History

When Akbar Married his Step-Mom

Massacre of the civilians of Chittaur, Harem of hundreds of concubines etc. are countless achievements for which Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar is called Akbar The Great. In this article we are going to tell you one of   his great achievements which is least discussed. We all know that Akbar’s father Humayun died when Akbar was a child. He was looked after by Bairam Khan a prominent general in his father’s regime. It was Bairam Khan who brought up Akbar, fought and won battles for him.

Born in the region of Badakhshan in Central Asia, and belonged to the Baharlu Turkoman clan of the Kara Koyunlu confederation, Bairam Khan was a Shia Muslim. He entered Babur’s service at the age of 16 and played an active role in the early Mughal conquests of India. Later he contributed greatly to the establishment of the Mughal empire under Humayun when he was entrusted with the position of muhardar (keeper of the seals) and took part in military campaigns in Benares, Bengal and Gujarat. He accompanied Humayun during his exile in Persia and helped conquer Kandahar before serving as its governor for nine years. As regent, he consolidated Mughal authority in northern India. It was Bairam who won the famous battle of Panipat in 1556, and defeated emperor Hemchandra Vikramaditya (Hemu) which led to the reestablishment of Mughal Empire which had  almost been uprooted by Shershah and Hemu. In Akbar’s life, the role of Bairam Khan was like a Godfather.

As a reward to the services of Bairam Khan, Humayun married him with Humayun’s niece Salima Beghum. Salima was just 18 years old and Bairam was in his fifties. Though this difference was nothing in the culture where 9 years old girl could be married to 54 years old man. Anyhow, Salima and Bairam continued their married life until the relationship between Akbar and Bairam Khan became sour.

In 1561, after Bairam Khan rebelled against Akbar and was defeated by the royal army, he left for pilgrimage of Mecca. During his Journey to Arab he was killed by some old enemy. Thus Salima became a widow. Salima was a highly educated and accomplished woman. She was a gifted writer and a renowned poet of her time. When Akbar heard this richly talented beautiful woman was without her man, in the guise of helping a widow he married her. This is how Akbar married his cousin who was like his stepmom.

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