Kandahari Begum

Kandahari Begum (also spelled Qandahari Begum; 1593 – ?; also known as Kandahari Mahal; Persian, Urdu: قندهاری‌ بیگم‌; meaning "Lady from Kandahar") was the first wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and the mother of his first child, Princess Parhez Banu Begum.

Kandahari Begum
قندهاری‌ بیگم
Safavid princess
Bornc. 1593
Kandahar, Afghanistan
Kandahari Bagh, Agra
(m. 1610)
IssueParhez Banu Begum
HouseSafavid (by birth)
Timurid (by marriage)
FatherSultan Muzaffar Husain Mirza Safavi
ReligionShia Islam

Family and early lifeEdit

Kandahari Begum was born a princess of the prominent Safavid dynasty, the ruling dynasty of Iran (Persia) and one of its most significant ruling dynasties. She was the daughter of decreased Persian dignity from the northern mountains at Kandahar, Sultan Muzaffar Husain Mirza Safavi, of the royal house of Persia, who was the son of Sultan Husain Mirza, the son of Bahram Mirza, the son of Shah Ismail I, founder of the Safavid dynasty.[1] He was the ancestor of Shah Abbas I and also cousin to the Persian ruler.[2]

Mirza Muzzaffar having some problems with the Safavid ruling authorities and perceiving the Uzbek pressure to capture Kandahar was forced to capitulate on terms to surrender it to the Mughals. Therefore, as Akbar who was keenly waiting for any chance to capture Kandahar, immediately sent Shah Beg Khan Arghun, Governor of Bangash, to take prompt possession of Kandahar, and though, as in all his undertakings, Muzaffar wavered at the last moment and had recourse to trickery, he was obliged by the firm and prudent behavior of Shah Beg Khan. In this way Kandahari Begum had to leave her native place to visit India in the company of her father and came to India during Akbar's reign near about in the end of 1595 when her father and her four brothers, Bahram Mirza, Haider Mirza, Alqas Mirza and Tahmasp Mirza and 1000 qazilbash soldiers arrived in India. Muzaffar Khan received from Akbar the title of Farzand (son), and was made a Commander of five thousand, and received Sambhal as Jagir (property), “which is worth more than all Kandahar.”

Mirza Muzaffar Husain had exchanged the lordship of Kandahar for a high rank and splendid salary in the service of Emperor Akbar. His younger brother Mirza Rustam, also immigrated to India in Akbar's reign and rose to eminence under Jahangir. The Mughal Emperors made the most of this opportunity of ennobling their blood by alliance with the royal family of Persia even through a younger branch. Muzaffar found everything in India bad, and sometimes resolved to go to Persia, and sometimes to Makkah. From grief and disappointment, and a bodily hurt, he died in 1603. His mausoleum (now a domeless crumbled down stone and brick structure with an underground burial chamber with Persian Nastaleeq calligraphed epitaph on the door facing South,) lies amidst other ruins in a garden complex that now is the campsite of the Bharat Scouts & Guides Delhi Jamboree, north of Humayun's Tomb at Delhi.

Marriage to Shah JahanEdit


When Jahangir to reconsider the Persian question at the end of 1609, pragmatism as always came to the fore. It would be madness to antagonize such a powerful personality, not least because a declaration of open hostilities between Agra and Isfahan would likely prompt Shah Abbas I to send arms, men and money to his Shiite allies in the three Deccan kingdoms. That would doom the campaign led by his second son, Sultan Pervez Mirza. Persia's duplicity over Kandahar, then, had to be set aside and relations smoothed. As always, a politically expedient marriage would provide the answer, and with his eldest son, Khusrau Mirza, in prison and Pervez already bound for Burhanpur and the southern front, his third son, Sultan Khurram, was the logical choice. The decision to shape this purely strategic alliance came as mixed news to the young man. On the one hand, he had been denied the consummation of his long standing betrothal to Arjumand Banu Begum later known as Mumtaz Mahal; set against that was the renewal of his central position on his father's attentions and in the politics of the moment.[2]

And so it was that eighteen-year-old Khurram was compelled to make his first marriage to a young Persian maiden. Subsequent Mughal court recorders and biographers, however, merely accord the princess the blandly descriptive label Qandahari Mahal, a clear indication of her lesser status at the court. The process of arranging the marriage appears to have taken some time. The Emperor Jahangir recorded two related entries in his memoirs, nearly a year apart. The first appeared as just one item of business in a typically humdrum account of the day's court transactions, regional promotions, salary checks and other miscellaneous imperial housekeeping chores. On Sunday, 12 December 1609, Jahangir sent fifty thousand rupees as a wedding pledge to Kandahari Begum's house. Jahangir writes in his Tuzuk that “previously to this I had the daughter of Mirza Muzaffar Husain, son of Sultan Husain Mirza Safavi, ruler of Qandahar, betrothed to my son Sultan Khurram, and on this the marriage meeting had been arranged, I went to the house of Baba Khurram and passed the night there.”


Kandahari Begum married Prince Khurram on 8 November 1610 in Agra.[3] There were several family connections between their two families. Khurram's official biographer, Muhammad Amin Qazvini, was far more eloquent in his description of the marriage. Indeed, effusive compliments were the order of the day and his delirious account left no superlative unexplored. The festive assemble was arranged in a beautifully appointed mansion that was traditionally assigned to the widow mother of the ruling emperor and located inside the thick walls of Agra Fort adjacent to the palatial State House. The astrologers duly consulted the marriage at an auspicious hour.[4]

On 21 August 1611,[5] she gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter, who was named "Parhez Banu Begum" by her grandfather, Emperor Jahangir. However, in the Maasir-i-Alamgiri, she is referred to as Purhunar Banu Begum.[6] She was the eldest child of her father, but the only child of her mother.[7]

Burial placeEdit

She lies buried at Agra, in the center of the expansive garden at Agra founder by her (c. 1628 - 50), called Kandahari Bagh. She also had a mosque built, which was three arched, single dome mosque on the western side of the Kandahari Bagh at Agra. It served a quarry of bricks for constructing modern day buildings in the complex, and is no longer extant. The building over her tomb was largely destroyed during the period of anarchy which followed Aurangzeb's death in 1707. The building, which is in the vault is converted into a dwelling place. Her tomb does not exist any more, just the compound it was situated in does, along with one of the entrance gates, a portion of the wall and a couple of the wall's corner cupolas. The British East India Company sold it to the Raja of Bharatpur who raised some modern buildings in it. The compound became property of the Bharatpur rulers at some point in the colonial era, and a mansion was built in place of the central tomb. Thence it became famous as "Bharatpur House". A gate and a few corner chhatris of the original garden have survived.

In popular cultureEdit

  • Kandahari Begum is a main character in Sonja Chandrachud's historical novel Trouble at the Taj (2011).
  • Kandahari Begum is a principal character in Ruchir Gupta's historical novel Mistress of the Throne (2014).
  • Negar Khan portrayed Kandahari Begum in the 2005 Bollywood film Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story.[8]


  1. ^ Nagendra Kr Singh, Encyclopaedia of Muslim Biography: Muh-R (2001), p.427
  2. ^ a b Nicoll 2009, p. 64.
  3. ^ Emperor of Hindustan, Jahangir (1999). The Jahangirnama : memoirs of Jahangir, Emperor of India. Translated by Thackston, Wheeler Mclntosh. Washington, D. C. & New York: Freer Gallery of Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution & Oxford University Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-19-512718-8.
  4. ^ Nicoll 2009, p. 64-5.
  5. ^ Nicoll 2009, p. 74.
  6. ^ Sarker, Kobita (2007). Shah Jahan and his paradise on earth : the story of Shah Jahan's creations in Agra and Shahjahanabad in the golden days of the Mughals (1. publ. ed.). Kolkata: K.P. Bagchi & Co. p. 187. ISBN 9788170743002.
  7. ^ Findly, Ellison Banks (1993). Nur Jahan, empress of Mughal India. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 98. ISBN 9780195360608.
  8. ^ Khan, Akbar (1 May 2006). "Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story". IMDb. Retrieved 12 April 2017.