The Legend of Maria, Akbar's Christian Wife

A common question found on various general knowledge websites is: Which leader of the Mughal empire was very curious, but illiterate, and displayed religious tolerance to the extent that he took one wife from every of the four major religions? The answer often given is Akbar. However, it is worth noting that there is no mention in any court chronicle of Akbar marrying women from religions other than Muslim or Hindu, not even by Badauni, who was known for criticizing Akbar on various fronts.

Maryam Zamani, Akbar's Portuguese Wife and Mother of Jahangir, According to Correia:

In a recent book titled "Portuguese India and Mughal Relations 1510-1735," Goan historian Luis de Assis Correia reveals that Maryam Zamani, also known as Mariam Zamani or Mariam-uz-Zamani, was actually a Portuguese woman named Dona Maria Mascarenhas.

During that era, it was customary for the King of Portugal to care for the orphans of noblemen who perished in service. Young women of marriageable age were often sent to the colonies as part of this practice. Maria Mascarenhas and her younger sister Juliana Mascarenhas set sail from Lisbon to Goa in September 1558. Somewhere on the way, their ship was captured by pirates, who took the sisters to the court of Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. Subsequently, Bahadur Shah presented them to the Mughal court.

"The moment Akbar cast his eyes on 17-year-old Maria, he fell in love with her and could not resist the desire to make her his wife," Correia says.

Rauza Mariam

When the Portuguese began trading in India, much of northern India was under the control of the Mughals. The Portuguese under Alfonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa in 1510, resulting in the deaths of as many as 50,000 Sunnis. They could never accept the fact that one of their own was living in the Mughal harem. The English also did not want to acknowledge any alliance between the Mughal ruler and the Portuguese, as they were competitors in trade and such an alliance would have posed a threat to their economic interests.

Correia suggests that Dona Maria Mascarenhas may have been the mother of Jahangir, known as Maryam Zamani. The Mughals could not accept the idea that a Christian, who had fought against them, had married the Emperor. This is why she is not mentioned in any Mughal records as Jahangir's mother.

Correia also points out that if Jahangir had been born to a daughter of a Rajput kingdom, he would have likely boasted about it, as the Mughals were eager to form alliances with the Rajputs. Jahangir's support of Christianity and Jesuit missionaries can be taken as evidence of his lineage coming from a Portuguese woman rather than a Rajput princess.

Regarding Juliana, she held the position of harem physician in the Seraglio. Akbar arranged her marriage to the fugitive French prince, Jean Philip Bourbon.

Must Read:

The Identity of Maryam Zamani, A Hindu?

Who Was the Rajput Wife of Mughal Emperor Akbar?

More Accounts of Akbar's Christian Wife:

The tale of Akbar's Christian wife has been chronicled by a number of writers, including Colonel W. Kincaid, Frederic Fanthome, Ismael Gracias, and C. A. Kincaid. Authors such as Keene, Louis Rousselet, William Hunter and De Laet have also expressed the belief that Akbar had a Christian wife. Blochmann, the translator of Ain-i-Akbari, even references an Armenian wife of Akbar. 

Colonel W. Kincaid, in his work 'Indian Bourbons', records that in 1560, John Philip Bourbon, a French prince of Navarre, sailed for India, after being compelled to flee France due to a fatal duel with a high-ranking relative. Upon arriving in Delhi, he requested an audience with Akbar. Intrigued by Bourbon's story, Akbar extended his favor and eventually appointed him to a prestigious position at his court. Akbar then offered Bourbon the hand of Lady Juliana, a skilled physician in the imperial harem and the sister of his Christian wife. After the marriage, Akbar conferred on his brother-in-law the title of Nawab, and entrusted him with the care of the seraglio.

C. A. Kincaid in 'Portuguese Lady at Mogal Court', says that in 1581, the Mughals attacked the Portuguese territories of Bassein and Daman, but were repelled by the governor Martini Alfonso de Mello. This repulse would have been followed by an attack in force which surely would have succeeded if the Emperor had not been stopped by something more terrible in his eyes than the Portuguese cannon and more persuasive than the lips of their ambassadors-the frowns and tears of a Lusitanian lady, Maria Makany, who was Akbar's Christian wife. Instead of war, Akbar made a treaty and sent envoys of congratulation to the new Portuguese king, Philip II of Castile.

According to Gracias in the reign of King John III, there was founded at Lisbon a home for orphan girls from noble families. When these girls came of age, they were shipped off to various Portuguese colonies to marry officials and settlers. Maria Mascarenhas, one of these girls, was captured with her sister by the Dutch, was brought to Surat and eventually sold at the Mughal court, where she became one of Akbar's queens, under the name Maria Makany. Her sister, Juliana Mascarenhas, was married to the fugitive prince John Philip Bourbon of Navarre.

Frederic Fanthome, author of 'Reminiscences of Agra', believed that Akbar had a Christian wife named Mary. He claimed her existence by referring a firman of Shah Alam, which mentioned a pension granted to Catholic priests at the recommendation of Queen Mary. Moreover, the cenotaph at Mariam's tomb (Rauza Mariam) in Agra lacks any inscriptions, not even a few verses from the Quran. Fanthome also mentioned reports of a cross being seen on the grave before it was sealed off.

Some Facts Provided by MacLagan, Father Felix and Father Hosten:

Father Felix has clarified that the firman of Shah Alam, as interpreted by Mr. Fanthome, does not mention Queen Mary's recommendation for a pension to Catholic priests. This misunderstanding arose from misreading the words "az qadim" as "Az Mariyam."

According to C. A. Kincaid, Maria's marriage to Akbar occurred before 1581. However, it is highly unlikely that she could have been captured by the Dutch, as they had not yet reached Indian waters by that time.

Father Felix adds that there was a lady named Juliana at the Mughal court, the daughter of an Armenian merchant named Khwaja Abdullahi (Abdu-l-Hayy), who was highly favored by Akbar. It is possible that she served as Akbar's ambassador to Goa in 1579. Juliana was married to another Armenian man named Iskandar of Aleppo. Their sons, Mirza Zul Qarnayn and Mirza Scanderus, were raised by Akbar after Juliana's death, under the care of a childless Begum, likely Ruqayya Sultan Begum.

Father Hosten and MacLagan provided insight into a passage from the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, which Blochmann cited as his source. The passage simply mentions that the daughter of Abdu-l-Hayy, an Armenian serving in Akbar's harem, was married to Iskandar, the father of Zul Qarnayn.

MacLagan suspects that the tale of Akbar's Christian wife may have originated from the titles of Akbar's mother, Maryam Makani, and Jahangir's mother, Maryam Zamani. Edmund Smith of the Archaeological Survey of India, had the crypt opened many years ago, but found no trace of a cross or any other Christian symbol on the grave.

Father Hosten conducted extensive research on the topic, uncovering two pictures of Akbar with a Christian wife. However, these images did not appear to be authentic.

Below is a 20th century painting done in the Mughal style, depicting Akbar with his Christian wife.

Akbar seated with his Christian wife Mary - Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad

Maryam Zamani
Maryam Zamani - Faqir Khana Museum

Above is a painting of Maryam Zamani portrayed as a Christian lady, evident by the cross she is wearing. Now, take a look at the painting below.

This painting depicts Zinat Mahal, the wife of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, dressed in European attire from the mid-19th century.

Here is a miniature painting of 'An Edwardian framed oval painted miniature of a young Indian princess'.

miniature of a young indian princess

These three paintings bear striking similarities, suggesting they are from the mid-19th century. This evidence alone confirms that the painting at the Faqir Khana Museum is not an accurate representation of the real Maryam Zamani. Therefore, it can be concluded that the existence of Akbar's Christian wife is merely a myth.


According to Price's Jahangirnama, which is not considered authentic by historians, Daniel's mother was called Bibi Mariam, but she was not a Christian. Also Read R. R. W. Ellis's account on Anarkali.


  1. Thank you for this article, I learned something new about of Mariam uz Zamani!!!

  2. Regarding idintity mariam uz zamani she is a daughter of raja barmal sure in akbarnama didn't give name mariam uz zamani nor the princess of amber so they are the same person
    As for not giving the name maybe she was a very important lady when we talke about an important person we often call him his nickname add to that a picture of salim's birth prove that the mother was hindu lady maria mascorina has no name in akbar nama maybe she was mariam mother of prince danyal
    Mariam uz zamani was the most favorite wife of akbar there is no book that expplicitly mentions the favorite sultana except firushta
    Akbar had three important chiefe consorts ruqya begum (Arsh-ashyan)and empress salima begum she was principal advisor in politics and mariam uz zamani the most favorite