So the initial responses of Google results don’t seem to remember our beloved Anarkali as a human/fictional character (forever open to debate that one…isn’t it..) when we type in her name and go looking for her ! Instead we chance upon the lovely legacy that particular Mughal Era left behind… The Anarkalis…

image source– Let’s rewind, and revisit the story that gave this fashion trend it’s name.. Ever wonder if Anarkali was a real person? Many sources support and oppose the same view. Here are various accounts of the legend:

1. Anarkali- Wife or Concubine to Akbar.

Legend has it that Anarkali was a name given to Nadira Begum or Sharif-un-nissa, the beautiful wife or concubine of Akbar. One day Akbar was sitting, arranging his turban by a mirror which he held in his hand, and Anarkali was standing beside him. Prince Salim entered the room and smiled at Anarkali. She returned the greeting, and Akbar, who saw in his mirror (or by means of the mirrors on the walls of the Shish Mahal) what passed between the two, rose up in his wrath and ordered that Anarkali should be buried alive. After the death of Akbar, when Prince Salim became the king, he constructed a tomb over her remains at Lahore.

2. The Beloved Anarkali- As depicted in Mughal-e-Azam

In this timeless hit, Anarkali is portrayed as court dancer Nadira, whom the emperor (Akbar) has renamed Anarkali (played by Madhubala), meaning ‘pomegranate blossom.’ Akbar’s son who has returned after 14 years as a distinguished soldier, falls in love with Anarkali. Their relationship is discovered and later exposed by the jealous Bahar, a dancer of a higher rank who also has eyes for Salim, with the aim of eventually being crowned his queen. As a result of this exposure, the drama of the story unfolds into a struggle between Father and Son which ultimately leads to a compromise between Akbar and Anarkali, by which he arranges for her secret escape into exile with her mother, but demands that the pair are to live in obscurity and that Salim is never to know that Anarkali is still alive.

3. The Accounts Of British Traveler, William Finch

William Finch was a Londoner who secured a job with the East India Company. He landed at Surat along with the famous Captain William Hawkins on 24th August 1608. He spent four years in India and wrote extensively about his observations. To quote Finch’s version of the story: Anarkali was in her forties or older when she was suspected of having an affair with the heir apparent, Prince Salim, who was then in the thirtieth year of his life and father to at least three sons from numerous wives. Salim’s father, the otherwise enlightened Emperor Akbar, found out and ordered Anarkali to be buried alive. Why? Because she was Akbar’s concubine too, and the mother of 27-year-old Danial (Salim’s youngest brother) — at least according to the British traveller William Finch, who visited Lahore in 1608, three years after Prince Salim ascended the throne as Emperor Jahangir. “The King (Jahangir), in token of his love, commands a sumptuous tomb to be built of stone in the midst of a four-square garden richly walled, with a gate and diverse rooms over it” , wrote William Finch. His travelogue survived, along with accounts by fellow travellers and later historians. So did the tomb itself. Whether or not Nadira Begum or Anarkali existed, still remains a mystery. If she did exist, there is no concrete evidence to prove that she was entombed. However, there does exist a monument that stands as a statement for the Lovesick prince’s devotion to his beloved.

Anarkali’s Tomb - Lahore [image source– TripAdvisor]

Such heavy history behind such a beautiful piece of clothing, right!? Well it ought to carry that embodiment of mystery with it!

Here’s celebrating our heritage and history, with a big cheers to Anarkali, and of course— the lovely Madhubala who endorsed this legendary outfit!!