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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

Khanzada Begum

Updated: May 8, 2023

The idea is that the domestic and political realms were distinct. There is a strong view that this was especially true in the early modern Islamic kingdoms, such as the Timurid Empire, which subsequently evolved into the Mughal Empire. Students frequently learn about these empires' women as being solely housewives, kept in purdah (veiled), and confined to private domestic spaces like the harem. At the same time, males controlled the public sphere and participated in politics. However, Khanzada Begum, a Timurid (Mughal) noblewoman, shows this is untrue and that women frequently held significant political positions.

When Shaybani Khan besieged Samarkand, Babur was eighteen and once again abandoned by his family. Shaybani asked Babur for his sister’s hand, Khanzada Begum, 23 at the time, either for his life or a truce. Anyhow, six months of siege had left the city in tatters. So leaving her behind, Babur made his way to Badakhshan and Kabul. Aisan Daulat Begum, Babur, and Khanzada's grandma, also stayed behind with her.

A few years later, she was divorced by Shaybani, the Uzbek, on the accusation of her still being partial toward her Timurid bloodline. She was then given away to a man of low rank, Sayyid Hada. She was widowed when the Safavid Shah Ismail killed them both at the battle of Merv 1510.

After the battle, when Shah Ismail discovered that Khanzada Begum was Babur’s sister, he dispatched a party of soldiers to escort her safe and sound back to Babur’s court in Kunduz, some 600 kilometers from Merv. She soon reintegrated into the household.

Khanzada Begum, who was once divorced and widowed, with no husband or son, was declared the first “Padshah Begum” of the Mughal Empire to safeguard her brother’s future for a decade in exile. Her influence and her legacy both lived on even after Babur died.

He organized the feast when Humayun was enthroned. Gulbadan, Babur's daughter, referred to Khanzada Begum as "aakam janum" - which means transliterates to "my aunt who is my life" or translates to "beloved aunt in her writings about her family.


This blog has been written by Komal Salman.

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