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Amongst the numerous regulations, many of them highly meritorious, which Jehangire promulgated on his accession to the throne, was one strictly forbidding the manufacture or sale of wine, or of any other intoxicating liquor within his dominions. But as he was conscious that he exhibited in his own proper person an example rather inconsistent with the doctrine which he enforced by law, he deemed it necessary to enter into the following curious explanation of his motives.
I undertook to institute this regulation, although it is sufficiently notorious, that I have myself the strongest inclination for wine, in which, from the age of sixteen, I liberally indulged. And in very truth, encompassed as I was with youthful associates of congenial minds, breathing the air of a delicious climate-ranging through lofty and splendid saloons, every part of which was decorated with all the graces of painting and sculpture, and the floors bespread with the richest carpets of silk and gold, would it not have been a species of folly to have rejected the aid of an exhilarating cordial—and what cordial can surpass the juice of the grape ?
· For myself, I cannot but acknowledge that such was the excess to which I had carried my indulgence, that my usual daily allowance extended to twenty, and sometimes to more than twenty cups, each cup containing half a seir, (about six ounces,) and eight cups being equal to a maun of Irak (about three pounds). So far, indeed, was this baneful propensity carried, that if I were but an hour without my beverage, my hands began to shake, and I was unable to sit at rest. Convinced by these symptoms, that if the habit gained upon me in this proportion, my situation must soon become one of the utmost peril, I felt it full time to devise some expedient to abate the evil; and in six months I accordingly succeeded in reducing my quantity gradually from twenty to five cups-(at entertainments I continued, however, to indulge in a cup or two more-)—and on most occasions I made it a rule never to commence my indulgence until about two hours before the close of the day. But now that the affairs of the empire demand my utmost vigilance and attention, my potations do not commence until after the hour of evening prayer, my quantity never exceeding five cups on any occasion ; neither would more than that quantity suit the state of my stomach. Once a day I take my regular meal, and once a day seems quite sufficient to assuage my appetite for wine ; but as drink seems no less necessary than meat for the sustenance of man, it appears very difficult, if not impossible, for me to discontinue altogether the use of wine. Nevertheless, I bear in mind, and I trust in heaven, that, like my grandfather Humaioon, who succeeded in divesting himself of the habit before he attained to the age of forty-five, I also may be supported in my resolu• tion, some time or other, to abandon the pernicious practice altogether. “ In a point wherein God has pronounced his sure displeasure, let the creature exert himself ever so little towards amendment, and it
may prove in no small degree the means of eternal salvation." ..
Jehangire informs us very minutely of the characters and merits of different persons whom he promoted to dignity and wealth. Amongst these he mentions, in terms of peculiar affection, the son of a portrait-painter, to whom he had been much attached from infancy. But eminent above all the other persons whom he enumerates, as having been distinguished by his favours, stand the prime minister, Chaja Aias, and his bewitching daughter, the celebrated Noor-Mahil. The fortunes of this family are still remembered in the East, as presenting an extraordinary instance of elevation from extreme poverty to unbounded power.
It was about twenty years before the death of Akbar that Chaja Aias quitted his native home in western Tartary, with a view to improve his wretched condition in the then flourishing empire of India. The settlement of the Mogul dynasty on the throne naturally attracted around it many of the Tartar chieftains, and their kinsmen and dependents, to the lowest degree, as naturally sought, from time to time, to profit by the patronage of their leaders. Aias had received a superior education, it was all his poor but noble parents could bestow upon him. He was of a rigorous, enthusiastic mind, well skilled in arithmetic, an elegant writer in prose and verse, and critically acquainted with the literary productions of former ages, which he quoted with facility, and recited in a graceful and engaging manner. His heart was captivated by the charms of a village girl, whom he married. The prospect of an approaching increase in his family compelled him to take a determined resolution in order to provide for them; and having converted into money the few effects that formed his household, he purchased a half-starved horse, placed his wife upon it, and, walking by her side, set out in this gypsy style for the dis tant capital of India.
The small store of money which the adventurers had raised soon disappeared. They had recourse to charity; but the assistance which they thus obtained failed them upon reaching the vast solitudes which separate Tartary from Hindostan. Day after day passed, and no traveller came in sight to whom they could apply for succour. At length they both sank upon the earth from exhaustion, and in this miserable state the wife gave birth to a daughter, for whom she had neither clothing nor subsistence. Their desperate condition awakened such energies as they could have possessed after having taken no food for three days; and Aias, replacing the mother upon the horse, endeavoured to carry the babe in his arms, but failed from want of strength. - The mother was still less able, in her condition, to bear the weight of
the infant, and they were obliged to abandon it in the desert. But before they quitted the child, they contrived to deposit it under a tree, and to cover it with leaves. They then renewed their journey, bathed in bitter tears.
The mother, as she departed, kept her eyes fixed upon the tree, beneath which she had thus been constrained to leave the precious fruit of her womb. She bore her grief in silence until that beacon began to fade on her sight, and then she could no longer suppress the voice of nature.— My child ! my child !' she exclaimed, in agony, throwing herself from the palfrey, and attempting to return to her infant; but she could not move. Aias, pierced to the heart, tottered back for the child ; but what was his horror on approaching the tree to behold an immense black snake coiled round the babe, and preparing to devour it! The shouts of the father frightened the reptile, which fled into a hollow part of the tree, and he succeeded in restoring the innocent safe to her mother's arms. A few hours afterwards travellers appeared within the horizon, from whom they received a supply of necessaries. Eventually they made their way to the city of Lahore, where Akbar then held his court.
Aias in a short time became secretary to Asiph Chan, a kinsman of his, who was then one of Akbar's omrahs. Having by his abilities in his office attracted the notice of the emperor, he was gradually promoted to the appointment of high treasurer, and thus became, from a poor adventurer, one of the first subjects in the empire. His daughter-who from her extraordinary beauty was at first called Mher-ul-Nissa, · The Sun of Woman,'-received the best education that could be obtained for her. In music, dancing, and poetry, she was eminently accomplished-in painting she had no equal among her own sex. She was in the early bloom of her beauty when Jehangire (then Selim) was in the heyday of his youth. Being invited one day to her father's, he remained after the public banquet was over, and all but the principal guests had withdrawn, when, according to customn, wine was brought, and the ladies of the family made their appearance veiled, Mher-ul-Nissa's graceful figure at once attracted the attention of the young prince. She sang- her voice touched his very soul : she danced-he followed all her movements with expressions of rapture that could hardly be restrained within becoming bounds. In the midst of this excitement the fair enchantress, turning towards Selim, accidentally dropped her veil. He was completely taken in the toils which her ambition had designedly spread for him, although she was already betrothed to Shere Afkun, a Turcomanian nobleman of distinguished character. Selim demanded from his father a dissolution of this contract,
but Akbar honourably refused to perpetrate so gross an injustice, and she was married to Shere Afkun at the appointed time.
When Selim succeeded to the throne, one of his first objects was to obtain possession of the woman to whom he had been so violently attached. But he durst not venture to use open force, as Shere Afkun was one of the most popular chieftains in the empire. Having attempted various modes for destroying him, which are related in the East with the exaggerations usually invented in favour of an injured hero, Jehangire at length succeeded in his atrocious purpose. Shere Afkun was assassinated by a band of armed men employed for the purpose, by Kuttub, then Suba of Bengal, one of the emperor's most devoted adherents. But before the victim died, he slew the ruffian who had lent himself to the passions of the despot.
Whether Jehangire was really shocked and disturbed by these incidents, or only wished to allow some time to pass away before he took possession of the blood-bought prize, in order to induce the people to suppose that he had no hand in the murder of her husband, we have now no means of ascertaining. It appears, however, that for four years the matchless beauty remained shut up in the worst apartment which his harem afforded, without once seeing the emperor. She endured her fate not only with resignation, but cheerfulness, still sustained by the hope that accident would one day enable her to overrule the resolutions of Jehangire, from whatever source they sprung. She was allowed a miserable stipend, of about two shillings of our money per day, for the support of herself and her female slaves. But her spirit rose with her difficulties. She employed herself and her attendants in working pieces of tapestry and embroidery, in painting silks, and inventing and executing female ornaments of every description. Her various manufactures were finished with so much delicacy and skill, that they were bought up with the greatest avidity, and became the models of fashion at Delhi and Agra. She was in this way enabled to repair and decorate her residence, and to clothe her slaves in the richest garments; but she spent no part of her newly acquired wealth upon herself; she continued to dress in the plainest style, as most suitable to her then personal condition.
The emperor heard of her fame in every quarter, and at length he was tempted by curiosity, if not by passion, to visit her. He entered her apartment suddenly, and was 'surprised to find her half reclining on an embroidered sofa, dressed in a plain muslin robe, her slaves, attired in splendid brocades, sitting around her, and all industriously employed. The magnificence of the chamber astonished him, as well as the exquisite taste with which it was fitted up. Without losing her presence of mind for a moment, the fair forlorn rose slowly from the couch, and, without uttering a word, made the usual obeisance, touching first the ground, and then her forehead, with her right hand. The emperor also remained silent, the tide of former passion rushing upon him while he once more gazed upon her beauty, and above all, admired that indescribable mien by which her charms were rendered irresistible. The result was as she had foreseen. Jehangire folded her in his arms; and the next day orders were given for the celebration of their nuptials. Her name was changed by an imperial edict to Noor-Mahil,- Light of the Seraglio,'--and she thenceforth held undivided sway over her husband, yielding to her father the real government of the empire. Many members of her family were raised to posts of eminence, to which they proved themselves entitled by their integrity and talents ; and their names, especially that of Chaja Aias, are still remembered with honour by the natives of India.
In mentioning this family, Jehangire is lavish of his praises. At the period when he wrote his memoirs, he had changed the name of Noor-Mabil to that of Noorjahaun— Light of the Empire,' a title indicative of the unbounded influence which she had obtained over him. Upon Chaja Aias he had conferred the dignity of Ettemaud-ud-Doulah ; and it is worth noticing, in passing, with what consummate plausibility and coolness he touches upon the transactions that led to his marriage with the object of his lawless passion :
· Ettemaud-ud-Doulah, it is almost superfluous to obserye, is the father of my consort, Nourjahaun Begum, and of Asof Khan, whom I have appointed my lieutenant-general, with the rank of a commander of five thousand. On Nourjahaun, however, who is the superior of the four hundred inmates of my harem, I have conferred the rank of thirty thousand. In the whole empire there is scarcely a city in which this princess has not left some lofty structure, some spacious garden, as a splendid monument of her taste and munificence. As I had then no intention of marriage, she did not originally come into my family, but was betrothed in the time of my father to Shere Afkun; but when that chief was killed (!) I sent for the Kauzy, and contracted a regular marriage with her, assigning for her dowry the sum of eighty laks of ashrefies of five meth kals,* which sum she requested, as indispensable for the purchase of jewels, and I granted it without a murmur. I presented her, moreover, with a necklace of pearl, containing forty beads, each of which had cost me separately the sum of forty thousand rupees. (160,0001.) At the period in which
* That is to say, 7,200,0001.—' One of those enormous sums, observes the translator, which startle belief!'