The nobility was the corps of officers which occupied an important pillar of the Mughal state. The nobility under Mughals was recruited from diverse ethnic and religious groups. It comprised Iranis, Turanis, Afghans, Rajputs, Deccanis. They all were given positions in the empire and were rewarded purely on the basis of their service and loyalty to the king. Different groups and classes of people from all societies were privileged to kiss the imperial threshold and find employment.
This ensured that no faction was large enough to challenge the authority of the state. It prevented any large scale uprising or threat from within its administration. The nobility occupied the highest rank in the Mughal state. Thus, there was suspicion and a tendency that it might turn against the emperor if it was composed of homogenous groups.
The agency of state was held supreme and could not be surpassed by any other group. The officer corps of the Mughals was held together by loyalty to the emperor. They only accepted the authority of the emperor and took his commands.
Although from time to time, members of different groups gained importance and high ranks. In Akbar’s imperial service, Turani and Iranian nobles were recruited. Iranians gained high offices under Jahangir. Aurangzeb appointed Rajputs to high positions. Along with them the Marathas also accounted for a sizeable number within the body of officers.
The emperor personally reviewed changes in rank, titles and official postings based on the service and loyalty to the king.
The domestic world of Mughals was referred to as “harem”. It was derived from a Persian word haram, meaning sacred place. The Imperial household consisted of the emperor’s wives and concubines, his near and distant relatives and female servants and slaves.
In the Mughal household also there was a hierarchy and distinction between wives who came from royal families (begams), and other wives (aghas) who were not of noble birth. The begams, married after receiving huge amounts of cash and valuables as dower (mahr ). They received a higher status and greater attention from their husbands than did aghas. The concubines (aghacha or the lesser agha) occupied the lowest position in the hierarchy of females related to royalty. They all received monthly allowances in cash and were supplemented with gifts according to their status.
The lineage based family structure was not entirely static. The agha and the aghacha could rise to the position of a begam depending on the husband’s will, and provided that he did not already have four wives. Love and motherhood played important roles in elevating such women to the status of legally wedded wives.
Apart from wives, Mughal household also consisted of numerous male and female slaves. The tasks they performed varied from the most mundane to those requiring skill, tact and intelligence. Slave eunuchs (khwajasara) moved between the external and internal life of the household as guards, servants, and also as agents for women dabbling in commerce.
Mughal queens and princesses also controlled significant financial resources. Shah Jahan’s daughters Jahanara and Roshanara were awarded an annual income equal to that of high imperial mansabdars. Jahanara, also received revenues from the port city of Surat, which was a lucrative centre of overseas trade.
Women also commissioned buildings and gardens. Jahanara constructed Shah Jahan’s new capital, Shahjahanabad (Delhi). She designed the bazaars of Chandni chowk.
The daughter of Babur, Gulbadan Begum, wrote Humayun Nama, which gives us a glimpse into the domestic world of Mughals.
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