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Hamida Banu; Image: From a 19th C painting, Lucknow

huma_xceptionWHY IS HINDAL SO WORKED UP? Rumour has it that Hindal has a thing for Hamida. With her show of resistance towards his brother, it would seem Hamida feels the same for Hindal. Except for the first time she agrees to greet Humayun, the feisty Hamida refuses invitations to further courtesies. On one occasion she goes so far as to say: ‘If I was required to pay my respects, I have done that once; why need I do it again?‘ On another, she sends back this message, ‘To see his Majesty once is legitimate, to do so the second time is not. I will not go.’

Even after Hindal sets aside opposition on his mother’s advice, Hamida rebuffs all entreaties from the influential women of the zenana. It is after a bath, when she has her hair dried, that Hindal’s mother finds out what her concern is. It is not that Hamida considers him with disdain; he is after all a King who has lost his kingdom. On the contrary, she believes she should marry ‘someone whose collar my hand can touch, not the hem of whose skirt I cannot reach.’

It takes 40 days and a chance encounter with his collar, before Hamida relents. Humayun takes the astrolabe in his own hands and quickly fixes the marriage date. Betel leaves are offered and the first wedding gift dispatched to the bride’s family. On the day of the wedding, Humayun receives guests and then makes his way to the Main Hall where a sehra of pearls is tied to his forehead. From here the procession heads to the bride’s place. Young Hamida is adorned with spectacular wedding finery, notable among these are a jewel encrusted mang (lying along her central hair parting), dazzling Karanphul earrings, a gemstone-studded nosering, engraved anklets, armlets, a waist belt and hip chains, all in gold.

After the festivities, the royal couple pack up and repair to Humayun’s pleasure garden in the outskirts.

Feast 001

Guests are served fresh breads, pickles, khichri, grilled meats and kheer. They leisurely conclude this with barley water and paan. Image: From an 18th C painting showing a royal feast in progress, Rajasthan