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To Thee first, From the clouds of Whose mercy is born The rose of my garden, I look! Let the praise of Thy love the beginning adorn Of the verse of my book.
From the Divan of Zebunisa
Known For: Sufi Princess of the Mughals
Dates: 1048-1114 Hijri
Daughter of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Zebunnisa was esteemed by her father for her advice and later became a poet in the Sufi tradition.
A daughter of the Mughals, she was afforded an excellent education in Persian, Arabic, mathematics and astronomy, and was supervised by the best tutors of the Empire. Her love of education and poetry led to a bevy of scholars and poets who were welcomed at her own courts in Delhi and Lahore. She began writing some of her own poetry, established a library, and personally oversaw the translation of classical Arabic texts into Persian.
For some time, Zebunnisa was also influential over her father’s decisions. He would inquire after her opinion concerning palace appointments and upon occasion would take her counsel even when he disagreed.
Yet beginning in 1681, when Zebunissa’s younger brother Akbar rebelled against Aurangzeb and set himself up as emperor, their relationship soured. The rebellion was put down in a month and Akbar fled the country, but Zebunissa remained in contact with him. Aurangzeb discovered letters from her that implicated her complicity, and while Aurangzeb was able to forgive Akbar, his hurt at Zebunissa’s betrayal ran deeper.
Thus, she was imprisoned in a fortress in Delhi, where she wrote poetry. Her poetry, written under the nom de plume “Makhfi” or the hidden one, was circulated among her contemporaries. Fifty years following her demise, 400 of her poems were collected and published in Persian as the Diwan-i-Makhfi. Her poems discussed the love of God and expounded upon Sufi ideals.