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Emperor Akbar’s wife Jodhabai was actually Portuguese, not a Rajput princess, claims book

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Panaji: Princess Jodhabai, often referred to as one of Emperor Akbar’s wives and the mother of his son Jahangir, whose life was portrayed onscreen by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Bollywood film “Jodha-Akbar”, could have been a fictitious character, necessitated by convenient historical narratives during the Moghul era, a new book has claimed.

Goa-based author Luis de Assis Correia in his book “Portuguese India and Mughal Relations 1510-1735” has claimed that Jodhabai was in fact a Portuguese woman, Dona Maria Mascarenhas, who while travelling in a Portuguese armada along the Arabian sea, could have been captured along with her sister Juliana and subsequently offered to a young Emperor Akbar as a gift by Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat in the mid-1500s.

“When Dona Maria Mascarenhas arrived at Akbar’s Court, he fell in love with her. He was 18 years old and he was already married. She was 17 and he said, ‘This young lady is for me’ and her sister Juliana, both of them were lodged in Akbar’s harem,” Correia told IANS on the sidelines of the book release function in Panaji.

“The Portuguese and the Catholics were loath to accept that one of their own was living in a Moghul court, in a harem. On the other hand, the Moghuls could not accept that a firangi, a Christian, who fought the Moghuls right from the Crusades, was the Emperor’s wife. This is why the myth of Jodhabai was created by British and Moghul chroniclers of that era,” Correia said, adding that writings of Akbar, as well as Jahangir do not acknowledge the existence of Jodhabai.

The 173-page book, published by Broadway Publishing House, suggests that Maria Mascarenhas could have been the mother of Jahangir and was often referred to as Maryum-ul-Zamani and at times, as Jodhabai or Harkabai in popular lore.

Maryum-ul-Zamani, Correia says, has not been mentioned anywhere in Moghul records as Jahangir’s mother.

“It is indeed a mystery why Mughal chroniclers: (Abd al-Qadir) Badauni and Abu’l Fazal do not mention Jahangir’s mother by her name. Had Jahangir been born to a daughter of a great Rajput kingdom, surely he would want to boast the fact considering that the Mughals were eager to forge a strategic alliance with the Rajputs,” Correia argues in his book.

The 81-year-old writer, also quotes historian and Aligarh Muslim University professor Shireen Moosvi as saying “there is no mention of Jodhabai in Akbarnama or in any Mughal document of the period. Akbar did marry a princess of the Kachhava clan, the daughter of Bha Mal, but her name was not Jodhabai”.

Correia also says that Emperor Jahangir’s patronisation of Christianity and Jesuit missionaries were more leads which suggested that his lineage stemmed not from a Rajput queen, but a Portuguese woman.

“It is indeed a mystery why the very candid memoir of Jahangir does not mention his mother by name. Was she not a Muslim or Hindu of noble name? Was she not a Muslim or Hindu of noble birth or status? Is it, therefore, that Jahangir glossed over her name as Maryum-ul-Zaani or was it because her mother was a firangi lady…” the writer says.