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Did Jodhabai really exist?

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
Last updated on: February 06, 2008 19:09 IST
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Even as director Ashutosh Gowarikar is all set to release his film, Jodhaa Akbar, controversies dog the leading character.


It is claimed by some historians that Jodha was not Akbar's wife, as is shown in the film.


The great Mughal emperor Akbar had three historians during his rule who recorded the history of their time -- Abul Fazal wrote the Akbar Nama, Abdul Qadir Badayuni wrote the Mutakhabutawarikh and Nizamuddin Ahmed (also called Nizamuddin Bakshi) wrote the Tabqat-i-Akbari. None of them have mentioned 'Jodhabhai' in their books.

"These books were written in Persian and there is no mention of Queen Jodhabai. There is no proof of her in history," says Dr S M Azizuddin Hussain, history teacher at the Department of History, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.


So how did Jodhabai come about?


"In the Akbarnama, there is a mention of Akbar marrying a Rajput princess of Amer but her name is not Jodhaa," says historian and director of the Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library, Imtiaz Ahmad in Patna. She is referred to as Mariam Zamani (Mary of the Age). This is a title and not a name. It further says that Mariam Zamani is a title referred to the lady who gave birth to Prince Salim, who became Emperor Jehangir. But the name Jodha is not mentioned anywhere.


"The name Jodha first came up in the 19th century when Colonel Tod, a Britisher, and not a professional historian, mentioned Jodhabai in his book Annals and Antiquity of Rajasthan," Ahmad adds. "Colonel Tod depended on bardic literature (folk literature) of Rajputs and he mentioned Jodhabai for the first time here."


Interestingly, the royal family of Jodhpur openly stated that Jodhaabai did exist, and that she married Emperor Akbar.


At the music launch of Jodhaa Akbar, Padmini Devi of the Japiur royal family acknowledged the fact that Jodhaa existed and it was this matrimonial union that brought an alliance between Mughals and Rajputs.


When told about the incident, Dr Hussain said, "If that is the case then the royal family should publish their history and share the information with historians."


Meanwhile, a section of the Rajput community have their own version of who Jodhabai was, and want to ban the film from releasing in Rajasthan.


Lokendra Singh Kalvi, who heads a Rajput outfit called Sri Rajput Karni Sena, says, "None of Akbar's 34 wives were named Jodhabai. Akbar married the former maharaja of Amer, Bharmal's elder daughter Karkbai alias Heer Kumar in Fatehpur Sikri on Feburary 6, 1562. Prince Salim was born in 1569. Jodhabai was the daughter of Moteraja Udai Singh and she would have been three years younger than Salim and hence, in no way could she have been his mother."


Quoting Emperor Akbar's biography, and a National Council of Educational Research and Training's Class XI history book on medieval India by Professor Satish Chandra, Kalvi claims Jodhaa was not Akbar's wife, as depicted in the film. According to him, Jodha was married to Salim, Akbar's son.


"Thus, she was Akbar's daughter-in-law. So depicting Jodha as Akbar's wife is not tolerable," Karni said.


Former chairman of University Grants Commission and noted historian Satish Chandra stated that Gowarikar's film could, at best, be described as a work of fiction, and not a document of history.

"Jodha was not Salim's mother, and hence the film is not based on historical facts," Chandra said. However, he did not agree with those who wanted to ban the film in Rajasthan.


According to Chandra, the name Jodha was given to her because she came from the state of Jodhpur.


Asked why there were no protests when Mughal-e-Azam was released in India, and Jodhabai (Durga Khote) was shown as Akbar's (Prithviraj Kapoor) wife, Chandra says, "Those days, resources were limited. Now, the historians can find out the truth and bring it to light. In any case, the film was based on fiction, as there was no character called Anarkali, who had an affair with Salim," he pointed out.
Inputs from Onkar Singh

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf