Maham Begum or Mahim Begum which means ‘My Moon’ was born in the late 15th century. She was the third wife and chief consort of the founder of the Mughal Emperor, Babur. She had also served as the Empress Consort of the mughal empire from April 1526 to December 1530. Maham Begum was the mother of the eldest surviving son and successor of Babur, Humayun.
Maham Begum was the first Mughal lady who had received the royal title of ‘Padshah Begum’. Her name has been mentioned in the book ‘Humayun-nama‘ written by Gulbadan Begum who was her adoptive daughter.
- Full Name: Maham Begum or Mahim Begum
- Born: Late 15th century
- Died: 16th April 1534
- Successor: Bega Begum
- Religion: Islam
- Dynasty: Timurid
- Spouse: Babur
- Father: Not known
- Mother: Not known
- Famous as: Padshah Begum
There are very lesser information available regarding Maham Begum’s parentage. Though Babur’s autobiography, the Baburnama, has some information about her including her wedding with Babur. But still the autobiography lacks her family information.
However, there is little information available which tells that Khwaja Muhammad Ali (referred as “uncle” by Gulbadan Begum in the book) was Maham’s brother. He has been mentioned several times in the autobiography, Baburnama as he was employed employed in the government of Khost. One of the childrens of Maham was born in the Khost city where Humayun was seen visiting his maternal grandparents.
According to the vizier (Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak) of her grandson Akbar, Maham belonged to a noble family of Khorasan who were the descendants of the 11th century Sufi mystic Sheikh Ahmad Jami. This was the proof of the lineage that she shared with Hamida Banu Begum who was her daughter-in-law. According to the vizier of Akbar, Sultan Husayn Bayqara also had a relation with her. Though he hasn’t mentioned the exact relationship.
It is also believed to have further Timurid relationships with her. According to Gulbadan Begum, Maham had the relations with the owners of the New Year’s Garden in Kabul which was originally built by Ulugh Beg II (a paternal uncle of Babur). In addition to this, some evidences suggest that Gulbadan’s mother, Dildar Agacha Begum also had a relation with Maham.
Marriage and children
The wedding ceremony between Babur and Maham took place in 1506 at Herat, after the death of Sultan Husayn Mirza. He paid a condolence visit to Herat capital of Khorasan. She played an active and important role in the political affairs of Babur. She was active in household affairs too. Maham had the extreme qualities of intelligence and beautiful looks.
She ascorted her husband to Badakhshan and Transoxiana and stood along with him in good and bad times. Maham was the chief lady of the imperial household. After the birth of their first child, Humayun, she had given birth to another four children. All of them died in infancy unfortunately. The name of the dead children were Barbul, Mihr Jahan, Aisan Daulat and Faruq.
As the chief consort of Babur, she was well aware with her rights over other royal ladies of his harem. She herself took care of Hindal Mirza and Gulbadan Begum, children of Dildar Begum in 1519. Maham was a devoted mother, used to spend all her spare time while educating the children. She used to narrate the stories to him connected with Shaikh Ahmad Jam, her ancestor and other renowned holy people of that time.
Maham as Empress
Maham Begum came to India from Kabul in 1528. Babur had sent two litters with three horsemen after she reached Aligarh. She went on from from Aligarh to Agra quickly. Babur wanted to go as far as Aligarh in intend to meet her. Someone said to Babur in the evening during the prayer time that he had just passed Maham Begum on the road, just 4 miles far. He quickly ran on his foot to meet her the house of Maham’s advance camp. She wanted to get off but Babur could not wait and walked to his house. After three months of stay at Agra, she went to Dholpur alongwith Babur.
Maham was the chief queen of the Mughal Empire and only one who was privileged to sit by Babur’s side on the throne of Mughal Empire. She was a powerful and moody queen. Babur never denied her anything. She was Babur’s favorite wife. It is said that Babur loved Humayun more because he was Maham’s son who was his favorite wife. He desired the kingdom for Humayun only and not for his other sons.
Maham’s role as a dowager
Babur died after the health deterioration of Humayun. Humayun ascended to the throne, he was just twenty three years old that time. Maham Begum started offering food twice daily including one ox and two sheeps and five goats in the morning and five goats in the afternoon prayer time. She did this from her own wish for more than two and a half years. Maham took the responsibilities of arranging the During marriages of Gulrukh Begum and Gulchehra Begum during Babur’s illness. She was a Padshah Begum and continued this role and participated actively in the affairs of the royal household social functions. She took care of the maintenance of her Babur’s tomb until her death.
Maham gave a great feast to her son Humayun after his return from Chunar. The bazaars were decorated on her order and his palace was made beautiful. It was a replenishing, feast on behalf of her for her son Humayun. This festive had lasted for many days in the empire.
It was the month of April when Maham Begum was suffering by a bowel disorder. She became very ill and died subsequently on 16th april 1534. Khanzada Begum, Babar’s sister now became the first-lady of the mughal empire after the death of Maham Begum.
Though the information related to her burial place is still not known. But it is said that she was buried alongside Babur’s grave. It is possible that her body was never transferred to Kabul.