Nur Jahan (1577—1645 CE) was the daughter of a Persian courtier who immigrated to India. Her father was nicknamed “Pillar of the State” by Indians, and flourished in the country’s most magnificent court. At seventeen, Nur Jahan was married to an admired Persian soldier named Ali Quli Istunjuloo. Later he received the name Sher Akfan, after he killed a tiger with a sword. In 1605 he received a administrative position in the court of Burdwan, but there he became increasingly jealous and unstable. His wife, beautiful and intelligent, was growing to be an interest of the Emperor Jahangir. In 1607, Sher Akfan died. Once a widow, Nur Jahan and her daughter were summoned to the Emperor’s court to be ladies in waiting for his stepmother. She and the empress became very tender, loving friends.
1611 marked the year when Jahangir married Nur Jahan. As empress, she was capable, strong, and courageous. She accompanied her husband on many hunting trips, killing tigers as she went. Nur Jahan soon exercised great influence over her husband. Her stepson, Shah Jahan, was angry at her for having so much influence over his father, and defied her during the Persian siege of Kandahar. He instead turned his troops in his father’s, and staged a rebellion. He would later be pardoned, but the tensions between Nur Jahan and her stepson did not subside.
In 1626 Nur Jahan and Emperor Jahangir were taken prisoner by the rebel leader. He underestimated Nur Jahan’s intelligence, and did not realize that Nur Jahan had escaped nor amassed a small army before it was too late. She rescued her husband, but he died soon after in 1627. This marked a great dispute over the throne, as Jahangir did not name an heir. As Nur Jahan feared that she would lose quite a lot of political power if Shah Jahan became emperor, Nur Jahan sponsored her other stepson, Shahryar, who she felt would be easier to control. At first, Nur Jahan looked as if she would win against Shah Jahan. Her brother, however, also jealous over the amount of power she wielded, turned coat and betrayed her.
She saw the rest of her days in comfort. She oversaw the building of her father’s mausoleum, and a few other architectural projects.