Sunday, February 25, 2024


Anarkali is a legendary woman who was loved by Sixteenth century Mughal Prince Salim, Son of Akbar, the great. Salim became Mughal emperor Jahangir. There are different opinions about Anarkali, a dancer in the court of Akbar.

Anarkali was first mentioned in the journal of English tourist by William Finch, who visited Mughal empire on 24 August 1608. His account gives the following information in the 17th century English.

“ — is a fair monument for Don Sha his mother, one of the Akbar his wives, with whom it is said Sha Selim had to do (her name was Immaeque Kille, or Pomgranate Karnell) upon notice of which the king Akbar caused her to be in closed quick within a wall in his moholl, where She died and the king Jahangir in token of his love commands a Sumptuous tomb to be built of Stone in the midst of four square garden richly walled, with a gate and divers rooms over it. The convexity of the tomb he hath willed to be wrought in work of gold with a large faire jointer with rooms over head.

Edward Tarry, who visited later wrote Akbar had threatened to disinherit Jahangir for his relationship with Anarkali .But on his death bed he repealed the threat. According to Lise Balabanlilar, the majority of legends present maid Anarkali of Akbar’s harem as a spouse, a concubine or a servant. As per Muni Lal, Anarkali was a maid servant in the household of Salim’s mother , Mariam-uz-Zamani. There are prominent guesses about who the Anarkali, was –

It was just a pomegranate garden.

Anarkali as a wife of Akbar who fall in love with his son, Jahangir –

Anarkali was concubine of Akbar, who fall in love with his son, Jahangir.

Anarkali was one of the wives of Jahangir.

It is unlikely that an emperor’s concubine would have fallen in love with his son.

Some historians say – Anarkali was not buried in a wall. Ruler Akbar allowed her to run away clandestinely. In k. Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam, Akbar said to Anarkali –

Ho sake to mujhe Kshama kardena, Anarkali , main tumko ek gumnaam zindagi ke siba aur kuchh nahi de sakte. 

(Please forgive me. I can give you only a Secret life). Anarkali went away and resided in a far away country. Later on after the death of Akbar, she was married to Jahangir.

The legend of Anarkali is obscure. Nothing can be said with certainty. Nothing was impossible in Mughal times. Every one was not hesitating to cross the red line. Moreover Mughals were passionate and love sicken. They can go to any extent. So it needs to go on research with intensity to know the exact and correct identity of Anarkali – who was so famous in Indian Mughal History. But it cannot be denied that Anarkali was court dancer who was in love  with prince Salim who was a mixture of extremes, but judicious and one of the Six great Mughal Emperors of India.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own.)

Radhakanta Seth is an Income tax officer in Sambalpur.  He is a Freelance writer and his articles have been published in some Oriya dailies like Sambad, Samaj, Dharitri and English dailies like The Telegraph and in a sociological journal ‘Folklore’ published from Kolkata.

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