Despite having 16 marriages till the age of 26, Akbar’s son Salim fell in love with Anarkali.
In the case of large number of women in the harem, the name of Emperor Akbar’s guardian Ahad Salim (Jahangir) is also recorded in history. The number of his wives, daughters and maids was said to be three hundred. Filmmaker K. Asif may have presented Akbar as the enemy of love in Salim-Anarkali in his memorable film Mughal-e-Azam, but the travelogues of British travelers of that period prove Salim to be the villain.
Anarkali was Akbar’s wife and Salim’s stepmother. Salim ignored this relationship and had illicit relations with Anarkali. Akbar could not tolerate this. Shahenshah the father lost to his son but took revenge by getting Anarkali thrown into the wall alive.
Akbar had made vows for Wali Ahad
Before Salim was born, Akbar’s daughter Fatima Begum and twin sons Hassan and Hussain had died at a very young age. In the desire of Wali Ahad, Akbar had made many vows to Sheikh Moinuddin Chishti. I had promised that after having a son, I would attend the Dargah on foot for pilgrimage. Pregnant Maryam Us Zamani (daughter of Raja Bharmal) was kept in the hut of the famous saint of that time Sheikh Salim Chishti in Fatehpur Sikri.
On 30 August 1569, she gave birth to a son there. The name Salim was also kept for this reason. Akbar used to fondly call his son Shekhu Baba. As promised, Akbar left for Ajmer on foot for Ziyarat on 20 January 1570 and reached there on 5 February 1570. This series of pilgrimage continued for many years.
First marriage at 16, then tied in 16 bonds till 26
Salim’s first marriage at the age of sixteen was to Manbai, daughter of Akbar’s brother-in-law and his maternal uncle, Raja Bhagwandas of Amer. Then after a year, a series of marriages started with Hindu princesses and daughters of Muslim chieftains. By the time he reached the age of 26, he had done 16 marriages. He ascended the throne in the name of Jahangir and even after that, the number in the harem grew to three hundred, which included, apart from the married women, concubines and concubines.
Two women are especially mentioned in Salim’s life. One of Anarkali and the other of Noorjahan. Anarkali was the one for which the father and son came face to face and the unfortunate Anarkali had to pay the price with her life. Mehrunnisa (Noorjahan) was lucky. She became Malika-e-Hindustan.
Anarkali was Akbar’s wife
Filmmakers and travelogues of foreign travelers of that era present a different picture regarding the reality of Anarkali. K. Asif filmed Anarkali as Salim’s love interest in his memorable film Mughal-e-Azam, which was not accepted by Emperor Akbar. She became the victim of his anger. An order was given to get him punched in the wall, but so that it would not be too heavy for the audience of the film to digest, he was taken out alive from the tunnel. But in the accounts of British travelers Edward Terry and William Finch, Anarkali is described as Akbar’s wife and Salim’s stepmother.
Finch traveled to various parts of India during the reign of Salim (Jahangir) between 1608–1611 and Terry between 1617–1619. Terry described Anarkali as Akbar’s wife whom he loved very much and the main reason for his bad relationship with Salim was his son’s physical relationship with his stepmother. He has told the incident of Anarkali being stuck alive in the wall as true.
Grave of Anarkali and son Daniel
Finch had traveled from Gujarat to Kabul. His travelogue mentions the tombs of Sultan Daniel and his mother Anarkali on the Lahore-Kabul route. Akbar’s son Sultan Daniel was also debauched and the reason for his death was excessive drinking.
During his reign, Jahangir built mausoleums on the graves of these two and planted gardens all around them in Mughal style. The initial story of the relationship between Salim and Anarkali revolves around Salim’s misconduct with his stepmother. There was chaos from the harem to the royal court. Salim rebelled and traveled to Allahabad.
Father defeated by son: Anarkali suffers punishment
After a few days, some wives of the harem intervened and succeeded in reducing Akbar’s anger towards Salim. But it wreaked havoc on Anarkali. Internal factionalism in the harem also became the reason for this. Akbar was convinced that the relationship between Salim and Anarkali was not one-sided. But Anarkali alone had to bear the punishment by sacrificing her life.
Akbar got him buried alive in the walls of Lahore Fort. Why did the historians of that period remain silent on this question? The reason for this is considered to be their dependence on the royal court and also fear. The accounts of Edward Terry and William Finch were considered reliable because their travels took place during the same period. Finch even saw the graves of Anarkali and his son Daniel, due to which his description was considered more authentic.
Mehrunnisa became Noorjahan
Salim was also infatuated with Mehrunnisa, the daughter of Ghiyas Beg, a trusted chieftain of Akbar. Akbar did not like his growing closeness with her. Mehrunnisa was separated from Salim by getting her married to Sher Afghan, an Iranian businessman. But Salim could not forget him. Sher Afghan was later murdered. It is believed that Salim himself got this murder done. Salim ascended the throne in 1605.
Salim married Mehrunnisa in 1611. Noorjahan was her new name and she was given the title of Malika-e-Hindustan. Nur Jahan played a big role in Jahangir’s success as a ruler. She is remembered as the most powerful woman of the Mughal Sultanate.
Also read: Those stories of Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur which kept her in the news all her life.