Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan

By A Staff Writer

Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan (Hardback | Rs 599, 304 pp) is the fascinating biography of the most powerful Mughal woman in history.

When it came to hunting, she was a master shot. As a dress designer, few could match. An ingenious architect, she innovated the use of marble in her parents’ mausoleum on the banks of the Yamuna, which inspired her stepson’s Taj Mahal. And she was both celebrated and reviled for her political acumen and diplomatic skill, which rivaled those of her female counterparts in Europe and beyond.

In 1611, thirty-four-year-old Nur Jahan, daughter of a Persian noble and widow of a subversive official, became the twentieth and most cherished wife of Emperor Jahangir. While other wives were secluded behind walls, Nur ruled the vast Mughal Empire alongside her husband, and governed in his when his health failed and his attention wandered from matters of state. An astute politician and a devoted partner, Nur led troops into battle to free Jahangir when he was imprisoned by one of his officers. She signed and issued imperial orders, and coins of the realm bore her name.

Acclaimed historian Ruby Lal uncovers the rich life and world of Nur Jahan, rescuing this dazzling figure from patriarchal and orientalist cliches of romance and intrigue, while giving a new insight into the lives of the women and the girls during the Mughal Empire, even where scholars claim there are no sources. Nur’s confident assertion of authority and talent is revelatory. In Empress, she finally receives her due in a deeply researched and evocative biography that awakens us to a fascinating history.

Namita Gokhale, editor, literary publishing, Penguin Random House India, said that the panoramic sweep of this extraordinary feminist history is matched by the exquisite storytelling.

According to The Economist Ruby Lal has not only written a revisionist feminist biography, but she has also provided a vivid picture of the Mughal court, with its luxuries, beauties, intrigues and horrors.

BBC has described the effort in glowing terms. It said: “Lal’s intriguing biography, with its chronology of her relatively swift rise to power and even swifter descent, restores Nur Jahan to her full splendor.”

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