Zaibunnisa (Ornament of womankind), the first child of Aurangzeb Alamgir was born on Shaawal 20, 1048 AH in Deccan when the Mughal Empire was at its zenith.Her mother Dilras Bano daughter of Badee Uzaman, the chief consort of Aurangzeb, was a princess of the House of Safavid, the then ruling Iranian dynasty. Badee Uzaman had migrated from Iran in the era of Jahangir and became associated with the royal court. Zeb un Nisa had three other sisters Zeenat un Nissa, Zubaidatunissa and Saangi Begum. Zeenat un Nissa and Zubaidatunissa are buried in Delhi. Saangi begum’s grave is adjacent to Dara Shikoh’s grave in the Mausoleum of Humayn. While the burial places of her sisters are beyond any controversy, Zaib un Nisa Begum’s final resting place has given rise to a very interesting debate among the historians. More of that debate later; let us have a look at her life first. Her life had many fascinating dimensions and was in a stark contrast to the ideals held by her father, the Emperor Aurangzeb. Zaibunnisa was an extremely bright child, who owing to her intellect and scholarly achievements, became the apple of her father’s eye who appointed extremely capable tutors for her education.In addition to being a Hafiza, she had mastered the arts and sciences of her time from philosophy to poetry, from mathematics to astronomy and from literature to calligraphy at an early age under the capable tutelage of Muhammad Saeed Ashraf. She had excellent knowledge of Persian, Arabic and Urdu. A poetess par excellence she wrote under the pseudonym Makhfi. The selection of this nom de plume is quite intriguing as well because it shows her desire to remain hidden in spite of being a princess and a woman of numerous talents. Her Diwan contains approximately 5,000 verses. She regularly participated and arranged poetry recitals. Her intellect and wordplay left her contemporaries baffled. It is reported that once as she was composing poetry, Aurangzeb happened to pass by, she said these lines;O ignorant nightingale! Hold tight your breath in your throat The delicate disposition of kings cannot bear compositionSyad Latif in his book Lahore: its history, Architectural Remains And Antiquities eulogises her poetical prowess;“Once, seated on a golden chair, (in the Baradari of Shalimar Garden) Zaib-un-Nisa, as she beheld the waterfall in full play, composed the following unrivalled quatrain extempore,O waterfall! For whose sake art thou weeping?In whose sorrowful recollection hast thou wrinkled thy brow?What pain was it that implied thee, like myself, the whole night,To strike thy head against stone and to shed tears?”A proficient writer, Zaibunnisa is the author of books like Monis Ul Rooh, Zeb Ul Munsha’at and Zeb Ul Tafasir. A keen calligrapher in her own right she employed numerous calligraphers who copied valuable and rare books for her library. Inspired by Kashmiri scribes and impressed with the quality of Kashmiri paper, she established a scriptorium in Kashmir as well. She had an interest in architecture as well and a palace built by her still graces the city of Aurangabad.In addition to being a Hafiza, she had mastered the arts and sciences of her time from philosophy to poetry, from mathematics to astronomy and from literature to calligraphy at an early age under the capable tutelage of Muhammad Saeed Ashraf. She had excellent knowledge of Persian, Arabic and UrduEmperor ShahJahan had great plans for and he saw her as the future empress of Hindustan eventually. She was engaged to her cousin Suleman Shikoh, the eldest son of Dara Shikoh by Shah Jahan himself. Her father’s ambition, however, didn’t let that happen as Aurangzeb got rid of not only his brother Dara Shikoh but his sons as well in order to become the emperor of Hindustan. Even after that she never had a dearth of suitors but she remained unmarried throughout her life.A poetess, a Sufi, a rebel, a beloved daughter and a scholar, Zaibunnisa Begum and her life present a wonderful collage of contrasts. The more one reads about her and tries to unravel the mysteries of her life the more baffling it becomes. She was deeply loved by Aurangzeb yet her views were radically different from those of her father. Aurangzeb was puritanical in his views and she had a mystical bend of mind. Though all the Mughal ladies were extremely well read and could have held their own in any field most of them receded into the shadows of history but not Zaibunnisa as she managed to live on and her name still resonates in the annals of time.Zaibunnisa Begum’s life, her death and even the place of her burial are subjects of debate, where everyone seems to bring a number of arguments to the table. Some historians have associated illusory details with her life. To some she was just another Mughal Princess who wrote exquisite poetry and was greatly loved by her father. Owing to some of her choices and decisions she lost favour of her father and was imprisoned. Some paint her as a princess who had a string of affairs that earned her the Royal displeasure. Her lover was boiled alive in a cauldron while she was imprisoned for life. Bhola Nath Waris in his book ‘Tareekh e Shehr e Lahore’ has discussed this issue at length.Many such lewd details were brought forth and published by English writers about the Mughal Court and the Harem. They were picked up and reported by some later historians as well but they should be taken with a pinch of salt.Some historians maintain that she was a rebel who challenged the authority of her father and sided with her brother Muhammad Akbar, when he revolted against the might of Aurangzeb in 1681. While the rebellion was short and obviously unsuccessful, she kept corresponding with Muhammad Akbar. Her mutiny and the decision to remain in contact with her brother cost her life of luxury, leisure and favour. This last view is supported by many historians including Jadu Nath Sarkar, the renowned Bengali Historian who devoted his life to the study of Aurangzeb era. In her recently published book, Captive Princess: Zeb-un-Nissa, daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb, the celebrated writer Annie Krieger Krynicki has examined the reasons for her incarceration. The book shows how alien her father’s ideology and style of governance was to her. Her work also brings to fore, the political differences that had developed between the father and the daughter and that eventually led to her imprisonment.Whatever the reasons for her captivity were, two facts emerge from myriad of accounts; firstly she was a gifted scholar, secondly she spent the last two decades of her life as a captive at the hands of her own father. In one of her poems, Zaib-un-Nisa has given a heartrending account of her feelings during her imprisonment,So long these fetters cling to my feetMy friends have become my enemiesMy relations are strangers to meWhat more have I to do?With being anxious to keep my name honuoredWhen friends seek to disgrace me?Seek not relief from the prison of grief, O Makhfi;Thy release is not prudent.O Makhfi, no hope of release hast thouUntil the Day of Judgment arrivesEven from the grave of Majnu the voice reaches my ears‘O Laila, there is no rest for the victim of love even in the grave’.I have spent all my lifeI have won nothingBut sorrow, remorse and tears of unfulfilled desires.There are conflicting views regarding her exact date of death as well. According to some historians she passed away in 1116 AH. Syad Latif maintains that she passed in 1080 AH. In his book Lahore: It’s history, Architectural Remains And Antiquities he writes,“She died in 1080 AH. Her chronogram was thus versified by a poet,Ah! Zaib un Nisa by the decree of ProvidenceSuddenly became concealed from the sightA fountain of learning, virtue, beauty and eleganceShe was hidden as Joseph was in the wellI asked reason the year of her deathThe invisible voice exclaimed, ‘The moon became concealed'”Yet another group including the likes of Sir Sayyed Ahmed Khan, cites the year 1113 AH as the year of her passing. We tend to agree with this group as well.There is a 300 years old mausoleum in Lahore on Multan Road in the area of Samanabad. This tomb is attributed as the final resting place of Zebunnisa Begum by some historians. The building was once considered among the architectural gems of Lahore. A special feature of this building is its close architectural resemblance with the vestibule of another celebrated structure of Shah Jahan’s era the famous Chauburji.The tomb was built in a beautiful garden as per the Mughal traditional architecture.Like Dai Anga’s tomb which is built adjacent to the walls of Gulabi Bagh; this tomb is also constructed adjoining the walls of its own garden .The podium of the tomb was originally covered with marble. The central dome was also covered with marble and supported a golden pinnacle. The garden boasted elegant pavilions, stunning fountains and numerous reservoirs. Striking turrets adorned the boundary wall. Similar turrets can nowadays be seen on the walls of the Shalamar Gardens. These turrets have still retained their bronze and golden Kashikari. After the fall of the Mughal Empire when Sikhs held sway over Punjab, this area of Nawan Kot fell into the hands of Sobha Singh who disfigured the beauty of the surrounding structures of the tomb to a large extent. The real destruction, however, came later when Ranjeet Singh decided to construct a Baradari in the Shahi Qila, Lahore. The marble from Asif Jah’s tomb and from this structure was used to fulfill the Maharaja’s desire and can still be seen to this day.Kanhaiya Lal Hindi in his book Tareekh e Lahore mentions this mausoleum in the following words, “This tomb is square in shape. Each side has three doorways, one large and two small. In all there are twelve moulded arches. The bigger entrances were initially without any doors while the smaller ones had marble latticework. Now one entrance has a wooden door while the rest have been closed shut with the help of mud plaster. Inside the building a part of the old flooring still remains which is somewhat disturbing. The centre of the mausoleum boasted a marble sarcophagus which was surrounded by high marble lattice framework but now there is just a mound of earth there to mark the grave. The outer brick podium of the mausoleum was originally quite huge. It is now home to the abodes of the landlords and the mausoleum is now surrounded by dwellings. In other words this mausoleum is now in an appalling condition.”While there is consensus about the fact that she was imprisoned by her father, the place where she was imprisoned is a matter of debate; in fact this controversy has given birth to the debate about her final resting place. Some historians say that she was imprisoned in the garden that she had herself built in Nawan Kot Samanabad, Lahore and was later buried in the tomb that she had constructed in the midst of it. Kanhaiya Lal Hindi, Syad Mohammad Latif, Maulvi Noor Ahmed Chishti and Bhola Nath Waris hold this view. Kanhaiya lal Hindi has also argued this issue at length in his book Tareekh-e-Lahore. We find a thorough discussion about this in Naqoosh Lahore number as well. Syad Latif in his book, Lahore: It’s history, Architectural Remains And Antiquities says, “According to the Shah Jahan- nama of Sargham-ud-daula, when Zaibunnisa, the learned daughter of Aurangzeb, made a gift of her garden at Chauburji to Mian Bai, her favourite female attendant, she laid out an extensive garden at the spot where the village Nawan Kot is now situated. This garden she furnished with handsome buildings and summer-houses. In the midst of it she constructed a mausoleum for herself, and in this she was interred on her death at Lahore.”The other group of historians maintains that she was in fact, incarcerated in a garden at Delhi and was subsequently buried there. In this regard an excerpt is given from the book ‘Saer ul Manazil’ which describes Delhi in detail. This book was written by Mirza Sangeen Baig. The original book is in Persian, it was translated in Urdu by Dr Shareef Hussain Qasmi and was published by Ghalib Institute Delhi.