Mughal Palace Women

Ruby Lal

in Servants of the Dynasty

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780520254435
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520941519 | DOI:
Mughal Palace Women

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Abu-l Fazl (1551–1602), the imperial chronicler for Akbar the Great (1556–1605), recorded the regulations regarding the Mughal haram. The term haram came to be the most common description of the women's sphere and signified important changes in Mughal domestic life. Mughal women—or at least most of them—became invisible in the public pronouncements and activities of the empire. This invisibility is especially striking in the case of Akbar's wives, including the mothers of his sons. Akbar's foster community pushed the boundaries of what would normally be recognized as blood relations and relationships of marriage and birth. This chapter demonstrates how Abu-l Fazl established new norms by representing Akbar's domestic life. It investigates how Mughal's palace women responded to the new imperial regulations, and how women's negotiation of the new sovereign ideals became a crucial element in the making of the monarchy—at times, by rupturing those very ideals. It also examines the visible matriarchs of the Mughal Empire, intercession and counseling by senior women, and senior women's hajj under the leadership of Gulbadan Begum.

Keywords: Abu-l Fazl; Akbar the Great; haram; mothers; senior women; Mughal Empire; hajj; Gulbadan Begum; imperial regulations; palace women

Chapter.  8531 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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