In the western world, the date ‘19th May’ famously corresponds to the death of a very famous Queen known as Anne Boleyn, the first ‘beheaded’ wife of Henry VIII. However in the East, this day corresponds to the death of another Queen almost a century later: Mariam-uz-Zamani, inaccurately known as Jodhaa Bai today.
Born as Heera Kunwari, daughter of the Rajput king of Amer, she was offered to the Mughal Emperor Akbar in marriage to avoid succumbing their kingdom to Akbar’s expanding empire. The marriage was key in changing Akbar’s policies to the native Hindus of India (as Heera was a Hindu Princess, particular devotee of the Lord Krishna), to a more diplomatic approach that gained him support from many of the regional kingdoms in India. He allowed her to freely practice her religion and apparently took part in many of her pujas.
Although she was Akbar’s third wife, she was given the status of ‘chief wife’ and the Muslim title ‘Mariam-uz-Zamani’ which means ‘Mary of the Ages.’ Mariam uz-zamani was reported to have been a highly astute business woman, who ran an active international trade in spices, silk, etc, and thus, amassed a private fortune which dwarfed the treasury of many a European king. She would use her riches to build many palaces and gardens.
Mariam was mother of the next Mughal emperor, Jahangir, who carried out her dying wish to be buried next to her beloved Akbar who had given her so much for almost nothing in return.
She is known as the Queen Mother of India due to her line carrying the most crowns of India as the reigning Mughals including, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb.