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Gulbadan Begum: The first Mughal princess to embark on Hajj pilgrimage

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Gulbadan Begum: The first Mughal princess to embark on Hajj pilgrimage

In 1576, Gulbadan Begum, daughter of Mughal Emperor Babur and sister of Humayun, became the first Mughal princess to undertake the sacred Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. At 53, she led a cohort of 11 royal women on the journey, defying conventions and showcasing her bravery, kindness, and rebellion.

Born in Kabul in 1523, Gulbadan grew up surrounded by strong women and experienced displacement and movement due to her father’s military campaigns, shaping her resilience and wanderlust. As she grew older, she felt confined within the walled harem established by her nephew, Emperor Akbar, and longed for freedom.

Gulbadan’s pilgrimage was marked by acts of bravery, kindness, and rebellion. She and her companions stayed in Arabia for four years, distributing alms and gaining attention from the locals . Her benevolence drew the ire of Ottoman Sultan Murad, who saw it as a display of Akbar’s political influence.

Despite the Sultan’s decrees to evict her, Gulbadan defied him, exhibiting unprecedented rebellion for a Mughal woman.

Upon her return to India in 1582, Gulbadan was hailed as a ruler and contributed to the Akbarnama, a chronicle commissioned by Akbar to showcase his dynasty’s grandeur .

Her story challenged the notion that Mughal women were confined to seclusion and passivity, highlighting bravery, resilience, and a yearning for freedom in a society dominated by powerful men.

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