GULBADAN-Portrait of a Rose Princess at the Mughal Court – Rumer Godden

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Gulbadan Begam. Princess Rosebudy,was the youngest
daughter of Babur, the first Mughal
Emperor of India. Her memoirs
provide a unique document of
history, the story of a sixteenth
century Mughal royal family as seen
through the loyal but keen eyes of a
lady with a remarkable ability to
remember and recount the smallest
details of hereventful life. She
describes battles, escapes, nomadic
wanderings, life in the haram, her
pilgrimage to Mecca and many other
scenes in a way which marvellously
conveys the atmosphere of period
and place.
Her book, the Humayun-nama,
together with two other official
chronicles of the time, the
Babur-nama and the Akbar-nama,
form the basis of Rumer Godden’s
enchanting account of the lifetime of
Gulbadan Begam – a lifetime which
spanned the reigns of three
emperors, her father Babur’s, her
brother Humayun’s and her nephew
Akbar’s. The account begins with the
Rose Princess’s earliest memory of
seeing her father ride off with his
army from Kabul to conquer
Hindustan, and ends with her death.
She was in her eighties, and the
Emperor Akbar himself helped to
carry her bier.Beautiful Indian and Persian miniature paintings add a vivid
commentary to this book.Gul means ‘rose’ and there were many ‘rose’ princesses because the rose is the flower most loved and prized in the East from Persia to Hindustan and as far away as China. The Afghan rose is white while the Persian is the small pink rose called the Damascus or damask rose, sweetly scented, but it is plainly of the red rose that Babur was thinking when he named Gulbadan and her two sisters. The eldest was Gul-rang (Rose-Coloured), the second Gulchihra (Rosy-Cheeked).Another of Babur’s wives was Gulrukh (Rose-Faced)—and one of his slave girls, a Circassian, who was to be Gulbadan’s friend all her life was ‘Red Red Rose,’but Gulbadan-Rose-body – was ‘rose’ through and through as her name implies.Indeed, it might have been of her that the poet Hafiz was thinking when he wrote that ‘rose is the colour of sincerity’.

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