Mughal Princess Zebunnissa

 Lady of the age

First published by The Friday Times

Mughal history ignores women of the empire, including Emperor Aurangzeb’s daughter Zeb-un-Nissa: patron of the arts, poet, and a keeper of several lovers – according to rumours. The eldest daughter, she was Aurangzeb’s close companion for several years. She was born in 1638 to Dilras Bano of the Persian Safavid dynasty. Loved by Aurangzeb, she was named carefully to reflect his station.

A favourite, she was exposed to the affairs of the Mughal court. With a sound education in the arts, languages, astronomy and sciences of the day, Zeb-un-Nissa turned into an aware and sensitive princess. She never married and kept herself occupied by poetry and a spiritual Sufi quest.

This is the irony – Aurangzeb’s daughter was an antithesis of her father’s persona and politics. Zeb-un-Nissa was both a Sufi and a gifted poet. The Divan-i-Makhfi – a major divan – is credited to her name. Given her father’s dislike for poetry, she could only be makhfi – the invisible.

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. An outstanding post.

  2. I think it is amazing that she took so much prider in her poetry

  3. Adnan and Jennifer
    Many thanks for liking the post. Yes her poetry was her life. Our princess adopted the persona of a scholar-poet of those times by being dressed in a black robe..
    Our history has some fascinating characters – and the sad part is that they are so less known..!

  4. She is an Outstanding Character for Mughal Life. Her beaty and poetry is worth loving.

  5. I have taken the liberty of linking to your excellent article from my blog at The Existentialist Cowboy. I had written an article about Iran and used poems by Omar Khayyam. A reader had wanted to know who the depiction of a beautiful princess might have been. With google’s help I found this article and have concluded that the picture in question might have been a depiction of Princess Zebunnissa.

    In any case, thank you for your wonderful article.

  6. What many people fail to understand is that emperor Aurangzeb was not opposed to Sufism/Tasawwuf as it was (as it is now) considered to be part of Islamic orthodoxy. Almost every major Islamic scholar was a Sufi, and this is welldocumented. Even the son of the founder of Wahhabism wrote that his father was not opposed to Sufism.

    It should also be noted that while Akbar had fourteen Hindu Mansabdars (high officials) in his court, Aurangzeb actually had 148 Hindu high officials in his court.

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