The Female Gaze vs the Male Gaze in the Mughal Court: Recreating a Picture of the Royal Women Through Humayun-Nama and Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh

Gunjan Periwal
Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts
Symbiosis International (Deemed University)


Historical texts have played an important role in determining the narratives people form around a historical period, and the way history is written is always impacted by the ideologies and personal biases of the author. Mughal history has been a subject of fascination for historians around the globe. While several studies have been undertaken to understand the politics, religion, or administration of the time, very few sources give an insight into the lives of the royal women of the harem. This paper aims to recreate the lives of the royal women of the Mughal Court through a textual analysis of Gulbadan Begam’s Humayun-Nama and Abdul Qadir Badauni’s Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh. The texts are analysed through a gendered lens to understand the difference in perspectives of the portrayal of women through the male gaze and the female gaze. The paper has used both primary and secondary sources for data collection. The limitations of the research are discussed as well, which include but are not limited to anachronism, selection bias, and personal biases of the authors. The analysis of the texts has helped understand how the lives of the royal women were shaped by the issues of marriage, customs and traditions, and the influence over the Emperor.

Keywords: Humayun-Nama, Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh, Gulbadan Begam, Abdul Qadir Badauni, Mughal Court, harem