Vagabond Princess: The Great Adventures of Gulbadan

Yale Univ. Feb. 2024. 280p. ISBN 9780300251272. $30. BIOG
Lal (South Asian history, Emory Univ.; Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan) presents a meticulously researched biography of Gulbadan Begum, a 16th-century Mughal princess whose wanderlust and indomitable will inspired her to undertake a pilgrimage to the holy cities of Arabia. Daughter of the first Mughal ruler, Babur, she was raised in her father’s harem among the honored matriarchs of his lineage. Following in the footsteps of women forebears, Gulbadan became a trusted advisor to her nephew, Emperor Akbar. This book shows how Akbar’s more strictly cloistered harem frustrated Gulbadan, whose youthful travels through the lands conquered by her father inspired a lifelong curiosity and love of scholarship, which led her to embark on the hajj with other royal Mughal women. Drawing from Gulbadan’s own writings, this book beautifully evokes the vibrant Mughal court life and the sacred Islamic sites she visited. A full portrait of her life is obscured by gaps in the historical record, but Lal succeeds in depicting the various avenues in which Mughal women excelled.
VERDICT An important portrait of a 16th-century Muslim woman that stresses the active role royal women played in politics, religion, and the arts. For readers interested in Islamic and Asian history.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing