This article is dedicated to the life and legacy of Salima Sultan Begum. Born on February 23, 1539, she played a significant role in the Mughal Empire. From her strategic marriages to her influence in the imperial court, Salima Sultan Begum’s story is one of power, wisdom, and cultural richness.
Join us as we explore the multifaceted life of Salima Sultan Begum, a woman who transcended the traditional roles of her time to shape the destiny of an empire.
Who was Salima Sultan Begum?
Salima Sultan Begum (23 February 1539 – 15 December 1612) was Empress of the Mughal Empire, married first to Bairam Khan. After his murder in 1561, she wed her cousin, Emperor Akbar. A woman of significant influence, Salima played a pivotal role in Mughal court politics.
Her marriage to Akbar solidified her position, and her intelligence and cultural patronage left an enduring legacy. Salima’s era saw flourishing art, literature, and architecture. Her contributions continue to resonate, making her a notable figure in Mughal history.
- Salima Sultan Begum was an influential figure in the Mughal Empire, known for her political acumen and cultural patronage.
- Born in 1539, she was a first cousin to Emperor Akbar and his first wife Ruqaiya Sultan Begum.
- Salima’s marriage to Bairam Khan and later to Akbar played significant roles in Mughal politics.
- She was an accomplished poet who wrote under the pseudonym “Makhfi” or “Hidden One.”
- Salima played a crucial role in mediating conflicts within the Mughal royal family.
- Her strategic marriage to Akbar protected her son Rahim from political conspiracies.
- Salima’s death in 1612 was noted by her stepson Jahangir, who detailed her birth, lineage, and age.
- Her final resting place was a garden commissioned by Salima herself.
Salima Sultan Begum’s family background is steeped in the rich tapestry of Mughal history. She was born to Mughal princess Gulrang Begum and Nur-ud-din Muhammad Mirza, who held the esteemed position of Viceroy of Kanauj. This lineage connected her directly to Emperor Babur, the visionary founder of the Mughal Empire.
Her maternal uncles were none other than the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun, and the accomplished Mughal prince, Hindal Mirza. This familial tie meant that Salima was not only a first cousin to Emperor Akbar, but also to his first wife, Ruqaiya Sultan Begum. Both Akbar and Ruqaiya were offspring of her maternal uncles, Humayun, and Hindal Mirza, respectively.
Salima Sultan Begum’s Marriages
Salima Sultan Begum’s life was marked by significant marriages and political intrigue. At the age of eighteen, she married Bairam Khan, a powerful military commander and statesman of the Mughal Empire. This union, though short-lived, united two influential lineages within the court.
The marriage generated significant interest at the Court, as it merged two distinct lines of descent from Ali Shukr Beg – the Blacksheep Turkomans from Bairam Khan’s side and Timur from Salima’s lineage. Salima, being a Timurid through her maternal grandfather Emperor Babur and her great-grandfather Mahmud, was a link to a storied heritage.
Salima, Emperor Humayun’s niece, married Bairam Khan, becoming his second wife after his first wife bore him a son named Abdul Rahim. Despite the union’s political importance, it proved brief, as Salima didn’t have any children with Bairam Khan.
Marriage to Akbar after Bairam Khan’s Death
Tragically, after only three years of marriage, Bairam Khan fell victim to political machinations and was murdered in 1561. To safeguard Salima and Bairam Khan’s son Rahim from further political conspiracies, Salima was subsequently married to her first cousin, the young Emperor Akbar, who was three years and seven months her junior.
Achievements of Salima Sultan Begum
Salima Sultan Begum, during her tenure in the Mughal Empire, achieved several notable accomplishments:
- Diplomatic Mediation: Salima, along with Maryam Makani, played a pivotal role in negotiating a settlement between Akbar and Jahangir during a period of strained father-son relations in the early 1600s. Their efforts were instrumental in paving the way for Jahangir’s eventual ascension to the throne.
- Cultural Patronage: Salima was a significant patron of arts and culture. Her support for poets, artists, and scholars contributed to the flourishing of artistic and intellectual endeavors in the Mughal court.
- Literary Prowess: An accomplished poet herself, Salima’s literary contributions added to the cultural richness of the era. She collected a substantial library, reflecting her intellectual interests.
- Role in Court Affairs: Salima was an astute observer of court affairs. Her meticulous documentation of interactions and understanding of political dynamics earned her a position of influence in the imperial court.
- Protective Marriage Alliance: Her marriage to Akbar was not only a familial bond but also a strategic move to safeguard the life of her son, Rahim, from further political conspiracies after the untimely death of Bairam Khan.
- Contribution to Religious Pilgrimage: In 1575, Salima embarked on a Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, an important spiritual journey for a woman of her stature.
- Key Role in Securing Pardons: During Jahangir’s reign, Salima, along with Ruqaiya, played a crucial role in securing pardons for individuals facing severe sentences, displaying her advocacy for justice.
Death of Salima Begum
Salima Sultan Begum passed away on December 15, 1612, in Delhi. According to her stepson Jahangir, she was seventy-three years old at the time of her demise. Following her wishes, her body was laid to rest in a garden that she personally commissioned, a final resting place befitting her stature.