Jahan Ara Begum – the eldest daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, can be seen as world’s first women’s right activist, who fought for human rights and the liberty of women. She was also the First Lady of State during Moghul regime.
LONG BEFORE the emergence of Gloria Steinem as women’s right activist and the coherent concept of liberation of women, there was a princess who had fought for human rights and liberty of women. Her name was Jahan Ara Begum – the eldest daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.
She was born on April 2, 1614. She was well versed in all branches of knowledge of her time. Her father had trusted her and considered her as one of the wisest adviser. She was only 17 when her mother died. The royal court accorded her the title of First Lady of State and she had successfully brought out the emperor and the state from the shock and mourning of Queen’s death.
During the struggle of power between Mogul scions, she had promised her support to Prince Darah Shikoh with one condition that he would repeal the inhuman order of disallowing the royal princess from marrying – a law initiated by Akbar. It was unfortunate for the country and for Jahan Ara both that Dara was defeated. Aurengzeb, as a shrewd strategist, did mend his fences with the elder sister and restored her title of first Lady of State. This title was taken back from her and given to Roshan Ara Begum, her younger sister.
Despite cordial relations with Aurengzeb, she preferred to stay in the prison of Agra Fort with her father till his death.
Jahan Ara agreed to give her support to Aurengzeb with only one condition that he would not levy the Jazia – the poll tax on non-Muslims. She had boldly argued the case and forced Aurengzeb to rescind that.
She had contributed in her own way in designing and developing the landscapes of Shah Jahanabad (Delhi) and Agra. Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi and Jama Masjid of Agra are her gifts to Indian history and public. She was the devout Murid (follower) of Nizamuddin Aulia and used to clean his grave with her silky hairs.
She died peacefully on September 16, 1681 and was buried in Nizamuddin Dargah complex.