Harem (Arabic: حريم ḥarīm, "a sacred inviolable place; harem; female members of the family"), also known as zenana in the Indian subcontinent, properly refers to domestic spaces that are reserved for the women of the house in a Muslim family. This private space has been traditionally understood as serving the purposes of maintaining the modesty, privilege, and protection of women. A harem may house a man's wife — or wives and concubines, as in royal harems of the past — their pre-pubescent male children, unmarried daughters, female domestic workers, and other unmarried female relatives. In former times some harems were guarded by eunuchs who were allowed inside. The structure of the harem and the extent of monogamy or polygamy has varied depending on the family's personalities, socio-economic status, and local customs. Similar institutions have been common in other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilizations, especially among royal and upper-class families, and the term is sometimes used in other contexts.
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- In 1635 AD, Shah Jahan’s soldiers captured some ladies of the royal Bundela family after Jujhar Singh and his sons failed to kill them in the time-honoured Rajput tradition. In the words of Jadunath Sarkar, “Mothers and daughters of kings, they were robbed of their religion and forced to lead the infamous life of the Mughal harem.”
- Jadunath Sarkar, quoted by Sita Ram Goel in S.R. Goel: The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India.
- All the above names are Hindu, and ordinarily these …are Hindus by race, who had been carried off in infancy from various villages or the houses of different rebel Hindu princes. In spite of their Hindu names, they are however, Mahomedans.
- Manucci describing the women and eunuchs in the Mughal harems. Manucci, II, 336-38. Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1994). Muslim slave system in medieval India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 12