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Daughters of the Sun

Empresses, Queens and Begums of the Mughal Empire
Written by: Ira Mukhoty
Narrated by: Shernaz Patel
Length: 13 hrs and 8 mins
Categories: History, Asia
4.5 out of 5 stars (66 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In 1526, when the nomadic Timurid warrior-scholar Babur rode into Hindustan, his wives, sisters, daughters, aunts and distant female relatives travelled with him. These women would help establish a dynasty and empire that would rule India for the next 200 years and become a byword for opulence and grandeur. 

By the second half of the 17th century, the Mughal empire was one of the largest and richest in the world. The Mughal women - unmarried daughters, eccentric sisters, fiery milk mothers and powerful wives - often worked behind the scenes and from within the zenana, but there were some notable exceptions among them who rode into battle with their men, built stunning monuments, engaged in diplomacy, traded with foreigners and minted coins in their own names. Others wrote biographies and patronised the arts. 

In Daughters of the Sun, we meet remarkable characters like Khanzada Begum who, at 65, rode on horseback through 750 kilometres of icy passes and unforgiving terrain to parley on behalf of her nephew, Humayun; Gulbadan Begum, who gave us the only document written by a woman of the Mughal royal court, a rare glimpse into the harem, as well as a chronicle of the trials and tribulations of three emperors - Babur, Humayun and Akbar, her father, brother and nephew; Akbar’s milk mothers or foster mothers, Jiji Anaga and Maham Anaga, who shielded and guided the 13-year-old emperor until he came of age; Noor Jahan, ‘Light of the World’, a widow and mother who would become Jahangir’s last and favourite wife, acquiring an imperial legacy of her own; and the fabulously wealthy Begum Sahib (Princess of Princesses) Jahanara, Shah Jahan’s favourite child, owner of the most lucrative port in medieval India and patron of one of its finest cities, Shahjahanabad. The very first attempt to chronicle the women who played a vital role in building the Mughal empire, Daughters of the Sun is an illuminating and gripping history of a little known aspect of the most magnificent dynasty the world has ever known.

©2018 Ira Mukhoty (P)2018 Audible, Inc.

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Befitting the queens

"In the 5,000 odd years of the history of India, many kings and dynasties have reigned supreme - Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and Muslim. Each of these rulers have added to the complex tapestry that makes the India we know today. Of these, the Mughals are closest to us in time, their legacy most visually accessible."

The lines above, paraphrased as they are, can be found close to the close of Ira Mukhoty's Daughters of the Sun and yet, much like the rest of this tale, her words bring to life the existence an era lustrous and full of life in all its colors – art, poetry, war, brotherhood, beauty, treachery, creation, destruction and eternal posterity.

Daughters of the Sun introduces us to the world of the women who ruled by the side of the some of the most lustrous Emperors this land has ever seen. Ms. Mukhoty builds her view of the Mughal empire around the concept of the Padshah Begum – the first ladies of the Empire, the women – not always the Emperor’s wives but sometimes also erudite sisters and resourceful, resilient daughters – who shaped the path of the meandering Empire as keenly and as definitively as their husbands, brothers and fathers did. There is Khanzada begum, Babar’s sister who he left behind as payment for safe passage and one he accepted with unremarkably routine openness a little over a decade later. There is then Maham begum – Babar’s principal wife and Humayun’s mother; Humayun’s wife Hamida Banu begum who leaves behind her infant son to follow her husband in exile and through years of strife. There is then Gulbadan begum – Humayun’s sister and the only Mughal historian and chronicler – one who allows the ages to see beyond the wars and victories. Ira Mukhoty brings to justice – arguably at great stretch in imagination – the contribution of Mehr-un-Nisa (Nur Jahan begum) as the much misunderstood wife of an older, more settled Jahangir and yet one that quite unarguably ruled the country from behind the latticed windows and sometimes not even with that much secrecy. The author also paints for us, the beautiful, rich and eventuall pitiable and yet resolute, firm, diplomatically brilliant life of Jahanara – Shah Jahan’s oldest born and the sister caught between her brothers’ bloodlust.

We see women as strong brilliantly talented people, emotionally evolved, physically resilient, intellectually sharp, creatively masterful, diplomatically keen and politically wise beyond the expectation of Western interpretation of a harem that is seen to have served only purpose.

If this tale of victories and losses, beauty and bravery, courage and cunning, is not inspiring and relevant for women in the sub-continent and around the globe, little else can be.

A special shout-out also to Shernaz Patel for her brilliant, nuanced, superbly diction-ed narration. If there is ever the idea of a narrator adding to the burnished glory of the work she reads, Shernaz Patel exemplifies it and Ms. Mukhoty should be eternally grateful for it.

PS: As the tale of Zinat-un-nisa comes to a close, the miserable years of the last Padshah Begum trudging through the ignominious years of the Empire’s fall, the scene is quite beautifully and chronologically set up for the many depravities that was the Era of the British. Mr. Tharoor – here I come. (less)

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Listening is an art

Great experience,just before sleep switch off lights listen to wonderful stories,dont have to strain your eyes,shall keep asking for more,thank you audible

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loved it very well written and well Narrated voice is very clear and understandable wov

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Breathtaking

Very rarely do we come across a book which is scholarly and accessible. This is one such books. Remarkably written and relatively well narrated. Would highly recommend this book for anyone trying to peek deeper into the lives of the Mughals, especially Mughal women. Fabulous.

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It's more about the men

This isn't a book about the women of the Mughals. it's more about the men! It's like a history lesson or a summary of the biographies written by men. Nothing about the women, their thoughts, feelings etc. Stars for the splendid narration by Shernaz Patel. I felt like I was back in school listening to my history teacher!

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A beautiful pice of history.

A well written and researched book by Ira Mukhoty. The narration was also good. While buying it, i was not so sure if this will give me a sneak peek into Mughal Empire the way i want but man was i wrong or what!! This book has beautifully shown us the magnificent Mughal Empire from the eyes of very strong, intelligent, powerful Mughal women which you can find mentioned in the normal historic books glorifying the kings and rulers only.
This book answered everything from how and why did the Mughal come to India to their ultimate inevitable fall. The family betrayals and politics behind the drapes of Mughal Zenanas and Haramans. I never knew how independent, rich and powerful the Mughal women were and how they were responsible for creation of various architectural wonders of the Mughal Era.
Its a well articulated piece of writing and would recommend to go for it if you are interested in history from a different point of view.

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past glory

The book gives exceptional insight of the lost mughal era through various references to autobiography, books and letters available... exceptional research outcome.
Narration in soothing clear voice makes it very audible and keeps you engaged throughout.. preserving interest. This book narrates mughal era from a very special perspective of various influetial women of mughal royal family. Overall... fantastic book for the one who is interested in historical happenings.

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Mesmerizing. Brings history alive!

The narrator 's mellifluous voice had me captivated. it was like watching a film. Waiting to hear more from her.

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  • SM
  • 15-04-20

Astounding and thorough.

Thank you, Ira M ,Shernaz P and Audible. Loved the subject also the reading.

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About the forgotten daughters of the Mughal Empire

As someone whose knowledge about the women of the Mughal Empire was limited to Noor Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, this book has been such an eye opener. Pick it up if you have a love for history and would love to read about how women's contribution has been deeply buried in all of our history lessons.

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  • Cg West Sayville
  • 07-09-19

delightful informative

unreal..the mughal women are heroes..narrator mis reads many words but lilting voice is enjoyable ..