25 Nov 2014

Mughal Romance: Hira Bai and Aurangzeb

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Aurangzeb......in love?...... Little difficult to believe, but it is true! We know that Aurangzeb, third son of Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, is a cursed name in Indian history, who murdered his brothers and imprisoned his father for the throne. Being a strict Muslim, he reverted Akbar's policies of religious tolerance. But, this love affair happened before his accession to the throne; when he was a Prince. When this happened, he was the governor of Deccan.

Aurangzeb when he was youngOne day, Prince Aurangzeb visited the house of his maternal aunt (a sister of Mumtaz Mahal) at Burhanpur. When he entered the house, he saw the beautiful Hira Bai (also known as Zainabadi Mahal as she was a native of Zainabad at Burhanpur), standing under a tree and singing in low tune. According to Ahkam-i-Alamgiri "On seeing her, the prince unable to control himself, sat down there, and then fell down on the ground in a swoon". When his aunt heard this, she became worried that whether the Prince has got some serious illness. Later in the midnight, he told his aunt, "If I tell you my disease can you cure it?" She replied that she will sacrifice her own life to cure him. When he told her about his love to Hira Bai, she stood speechless. Then the Prince again said, "You have uselessly shown all this tenderness in inquiring after my health. When you are not giving me a reply, how can you cure me?" Mir Khalil, his aunt's husband, was the governor of Burhanpur. His aunt feared that if he happen to know about the Prince's love affair, he will kill Hira Bai first and then her. She also added that she will sacrifice her own life, but why should destroy a poor innocent girl's life for no reason. Aurangzeb decided to try other means to get possession of her. Next day, he consulted with Murshid Quli Khan, a trusted confidant. Murshid suggested that he will murder Khalil. But Aurangzeb did not want to make his aunt a widow and asked Murshid to talk to Khalil. Murshid went to Khalil and informed him the matter. Khalil agreed to send Hira Bai in exchange of Chattar Bai, one of the women in Aurangzeb's harem.

HirabaiThere is another version of this incident in Masir-ul-Umara. Once, Prince Aurangzeb was taking a stroll in the garden of Zainabad. At that time Zainabadi came there accompanying the Prince's aunt. According to Masir-ul-Umara "Zainabadi, whose musical skill ravished the senses, and who was unique in blandishments, on seeing a fruit-laden mango tree, in mirth and amorous play advanced, leaped up and plucked a fruit. This move of hers robbed the Prince of his senses and self-control". In spite of all his abstinence and theological training, he became infatuated with her and procured her from his aunt's house. One day, she offered a cup of wine and requested him to drink. In order to please her, he was compelled to drink wine. When he was about to drink it, she snatched away the cup from his hand and said, "I was testing your love. My purpose was not to poison your mouth with this liquor". Unfortunately, she did not live long. On the day she died, Aurangzeb, in extreme grief, went out for hunting. Aqil Khan (poet and a trusted noble of Aurangzeb) went to meet him and inquired the reason for hunting when he is so much disturbed. The Prince replied,

"Lamentation in the house cannot relieve the heart, 
In solitude alone you can cry to your heart's content."

Hearing this, Aqil Khan recited another couplet, 

"How easy did love appear, but alas how hard it is!
How hard was separation, but what repose it gave to the beloved!"

Hira Bai is buried at Aurangabad. Manucci (a Venetian served in the artillery of Prince Dara Shukoh) says that after the death of Hira Bai, Aurangzeb made a vow that he will never drink wine nor will listen to music. After some time, he felt that God had been very gracious to him by taking the dancing girl's life since she had induced him to commit many sins.

Image credit: dollsofindia.com

3 comments:

  1. In my knowledge (readings) one reason why Aurangzeb was so whimsical, eccentric is the untimely death of Hira Zainabadi... the only person who cared for him apart from his daughter (I think the name was Zeenatullah or so)

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  2. Never thought of it, good read TFS

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  3. What was the reason of her death?

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