it to the jurisdiction of my readers to draw their own inferences.
An article by Esha
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