Saturday, Aug 20, 2022
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controversy: film

Once Upon A Fable

Pop history gets piping hot as Jodhaa Akbar stirs up a queen-sized row

Once Upon A Fable
Once Upon A Fable
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Popular perception has long held that Jodhabai was Akbar's Hindu wife—a belief reinforced by the film Mughal-e-Azam, in which Durga Khote gave a memorable performance as the emperor's strong-willed Rajput queen. Tourist guides at Fatehpur Sikri have carried forward the myth, pointing out an imposing sandstone structure as Jodhabai's Palace where, they tell us, she even had her puja room and a separate kitchen. But the boundary between myth and historical fact is often disputed. As Mohammed Amin, former head of the history department at Delhi's St Stephens' College, says, "There are facts that we historians can prove and 'facts' that have entered the popular imagination."

Leading scholars of medieval history, Irfan Habib, Satish Chandra and Harbans Mukhia, categorically dismiss the idea that Akbar had a wife named Jodhabai. But what is indisputable, they say, is that he had a number of Rajput wives and that they were influential figures at his court. According to Satish Chandra, former UGC chairman and author of the NCERT textbook, Medieval India: From the Sultanate to the Mughals, "Akbar had more than 20 queens and most of his Rajput allies sent him their daughters in marriage." He adds that the daughter of the Raja of Amber (now Jaipur) was the first of his Rajput wives and probably the mother of his heir Salim (later emperor Jehangir). In recognition of her special status, Akbar gave her the title of Mariam-uz-Zamani (Holy Mother of the Universe), but there is no record of her real name or that of any of the other queens.

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