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jade

Wine cup owned by Jahangir, 17th Century (Image Source: V&A Museum, South and South East Asian Collection)

Az shah-e Jahangir, jahan yaft-e nezam
az aks-e sharab-e lal rangesh bada
yaqut-asa piyale-ye
yashm-e modam

Through the world-conquering Shah, the world found order
Our time became filled with light by the radiance of his justice.
From the reflection of his spinel-coloured wine,
May the jade cup be forever like a ruby.

– Sa’ida-ye Gilani, calligrapher in Jahangir’s Court

AFTER 22 YEARS OF OVERSEEING THE EMPIRE bequeathed to him by his father, Jahangir passes on from this world. This follows a brief capture by renegades and a brave intervention by Nur Jahan who secures his release. In the end, neither wine nor opiates would give relief and he had long ago given up hope of a rapprochement with Khurram, now Shah Jahan.

In the tumult following his demise, Nur Jahan, Jahangir’s twentieth and final wife, unarguably the real power at the helm, is briefly placed under house arrest before she relents to all demands that she relinquish further interest in politics. They needn’t have asked; she had already decided to withdraw.

In mourning, bereft of her life companion and with no special kinship with the Emperor-in-waiting, Nur Jahan retires to a mansion with her daughter. She makes no further claim to influence in any new equation and spends her new life on poetry, gardening and the arts. Years later, when she sees her own end, she has her mausoleum commissioned at Lahore, oversees its details and lends one of her own verses to be engraved upon her tomb:

“On the grave of this poor stranger, let there be neither lamp nor rose. Let neither butterfly’s wing burn nor nightingale sing.”

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