Last night’s frenzied vigil for The Empire, the final epic of the period on Disney + Hotstar, paid off well, as it mostly kept me hooked on one character throughout all eight episodes.
Khanzada, the eldest daughter of Umar Shaikh Mirza II and the older sister of Babur, is a name we cannot easily remember having learned in the Mughal chapters of our history textbooks.
Inspire the idea of ‘na talwar se na aag se, jung jeet-te hain dimaag se’ this timurid princess piqued my curiosity to delve into history to get to know her better.
In the character of Khanzada, Drashti Dhami made his digital debut and gracefully nailed it.
Khanzada, a Shehzaadi with a life that was mostly full of sacrifice and trauma, was the mastermind behind the decisions of the initial creation of the Mughal Empire, along with his grandmother Aisan Daulat Begum.
The story of his valor and sacrifice is celebrated in Babur’s memories Baburnama, where the Mughal emperor attributes to his sister the care and safeguard of the regime as well as the life and honor of the family.
Shaibani Khan, the Uzbek leader, besieges Babur and his entourage in Samarkand for six months. As the siege intensified, conditions became so desperate that “the poor and the unfortunate began to eat dogs and donkeys” in Samarkand. Much to everyone’s relief, Shaibani calls for a truce, but with one condition.
“If you wanted to marry your sister, Begum with me, there could be peace and a lasting alliance between us. “
Khanzada voluntarily accepted the truce and fell into the hands of Shaibani Khan in exchange for the life of his family.
It’s not too high a price for your safety, either I’ll marry her … or we’ll starve and starve.
– Khanzada to Babur
The then-twenty-three-year-old proud and intelligent princess submitted to the enemy as it was the key to her brother’s well-being. Later, during their married life, she would be slandered, humiliated and even beaten.
Khanzada married Shaibani and eventually gave him a son, Khurram, his only son, who died as a child.
Khanzada was later accused by Shaibani of siding with her brother in a dispute, and she subsequently divorced. These accusations reflect his steadfast spirit and pride in his own Timurid family.
After divorcing Khanzada, Shaibani married her to Sayyid Hada, a lower-ranking man who died at the Battle of Marv (between Saibani Khan and Shah Ismail) in 1510.
After the battle where Shah Ismail, a Shia religious leader, finds out that Khanzada is Babur Mirza’s sister, he brings her back to Babur.
Khanzada, now thirty-three, had lived in suspense for ten years, protecting her brother’s pride and future.
You are a heroine; my saviour. My Goddess; my lucky charm. Without your sacrifice, I and mine would never have survived. I certainly would not have lived to conquer Kabul and make plans to extend my rule. You will not only join my family, but you will become the leader. You will be Padshah Begum, for you are the light of our clan. We exist because of you.
– from Babur to Khanzada
Khanzada’s 3rd marriage took place with Muhammad Mahdi Khwaja on an unknown date. It is possible, according to Annette Beveridge, that the wedding took place shortly after her return. Mahdi’s marriage to Khanzada and his accession to Babur probably occurred in the decade 1509-1519, for which there is no solid record.
No shame is ever attached to Khanzada or any other Timurid woman who “falls” in the face of an enemy, which is a tribute to Khanzada’s resilience and his initial sacrifice.
Even after Babur’s death, Khanzada remained the most powerful woman of the Mughals as she held the title of “Padshah Begum of Hindustan”. This honor was bestowed upon exceptionally extraordinary women who held great power.
Khanzada returned to the house of Babur as a woman whose sacrifice for the safety of Badshah was celebrated not only by Babur during her lifetime, but by his son Humayun and subsequent generations.
Khanzada Begum died in Qabal-chak in September 1545 while accompanying her nephew, Humayun. The doctor’s remedies were futile as she suffered from a fever for three days before succumbing to death on the fourth day. His remains were first buried in Qabal-chak, but three months later they were transferred to Kabul and buried in the Gardens of Babur, where his brother was buried.