In her book, Daughters of the Sun: Empresses, Queens and Begums of the Mughal Empire, Ira Mukhoty unravels the lives of the Mughal women who were often behind the scenes and played an essential role in shaping the history of the Mughal Empire. The institution of marriage, duties of a wife and mother, and the inculcation of education imparted on women are captured in this book. The women Mukhoty talks about are from wealthy and privileged backgrounds who worked from the inside of the Zenana, which is not to say that they were not actively participating in battles and the working of the empire. It brings out the truth of the Zenana as an asylum for women who excelled in their lives and diverts from what the popular versions make it out to be, i.e. a place of concubines. Many of these women were fearless and did a lot of things alongside men like riding horses, fighting battles, being vividly artistic and eccentric. The book makes mentions of important females like Noorjahan, Roshanara, Khanzada, Maryam-uz-Zamani, Maham Anga, and Salima Sultan Begum. It is also inclusive in terms of talking about women from the earlier Mughal period who are rather shadowed, and not much is known about them.
The author tries to put forth their individual stories and struggles of these Padshah begums. There is also a parallel drain between how the treatment of women differed with the changing rulers and the rules they imposed during their reign. The Mughals were accepting of women that were abducted and they took her back despite the same, however it was not the case with the Rajputs, and It also tries to show how the Mughal rule was slightly influenced by the Rajput rule in later times.
The introduction begins from the time of Babur and the influence his grandmother had at that period. The relationship of Khanzada Begum with Humayun and the excellent diplomacy she engaged in. It further moves on to different directions. It then talked about the extremely crucial role of understanding that Jahanara played in between Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh and her soft corner for Sufism. Gulbadan Begum wrote a biography of Humayun and Babur and arranged an all women’s trip for Hajj at Mecca. The fearlessness of Khanzada Begum who rode an extremely rough path at a significantly old age for Humayun. The legacy of Noor Jahan, who was Jahangir’s favourite and last wife. Jiji Anaga, who was Akbar’s milk mother who raised him and taught him the ways of the world. Hamida Begum, who rode into battle with her husband. Then came Mumtaz Mahal, whose beauty was so enticing that Shah Jahan built the glorious Taj Mahal that stands even today in respect of her beauty. Maryam uz Zamani, who was a famous and successful businesswoman who owned a ship that had a capacity to transport 1500 people to Mecca.
The women were of high regard, and they were offered with options that a lot of Rajput princesses were denied. They were given an education and were well sought after, they were also highly involved in certain sports, they admired and appreciated music and art, they were allowed to write, and they were given the option of flexibility to showcase their vivid personalities, which was not all that common in the earlier time period. As a result, Mughal women were extremely talented and well respected. Each and every character mentioned in the book paves the way to mark the gripping impact these women had in shaping history. The female perspective also calls for a different method of recalling history as most books written on that era are written through the lens of the male perspective.
The books pens down every minute detail that helped to build a larger picture of what used to be and, more importantly, how it used to be. It also lets us peep into the domestic life during that era. The book is a commentary that is highly researched, which runs through the domestic lives of the Mughal women. Their lives were far more flexible than the times that were yet to come. These women also helped shape the dynasty and paved the way for history. The book shines light on a time ruled by men, giving these women their well-deserved recognition. It is a valuable contribution to the field of feminist history of India.
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