Valentine's Day

How Humayun convinced the love of his life to marry him

Hamida Bano grew up to be a feisty queen and loyal wife, but when she first met her husband, she was just an angry teen.

Hamida Bano was a 14-year-old when Humayun Badshah, 33, met her in Pat, a town in Sehewan in the kingdom of Thatta, in 1541. Having been defeated by Sher Shah Suri in the battle of Kannauj, Humayun was on the run – he had lost the kingdom his father Babur had established in India and along with his half brother Hindal, he took refuge with Shah Hussain, the Sultan of Thatta in Sind.

After many days spent travelling through perilous and desolate deserts, they had finally found some peace. Humayun’s stepmother Dildar Bano, who was Hindal’s mother, gave a banquet in his honour and among the guests she invited, was the beautiful Hamida.

Hamida’s father Sheikh Ali Akbar, a Persian sufi more popularly known as Mir Baba Dost, was Hindal’s spiritual instructor, and there was a close bond between him and the family. As soon as Humayun saw Hamida Bano, he asked his stepmother Dildar, “Who is this?” He was mesmerised by the beauty and liveliness of the teenager and asked if she was already betrothed. On hearing that she was not, he expressed the desire to marry her.

Mirza Hindal was affronted. Not because, as some stories and texts say, he was in love with her – but because he was concerned about the family name.

“I look on this girl as a sister and child of my own,” he is believed to have said. “Your Majesty is a king – heaven forbid there should not be a proper meher, and so a cause of annoyance should rise.” Meher is a mandatory payment in the form of money or possessions paid or promised by the groom, or the groom’s father, to the bride at the time of marriage, which legally becomes her property. Hindal was concerned that an emperor on the run may not have enough resources for this endowment to his bride at the time of nikah, or their wedding.

Emperor Humayun. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Emperor Humayun. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Humayun assured his half-brother that he would ensure a meher befitting his royal status and their family name. Thus began a royal courtship, or at least an attempt at one: Humayun tried to woo Hamida, but she would have none of it. A much older man ousted from his empire was probably not the prince of her dreams. She may have known that an emperor, even one without an empire, must be imperious. She wanted a companion, not a ruler.

Gulbadan Begum, Humayun’s younger sister and the author of Humayun Nama, writes:

“On another day he came to my mother, and said: ‘Send someone to call Hamida Bano Begam here.’ 

When my mother sent the message, Hamida Bano Begam did not come, but said: ‘If it is to pay my respects, I was exalted by paying my respects the other day. Why should I come again?’”

Another time, Gulbadan writes, His Majesty sent Subhan Quli and said:

“’Go to Shah Husain Mirza and tell him to send the Begam.’ 

The Mirza said: ‘Whatever I may say, she will not go. Go yourself and tell her.’ 

When Subhan Quli went and spoke, the Begam replied: ‘To see kings once is lawful; a second time it is forbidden. I shall not come.’ 

On this Subhan Quli went and repeated what she had said. His Majesty remarked: ‘If she is na mahram, we will make her mahram.’”

The young woman was not one to be swayed by royal protocol or pomp. The resistance continued for 40 days. Finally, Dildar Bano went to the young woman and said, “After all you will marry someone, better a king who is here.”

The young girl replied, “Oh yes! I shall marry someone, but he shall be a man whose collar my hand can touch and not someone whose skirt it does not reach!”

Dildar Bano advised the teenager and perhaps even swore that her stepson was no autocrat. Hamida Bano finally agreed to marry the king and in September 1541, Humayun, a keen astrologer, took the astrolabe in his hand and chose a propitious hour. He then summoned Mir Abul Baqa and ordered him to solemnise his marriage to Hamida.

Hindal Mirza, the younger half brother of the second Mughal emperor Humayun. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Hindal Mirza, the younger half brother of the second Mughal emperor Humayun. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As meher, Hamida received two lakhs, a sum that befitted the royal status, and the title of Maryam Makani, or dwelling with Mary, in recognition of her innocence and piety. Though Hamida had been apprehensive of being just another addition to a royal harem, the 15 years that she would be married to Humayun were spent in close companionship with him. Love must have been further nurtured in the hard conditions they endured, for she never once left his side.

While still on the run a year later, they were blessed with a son in Umerkot where they had taken refuge with the Rajput king Rana Prashad. The child born on October 15, 1542, was named in accordance with Humayun’s dream. After his defeat in Kannauj, Humayun had headed for Lahore. In a state of utter dejection, he had had a vision there, in which a venerable man in green clothes holding a staff had said, “Be of good cheer, do not grieve,” and had given his staff to Humayun. “The most high God will give you a son whose name will be Jalauddin Mohammed Akbar,” the holy man had said.

When Humayun asked the man in the vision his name, he replied, “The Terrible elephant Zinda Fil Ahmed of Jam,“ and added, “Your son will be of my lineage.”

Sheikh Ahmed e Jami had been an 11th century Persian sufi saint. Hamida Bano was in fact his descendant. Humayun personally cast Akbar’s fortune and predicted greatness for the baby.

In December 1543, they were once again on the run and she made the perilous journey from Sindh with Qandhar as their destination. But in the course of that journey, Gulbadan writes, “Humayun had to take hasty flight from Shal-mastan, through a desert and waterless waste”.

Hamida went with her husband, leaving her infant son behind with trusted servants and Humayun’s brother Askari. She was reunited with him in Kabul after two years. Hamida remained steadfast by her husband’s side through his life and even accompanied him to Persia. There were no comforts or luxuries with meager provisions and no personal attendants on that journey, but even in the darkest of days, Hamida was not only his companion but a source of inspiration.

After an exile of fifteen years Humayun regained the throne of Delhi, but he was not destined to rule for long. He died a year later and his son Akbar ascended the throne. Akbar was only thirteen at the time and recognising his mother’s acumen and intelligence, often sought her advice. Hamida was a wife for only fifteen years and she lived for fifty after Humayun’s death. She is buried in a chamber next to the tomb of her husband in Delhi, built by his eldest wife Bega Begum or Haji Begum.

Cenotaph of Hamida Banu Begum along with that of Dara Shikoh and others, is located in a side chamber of Humayun's Tomb, Delhi. Credit: via Flickr CC BY
Cenotaph of Hamida Banu Begum along with that of Dara Shikoh and others, is located in a side chamber of Humayun's Tomb, Delhi. Credit: via Flickr CC BY
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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.