Salima Sultan Begum – 4th wife of the great emperor Akbar

Quick Facts

  • Full Name: Salima Sultan Begum
  • Born: 23rd February 1539
  • Died: 2nd January 1613
  • Religion: Islam
  • Dynasty: Timurid by birth
  • Spouse: Bairam Khan (m. 1557 to 1561), Akbar (m. 1561–1605)
  • Father: Nuruddin Muhammad Mirza
  • Mother: Gulrukh Begum
  • Famous as: 4th Wife of Akbar

Introduction

Salima Sultan Begum was the 4th wife of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar and the granddaughter of the founder of the Mughal Empire, Babur. She was the daughter of Gulrukh Begum who was her paternal aunt and her husband Nuruddin Muhammad Mirza who was the viceroy of Kannauj.

Salima Sultan Begum was betrothed to Bairam Khan at first by Humayun who was her maternal uncle too. Bairam Khan was the regent of Akbar that time. She married to Bairam Khan in 1557 after Akbar succeeded his father Humayun. However, she was 40 years younger than Bairam Khan. The relationship between Salima Sultan Begum and Bairam Khan lasted for only 3 years and he was killed in 1561 by a group of Afghans. After the death of Bairam Khan she was married to Akbar who was her first cousin too.

Salima had a high influence on Akbar and her son Jahangir. She had operated many important decisions during Akbar’s reign as well as during Jahangir’s reign. She was known for her intelligence and also known as ‘Khadija of the era’.

Family

The mother of Salima Sultan Begum, Gulrukh Begum was the mughal princess and the daughter of Babur. Her husband Nuruddin Muhammad Mirza was the viceroy of Kannauj. Khwaja Hasan Naqshbandi was her father’s grandfather who was the descendant of Naqshbandi Khwajas related to the Timurid empire. Though her mother’s name is disputed and not mentioned in Baburnama written by Gulbadan Begum or babur himself.

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Gulrukh  was the half sister of Humayun. She was the Dildar’s daughter so she was the full sister of Hindal Mirza who was the younger brother of Humayun. Thus Salima was the half cousin of Akbar and the first cousin of Ruqaiya Sultan Begum who was the daughter of Mirza Hindal and the first wife of Akbar.

Accompliments

Salima was highly educated. She was often described as extremely talented and intellectual woman. She was proficient in Persian language and was a renowned writer and poet during her time. Salima had written under the pseudonym of Makhfi (meaning “Hidden One”), a pseudonym. This pseudonym was later adopted by her great-great-granddaughter, Princess Zeb-un-Nissa. Princess Zeb-un-Nissa was also a gifted poet and writer.

She was a passionate lover of books and used to like reading. She had maintained a big library of her own.

Marriage with Bairam Khan

Salima Begum married to Bairam Khan at the age of 18. Bairam Khan was in his fifties. The marriage took place on 7 December 1557 in Jalandhar, Punjab. Bairam was the commander-in-chief of the Mughal army and a powerful statesman at the Mughal court. He was was acting as Akbar’s regent during that time.

She was the second wife of Bairam Khan after the daughter of Jamal Khan of Mewat, who was his first wife. Salima and Bairam Khan had a short-lived marriage and the didn’t have any child

Just before his death in 1561, Bairam Khan had lost his position in the Empire as he had jumped into rebelling against Akbar. Bairam Khan’s rebellion was twice put down by Akbar, and he submitted to him. As a result Akbar had stripped of all his privileges. Instead, Akbar gave him three options: of a handsome jagir in the sarkar of Kalpi and Chanderi, the emperor’s confidential advisor’s post, and a Mecca journey. He selected the journey to Mecca.

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Marriage with Akbar

Bairam Khan was attacked while he was on journey to Mecca in Patan, Gujarat on 31st January 1561 by a band of Afghans led by Mubarak Khan. Mubarak Khan’s father had been killed fighting against Bairam Khan at the Machhiwara Battle in 1555.  Salima Begum, along with her step-son, Abdul Rahim (who was just 4 years old at that time), reached Ahmedabad after suffering many hardships. As per Akbar’s orders, Salima and Abdul Rahim had to report to the Mughal court. Akbar was highly impressed by the abilities of Salima Sultan Begum, and he himself married her on 7th May 1561. She was about three and a half years older than him. She became Akbar’s fourth wife. 

Salima was a senior-ranking wife of Akbar along with Ruqaiya Sultan Begum, who was his first wife and chief consort. She was childless throughout her marriage. 

Salima was the one of the most important ladies at the Mughal court. In 1575, Salima also travelled to Mecca and performed the Hajj pilgrimage along with her aunt, Gulbadan Begum, and many other Timurid ladies. She was the only wife of Akbar who accompanied the pilgrims. 

Death

Salima died in 1613 in Agra. She was suffering from an illness. She was sixty years old at the time of her death. By his step son Jahangir‘s orders, her body was laid in Mandarkar Garden in Agra, which was commissioned by herself.

Jahangir praises Salima for her accomplishments and her qualities.

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