Nur Jahan was the daughter of Mirza Ghias Beg, a native of Tehran. Her real name was Mehrunnisa. Her father came to India and sought employment at the court of Akbar. Mehrunnisa was born in Kabul in A.D. 1578 while her father was on his way to India. In India, her father got a respectable post at the court of Akbar. Mehrunnisa, a charming and beautiful girl, frequented the royal palace. Her beauty caught the eye of Jahangir, who fell in love with her. For many years she repelled his advance and even married Sher Afghan, a jagirdar in Burdwan.
It is said that when Jahangir became the emperor he involved Sher Afghan in a case of treason and had him killed. Mehrunnisa was brought to the court of the Mughal emperor in A.D. 1607. In A.D. 1611, Jahangir married her and made her his chief queen. Later he conferred on her the titles of Nur Mahal and Nur Jahan (Light of the World).
Nur Jahan was an extremely beautiful, talented and intelligent lady. She was well-versed in Persian and was fond of music and painting and even composed poetry. Jahangir was so much in love with her that he granted all her wishes. Soon she got her father and her brother Asaf Khan appointed to very high posts. Her husband, the emperor sought her advice on all matters including those of administration. He started depending heavily on her and with her at the helm of affairs; he took to wine and pleasure-seeking. Her name started appearing in the royal decrees and firmans were read in her name. Her portrait was struck on the coins along with the emperors. She started wielding great power and authority. She favoured her own relatives and appointed them to high posts. She became very ambitious and scheming. Nur Jahan became a part of many conspiracies. She even conspired to secure the Mughal throne for her own son-in-law Shahriyar, the younger son of the emperor and was against the rightful heir, Prince Khurram. This created differences between Jahangir and Khurram and the latter revolted against her father. Her daughter by her first husband Sher Afghan, Ladli Begum was married to Shahriyar. Her policy of nepotism aroused bitterness and jealousies amongst the courtiers and soon the court became a hotbed of intrigues and conspiracies. Her misuse of power created an atmosphere of suspicion and it greatly undermined the efficiency of the state. Those who were close to her, and won her favour were raised to high posts, irrespective of their abilities. This enraged the nobles and the generals, and some of those who had been very loyal to the emperor even revolted against him. Mahabbat Khan was one such general. Thus the last days of the emperor were full of sadness.
But Nur Jahan also had a good and beneficial influence on Jahangir as well as the state. She was a lady with very fine tastes. Under her influence, the grandeur of the court was enhanced greatly. She made improvements in the royal furniture and decor of the palace. She designed and introduced new dresses for women, which became very popular. She was a poet and artist and patronized art and learning. She was kind and generous to the oppressed and the poor.
It is said that Jahangir who was greatly addicted to wine, reduced his excessive drinking under her influence. During his illness, she took great care of her husband. When Jahangir was made a captive by Mahabbat Khan, she showed great courage and presence of mind. She joined him in captivity. Restoring to cunningness, she divided the generals and managed to get her husband released.
Jahangir died on October 28, 1627, at Bhimbar. After his death, Nur Jahan made many attempts to install her son-in-law Shahriyar on the throne but failed to do so. Her own brother whom she had raised to the rank of Khan-i-Saman now stood in her way. Asaf Khan’s daughter Arjumand Bano (Mumtaz Mahal) was already married to Prince Khurram. He helped Khurram to arrest Shahriyar and Nur Jahan. Thus, her power and influence diminished. She died in 1645 and was laid to rest beside Jahangir in Sahadra, Lahore.