The Story of Anarkali (Sharf-un-nissa)

We have seen and read the story of Anarkali many times. However if you haven’t, then you are at the right place.

      Who was Anarkali?

If we talk about historical books or the books written at the time of Mughal period, none of them have any mention of Anarkali. However, the books written by travelers and regional folklore says she was beautiful and so tender that, Akbar himself gave her this name “Anarkali” (pomegranate bud).   

  The Story

A popular a folklore says that she was a court dancer in the court of Akbar with which Akbar’s son Salim popularly known as Jahangir fell in love. Akbar didn’t approve this relationship.

She is portrayed in the Bollywood motion picture Mughal-e-Azam that amid the Mughal time frame, she was as far as anyone knows requested to be covered alive between two dividers by Mughal Emperor Akbar for having an illicit association with the Crown-Prince Salim, later to wind up Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Because of the absence of proof and sources, the narrative of Anarkali says that her mother was guaranteed by the lord to concede her little girl and she will leave Salim.

There are clashes among the researchers on the credibility of Anarkali’s episode. There are many supporting and restricting perspectives, for example, referenced underneath.

The reporting western journalists of the relationship of Salim were two British voyagers – William Finch and Edward Terry. William Finch arrived at Lahore in February 1611 (just 11 years after the alleged passing of Anarkali), to move the indigo he had obtained at Bayana for the benefit of the East India Company. His record, written in mid seventeenth century English, gives the accompanying data.

She had an unsanctioned romance with Prince Salim (Jahangir). Upon the notice of the issue, King Akbar made the woman be encased inside a mass of his castle, where she died. The King Jahangir, in token of his affection, ordered a grand tomb of stone to be worked amidst a walled four-square garden furnished with an entryway. The body of the tomb, the sovereign willed to be fashioned in work of gold.

Edward Terry who visited a couple of years after William Finch composes that Akbar had threatened to disinherit Jahangir, for his relationship with Anarkali, the ruler’s most darling spouse.

And Salim revolted against his father and led a rebellion.

In any case, on his demise bed, Akbar repealed it.

Putting together his analysis with respect to the over two Britishers’ records, Abraham Eraly, the creator of The Last Spring: The Lives and Times of the Great Mughals, suspects that there “appears to have been an oedipal struggle among Akbar and Salim.” He likewise thinks of it as plausible that the amazing Anarkali was none other than the mother of Prince Daniyal.

              The Debate

But the accounts of the British travelers 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.

Now comes the twist or pure mystery which is still debatable.

1. Akbar ordered to bury Anarkali inside enclosed walls. But legend and local historians say that Akbar wasn’t that cruel and he spared her life and let her flee through a trapdoor that opened into a underground tunnel which had its one end in Delhi from where Anarkali was sent away from Salim the current place is Lahore (Pakistan). Below is the picture of the trapdoor that has been permanently closed by the government and is no more safe to enter.This is known as Anarkali Darwaja in Fatehpur Sikri.

Anarkali Darwaja, Fatehpur Sikri

2. Whereas, many historians believe that nothing such happened and Anarkali was buried alive under walls and she probably died.

Perhaps, the Tomb of Anarkali makes the first story strong and logical. Tomb of Anarkali is situated in Lahore.

Tomb of Anarkali, Lahore (Pakistan)

Although, not every historians believe it was built in memory of Anarkali, however, local historians are pretty sure. There is a couplet written on the grave which follows as:

Ta qayamat shukr goyam kard gar khwish ra
Ah! gar man baz beenam rui yar khwish ra

(Ah ! could I behold
the face of my beloved once more;
I would give thanks unto my God
Unto the day of resurrection).

On the northern side of the sarcophagus are inscribed the words Majnun Salim Akbar i.e. “The profoundly enamoured Salim (son of ) Akbar”.

So, if Anarkali wasn’t real and just a fictional character, who is buried inside this tomb?

3. It is also said that Jahangir found and recalled Anarkali after the death of Akbar. Gave her a new identity of Noor Jahan, so to keep the words of his father Akbar and  later married her. Jahangir loved her last wife so much that, it is after this marriage, he never married again.

Well, some historians claims this story to be true and if we connect this story with the tomb built in Lahore, there are two dates inscribed on it i.e

Hijra 1008 and 1024 are inscribed which correspond to AD 1599-1600 and 1615-16.

If we go through history books and other sources, 1599 and 1600 is the time when Anarkali was buried alive or sent away to Lahore. And 1615- 16 is the time when Jahangir married Nur Jahan. After which she stood beside Jahangir and helped in the rule.

If we trust the legend from local people, Jahangir found Anarkali and named her Nur Jahan just for the sake of his father.  Then, does these dates refers to the dates of their separation and reunion. Now you will think then who is actually buried in the tomb? This tomb was built in memory of Anarkali and her body isn’t buried there as she was punished to death in Agra.

Well, these stories have come down to locals from their ancestors verbally, it has no written proofs.

Hence, it now upon us what we believe, Anarkali escaped her death from the trapdoor or she died inside the walls? Did Jahangir found her again and married her as Nur Jahan?

Now, this is why this history is a mystery. Hope you liked reading this. Thanks.

Local guides and historians Agra.
Books on Mughal Dynasty.