Mughal Harem Stories
There are many doubts in the minds of the audience about the mughal harem such as whether all the ladies of harem were concubines? Did Akbar have Harem? What is the reason Mughals did not marry daughters? Did mughal drink alcohol? Etc.
The answers to such questions are that Akabar followed the tradition of their ancestors and had a large harem. All the ladies were not concubines or had the bed lock with emperor. Most of the mughal rulers did not drink alcohol. Only Jahangeer was in the habit of drinks and he was obsessed with liquor and opium. Mughal emperors did not marry daughters so as to avoid war of succession. Thus there in laws may not take part in the power game.
There are so many panegyrics, biographies, autobiographies and historical references regarding the harem set up of mughal rulers. All such accounts are vague and no solid proof can be obtained about the real harem life. Actually Harem is a Arabic word signifying the forbidden area. In these just the entry of the mughal emperor was possible. Thus the write up provided by the rulers in their autobiography is relevant to some extent but even they tried to hide many aspects from penning down. The accounts of others and the then historians or the travel winters rely upon the gossip mongering which used to prevail in the streets of Agra.
Mughal Harem Secrets
No matter harem was an important part of the royal set up and this imperial seraglio comprised of the palaces for the ladies- the wives, the mother, the princess, each of them used to reside in their separate palaces with a troupe of loyal attendants. No, body was allowed to defile the sanctity of harem rules. Some contemporary historians recorded that there were 5000 conserves in the harem of Akbar which is quiet ambiguous. As these palaces inside the fort cannot held such big numbers. Obviously the number was high but not up to this scale and all the ladies were not conserves. Rather this number is inclusive of all royal attendants of the respective palaces. The ladies also occupied some regal outhouses like the one in vicinity to the Akbar’s tomb called as “Kanch ka mahal”.
Harem Ladies pseudonyms
Harem ladies were known by their pseudonyms like Gul Badan, Kachnar, Gul Afsana rather by their real names. This was done to with hold the secrets going out of the palace and to stop the rivalry. Of course harem was a big center of plots and conspiracies where various groups such as Indian, Afghan, Iranian, Turarian, Uzbek used to live and each one was in the opportunity to have favours and positions from the emperor. This was to sway the emperor, there was a power play of beauty, wit and loyalty so that they can captivate the attention of the ruler.
Harem kitchen used to be separate Imperial kitchen, it was quiet a secluded place where the taste of the emperor and ladies of the privilege was kept in mind. It was safeguarded by the in charge who was very loyal so that no untoward incidence can take place by food poisoning. Thus the food poisoning taste was necessary and before the meals served to the emperor it was served in such Chinese vessels which used to split or change colour. Secondly the chief chef used to taste the food. Thus the role of Khansama (chef) was very important.
Eunuch’s Role in Mughal Harem
The eunuch used to play a vital role in the harem. The in change was known as Harem sara and was responsible for the arrangements and provisions of Harem, these transgender servants were loyal to their ladies or the princess. They used to play multi roles of amusement, security, messaging and serving. They were stout and well trained in martial arts. They used to work as eaves droppers. On account of their role they were very favourite to their masters or mistress.
Maid servants of Mughal Harem
Similarly the other maids were playing important role. They were involving in house hold affairs, dances, music and crafts making. Some of them who were loyal were rearing up the infant prince and princes. Imagine Mahim Anga who was serving to Hameda Banu Begum was so respected by Akbar as she was the foster mother of Akbar. Similarly the position of sati ul Nisa Khanam was very high. She was accompanying the lady Mumtaz Mahal all the time and even at the time of her demise at Burhanpur she was the one with emperor Shahjahan. Even after death the favourite mistress Sati Ul Nisa Khanam is accompanying the queens tomb she lies buried just next to the Tajmahal.
Mughal harem was not only the place to reside but it was a center of arts and crafts for the fair sex. There are references that lady Noorjahan was indulging in the process of making Zardozi (embroidery) and Atar- of Rose (the essence of Rose Petals). It was the place where Jahanara Begum was engrossed in literature. The harem ladies were given training of Martial arts also. Noorjahan was an able archer.