Emperor Akbar’s wife Jodhabai was a Portuguese princess, claims new book
Jodhabai could have been Dona Maria Mascarenhas
Most of Indian history could easily be a long-winded Kardashian spin-off titled Keeping up with the Mughals, and not the fun kind where Blac Chyna leaves Rob Kardashian, taking baby Dream with her. Mughal history in India offers no dearth of controversies, conflicts and a Bollywood movie that has Hrithik Roshan attempting to sound authoritative whilst speaking in pure Urdu (watch Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodha Akbar if you have four hours to spare and a masochistic streak).
The latest ingredient in this controversy khichdi comes from Goa-based author Luis de Assis Correia, whose new book claims that Princess Jodhabai was actually a Portuguese woman.
In his book Portuguese India and Mughal Relations 1510-1735, Correia claims that Princess Jodhabai could have been a fictitious character necessitated by convenient historical narratives during the Mughal era. According to Correia, Jodhabai was a Portuguese woman named Dona Maria Mascarenhas who, while travelling in a Portuguese armada along the Arabian sea, could have been captured along with her sister Juliana and subsequently offered to a young Emperor Akbar as a gift by Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat in the mid-1500s.
The book claims that Akbar fell in love with Maria and lodged her, along with her sister, in his harem. “The Portuguese and the Catholics were loath to accept that one of their own was living in a Mughal court, in a harem. On the other hand, the Mughals could not accept that a firangi, a Christian, who fought the Mughals right from the Crusades, was the Emperor’s wife. This is why the myth of Jodhabai was created by British and Mughal chroniclers of that era,” Correia said in an interview with IANS. He also added that there is no known mention of Jodhabai in any literature of that era, including those by Akbar and Jahangir.
The book also suggests that Maria Mascarenhas could have been the mother of Jahangir, known as Maryam-Ul-Zamani. “It is indeed a mystery why Mughal chroniclers (Abd al-Qadir) Badauni and Abu’l Fazal do not mention Jahangir’s mother by her name. Had Jahangir been born to a daughter of a great Rajput kingdom, surely he would want to boast the fact considering that the Mughals were eager to forge a strategic alliance with the Rajputs,” says the book. Correia supports his claim by quoting Aligarh Muslim University professor and historian Shireen Moosni, “There is no mention of Jodhabai in Akbarnama or in any Mughal document of the period. Akbar did marry a princess of the Kachhava clan, the daughter of Bha Mal, but her name was not Jodhabai.”
Correia also adds that Jahangir’s patronization of Christianity and Jesuit missionaries can be taken as evidence to his lineage coming from a Portuguese woman rather than a Rajput princess.
Whether the claim is true or not, we will probably succumb to watching ‘Maria-Akbar’, in case Ashutosh Gowariker is listening.