Image is reported to be of Akbar and Mariam, provenance uncertain (16th century). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Gabby Storey

She was born in 1542 to Raja Bharmal of Amer and his wife Rani Champavati. Her birth name is not known, though she was often attributed to the misnomer Jodha Bai, originating from the colonialist history by James Tod, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan.

Mariam was married to the third Mughal emperor, Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, on 6 February 1562, as part of a political resolution between her father and Akbar’s brother-in-law, Sharif-ud-Din Mirza.

She remained a Hindu during her marriage, instead of converting to her husband’s Islamic beliefs. Mariam’s fashion tastes remained that of the Rajput nobility, with colourful and elaborate designs forming part of her regular clothing.

Mariam gave birth to twins on 19 October 1564, Mirza Hassan and Mirza Hussein. They both died in the weeks following their birth, leaving Mariam grief-stricken. On 31 August 1569 she gave birth to a on Salim, whose birth was richly celebrated, with Akbar granting many largesses.

As empress, was highly influential and held the highest rank at court. She arranged Salim’s marriage to her niece, in 1585, granted political favours, and travelled with Akbar on campaign. She commanded vast resources which she used to patronise institutions and utilised for building projects.

After Akbar’s death in 1605 she remained an active figure at court, working for the interests of her son and her grandson Khusrau Mirza. Upon her death in May 1623, she was incredibly rich and powerful, and an elaborate tomb was constructed in her memory, close to Akbar.

Photograph of the tomb of Mariam-um-Zamani, Agra. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Recommended Reading

Annemarie Schimmel, The empire of the great Mughals: history, art and culture, trans. Corrine Attwood (London: Reaktion Books, 2004)

Ellison B. Findly, “The Capture of Maryam-uz-Zamānī’s Ship: Mughal Women and European Traders,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 108.2 (1988): 227-238

Ira Mukhoty, Daughters of the Sun: Empresses, Queens and Begums of the Mughal Empire (New Delhi: Aleph Book Company, 2018).

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