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Begum Hazrat Mahal

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Begum Hazrat Mahal

Begum Hazrat Mahal
Begum of Awadh
Begum Hazrat Mahal
Husband Wajid Ali Shah
Born c. 1820
Faizabad, Awadh, India
Died 7 April 1879 (aged 59)
Kathmandu, Nepal
Religion Shia Islam

Begum Hazrat Mahal (Urdu: بیگم حضرت محل‎; c. 1820 – 7 April 1879), also known as Begum of Awadh, was the first wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. She rebelled against the British East India Company during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. After her husband had been exiled to Calcutta, she took charge of the affairs in the state of Awadh and seized control of Lucknow. She also arranged for her son, Prince Birjis Qadra, to become Wali (ruler) of Awadh; However, he was forced to abandon this role after a short reign. She finally found asylum in Nepal where she died in 1879.[1]


Mahal's maiden name was Muhammadi Khanum, and she was born at Faizabad, Awadh, India.[2] She was a courtesan by profession and had been taken into the royal harem as a khawasin after being sold by her parents. She was then sold to Royal agents, and later promoted to a pari.[3] She became a begum after being accepted as a royal concubine of the King of Oudh,[4] and the title 'Hazrat Mahal' was bestowed on her after the birth of their son, Birjis Qadra.

She was a junior[5] wife of the last Tajdaar-e-Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah. The British had annexed Oudh in 1856 and Wajid Ali Shah was exiled to Calcutta. After her husband was exiled to Calcutta, she took charge of the affairs of the state of Awadh despite her divorce from the Nawab,[6] which then was a large part of the current state of Uttar Pradesh, India.

Indian Rebellion of 1857

During the Indian Rebellion of 1857–1858, Begum Hazrat Mahal's band of supporters, led by Raja Jailal Singh, rebelled against the forces of the British East India Company; later, they seized control of Lucknow and she declared her son, Birjis Qadra, as the ruler (Wali) of Oudh.[3] When the forces under the command of the British re-captured Lucknow and most of Oudh, she was forced to retreat. Hazrat Mahal worked in association with Nana Saheb, but later joined the Maulavi of Faizabad in the attack on Shahjahanpur.

One of the principal complaints of Begum Hazrat Mahal was that the East India Company had casually demolished temples and mosques to make way for roads.[7] In a proclamation issued during the final days of the revolt, she mocked the British claim to allow freedom of worship:[7]

"To eat pigs and drink wine, to bite greased cartridges and to mix pig's fat with sweetmeats, to destroy Hindu and Mussalman temples on pretense of making roads, to build churches, to send clergymen into the streets to preach the Christian religion, to institute English schools, and pay people a monthly stipend for learning the English sciences, while the places of worship of Hindus and Mussalmans are to this day entirely neglected; with all this, how can people believe that religion will not be interfered with?"[7]

Later life

Ultimately, she had to retreat to Nepal, where she was initially refused asylum by the Rana prime minister Jang Bahadur,[8] but was later allowed to stay.[9] She died there in 1879 and was buried in a nameless grave in the grounds of Kathmandu's Jama Masjid.[10]


Begum Hazrat Mahal's Tomb

Photograph of tomb of Begum Hazrat Mahal near Jame Masjid in Kathmandu

Begum Hazrat Mahal's tomb is located in central part of Kathmandu near Jame Masjid,Ghantaghar, nor far away from the famous Darbar Marg. It is looked after by the Jame Masjid Central Committee.

Begum Hazrat Mahal Park

Memorial of Begum Hazrat Mahal in Begum Hazrat Mahal Park, Lucknow

On 15 August 1962, Mahal was honoured at the Old Victoria Park in Hazratganj, Lucknow for her role in the Revolt of 1857. Along with the renaming of the park, a marble memorial was constructed, which includes a marble tablet with four round brass plaques bearing the Coat of Arms of the Awadh royal family. The park has been used for Ramlilas and bonfires during Dusshera, as well as Lucknow Mahotsava (Lucknow Exposition).[11]


On 10 May 1984, the Government of India issued a commemorative stamp in the honour of Mahal. The first day cover was designed by C.R. Pakrashi, and the cancellation was done by Alka Sharma. 15,00,000 stamps were issued.[12]

Quotations about the Begum

Here are few notable quotes on Begum Hazrat Mahal, Queen of Awadh:[13]


  1. ^ A link to Indian freedom movement in Nepal The Hindu, 8 April 2014
  2. ^ "Begum Hazrat Mahal Summary & Analysis". 2 November 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Michael Edwardes (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books; p. 104
  4. ^ Christopher Hibbert (1980) The Great Mutiny, Harmondsworth: Penguin; p. 371
  5. ^ Saul David (2002) The Indian Mutiny, Viking; p. 185
  6. ^ "Begum Hazrat Mahal". Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c William Dalrymple The Last Mughal; the fall of a dynasty: Delhi, 1857, Viking Penguin, 2006, p. 69
  8. ^ Christopher Hibbert (1980) The Great Mutiny, India 1857, Harmondsworth: Penguin; pp. 374–375
  9. ^ Hibbert (1980); pp. 386–387
  10. ^ Krishna, Sharmila (11 June 2002). "Far from the madding crowd she lies, forlorn & forgotten".  
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Begum Hazrat Mahal". Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  13. ^ "The Queen of Oudh - Begum Hazrat Mahal". Retrieved 2014-01-08. 
  14. ^ Russel, Sir W. H. (1860). My diary in India in the year 1858-59. London. 
  15. ^ Sarkar, Sir Jadunath (June 15, 1938). on Persian Manuscript No. 167B35. National Library, Calcutta. 
  16. ^ Sen, Prof. S. N. Eighteen-fifty Seven. the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Government of India. 

External links

  • Begum Hazrat Mahal Biography
  • 1857 – India's Struggle for Freedom – Begum Hazrat Mahal
  • People took charge in Awadh
  • The 1857 Uprising in the History of Freedom Struggle
  • Miserable condition of the grave of a warrior lady
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