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Home   »   History   »   Noor Jehan Biography

Noor Jehan Biography

Noor Jehan (1577-1645) was an empress who belonged to the great Mughal Dynasty. Noor Jehan was the favourite wife of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Her real name was Mehr-un-Nisaa, and she was born in 1597 in Kandahar, Afghanishtan, into a noble family from Persia, her grandfather serving the Shah Tahmasp I.

Mihrunnisa was the fourth child of Mirza Ghias Beg and his wife, Asmat Begum, who was born after the family had migrated to India. Her father Ghias Beg served the great Mughal Akbar, who bestowed him with the title of ‘Itmat-ud-daulah’ (Pillar of the State), while her brother Asaf Khan, served Jahangir and the next heir to the Mughal throne, Emperor Shah Jahan.

For the rise from an immigrant to become an Empress of the great Mughal empire, Noor Jehan was one of the most influential women of her era. Noor Jahan’s illustrious reign (1611-1627) saw her effectively shape the expanding Mughal Empire, along with her immense contributions to the arts, religion and flourishing overseas trade.

MehrunNisaa was first married at the age of 17 to a Persian adventurer named Sher Afghan Ali Quli Khan Istajlu, who was renowned for his brilliant military career, and from whom she bore a daughter, Ladli Begum. After Sher Afghan’s death in 1607, MehrunNisaa began serving the royal Mughal empire, then under Emperor Jehangir after his father, Akbar’s death in 1605. She was the lady-in-waiting to the imperial harem, serving one of Jahangir’s step-mothers, Ruqayya Sultana Begam. Despite going through a bad phase in 1607, with her father being charged with embezzlement and two of her family members being executed on grounds of treason, luck then shone on MehrunNisaa that would change her destiny forever.

During the spring festival of Norouz in 1611, Jehangir first set eyes on MehrunNisaa at the palace meena bazaar, and was fixated by her stunning beauty, that he married her a few months later, in the same year. The couple’s infatuation for each other was so immense that she became his favourite wife, and whom he affectionately named Noor Mahal (‘Light of the Palace’) after marriage, and then as Noor Jahan (‘Light of the world’) in 1616. Jahangir even bestowed her with royal power to govern the affairs of the state, that saw even her family members prospering. Jahangir’s addiction to alcohol and opium saw Noor Jehan exert her influence over the emperor and along with her growing prestige she eventually controlled the reins to thus lead the great Mughlal Empire into a flourishing period. Besides managing the affairs of the royal government and having coinage struck in her name, Noor Jehan was also instrumental in administration matters regarding goods tariff from merchants, women’s affairs, and trade, both domestic and overseas, making the Mughal capital of Agra a booming commercial hub.

After Jahangir’s death in 1627, Noor Jehan was confined to spent the rest of her life in a plush mansion by her step-son Khurrum, the future Shah Jahan, who married Asaf Khan’s daughter, Mumtaz Mahal. There Noor Jehan spent her days constructing the magnificent Tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah in Agra, surrounded by lush gardens, for her beloved father. Coming from a family withthe strong literary background, Noor Jahan’s great poetic works, along with her interests in the traditional Persian culture of perfume-making, jewellery, rich fabrics and newest designed fashionable attire, form a significant source of the Mughal’s contribution to India. They were also noted for their patronage of the arts that included innumerable paintings in traditional Mughal artistic style created in their time, along with several charming gardens, and stunning architectural works such as the Noor Mahal Sarai in Jalandhar.

Noor Jehan passed away in 1645 and lies at her splendid mausoleum located at Shahdara in Lahore, alongside the tomb of Jahangir.