Nadira Banu Begum

Nadira Banu Begum (14 March 1618 – 6 June 1659) was a Mughal princess and the wife of the Crown prince, Dara Shikoh,[1] the eldest son and heir-apparent of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.[2] After Aurangzeb's rise to power, Dara Shikoh's immediate family and all of his supporters were in grave danger. Nadira died in 1659, few months before her husband's execution, and was survived by two sons and a daughter.

Nadira Banu Begum
Shahzadi of the Mughal Empire
Princess Nadira Banu Begum.jpg
This portrait is believed to be of Princess Nadira Banu Begum
Born14 March 1618
Merta, Rajasthan, India
Died6 June 1659(1659-06-06) (aged 41)
Bolan Pass, Balochistan
(m. 1633)
IssueSulaiman Shikoh
Mumtaz Shikoh
Sipihr Shikoh
Jahanzeb Banu Begum
HouseTimurid (by birth)
FatherSultan Parvez Mirza
MotherJahan Banu Begum
ReligionSunni Islam

Family and lineageEdit

Nadira Banu Begum was born a Mughal princess and was the daughter of Sultan Parvez Mirza,[3][4] the second son of Emperor Jahangir from his wife, Sahib-i-Jamal Begum.[5] Her mother, Jahan Banu Begum, was also a Mughal princess, being the daughter of Sultan Murad Mirza, the second son of Emperor Akbar.[6] Nadira was a half-cousin of her future husband, Dara Shikoh, as her father, Sultan Parvez Mirza, was the older half-brother of Dara's father, Shah Jahan.[7]


The wedding of Nadira Begum and Dara Shikoh

When Dara Shikoh's mother, Empress Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631 while giving birth to her fourteenth child, Gauharara Begum, the wedding arrangements halted as the Mughal Empire plunged into mourning and Shah Jahan was consumed in his grief. After much coaxing by many, including his favorite daughter Jahanara Begum, he resumed life as normal and let her oversee the remaining aspects of the wedding.[8]

Nadira married her half-cousin, Dara Shikoh on 11 February 1633 at Agra; midst great celebrations, pomp and grandeur. The nikah ceremony was performed after midnight. By all accounts, Nadira and Dara were both devoted to each other, and Dara's love for Nadira proved to be even more faithful than that of Shah Jahan for Mumtaz Mahal — for unlike his father, he never contracted any other marriage.[8] Nadira Begum emerged in the Mughal chronicles as being no less beautiful than her mother-in-law and remained loyal all her life to her husband. She bore her husband eight children, with two sons, Sulaiman Shikoh, Sipihr Shikoh and a daughter Jahanzeb Banu Begum, surviving to play important roles in future events. Within two years of their marriage, in 1635, the handsome Sulaiman Shikoh was born; while another son Sipihr Shikoh would follow in 1644 and a daughter Jahanzeb; affectionately known as Jani Begum, was born sometime afterwards.[8]

Nadira Begum wielded great influence in her husband's harem and was granted the right to issue farmans and nishans. This exceptional privilege was allowed only to those who held the highest rank in the imperial harem. The only other woman who had this right apart from Nadira was her cousin and sister-in-law, Jahanara Begum.[9]

Nadira and Jahanara were said to have gotten on well; a fact which probably sprung from Jahanara’s involvement in her wedding and her closeness to her brother. Jahanara had consciously decided to support Dara, the most beloved to her of all of her siblings, over Aurangzeb, and she made outward demonstrations of this decision by decelerating her love for her eldest brother Dara Shikoh. According to legend, when Aurangzeb had fallen sick sometime during his teen years, he called Jahanara to ask her if she would support him in his bid for the crown. She refused. Despite how unpopular this made her in his sight, she went on to become the head of the harem in Aurangzeb’s court.

Dara Shikoh, a patron of the arts, was said to be a fine painter, and many of his works, were considered to be almost of a professional standard. Some of his works were collected and gifted to Nadira Banu, his "dearest and intimate friend"[10] and it was a token of his affection for her that she cherished until her death, after which it went on display at a museum. The album has now become famous as the "Dara Shikoh Album".[11]


Outside view of Nadira Begum's tomb during winter

Nadira Begum died on 6 June 1659 of dysentery while she was accompanying her husband and family in Bolan Pass, Pakistan. She had been faithful and devoted to her husband during the hardships in his life and had shared all his wanderings. Her death drew Dara into such a frantic state of grief that his own fate appeared as a matter of indifference to him.[12]

Nadira's last wish was to be buried in India, and without considering the consequences of her request, Dara sent his deceased wife's corpse to Lahore in charge of his soldiers to be buried there.[13] The princess' tomb was built next to Mian Mir's tomb in Lahore, Pakistan, who had been the spiritual instructor of Dara Shikoh.[14]


In popular cultureEdit

  • Nadira Banu Begum is a principal character in Indu Sundaresan's historical novel Shadow Princess (2010).
  • Nadira Banu Begum is a character in Ruchir Gupta's historical novel Mistress of the Throne (2014).


  1. ^ Encyclopaedia of Muslim biography : India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. A.P.H. Pub. Corp. 2001. p. 218. ISBN 9788176482349.
  2. ^ Vogel, J. Hutchison, J. Ph (1994). History of the Panjab hill states. New Delhi, India: Asian Educational Services. p. 257. ISBN 9788120609426.
  3. ^ Koch, Ebba (2006). The complete Taj Mahal and the riverfront gardens of Agra. Bookwise (India) Pvt. Ltd. p. 46.
  4. ^ Robinson, Annemarie Schimmel ; translated by Corinne Attwood ; edited by Burzine K. Waghmar ; with a foreword by Francis (2005). The empire of the Great Mughals : history, art and culture (Revised ed.). Lahore: Sang-E-Meel Pub. p. 48. ISBN 9781861891853. {{cite book}}: |first1= has generic name (help)
  5. ^ Jayyusi, Salma K., ed. (2008). The city in the Islamic world. Leiden [u.a.]: Brill. p. 574. ISBN 9789004171688.
  6. ^ Bhavan's Journal. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. 1979. p. 78.
  7. ^ Koch, Ebba (2006). The complete Taj Mahal and the riverfront gardens of Agra. Bookwise (India) Pvt. Ltd. p. 46.
  8. ^ a b c Hansen, Waldemar (1972). The Peacock Throne : The Drama of Mogul India (1. Indian ed., repr. ed.). Motilal Banarsidass. p. 121. ISBN 9788120802254.
  9. ^ Misra, Rekha (1967). Women in Mughal India, 1526-1748 A.D. Munshiram Manoharlal. p. 67.
  10. ^ India-Myanmar relations, 1886-1948. K.P. Bagchi & Co. p. 165. ISBN 9788170743002.
  11. ^ India-Myanmar relations, 1886-1948. K.P. Bagchi & Co. p. 165. ISBN 9788170743002.
  12. ^ Edwardes, S. M.; Garrett, H. L. O. (1995). Mughal Rule in India. Atlantic Publishers and Distributors. p. 96. ISBN 9788171565511.
  13. ^ Bernier, Francois (1996). Travels in the Mogul Empire. Asian Educational Services. p. 103. ISBN 8120611691.
  14. ^ Schimmel, Annemarie (1963). Gabriel's Wing: A Study Into the Religious Ideas of Sir Muhammad Iqbal. Brill Archive. p. 9.