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Died  1599, Lahore, Pakistan
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Buried  Lahore Fort, Walled City of Lahore, Pakistan
Similar  Sabyasachi Mukherji, Manish Malhotra, Akbar, Anita Dongre, Deepika Padukone

Anarkali (Urdu: انارکلی‎ ; Anārkalī ) (pomegranate blossom), born as Sharif un-Nissa, and also known as Nadira Begum, was a legendary slave girl. It is depicted in the Bollywood movie Mughal-e-Azam that during the Mughal period, she was supposedly ordered to be buried alive between two walls by Mughal emperor Akbar for having an illicit relationship with the Crown-Prince Salim, later to become Emperor Jahangir. Due to the lack of evidence and sources, the story of Anarkali is considered by some to be false for the evidence of her grave and body. The story of Anarkali is not mentioned in the Akbarnama nor in Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri. It was first mentioned by an English tourist and trader William Finch in his journal, who visited India on 24 August 1608. The story was originally written by Indian writer Abdul Halim Sharar and on the first page of that book he had clearly mentioned it to be a work of fiction. Nevertheless, her story has been adapted into literature, art and cinema.


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There are conflicts among the scholars on the authenticity of Anarkali's incident. There are many opposing and confusing views such as mentioned below.

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The earliest western writers of the love affair of Salim were by two British travellers – William Finch and Edward Terry. William Finch reached Lahore in February 1611 (only 11 years after the supposed death of Anarkali), to sell the indigo he had purchased at Bayana on behalf of the East India Company. His account, written in early 17th-century English, gives the following information.

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Anarkali was the mother of prince Daniyal (third son of Akbar) and she had an affair with Prince Salim (Jahangir). Upon the notice of the affair, King Akbar caused the lady to be enclosed within a wall of his palace, where she died. The King Jahangir, in token of his love, ordered a magnificent tomb of stone to be built in the midst of a walled four-square garden provided with a gate. The body of the tomb, the emperor willed to be wrought in work of gold.

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Edward Terry who visited a few years after William Finch writes that Akbar had threatened to disinherit Jahangir, for his liaison with Anarkali, the emperor’s most beloved wife. But on his death-bed, Akbar repealed it.

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Basing his analysis on the above two Britishers’ accounts, Abraham Eraly, the author of The Last Spring: The Lives and Times of the Great Mughals, suspects that there "seems to have been an oedipal conflict between Akbar and Salim." He also considers it probable that the legendary Anarkali was none other than the mother of Prince Daniyal.

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Eraly supports his hypothesis by quoting an incident recorded by Abul Fazl, the court-historian of Akbar. According to the historian, Salim was beaten up one evening by guards of the royal harem of Akbar. The story is that a mad man had wandered into Akbar’s harem because of the carelessness of the guards. Abul Fazl writes that Salim caught the man but was himself mistaken for the intruder. The emperor arrived upon the scene and was about to strike with his sword when he recognised Salim. Most probably, the intruder was none other than Prince Salim and the story of the mad man was concocted to put a veil on the indecency of the Prince.

But the accounts of the British travellers and consequently the presumption of Eraly is falsified when one comes to know that the mother of prince Daniyal had died in 1596 which does not match the dates inscribed on the sarcophagus.

Another scholar, Muhammed Baqir, the author of Lahore Past and Present opines that Anarkali was originally the name of the garden in which the tomb was situated, but with the passage of time, the tomb itself came to be named as that of Anarkali’s. This garden is mentioned by Dara Shikoh, the grandson of Jahangir, in his work Sakinat al-Auliya, as one of the places where the Saint Hazrat Mian Mir used to sit. Dara also mentions the existence of a tomb in the garden but he does not give it any name.

Muhammed Baqir believes that the so-called tomb of Anarkali actually belongs to the lady named or entitled Sahib-i Jamal, another wife of Salim and the mother of the Prince’s second son Sultan Parvez, and a daughter of the noble Zain Khan Koka. This conclusion is also partially faulty. The mother of Sultan Parviz was not a daughter of Zain Khan Koka but the daughter of Khawaja Hasan, the paternal uncle of Zain Khan. Of course, subsequently, the daughter of Zain Khan was also married to Salim, on 18 June 1596.

It is recorded in Akbar Nama that Jahangir "became violently enamoured of the daughter of Zain Khan Koka. H.M. (Akbar) was displeased at the impropriety, but he saw that his heart was immoderately affected, he, of necessity, gave his consent." The translator of Akbar Nama, H. Beveridge, opines that Akbar objected to the marriage, because the Prince was already married "to Zain Khan’s niece" (actually the daughter of paternal uncle of Zain Khan, and hence his sister). Akbar objected to marrying near relations. But we do not know the date of death of the either of these two wives of Jahangir.

Noted art-historian R. Nath argues that there is no wife of Jahangir on record bearing the name or title of Anarkali to whom the emperor could have built a tomb and dedicated a couplet with a suffix Majnun. He considers it "absolutely improbable that the grand Mughal emperor would address his married wife as yar, designate himself as majnun and aspire to see her face once again. Had he not seen her enough? Obviously she was not his married wife but only his beloved, to whom he would take the liberty to be romantic and a little poetic too, and it appears to be a case of an unsuccessful romance of a disappointed lover... The prince could not save her, though it is on record that he was so unhappy with his father in this year 1599 that he defied his orders and revolted. It may be recalled that Mehrunissa (later Nurjahan Begum) was also married to Sher Afgan the same year and the young Prince was so dejected and disturbed on the failure of his two romances and annihilation of his tender feelings of love that he went as far as to defy Akbar."

To be simple there are many views over the death of Anarkali, but the most prominent are:

1. Anarkali or "Sharrafunnisa" though cemented behind the wall by the order of Akbar, was released by Akbar on request of Anarkali's mother "Jillo Bai" as Emperor Akbar promised Anarkali's mother one wish in her life. Thereby Anarkali escaped through a secret route through the outskirts of Delhi and then went to Lahore and lived there till death.

There exists a tomb of Anarkali in Lahore. It was in Lahore that Prince Salim set eyes upon Anarkali ("Pomegranate Blossom", she was Akbar's favorite dancing girl). Akbar, legend has it, was furious and had the lady entombed outside the fort. Whether this story is fact or fiction, a modest tomb stands in Lahore believed to have been built by the lovesick prince (in 1615). The gravestone in the Tomb for Anarkali bears the tragic inscription,

The tomb was converted into a church during British occupation and now the building serves as an archive (with a collection of old prints) within the compound of the Government Record Office. On the lower Mall Road, inside the grounds of Punjab Secretariat lies the tomb of Anarkali. The tomb is accessible to the public. Anarkali was a legendary favorite in the harem of Emperor Akbar. Apparently she had an affair with Akbar's son, Prince Salim. One day Akbar saw her return Salim's smile, and as punishment she was buried alive in 1599. When Salim became Emperor Jahangir, he built her a magnificent tomb. The tomb, built in 1615 is a forerunner of the famous Taj Mahal : it is octagonal, with a huge dome in the center surrounded by eight octagonal cupolas supported by columns.

2. The second view is that Anarkali after the death of Akbar was recalled by Salim (Jahangir) and they married and was given a new identity of Nur Jahan.

Her father came to the Sub-continent during the time of the Mughal emperor, Akbar, and entered into his service. He rose rapidly by sheer merit. In 1607, Nur Jahan was brought to the court as royal ward. She was beautiful and highly intelligent and attracted Jahangir's attention.

A good deal of fiction has gathered round this remarkable woman, obscuring her personality and role in the social and political life of this period. It is wrongly and widely believed that Jahangir murdered Sher Afghan, Nur Jahan's first husband, because he wanted to marry Nur Jahan. In actuality, he died in a skirmish with Jahangir's foster brother, Qutbuddin Koka in 1607. The conqueror of the world, Jahangir fell in love with Nur Jahan and married her in 1611. He gave her the title of Nur Mehal, "Light of the Palace" and later Nur Jahan, "Light of the World".

After marriage, Nur Jahan won Jahangir's complete confidence. She carefully attended to the affairs of the state. Her father and brother became ministers and together they dominated the courts. A number of historians believe that Nur Jehan became the real power behind the throne and practically the sovereign of the Mughal Empire. For many years she wielded the imperial powers. She even gave audiences at her palace and her name was placed on the coinage.

The decision to marry her daughter Ladli Begum from her first husband, to Shah Jahan's younger brother Shahryar, and her consequent support to his candidature to the throne caused Shah Jahan's rebellion. There are rumors that she had previously formed a junta supporting Shah Jahan's right to the throne along with her father Ghias Beg and her brother Abul Hasan (later Asaf Khan), who was also Shah Jahan's father-in-law. However, when Shah Jahan refused to marry Ladli Begum in spite of Nur Jahan's command, she married her daughter off to Shahryar, who was more compliant than his brother. Emperor Jahangir was captured by rebels in 1626 while he was on his way to Kashmir. Nur Jahan intervened to get her husband released. Jahangir was rescued but died on 28 October 1627.

Nur Jehan had a magnificent tomb erected over the grave of her husband. She retired from the world and lived a quiet and lonely life for 16 years after the death of Jehangir. She died in 1645, and is buried besides Jahangir at Shahdra, Lahore.

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Film Portrayals

Anarkali has been the subject of a number of Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani books, plays and films. The earliest and most celebrated historical play about her, Anarkali, was written by Imtiaz Ali Taj in Urdu and performed in 1922. The play was made into a film, Loves of a Mughal Prince, released in India in 1928 and starring Taj as Akbar. Bina Rai portrayed Anarkali in Anarkali, a 1953 Indian film. In Pakistan, another film, also entitled Anarkali, was released in 1958 with Noor Jehan in the lead role. Later, in 1960, K. Asif's landmark film Mughal-e-Azam was released in India with actress Madhubala in the role of Anarkali and Dilip Kumar as Prince Salim. Iman Ali portrayed Anarkali in Shoaib Mansoor's short music video series on the theme Ishq (love) in 2003. In the 2013 Ekta Kapoor's TV Series Jodha Akbar, she was portrayed by Heena Parmar and Saniya Touqeer played young Anarkali.


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