Nur Jahan was born in 1577. Her father, Mirza Ghiyas, was a Persian prince who became a high ranking official in the Moghul Empire under King Akbar. Her birth name was Mihrunnissa or Mihr al-Nisa, "Sun of Women".

Her first husband, Ali Quli Istunjuloo, was given the title Sher Akfan, or Prince of Lions, after he killed a lion with only a sword.

In 1611, Mihr al-Nisa married Jahangir, Akbar's son and the new King of the Empire, and became Queen. She was his eighteenth wife. Jahangir called her Nur Mahal, "Light of the Palace", but later changed her name to Nur Jahan, "Light of the World"; a pun on her original name which referred to the sun. They shared many tastes in the beauties of nature, gardens, hunting and the the study of natural philosophy, and were inseparable companions.

Nur Jahan was a patron of the arts and architecture, and designed many beautiful buildings that still stand today. Her poetry was famous, and women of the empire copied the styles of clothing that she designed. She and her family were accomplished in every noble art, and in the administrative skill necessary to rule the empire. One of her favorite pastimes was riding out into the forest to hunt tigers with bow and arrow or with guns.

When Jahangir died, Nur Jahan tried to have her son-in-law Shahryar succeed to the throne; he was married to her daughter (Ladli Begum) by her first husband. But Nur Jahan's brother Asaf Khan, an able politician and administrator, succeeded in putting his own son-in-law Shah Jahan on the throne; Shah Jahan was the husband of Asaf Khan's daughter Mumtaz Mahal. Shahryar was blinded and murdered by his powerful uncle. Nur Jahan withdrew from political life and spent her time with painting, poetry, architecture, and designing gardens.

Nur Jahan designed her own tomb and wrote this famous epitaph for herself:

Bur Muzaarey Maan Ghureebaan Ney Chiraaghey ney guley
Ney Purey Purwaanaa Soazud, Ney Suddaayey Bulbuley.

On the grave of this traveller be so good as to light no lamps nor strew any roses.
This will ensure that the wings of moths do not get singed and that nightingales will not sigh and weep and lament.

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