Nine months after her wedding, Sultan Jahan gave birth to her first child Bilqis Jahan, on 25th October 1875. Bilqis Jahan had been taken over by her grandmother, Shahjehan Begum, from the age of four. This was in keeping with the tradition in most Muslim families in which the first-born grandchild was brought up by the grandmother. Bilqis was a frail and sensitive child who increasingly became the object of Shahjehan’s motherly affection as she failed to produce another child of her own. As tension between the ruler and the heir apparent household increased, Bilqis became the only link between her mother and grandmother.
When Bilqis was around 12 years old, Sultan Jahan was alarmed at reports of Siddiq Hassan’s younger son, the 19-year-old Ali Hassan, who was already married, being groomed to marry Bilqis. He was made her constant companion at lessons and during free time, and rumors were soon circulating that Shahjehan would shortly announce Bilqis’ engagement with Ali Hassan. Shahjehan had built herself a new palace, suitably named Taj Mahal, and the two households were no longer adjacent. In 1887, Bilqis fell ill of a mysterious illness causing even greater concern to her parents. She was treated by doctors and hakeems and managed to make a partial recovery. After months of high anxiety, when Bilqis came to visit Sultan Jahan, she was a pale image of her usual self with dark rings around her eyes. Desperately agitated by Bilqis’ condition, Sultan Jahan and her husband decided not to send her back to Shahjehan.
This decision struck deep into Shajehan’s heart. She was incensed and raged about the palace decrying her daughter’s insensitive treachery. She then asked Colonel Ward to mount an attack on the heir apparent’s palalce to forcibly restore Bilqis to her. Ward called on sultan Jahan and when given the background, took no further action. Bilqis soon came to appreciate the circumstances and decided to stay with her parents. The little child again started her shuttle between the two palaces, constatntly attempting to reconcile her grandmother with her mother but to no avail. Soon, Bilqis’ illness reappeared and this time took a more serious turn. As she began to sink, Sultan Jahan decided to make an attempt to seek her mother’s forgiveness. Out of sheer desperation for her daughter, Sultan Jahan went unannounced to her mother’s palace. Surprisingly, it was the first time Sultan Jahan had set foot in the Taj Mahal. Sultan Jahan’s attempt at seeking her mother’s forgiveness ended in tragic failure. Bilqis died a few weeks later. The second time Sultan Jahan set foot in the Taj Mahal was 14 years later, eight days before Shahjehan died.
A crumpled note written by Bilqis’, that Sultan Jahan found in Shahjehan’s drawer after her death, highlights the desperate attempt of Bilqis to bring about reconciliation between her mother and grandmother:
My dear Grandmother, do you not love me still? She (Sultan Jahan) is thinkingabout you just as much as you think about me. Please forgive her for my sake.Tell me when you are going to call her to you. If you do not call her, I shallknow that you do not love me.