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Jodha Bai : Akbar's Wife or Daughter-in-Law?

Who was Jodha Bai (or Jodhaa Bai)? If she existed at all, it was as Akbar's daughter-in-law (she was married to Jahangir) and not his wife as claimed by rajputs of rajasthan after seeing portrayal of Jodha bai as wife of Akbar in Ashutosh Gowarikar's upcoming movie - Jodha-Akbar. Hrithik Roshan plays Akbar and Aishwarya Rai plays Jodha Bai in Gowarikar's Jodhaa - Akbar.

Akbar's wife

If we go by folktales and K Asif's classic 'Mughal-e-Azam', Jodha bai was Amber ruler Raja Bharmal's daughter and Akbar's wife. Here's what some of the country's top historians have to say. The historians are divided over name not the person. Most of them agree that Akbar married the daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amber but differ over her name. She is said to be born on October 1, 1542 as the daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amber and aunt of Man Singh, who later on became one of the nine jewels (Navaratnas) in the court of Akbar. In 1562, she married Akbar the Great and was 22 days elder than him. She was among the three 'chief queens' of Emperor Akbar. His first queen was the childless, Ruqaiyya Begum and his second wife was Salima Sultan, widow of Bairam Khan, Akbar's most trusted general.

Jodhabai was allowed to practice Hinduism freely. She is said to have been politically involved in the court until Nur Jahan became empress. According to Thomas Roe, she was involved in active sea trade and owned a ship named Ramiti which carried pilgrims to Mecca.

In 1586, Jodhabai arranged a marriage of her son, Prince Salim (later Jahangir), to Man Singh's sister Princess Manmati, who was the mother of Prince Khusro. Jodhabai died in 1611. As per her last wishes a vav or step well was constructed by Jahangir.

Abul Fazal's 'Ain-e-Akbari' and 'Akbarnama' have no reference to Jodha Bai. The name also doesn't find mention in Jehangir's memoirs. Similarly, there is no mention of Jodha Bai in Bada'uni's 'Muntakhib-al-Tawarikh'. At Aligarh Muslim university, there has been no reference shown in documents to jodha bai but still there is a mention of Jodha Bai in the works of K.L. Khurana, A.L. Shrivastav and Munni Lal and many other historians. In 'Kachchawon ka Itihas' she is mentioned by the name of Harika Bai. In another book she is called Manmati and Shahi Bai.

Jahangir's wife

Mughal Emperors had many wives, some to consolidate political alliances and others for physical needs. Apart from this, some historians have a conflicting opinion. Historian Jadunath Sarkar says, "Uday Singh of Jaipur married his daughter to Jehangir. Her name was Mira Bai but she was also known as Jodh Bai and not Jodha Bai." Asserts renowned historian and former chairman of Indian Council of Historical Research, Prof Irfan Habib, "There wasn't any historical character called Jodha Bai. It's true that Akbar married Amber ruler Raja Bharmal's eldest daughter but her name isn't mentioned anywhere. And she was certainly not Jahangir's mother. Even Jahangir in his memoirs (Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri) doesn't mention anything about his mother's side."

Opinion of other historians

Former President of Indian History Congress and chairman of History Department, Aligarh University, Prof Iqtedar Alam Khan corroborates Habib's version: "It is only a Punjab historian Sujan Rai Bhandari, who in his book Khulasat-ut-Tawarikh mentions for the first time that the Amber princess whom Akbar married was Jahangir's mother. But even Rai doesn't refer to her as Jodha Bai." Medieval India, an NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) history text book for Class XI by Satish Chandra clearly states on page 165: "To strengthen his position, Udai Singh married his daughter, Jagat Gosain or Jodha Bai as she came to be called, to Akbar's eldest son Salim (Jahangir)."

NR Farooqi, HoD of Allahabad University's history department, confirms this when he says, "Jodha was not Akbar's wife but Jahangir's and she was Shahjahan's mother. Bagh-e-Jahan Ara, an 80-acre garden in Agra, used to house her mausoleum till it was sold for Rs 5,000 by the British and subsequently razed to the ground. Its records are available with the Agra Commissioner's office." If this is not enough, there's a definitive footnote on page 5 of History of Jahangir penned by the noted historian (late) Beni Prasad: 'No chronicler mentions the Rajput name of Jahangir's mother. Sujan Rai (Khulasat-ut-Tawarikh, Delhi edition, 1918, page 374) alone mentions the official designation.'

The existing belief might have some thing to do with 'Mughal-e-Azam', where Durga Khote played Jodha Bai and also every guide at Agra will tell you Akbar's wife was Jodha Bai. The existence of structures like Jodha Bai Ka Rauza in Fatehpur Sikri also confirm the existing belief. However this is a matter of political debate in Rajasthan, with various Rajput organisations taking the field against the former royal families of Jaipur and Kishangarh about exactly which Rajput princess married which Mughal emperor.

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