The eldest surviving son of Akbar, Prince Salim, on his accession to the throne in 1605, assumed the title of Nur-ud-din Jahangir (Light of the Faith, Conqueror of the World).
He was passionate, cruel, and a drunkard, but not without ability and force of character. As Prince Salim he had instigated the assassination of the Prime Minister, Abul Fazl, and probably hastened his own father’s death by his violent conduct. There was, however, a reconciliation at the end, and Jahangir endeavoured to atone for his behaviour by lavish expenditure on Akbar’s tomb at Sikandra. He has also left many pious tributes to his father’s memory in his autobiography. Jahangir’s favourite wife was the celebrated Nur Mahal, who for twenty years was almost the supreme power in the imperial court. Her beauty attracted his attention while he was still Prince Salim, but Akbar, disapproving of her as a daughter-in-law, gave her in marriage to Sher Afsan, “the lion killer,” a nobleman of Burdwan. After his accession, having treacherously procured the death of her husband, Jahangir had Nur Mahal removed to Agra and placed under the care of his mother. For many years she repulsed all Jahangir’s overtures, but when at last she consented to be his queen she became his most devoted wife. She accompanied him on all his travels, and Jahangir consulted her in all important affairs of state. Sir Thomas Roe, James the First’s ambassador, describes Jahangir at Agra taking his wife for an evening drive in a bullock cart, “the King himself being her carter.” He affectionately changed her name from Nur Mahal, “Light of the Palace,” to Nur Jahan, “Light of the World.” The imperial coinage bore her name and an inscription, “Gold has acquired a new value since it bore the name of Nur Jahan.” She even succeeded to some extent in controlling Jahangir’s drunken habits. She was a great patroness of the arts, and it is said that the Samman Burj, her apartments in the Agra palace, was decorated after her own designs. Her charity was boundless; she was the especial protectress of orphan girls, and provided marriage portions for no less than 500 from her private purse.
Nur Mahal’s father, Itmad-ud-daulah, became Lord High Treasurer, and afterwards Wazir, or Prime Minister. On his death his daughter built for him the magnificent tomb at Agra known by his name.
During Jahangir’s reign many Europeans, travellers, adventurers and others, flocked to the Mogul court. They were allowed free access to the palace, and Jahangir frequently admitted them to join in his midnight carouses. He showed great favour to the Jesuit priests, and even allowed two of his nephews to be instructed in the Christian religion.
The violent temper of Jahangir was inherited by his son, Prince Khurram, afterwards Shah Jahan, and the peace of his reign was frequently disturbed by open rebellion on the part of the Prince. In 1623 Shah Jahan actually sacked Agra, and his soldiers committed fearful atrocities on the inhabitants. He failed, however, to capture the fort, which contained the imperial treasury, and Jahangir, no doubt remembering his own father’s leniency towards himself, forgave his unruly son.