After Mumtaz Mahal's untimely death in 1631, the 17-year-old Jahanara took her mother's place as First Lady (Padshah Begum) of the Mughal Empire, despite the fact that her father had three other wives. She was Shah Jahan's favourite daughter and wielded major political influence during her father's reign, having been described as "the most powerful woman in the empire" at the time.
Jahanara was an ardent partisan of her brother Dara Shikoh and supported him as her father's chosen successor. During the war of succession which took place after Shah Jahan's illness in 1657, Jahanara sided with the heir-apparent Dara and ultimately joined her father in Agra Fort, where he had been placed under house arrest by Aurangzeb. A devoted daughter, she took care of Shah Jahan until his death in 1666. Later, Jahanara reconciled with Aurangzeb who gave her the title Empress of Princesses and she replaced her younger sister, Princess Roshanara Begum, as First Lady. Jahanara died unmarried during Aurangzeb's reign.
Jahanara's early education was entrusted to Sati al-Nisa Khanam, the sister to Jahangir's poet laureate, Talib Amuli. Sati al-Nisa Khanam was known for her knowledge of the Qur'an and Persian literature as well as for her knowledge of etiquette, housekeeping, and medicine. She also served as principal lady-in-waiting for her mother, Mumtaz Mahal.
Many of the women in the imperial household were accomplished at reading and writing poetry and painting. They also played chess, polo and hunted outdoors. The women had access to the late Emperor Akbar's library, full of books on world religions and Persian, Turkish and Indian literature. Jahanara was no exception.