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Literary Contribution of Mughal Court Lady Shahzadi Gulbadan Banu Begum

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November 14, 1523
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Mirza Firuz Shah
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People
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Humayun 1530–1556

Literary Contribution of Mughal Court Lady Shahzadi Gulbadan Banu Begum

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Title


Literary Contribution of Mughal Court Lady Shahzadi Gulbadan Banu Begum


Abstract:


The development of education and educational institution in Medieval India has attracted considerable attention from scholars, but there is no substantial work done to examine the role of women as recipients of unlearning. In this article, we have examined the role of a court lady, particularly Shahzadi Gulbadan Begum, the daughter of Babur in the field of education and learning.


She was the first literary Gem of the Mughal period to write ‘Humāyūn-Nāma’ in Persian which was based on her personal experiences and knowledge. It was virtually a Biography of Emperor Humayun, proving her profound scholarly bearing and creativity.


Shahzadi Gulbadan Begum’s well-known work ‘Humāyūn-Nāma' is divided into two sections one contains the history of Babur and the other the History of Humayun. It also supplies the necessary data for a background of Akbar’s Reign


She has recorded the political event and military expeditions of significant battles. Besides these, Gulbadan narrated vividly the court customs, marriage ceremonies, and the social gathering in which she participated. The silent features of her work described the harem, its Begums, their lives and character, etc.


Thus it can say that Shahzadi Gulbadan’s Humāyūn-Nāma is a literary cum political history as it gives details about the domestic life rather than literary information. 


Being a woman, her interest focussed essentially on things feminine and she wrote about the lives of haremfolk with candour. However, Shahzadi Gulbadan’s work raised the status of Mughal womanhood to the pinnacle of excellence at the time when education was restricted for ladies.


History:


In the Mughal harem, Shahzadi Gulbadan Begum (Princess Rose-Body) was the first learned lady who played a prominent role in the literary field. She was born in Kabul in 929 A.H/ 1523 A.D, was the daughter of Babur, sister of Humayun, and the revered paternal aunt of Emperor Akbar. Her mother was Dildar Begum, ‘the Heart-Holding Princess’.


Tracing the lineage of the princess we find that her father was the 6th Descendant of Amir Timur and her mother belonged to the 14th Descendant of Mongol leader Chengiz Khan. Thus, Babur was a link between the two races and Shahzadi Gulbadan Begum also belonged to the same clan.


Shahzadi Gulbadan Begum was a woman of extraordinary talents, proficient in Persian and Turkish.  Shahzadi Gulbadan Begum was brought up in an academic atmosphere. Her father Babur was a man of letters, a poet, and a calligrapher. Her mother Dildār Begum was an accomplished scholar and brothers Humayun, Hindal, Askari, and Kamran also were interested in literary activities. All of them influenced Shahzadi Gulbadan Begum.


From her own writing ‘Humāyūn–Nāma’ we find that she was educated under the guidance of Maham Begum. Shahzadi Gulbadan also had a hand in poetical composition which is reflected in her writing. She was interested not only in poetry but also in prose which is included in the Tazkiras like ‘Riyaz-us-Shua’ra,’ ‘Makhzan-ul-Gharaib’ and ‘Subh-i Gulshan’. She composed many beautiful verses. Two lines of her verses are found in Mir Mahdi Shirazi’s ‘Tazkirat -ul- Khawatin’ and Beveridge quotes one of her couplets:


English Translation:


‘A beauty that is un-faithful to the lover Believe that she will always find life untrue to her.’


From the above information, it is clear that Shahzadi Gulbadan gives much importance to love and according to her, without love life remains unhappy.


Shahzadi Gulbadan in her poetry uses very simple and lucid language. She also uses idioms in her writing which make it outstanding.


Shahzadi Gulbadan Begum’s extraordinary talent was shown in her ‘Humāyūn-Nāma’ which she wrote at the command of her cousin Akbar to help Abul Fazl in the compilation of ‘Akbar Namah’. Shahzadi Gulbadan herself notes that around 1587 and in 1590 Akbar commissioned the writing of an official history for his empire. Thus, an ‘order’ had been issued by him and several servants of the state and old family members were requested to write down whatever they knew. The order is as follows:


English Translation:


‘write down whatever you knew of the doing of Firdaus-Makani (posthumous title for Babur) meaning ‘dwelling in paradise’ and Jannat Ashiyani (Posthumous title for Humayun) meaning dwelling in Paradise’.


We find that Shahzadi Gulbadan’s writing was very different from other official chroniclers who favored genre titles which were classed as Tarikh – history or chronological narrative, Tazkirah, written in the forms of biographies and memoirs but Shahzadi Gulbadan chose the genre title which was different from these and it was ‘Ahwal’ which means conditions, state, circumstances.


Shahzadi Gulbadan was the only lady whose literary achievements provides us various information about the events of her times which were connected with her father Babur and brother Humayun, their wars and campaigning, the royal ladies, their lovely names like Gul-rang, and Gul-chihra, marriage ceremonies, various festivities, births, and deaths, etc. Actually, her writing is an authentic source of information about the political and social life of that period.


Thus, we can conclude that Shahzadi Gulbadan’s ‘Humāyūn–Nāma’ is a literary cum social and political history, as it gives details about the domestic life rather than literary information.


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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.

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