Begum Zeb-un-Nissa was the eldest daughter of Aurangzeb and was the most favoured of all his children. As was customary for the Royal ladies, her education was given the utmost care. She had a mystical bent of mind and often wrote the most beautiful poetry in Persian. Since Aurangzeb was not fond of poetry, she often had to write in secrecy. Deeply religious but not conventional, she was secular as only one who has thorough knowledge of religion can be. She was imprisoned for the last twenty years of her life by her father. Some say it was due to her alleged affair while some attribute it to her siding with the rebels against Aurangzeb.
BirthZeb-un-Nissa ("Ornament of Womankind"),the eldest child of Prince Muhi-ud-Din (the future emperor Aurangzeb), was born on 15 February 1638 in Daulatabad, Deccan, exactly nine months after the marriage of her parents. Her mother, Dilras Banu Begum, was Aurangzeb's first wife and chief consort, and was a princess of the prominent Safavid dynasty; the ruling dynasty of Iran (Persia). Zeb-un-Nissa was her father's favourite daughter,and because of this she could compel him to pardon people who had offended him. Her siblings from her mother were Zeenat-un-Nisa, Zubdat-un-Nisa, Mohammed Azam, Mohammed Akbar.
Decendant of a literary family
A keen studentZaib un Nisa was not an ordinary student. She always had have a quest for knowledge inside her and she made every possible steps to quench her thirst.
- As was usual in those days she committed the Quran to memory under the guidance of Hafiza Mariam at the age of 7 and was rewarded 30,000 gold-pieces by her delighted father. Aurangzeb also rewarded 30,000 gold pieces to Mariam bi also.
- A lady named Miyabai was appointed her tutor, and she learned Arabic mathematics and astronomy and sciences from her and other teachers.
- Many poets sought her patronage and she employed many scholars on liberal salaries, who produced literary works at her bidding or copied manuscripts for her. This was a boon to them as Aurangzeb did not encourage or patronize poets and non-religious scholars.
- She employed skilled calligraphers to copy rare and valuable books for her and, as Kashmir paper and Kashmir scribes were famous for their excellence, she had a ‘scriptorium’ also in that province, where work went on constantly. She personally supervised the work and went over the copies that had been made on the previous day.
- Mulla Safiuddin Ardbeli translated the Arabic Great Commentary under the title of Zeb-ut-tafsir under her patronage, though it is rumoured that it was the Princess herself who was the real author of the commentary.
Apple of father's eye
Deviation from Auranzeb's viewsUnlike his predecessors, Aurangzeb was a devout Muslim and puritanical in his worldview, and is said to have banned music and overtly denounced Sufism. Zebunnissa, on the other hand, was a Sufi, a free spirit and a gifted poet, and there is to this day a major collection of Persian verse credited to her name. Given her father's dislike of poetry, however, it is for this very reason that Zebunnissa could only be "makhfi :the invisible“ since she was not supposed to be prominent in the public domain. Dressed in a black robe symbolic of the medieval Islamic scholars, she held a hidden, parallel court. In addition, as with all rebels, there was much subversion in the princess's life. She participated in literary and cultural events of the day in a veil, and also had a string of admirers, and lovers. Clearly, Zebunnissa did not share her father's views on religion and society, which emanated from a literal adherence to the interpretations of Islamic thought, coded as Sharia.
Mughals were unkind to mughal princessThough it is often said that Mughal princesses were not allowed to wed, its not true. The stricture was that the groom had to be from within the family or another suitable royal family. Her sister Mehrun-Nisa was married to her first cousin Izid Bakhsh,a son of Murad Bakhsh. Zebun-Nisa too was betrothed as per the wish of Shah Jahan, to Suleiman Shikoh, son of Dara Shikoh. This might have been a very compatible match but Aurangzeb who had no time for the more popular Dara is said to have had the young prince poisoned. In a very Indian tradition, she had her own variation of the swaymvara arranged to meet and test the attainments of the many suitors for her hands. One of those who wished to marry her was Mirza Farukh, son of Shah Abbas II of Iran ; she wrote to him to come to Delhi so that she might see what he was like.Marrying the daughter of the Mughal Emperor was a matter of pride and Mirza Farukh came with a magnificent retinue. She held a feast for him in her garden but herself appeared with a veil on her face. The young Prince offended her sensibilities by asking for a sweetmeat in a play of words. “Ask for what you want from our kitchen,” was her response. She refused to marry him informing her father that despite his rank and royal descent his manners did not find favour with her. Her personal life was not destined for happiness and she could not find true love or a companion. Sulaiman Shikoh was poisoned and Mirza Farukh she found discourteous and too forward.
Zaib-un nisa fall for Shiva jee
Shiva jee's visit to AurangzebFinally, the mighty Kachhwa Rajput Mirza Raja Jai Singh was sent to the Deccan who subdued the nemesis of the Imperial army in 1666. The 27 year old had fallen in love with the 39 year old Shivaji who by then was already a father of an eight year old lad. Sensing strategic compulsions, Shivaji decided in his interests to pay a visit to the royal court. In May 1666, the impossible happened and Shivaji reached the imperial court. Behind the Purdah, sat Zeb-un-Nisa who got to see the man about whom she had only heard from his father. Historian Dow says that the haughty behavior of Shivaji when asked to take a seat amongst the low ranked Mansabdars impressed Zeb-un-Nisa.
Shiva jee rejected Zaib-un Nisa
Love story ended in miseryThe proverb “Love Stories ends in misery”, as said by elders holds some value and it fits clearly to the apparently one sided love story of Mughal princess Zaib-un nisa After bieng rejected by Shiva jee who clearly stated that accepting Islam was unthinkable for him and some other social issues prevented him from doing so, Zeb-un-Nisa turned hostile toward her father. As she knew that it was Aurangzeb who was the obstacle in the path of her life. Aurangzeb would have never allowed her to get converted into another religion, neither he would accept Shivaji. This was the reason she prompted her younger brother, Mohammad Akbar to rebel against her father. Zeb-un-Nisa remained unmarried for the rest of her life. She was imprisoned for 20 years when Aurangzeb came to know about her rebellious nature. She explained her solitude in a poetry named “Makhfi”, which she penned in her misery.
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