Mariam-uz-Zamani (Persian: مریم الزمانی‎, lit.'Mary of the Age';[2] c. 1542 – 19 May 1623) was the first rajput wife of the third Mughal emperor, Akbar. She was one of the three chief consorts of Akbar. In subsequent centuries, she has been referred to with several other names, including Hira Kunwari,[3] and Harkha Bai.[4][5]

Artistic depiction of Mariam-uz-Zamani
Bornc. 1542
Died19 May 1623(1623-05-19) (aged 80–81)[1]
Agra,[1] Mughal Empire
FatherBharmal, Raja of Amber

Born a Hindu Rajput princess[6] in 1542, Mariam-uz-Zamani was offered in marriage to Akbar by her father, Raja Bharmal of Amber. The wedding, held in Sambhar, was a political one and served as a sign of submission of her father to the Mughals.[4][7] Her marriage to Akbar led to a gradual shift in the latter's religious and social policies. She is widely regarded in modern Indian historiography as exemplifying both Akbar's and the Mughals' tolerance of religious differences and their inclusive policies within an expanding multi-ethnic and multi-religious empire.[7]

She was the mother of Akbar's eldest surviving son and eventual successor, Jahangir and foster mother of Akbar's youngest son Daniyal.

Name and backgroundEdit

Mariam-uz-Zamani was born in 1542 as the daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amber by his wife Rani Champavati, daughter of Rao Ganga Solanki.[8][9][10] Her paternal grandparents were Raja Prithviraj Singh I and Apurva Devi, a daughter of Rao Lunkaran of Bikaner.[11]

Her birth name is unknown.[7] 'Mariam-uz-Zamani' was in fact a title bestowed on her by Akbar on the occasion of their son Jahangir's birth.[12] This was the name by which she was referred to in contemporary Mughal chronicles, including Jahangir's autobiography, the Tuzk-e-Jahangiri.[13] Later historical accounts give several suggestions for her birth name. In an 18th-century genealogy of her clan (the Kachwahas) for example, she is referred to as 'Harkhan Champavati'.[7] Other names provided by various sources include Harkha Bai,[4] Jiya Rani, Maanmati, Harika, and Shahi-Bai. However, the name by which she is most popularly known in modern times is 'Jodha Bai'.[14]

Her other titles included Mallika-e-Muezzama , also known as Wali-Nimat begum Means gift of god. She uses the title Wali Nimat Mariam uz zamani begum sahiba in her firman .

The name 'Jodha Bai' was first used in relation to Mariam-uz-Zamani in James Tod's Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, a colonialist history written in the early 19th century.[15] This naming appears to have been an error, given that it implies a relationship with the royal family of Jodhpur, rather than that with the Rajas of Amber.[16] Instead, it is believed that 'Jodha Bai' in fact refers to the wife of Jahangir, Jagat Gosain daughter of Raja Udai Singh of Jodhpur.[17]


Mariam-uz-Zamani's marriage was the result of a conflict between her father and Akbar's brother-in-law, Sharif-ud-din Mirza, the Hakim of Mewat. Bharmal, facing harassment at Sharif-ud-din's hands, approached Akbar to request his intervention. The emperor agreed to mediate on the condition of Bharmal's personal submission, as well as the suggestion that Mariam-uz-Zamani be given to Akbar in marriage.[4]

A painting describing the scene of the birth of the 4th Mughal emperor of India, Jahangir.

The marriage, thus, a political one, took place on 6 February 1562, while Akbar was on his way back to Agra from Ajmer (after offering prayers to the tomb of Moinuddin Chishti) at the imperial military camp in Sambhar, Rajasthan, instead of the bride's natal home. This was a sign that the marriage was not of equals and indicated Bharmal's family's inferior social status.[7] The marriage with the Amber princess provided the service of her family throughout the reign, and offered a proof manifest to all the world that Akbar had decided to be the Badshah or Shahenshah of his whole people i.e. Hindus as well as Muslims.[18]

Akbar took many Rajput princesses in marriage as the rajas had much to gain from the link to imperial family. He made such marriages respectable for the Rajputs.[19] Akbar did not convert any of his Hindu wives to Islam and permitted them to perform their rituals in the palace, and even participated occasionally.[20]

In 1569, Akbar heard the news that his first Hindu wife was expecting a child, and that he might hope for the first of the three sons that had previously been promised to him by Sheikh Salim Chisti, a reputed holy man who lived at Sikri. The expectant empress was sent to Sheikh's humble dwelling Sikri during the latter period of her pregnancy. On 31 August 1569, the boy was born and received the name Salim, in acknowledgement of his father's faith in the efficacy of the holy man's prayer. Though she remained a Hindu, the new mother was subsequently honoured with the title Mariam-uz-Zamani ("Mary of the Age").

Family advancementEdit

The Rajas of Amber (who came from a very small kingdom) especially benefited from their close association with the Mughals, and acquired immense wealth and power. Of twenty-seven Rajputs in Abu'l-Fazl list of mansabdars, thirteen were of the Amber clan, and some of them rose to positions as high as that of imperial princes. Mariam-uz-Zamani's brother Raja Bhagwan Das, for instance, became commander of 5000, the highest position available at that time, and bore the proud title Amirul-Umara (Chief Noble). His son, Man Singh I, rose even higher to become commander of 7000.[21] His daughter, Manbhawati Bai or Man Bai, married Jahangir on 13 February 1585. Man Bai later became mother to Prince Khusrau Mirza[22][23] and was awarded the title of Shah Begum.[24]

Jahangir's reignEdit

Although she may have enjoyed a certain status in Akbar's imperial household after giving birth to the heir, Mariam-uz-Zamani gained prestige only during Jahangir's reign (as the emperor's mother), after he had succeeded Akbar as Mughal emperor in 1605.[7] During the reign of Jahangir, she was amongst the most prodigious female traders at the Mughal court.[25] No other noblewoman on record seems to have been as adventurous a trader as the Queen mother.[26]

Mariam-uz-Zamani owned ships that carried pilgrims to and from the Islamic holy city Mecca. In 1613, her ship, the Rahīmī, was seized by Portuguese pirates along with the 600–700 passengers on board and the cargo. Rahīmī was the largest Indian ship sailing in the Red Sea and was known to the Europeans as the "great pilgrimage ship". When the Portuguese officially refused to return the ship and the passengers, the outcry at the Mughal court was quite unusually severe. The outrage was compounded by the fact that the owner and the patron of the ship was the revered dowager empress. Jahangir, in retaliation ordered the seizure of the Portuguese town Daman. This episode is considered to be an example of the struggle for wealth that would later ensue and lead to colonisation of the Indian sub-continent.[27]

She was known to receive a jewel from every nobleman "according to his estate" each year on the occasion of New Year's festival.[25] Like only a few other women at the Mughal court, Mariam-uz-Zamani was granted the right to issue official documents by Jahangir, called firmans, usually the exclusive privilege of the emperor. Issuing of such orders was confined to the highest ladies of the harem such as Hamida Banu Begum, Nur Jahan, Mumtaz Mahal, Nadira Banu Begum, Jahanara Begum etc.[25][28][29] It was quite common for women of noble birth to commission architecture in the Mughal Empire, so Mariam-uz-Zamani built gardens, wells, mosques and other developments around the countryside.[25][30]

These courtesies and largesses demonstrate the amount of respect and love Jahangir held for his mother, Mariam-uz-Zamani. A number of royal functions took place in the household of Mariam-uz-Zamani like Jahangir's solar weighing,[31] Jahangir's marriage to daughter of Jagat Singh,[32] and Shehzada Parviz's wedding to daughter of Sultan Murad Mirza.[33]


Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani, Sikandra, Agra

Mariam-uz-Zamani died in 1623. The grave itself is underground with a flight of steps leading to it. Her tomb, built in 1623–27, is on the Tantpur road now known as in Jyoti Nagar. Mariam's Tomb, commissioned by her son, is only a kilometre from Tomb of Akbar the Great.

The Mosque of Mariam Zamani Begum Sahiba was built by Jahangir in her honour and is situated in the Walled City of Lahore, present day Pakistan.

In popular cultureEdit


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  2. ^ Mukhia, Harbans (2004). India's Islamic Traditions, Islam in Kashmir (Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century). New Delhi [India]: The Medieval History Journal, New Delhi. p. 126.
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