11 April, 2019

#BookReview :: Jahangir : An Intimate Portrait of a Great Mughal by Parvati Sharma

Jahangir was the fourth of the six Great Mughals - great grandson of Babur and grandfather of Aurangzeb - and the least known among them. His father, Akbar, transformed the Mughal kingdom into an empire, and his reign is often considered an epoch in itself. Jahangir's son Shahjahan built the tomb that Tagore famously described as a 'teardrop on the cheek of time', and was sometimes upheld as Akbar's true heir. Jahangir, on the other hand, has the reputation of a weak man, at best: an alcoholic with an eye for art and greed for pleasure, controlled by a powerful wife. But far from being a disinterested prince and insignificant ruler, Jahangir showed tremendous ambition and strength throughout his life. When his succession was threatened, Jahangir set up a rebel court in the face of the mighty Akbar himself. While he made no conquests to match his father's, Jahangir was the first Mughal to win the allegiance of the fearsome Ranas of Mewar. And, for all his reputed frivolity, Jahangir was the emperor who won his dynasty its glorious association with things of beauty and splendour - and who wrote one of the most perceptive and entertaining imperial memoirs of all time. The man who is most often defined by his relationships is here presented holistically as a canny ruler and conscientious administrator, an astute observer of human society and a connoisseur with wide-ranging interests. In this marvellous work of popular history, Parvati Sharma tells a compelling story of one of the most fascinating and undervalued rulers of India.

Jahangir is one of the Mughal Emperors who has probably been denied the spotlight in history books. Akbar, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb are more talked about than the rest of them put together. He is mostly remembered as the son of Akbar and father to Shah Jahan and his expensive taste in art is also noted. Even his wife, Nur Jahan, has her own space in history as the de-facto ruler of the empire in his stead. Probably his only claim to fame in history is about his relationship with ‘Anarkali’ even though there is very little evidence of it. Through this book author Parvati Sharma tells us about the emperor who ruled for 22 years.

The book is divided into seven parts starting from his Accession to the throne and covering every aspect of his life. Through Parvati Sharma, we see the sides of Jahangir that are not covered in history. For instance, did you know that Jahangir had a flair for writing? He could describe a war and a flower with the same enthusiasm. He had an open mind when it came to religion and some believe that growing up in Akbar’s court and having a Rajput mother enabled him to have a curious mind when it came down to religion and superstition. His interest lay in verifying before believing and it makes me think that he had a scientific mind. Yet his love for fine art was well known. Much of the art and finery that is attributed to the Mughal Empire had been commissioned and collected by Jahangir.

Nur Jahan and his relationship with her is ever a mystery. Some records show that being the daughter of Akbar’s Grand Vizier, Mehr-un-nisa a.ka. Nur Jahan had a brilliant mind and interest in the affairs of the state. With Jahangir’s addiction to liquor and opium, Nur Jahan found it easy to manipulate the emperor and rule in his stead. Other accounts paint a different picture where Nur Jahan and Jahangir were partners. Jahangir admired her knowledge, respected her opinions and as a result involved her in the state of affairs.

I found the book to be very informative and appreciated the selected bibliography that the author has provided at the end.  The maps and images offered helped the reading experience.  The USP of the book is that the author narrates the story of an emperor and follows up with examples of small anecdotes that prove the point that she is trying to make. It made the read a bit interesting to a person like me who isn’t into nonfiction as much.

Review Copy received from Juggernaut

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z

1 comment:

  1. I like that authors are trying to put the spotlight on lesser known characters from history or mythology of India these days. :) There's a wealth of knowledge to explore and share no?