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The daughter who had been born to him in the desert, received, soon after his arrival at Lahore, the naine of Mher-ul-Nissa, or the sun of women. She had some right to the appellation ; for in beauty she excelled all the ladies of the East. She was educated with the ut. most care and attention. In music, in dancing, poetry, and painting, she had no equal amorg her sex. Her disposition was volatile, her wit lively and satirical, her spirit lofty and uncontrouled. Selim, the prince royal, visited her father onc day, and the ambitious Mher-ul. Nissa aspired to captivate him. The ladies, according to custom, being introduced after the public entertairment was over, she 'sung and displayed all her accomplishments. The prince was in raptures; and, her veil dropping, the sight of her face completed the couquest.
She had been betrothed by her father to Shere Afkun, pa Turcomanjan nobleman of great renown. The prince applied to his father, who refused to coinmit an act of injustice, though in favour of the 'heir of his throne, and she became the wife of Afkun. During the life of the emperor, the prince durst make no open attack upon his fortunate rival; but the courtiers worshipped the rising sun: Shere Afkun became disgusted, and retired into the provin e of Bengal, where he obtained
from the suba of that country the superintendance of the district of Burdwan. From thence, however, he was řecalled on the death of Akbar. Seliin was afraid to deprive the omrah forcibly of his wife; and Shere, inflexible in his determination to retain her. Naturally high spirited and proud, and of uncommon valour, having gained his name by killing a lion, he could not yietd to indignity and public shame.
Selim, or rather Jehangire, for he took that name on his 'accession to the throne, was at Delhi, when he re* called Shere Afkun, and received him graciously ;'who, naturally open and generous, suspected not the emperor's intentions; time, he thought, had erased the memory of Mher-ul-Nissa from his mind. But he was des ceived, the monarch was resolved to remove his rival: but the means he used were at once foolish and disa graceful. He appointed a haut, and ordered the haunt of an enormous tiger to be explored. The ground was *surrouuded on all sides, and the party began to more towards the cave. The tiger was roused ; and the emperor proposed, that one amongst them should encounter hiin singly. Three of the omrahs offererl; but Shere Afkun, ashamed to be outdone, offered to fight him without any weapons, and though, the emperor made. a shew of dissuading him, the combat fell to his share, and he conquered. But scarce was be recovered froin his wounds, when a plan was laid to tread him to death by an elephant, as if by accident, but this, again was foiled ; and whether the emperor felt reinorsę, for his behaviour, or that his passion for Mher-ul-Nissa was lessened, po attempt was made for the space of six months against the life of Shere, who retired to the capital of Bengal. But the designs of the monarch were no secret to Kuttub, suba of Beugal, who, to in, gratiate himself with the emperor, though not it is believed by his orders, hired forty ruffians to attack and murder Shere in his bed. But this villainous plan was rendered abortive, chiefly by his own courage: and Shere retired froin the capital of Bengal, to his old Fesidence at Burdwan. There h. hoped to live in peace and obscurity, with his beloved Mher-ul-Nissa. But Kuttub had been rewarded for his attempt : and, eager still further to please the emperor, he resolved to make the tour of the dependant provinces. In his rout he came to Burdwan; and in a scuffle, occasioned by one of his pikemen intentionally affronting Shere, both he and the latter were slain.
Mher-ul- Nissa seemed not to feel so much sorrow as she ought; ambition stiffing her feelings : for in vindica, tion of her apparent insensibility, she pretended to follow the injunctions of her deceased husband; alledging that Shere, foreseeing his own fall by Jehangire, had conjured her to yield to the wishes of that monarch without hesitation. The reasons which she gave for this improbable request were, that he was afraid his own exploits would sink into oblivi on, without they were cunnected with the remarkable event of giving an em
Here, however, he: a.nbition received a very unex: pected check. She was sent, with all inaginable care, to Delhi, and received kindly by the emperor's mother, but Jehangire refused to see her. He gave orders that she should be shut up in one of the worst apartments of the seraglio ; and allowed her but fourteen anas (about two shillings) a day, for the subsistence of herself and
press to India.
some female slaves. Whether his mind was tormented by remorse, or then fixed upon another object, authors do not agree. But the emperor's mother, who was deeply interested for Mher-ul-Nissa, could not prevail upon her son to see her; and, when she spoke of the win dow of Shere, he turned away in silence,
Mher-ul-Nissa was a woman of haughty spirit, and could not brook this treatment. She
for some time, to grief, abundantly, and perhaps really, for the loss of her husband ; for her ainbitious hopes thus unexpectedly blasted, she could not but reflect with re. gret on a brave man, whose sufferings and whose death she was passively the occasion of. But at length she was reconciled to her condition, and an expedient offered itself to her active mind, to raise her own reputa-' tion, and to support herself and slaves with more decency, than the scanty pittance allowed her would admit. She called forth her invention and taste, in working some admirable pieces of tapestry and embroidery, in paiuts ing silks with exquisite delicacy, and in inventing female ornaments of every kind. These articles were carried by her slaves, to the different squares of the royal seraglio, and to the harams of the great officers of the empire. The inventions of Mher-ul-Nissa excelled so much in their kind, that they were bought with the greatest avidity. Nothing was fashionable among the Jadies of Delhi and Agra, but the work of her hands. She accumulated, by these means, a considerable sum of money, with which she repaired and beautified her apartments, and clothed her slaves in the richest tissues and embroideries, while she herself wore a very plain and simple dress. In this situation she remained four
without once having seen the emperor. Her fame reached his ears from every apartment in the seraglio. Curiosity, at: length, overcame his resolution. He resolved to surn prise her; and, communicating his resolution to Hone, he suddenly entered her apartments, where he found every thing so elegant and magnificent, that he was struck with amazement. But the greatest ornament of the whole was Mher-ul-Nissa herself: she lay, half, reclined on an embroidered sopha, in a plain dress. Her slaves sat in a circle around her, at work, attired in rich procades. She slowly arose, in manifest confusion; and received the emperor with the usual cereinony of touch, ing first the ground, then her forehead with her right
hande She did not utter one word ; but stood with her eyes fixed on the ground, while Jehanyire reinained silently adıniring her stature, grace, and beauty.
As soon as he recovered from his confusion, he sat down on the sopha, and requested her to sit by his side. The first question he asked, was, “ why the difference between the appearance of Mher-ul-Nissa and her slaves ?” She very shrewdly replied, those born to servitude must dress as it shall please those whom they serve. These are my servants; and I alleviate the burden of bondage by every iudulgence in my power. But I, that am your slave, o emperor of the Moguls, must dress ercording to your pleasure, and not my own." Though this answer was a kind of sarcasm on his behaviour, it was so pertinent and well-timed that it greatly pleased Jehangire. His former affection returned, with all its violence; and, the next day, public orders were issued to prepare a magnificent festival, for his nuptials with Mher-ul-Nissa. Her name was also changed, by an edict, into Noor-Mahil, or Light of the Seraglio. The emperor's former favourites vanished before her; and, during the rest of his reign, she bore the chief sway in all the affairs of the empire.
The great power of Noor-Mabil appeared, for the first time, in the immediate advancement of her family. Her father, who, in the latter end of the reign of Acbar, had been treasurer of the empire, was raised to the office of absolnte visier and first minister; her two brothers, to the first rank of nobility. Her numerous relations poured in from Tartary, upon hearing. the fortune of the house of Ajass ; some of them were gratified with high employments, all with lucrative ones. The writers of Hindostan remark, that no family ever rose to suddenly, or so deservedly, as that of Chaja Aiass; for they were not dazzled by their sudden greatness, but acted with probity, honour, and moderation; and the name of her father, in particular, is still remembered in Hindostan with affection and gratitude, The empire was a gainer by the estrangement of Jehangire from public affairs ; for the new visier was an enlightened patriot, and indefatigable in promoting every useful art, and the strictest administration of justice.
In the East, glory is so connected with power and magnificence, that an ambitious mind, even under the influence of a good understanding, can see nothing else to aim at. Noor-Mahil introduced such luxury and magoiticeuce, that expensive pageants and sumptuous entertainments became the whole business of the court. The voice of music never ceased by day in the streets ; the sky was enlightened at night by fireworks and illuminations : her name was joined with that of the e:n peror on the current coin ; she was the spring which moved the machine of state ; her family took place immediately after the princes of the blood, and were admitted into the most secret apartinents of the seraglio.
She for the inost part ruled the einperor with absojate sway :
au 'edict was issued, to change her name from that of Noor-Mabil to that of Noor-Jehận, or Light of the World. To distinguish her from the other wives of the emperor, she was always addressed by the title of Shahe, or empress: On the death of her father, abont 1637, the
einpress was inconsolable. She proposed, at once, as a proof of her attection and magnificence, to perpetuate his inemory in a monument of solid silver; but, being convinced so precious a metal would not be the most lasting means of transmitting his memory to posterity, she dropt her purpose, and a maguificent fabric of storie was erected in Agra. He was succeeded by her brother, whose daughter Shaw Jeba!, one of the princes, had lately married, and who was the inother the famous, but unworthy, Aurengzebe. The ambitious designs of Shaw Jebản, though hid with great cunuing, were discovered by the penetrating eye of the empress, who, Warning the emperor of him, he was convinced, though too late to be sufficiently aware of the baseness of his disposition. She is said, by opposite writers to have bad another cause also for decyphering his character. Shariar, the fourth son of Jehangire, was married to - her daughter, by her former husband, and she wished to tix the succession on hiin. She is said to have ob. tained a promise to this ettect froin the emperor ; and this is alledged as a reason for the revolt raised by Shaw Jehån. It is certain, at least, that this revolt caused the emperor to punish his obstinately rebellious son, by excluding him ; and the complaints of the latter, against Noor-Jehán, only found credit with the superficial, since he had alreally put to death a brother in cold blood, After much bloodshed, and many turns of fortune, this sou was subdued and pardoned.