Mughal Court: Check or Checkmate?

Ritoma Sen, scribe from the Kingdom of Mewar, writes about the Mughal Court of 1615.

‘Politics must be treated as a game, an extremely tricky game of shatranj.’

-Nur Jahan Begum

As we leave the twenty-first century behind and step on to the chessboard of Mughal Court 1615, we enter a maze of scheming generals and backstabbing commanders. All those present in the Mughal Court thirst for power, and it is up to Emperor Jahangir’s discretion to decide which is the least injurious.

Already betrayed by his own blood once, the Badshah faces yet another rebellious offspring out to undermine his authority. Is there an inherent flaw in the way he treats his vassals for such incidences to be repeated again and again? The question of why this treachery was undertaken still remains unanswered, and must be acknowledged at the earliest to protect the Mughal Empire from any other such situations in the future. Prince Khurram chose to betray the Mughal Empire even after witnessing the repercussions faced by his brother, Prince Khusrau, for undertaking a similar mission. Does the Emperor need to dole out more stringent punishments, or does Prince Khurram simply not hold his eyesight dear?

One of the foremost inadequacies plaguing the Court is the lack of unity and coordination among the courtiers. Instead of ensuring the holistic success of the committee, the noble leeches are more interested in the proliferation of their own propaganda. Though circumstances improved by the third session due to the Court being bombarded with crises, it remains prevalent. If the courtiers are to succeed in their agenda, they must be slightly more appreciative of each other’s homilies.

On a different note, with all due respect to Badshah Nur-ud-din Mohammad Salim Jahangir, I fail to understand why the courtiers are blindly accepting the Emperor’s indictments against Prince Khurram. Understandably, it is definitely not smiled upon by the Chair to doubt the capabilities and motives of the Shahenshah of Hindustan, and such interrogations are often met with an enraged “Are you questioning the competency of your Lord and Master?”. But we must not forget His Highness’s romance and predilection for his wife, Nur Jahan Begum. It is equally possible for her to have manipulated the data and thrown Prince Khurram under the bus to ensure accession for her own children. Regardless of how controversial it may be, we must accept Nur Jahan’s hold over the Emperor and act with this in mind.

Alternatively, I do not believe that Prince Khurram is an innocent bystander either. The relation between the young Prince and his stepmother has always been strained, and this could be power play between the two to wrestle the upper hand. It is indeed true that he has given a lot to the Empire and served it faithfully for long, but we must realise that he has immense ambition. Ambition, if allowed to run rampant, will destroy everything in its wake.

By putting these views forward, I am in no way encouraging the courtiers to mutiny against the Emperor and Empress. I am simply fostering the idea of analysing each of the possibilities and cause-and-effect scenarios before taking a decision that will be difficult to undo in the future. Swift, expedient directives are imperative to ensure a competent handling of the crisis situation.

For as the Begum herself put so eloquently, this is a game of chess. Beware that you aren’t merely a pawn in the game of the king and queen.

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