Jahangir (Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir)

Mughal emperor of India, b. 31 August 1569 (Fatehpur Sikri, India), d. 28 October 1627 (Agra).

Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir ("the World Seizer") was the son of Akbar the Great, ruler of the Mughal empire in northern India who had expanded the Mughal rule as far as Gujarat and Bengal. He was the declared successor to his father from an early age.

Eager to become emperor himself, in 1599 Jahangir took the opportunity of his father's absence during a military campaign in the Deccan (the peninsula of southern India) to stage a revolt, but without success. Akbar confirmed Jahangir as his successor before his death in 1605.

The first year of Jahangir's reign saw a rebellion organized by his eldest son Khusraw with the assistance of the Sikh Guru Arjun and others. The rebellion was soon put down; Khusraw was brought before his father in chains. Arjun was executed, causing a permanent deterioration of relations between the Mughal empire and the Sikhs.

Jahangir's dealings with the Hindu rulers of Rajasthan were more successful, and he could settle the conflicts inherited from his father. Three military campaigns led to negotiations and were settled on generous terms. The Hindu rulers accepted Mughal supremacy but kept their territories and possessions and were given high ranks in the Mughal aristocracy.

Jahangir built on his father's foundations of excellent administration, and his reign was characterized by political stability, a strong economy and impressive cultural achievments. Lahore, Delhi, Agra and Ahmadabad became leading cities of the world.

Jahangir enjoyed the distractions of the court and his harem and was a heavy drinker and regular user of opium. From a young age he showed a leaning towards painting and had an atelier of his own. His interest in portraiture led to much development in this artform. The art of Mughal painting reached great heights under Jahangir's reign, combining technical mastery with spiritual understanding of personalities depicted in its portraits. Jahangir's expertise in the arts is documented in his diary:

"As regards myself my liking for painting and my practice in judging it have arrived at such a point that when any work is brought before me, either of deceased artists or of those of the present day, without the names being told me I say on the spur of the moment that it is the work of such and such a man. And if there be a picture bearing many portraits, and each face be the work of a different master, I can discover which face is the work of each of them. If any other person has put in the eye and eyebrow of a face, I can perceive whose work the original face is, and who has painted the eye and eyebrow."

Jahangir's interest in painting also served his scientific interests in nature. The painter Ustad Mansur became one of the best artists to document animals and plants which Jahangir either encountered on his military exhibitions or received as donations from emissaries of other countries. Jahangir maintained a huge aviary and a large zoo, kept a record of every specimen and organised experiments. A later historian remarked that Jahangir would have made an excellent museum's director.

In matters of government Jahangir soon came under the influence of his Persian wife and her relatives, who from 1611 dominated Mughal politics. While this had a beneficial influence on cultural life - Jahanhgir promoted Persian culture and continued his father's tradition of public debate between different religions - the continuous plotting at court destabilized the country.

The situation developed into open crisis when Jahangir's third son Prince Khurram, fearing to be excluded from the throne, rebelled in 1622. Jahangir's forces chased Khurram and his troops from Fatehpur Sikri to the Deccan, to Bengal and back to the Deccan, until Khurram surrendered unconditionally in 1626.

The rebellion and court intrigues that followed took a heavy toll on Jahangir's health. He died in 1627 and was succeeded by Khurram, who took the name Shah Jahan. Jahangir's tomb is in the Shahdara gardens in Lahore (in today's Pakistan).