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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
4.5 out of 5 stars (27 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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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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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

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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loved it very well written and well Narrated voice is very clear and understandable wov

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

awesome book!

Very well researched and written book, told like a dream. Takes the listener on a journey of Mughal times. Beautifully narrated by Audible.

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engaging but repetitive at times

it's wonderful to revisit history from different perspective. however if the same incidences repeat in the same book it can be a bit off track. narration could have been more modulated. seems monotonous in some sections.
overall ...worth listening once.

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Fantastic book with a splendid performance.

This book is very well thought out and detailed. The journey it takes one on is further accentuated by a wonderful performance. A must read for any person interested to know about the Mughals.

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A journey to India’s beautiful past

Nicely narrated and creates an imagery of the time and space. The fables and foibles of the past are also greatly educational and of entertainment.

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Very insightful, very well narrated

The stories inform us the role of Mughal women in court. this has been largely ignored until now.

The narration is clear. Enjoyable experience.