Hira Bai: The Woman Who Captivated Aurangzebs Heart

Aurangzeb, known for his ruthless rule, is not a name typically associated with love. However, it may come as a surprise to learn that even he had a romantic side.

Aurangzeb was the third son of Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. This love story took place during his viceroyalty of the Deccan in 1653, when he was a Prince. Despite being thirty-five years old and having multiple wives and children, Aurangzeb found himself captivated by a woman named Hira Bai, also known as Zainabadi Mahal, named after her origins in Zainabad, Burhanpur.

There are two versions of this tale. According to Ahkam-i-Alamgiri, upon Aurangzeb's arrival in Burhanpur, he visited his maternal aunt, the sister of Mumtaz Mahal. As he entered the house, he caught sight of the lovely Hira Bai standing beneath a tree, singing a melodious tune.

The moment Aurangzeb laid eyes on her, he was overwhelmed with emotion, causing him to collapse in a swoon. Concerned, his aunt feared he was seriously ill. Later that night, Aurangzeb confided in his aunt, asking if she could cure his "disease." In response, she vowed to sacrifice her own life to heal him. However, when he revealed his love for Hira Bai, his aunt was left speechless.

Fearing the repercussions of Saif Khan, her husband and the governor of Burhanpur, discovering the prince's forbidden affection, she worried for the safety of both Hira Bai and herself. She pleaded with Aurangzeb not to destroy the life of an innocent girl for the sake of his desires.

Aurangzeb, seeking to obtain possession of Hira Bai, consulted his trusted confidant, Murshid Quli Khan, for advice. Murshid suggested the idea of murdering Saif Khan, but Aurangzeb hesitated at the thought of making his aunt a widow. Instead, he requested Murshid to negotiate with Saif Khan. Murshid approached Saif Khan and after discussions, Saif Khan agreed to exchange Hira Bai for Chattar Bai, a concubine from Aurangzeb's harem.

Another version of this incident, as recounted in Masir-ul-Umara, provides a more accurate depiction:

Hira Bai, a concubine of Mir Khalil, the husband of Aurangzeb's maternal aunt Malika Banu, was celebrated for her remarkable beauty and expertise as a singer. One day, while Aurangzeb was taking a leisurely stroll in the garden of Zainabad with some women from his harem, Hira Bai arrived accompanied by Malika Banu.

During their walk, Hira Bai spotted a mango tree laden with fruit. Disregarding royal etiquette, she gleefully and playfully ran towards the tree, climbed it, and plucked a fruit. This bold act captivated Aurangzeb, causing him to lose his self-control and virtue.

Aurangzeb was so enamored with her that he took her from his aunt's residence. Despite his strict adherence to asceticism and purity, he wholeheartedly gave his love to her, often filling a cup of wine with his own hand and offering it to her.

Hira Bai once offered a cup of wine to Aurangzeb, urging him to drink. Despite his pleas and protests, she showed no mercy, leaving Aurangzeb feeling powerless. Just as he was on the verge of taking a sip, the clever girl drank the wine herself. She explained that it was a test of his love, not to subject him to the bitterness of the evil liquor.

This love affair became so intense that it eventually reached the ears of Shah Jahan. Dara Shukoh took advantage of this situation to tarnish his brother's reputation in front of Shah Jahan, saying, "What restraint and self-control does that hypocritical ascetic have? He is ruining himself for a woman from his aunt's household."

Unfortunately, Hira Bai did not live long. Her tomb is located in Aurangabad near the great tank. On the day of her death, Aurangzeb, overwhelmed with grief, sought solace in hunting. Aqil Khan, a poet and trusted noble of Aurangzeb, approached him to inquire about his troubled state of mind and the reason behind his decision to hunt. Aurangzeb responded,

"Lamentation in the house cannot relieve the heart, In solitude alone you can cry to your heart's content."

Hearing this, Aqil Khan recited another couplet, "How easy Love appeared. Alas! how hard it was! How hard was parting, what rest the Beloved attained!"

Manucci, a Venetian served in the artillery of Dara Shukoh, also sheds light on Aurangzeb's love affair: "Aurangzeb grew very fond of one of the dancing women in his harem, and through the great love he bore to her he neglected for some time his prayers and his austerities, filling up his days with music and dances; and going even farther, he enlivened himself with wine, which he drank at the instance of the said dancing girl."

Manucci adds that after the death of Hira Bai, Aurangzeb made a vow to never drink wine or listen to music again. "In after-days he was accustomed to say that God had been very gracious to him by putting an end to that dancing-girl's life, by reason of whom he had committed so many iniquities, and had run the risk of never reigning through being occupied in vicious practices."


  1. In my knowledge (readings) one reason why Aurangzeb was so whimsical, eccentric is the untimely death of Hira Zainabadi... the only person who cared for him apart from his daughter (I think the name was Zeenatullah or so)

  2. Never thought of it, good read TFS

  3. What was the reason of her death?