Last night, dark circles-inducing binge watch of The Empire, the latest period epic on Disney + Hotstar paid off well as it kept me majorly hooked to one character through out the eight-episode run.
Khanzada, the eldest daughter of Umar Shaikh Mirza II and the elder sister of Babur, is a name we can’t easily recall learning about in the Mughal chapters of our history textbooks.
Infusing the idea of ‘na talwar se na aag se, jung jeet-te hain dimaag se’ this Timurid princess piqued my curiosity to dig into history to know her better.
In the character of Khanzada, Drashti Dhami made her digital debut and gracefully nailed it.
Khanzada, a Shehzaadi with a life that was majorly full of sacrifice and trauma, was the brain behind the decisions of the initial establishment of the Mughal empire, along with her grandmother Aisan Daulat Begum.
The tale of her valour and sacrifice is celebrated in Babur’s memoir Baburnama, where the Mughal emperor credits his sister with the safekeeping and safeguarding of the regime and the family’s life and honour.
Shaibani Khan, the Uzbek leader, besieges Babur and his entourage at Samarkand for six months. As the siege intensified, conditions grew so desperate that ‘the poor and unfortunate began to eat dogs and donkeys’ in Samarkand. To everyone’s relief, Shaibani calls for truce, but with a condition.
Khanzada willingly accepted the truce and fell into the hands of Shaibani Khan as an exchange to her family’s life.
It’s not too high a price for your safety, either I marry him…or we all starve and die.
-Khanzada to Babur
The then Twenty-three-year-old proud and intelligent princess submitted to the enemy as that was the key to her brother’s well-being. Later, during their married life, she’d be slandered, humiliated, and even beaten.
Khanzada married Shaibani and eventually bore him a son, Khurram, her only son, who died in his childhood.
Khanzada was then accused by Shaibani of siding with her brother in a conflict, and she was later divorced. This accusations hold an account of her unwavering spirit and pride in her own Timurid family.
After divorcing Khanzada, Shaibani married her to Sayyid Hada, a lower-ranking man who died in the Battle of Marv (between Saibani Khan and Shah Ismail) in 1510.
After the battle when Shah Ismail, a Shi’a religious leader, discovers that Khanzada is Babur Mirza’s sister, he returned her to Babur.
The now, Thirty-three years old Khanzada, had been living in abeyance for ten years, protecting her brother’s pride and future.
You’re a heroine; my saviour. My Goddess; my good-luck charm. Without your sacrifice, I and mine would never have survived. I certainly wouldn’t have lived to conquer Kabul, and make plans to expand my rule. You shall not only join my family, but become the head. You shall be Padshah Begum, for you are the light of our clan. We exist because of you.
-Babur to Khanzada
Khanzada’s 3rd marriage took place with Muhammad Mahdi Khwaja at an unknown date. It’s possible, according to Annette Beveridge, that the marriage took place not long after she returned. Mahdi’s marriage to Khanzada and his joining of Babur most likely happened in the decade 1509-1519, for which no strong record exists.
No shame is ever attached to Khanzada or any other Timurid woman who ‘falls’ to an enemy, which is a tribute to Khanzada’s resilience and her initial sacrifice.
Even after Babur’s death, Khanzada remained the Mughals’ most powerful woman as she held the title of ‘Padshah Begum of Hindustan’. This honour was bestowed for exceptionally extraordinary women who held great power.
Khanzada returned into Babur’s household as a woman whose sacrifice for the safety of Badshah was celebrated not only by Babur in is lifetime, but by his son Humayun and succeeding generations.
Khanzada Begum died at Qabal-chak in September 1545 while she was accompanying her nephew, Humayun. The doctor’s remedies were futile as she suffered from fever for three days before succumbing to death on the fourth day. Her remains was first buried at Qabal-chak, but three months later it was moved to Kabul and buried in the Gardens of Babur, where her brother was laid to rest.