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Mahal: Power and Pageantry in the Mughal Harem


‘Despite what we would like to believe, the Mahal was not an exotic sexual playground; it was a family space. And the stories of these women, from queens and princesses to foster mothers and female officers, are worth listening to.’ In every citadel in medieval northern India was a luxurious fortress that housed the women of the empire. The little-known space of the Mughal harem, known as the ‘Mahal’, was a place of mystery. Only a few could enter these closely guarded palaces and none could speak of it. Yet, within these walls was a world unto itself. Revealing the untold stories of the Mahal’s remarkable women, we learn of Ehsan Daulat Begum, Babur’s grandmother, without whose enterprise there would have been no Mughal empire; the Padshah Begums who ran the vast establishment of the Mahal with an all-women team; the female scholars and poets – like Zeb-un-Nissa, Salima Sultan Begum, Zeenat-un-Nissa – who influenced the emperor in matters of diplomacy and state policy; the queens and princesses who ran estates and owned ships trading with the Gulf and Europe, among others. In this fascinating chronicle Subhadra Sen Gupta illuminates a little-investigated space in Mughal history for the modern reader. From documenting the facets of their everyday to the role they played in the empire, Mahal is a rare peek into life behind the veil. 

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Bibliographic information

Title Mahal: Power and Pageantry in the Mughal Harem
Format Hardcover
Date published: 07.10.2019
Edition 1st ed.
Publisher Hachette India
Language: English
isbn 9789388322546
length 312p.
Subjects History