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Begum Hazrat Mahal

Begum Hazrat Mahal (Urdu: بیگم حضرت محل), also known as Begum of Awadh, was the first wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah.


Queen of Awadh

Her maiden name was Muhammadi Khanum and she was born at Faizabad, Awadh, India[1]. She was a courtesan by profession and had been taken into the royal harem as a Khawasin, after being sold by her parents to Royal agents [2]. Then promoted to a Pari. She became a Begum after being accepted as a royal concubine of the King of Oudh.[3], and she was bestowed the title 'Hazrat Mahal' after the birth of their son, Birjis Qadra.

Begum Hazrat Mahal was endowed with great physical charm and grace as well as organizational skills. She was a junior [4] 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[5], which then was a large part of the current state of Uttar Pradesh, India.

First War of independence

During India’s First War of independence (1857-58), she led a band of her supporters against the British, and was even able to seize the control of Lucknow. She declared her son Birjis Qadra as the king of Oudh. She is believed to have worked in close association with other leaders of the India’s First War of Independence, including Nana Sahib. When the forces under the command of the British re-captured Lucknow and most of Oudh, she was forced to retreat. She turned down all offers of amnesty and allowances by the British rulers.

Begum was not only a strategist but also fought on the battlefield. She had rejected the offer to accept a pension of Rs 12 lakh by British. When her forces lost ground, she fled Oudh and tried to organise soldiers again in other places.

After war

Ultimately, she had to retreat to Nepal, where she was initially refused asylum by the Rana prime minister Jang Bahadur[6] but was later allowed to stay[7]. She died there in 1879 and was buried in a nameless grave on the grounds of Kathmandu's Jama Masjid.

Begum Hazrat Mahal Park

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

On 15 August 1962, she was honored at a simple yet serious ceremony in the old Victoria Park. A marble memorial was announced as open that was built by the state Government in the memory of the Begum as she played a very crucial role during the era of the first freedom movement in 1857. This memorial was adorned with strings of flowers and brightened by multi-colored bulbs and neon tubes. There is also a marble tablet that has four round brass plaques that bear the Coat of Arms of Awadh Royal Family.

It is located in the heart of the city, Begum Hazrat Mahal Park once used to be a rally ground. It’s been witness many Ravanas go up in fire during Dusshera and numerous Lucknow Mahotsavas have been hosted here. But what you see today is a totally different landmark, a walker’s paradise. With pathways that are interwoven into the beautiful, green landscaping in the Park, it’s also a visual delight of sorts. While the mornings are marked by scores of people walking at different paces, the evenings are relatively inactive at the park. But when the fountains go up and the lights turn on, it’s a sight most of can feast our eyes on. And one which comes as a relief from the mundane sight of the traffic zipping past it. It is on the crossing of B.H.M and opposite to hotel Clarks Avadh.

Commemorative stamp

Government of India issued a commemorative stamp in the honour of Begum Hazrat Mahal on 10 May 1984.[8]

Notable Quotes

Here are few notable quotes on the Queen of Oudh - Begum Hazrat Mahal:

Hazrat Mahal, Begum of Oudh, during the national liberation uprising of 1857-59 in India headed the rebels.

Karl Marx

... The Begum has excited all Oudh to take up the interest of her son, and the Chiefs have sworn to be faithful...

Sir W. H. Russel

The Begums of Oudh have left an abiding mark on history of Oudh ...towards the close of the dynasty came ..... Hazrat Mahal, Judith of the Sepoy Mutiny, the ever more heroic consort of the still softer Wajid Ali Shah.

Sir Jadunath Sarkar

She was a better man than her husband and lord.

—S. N. Sen

That the resolute and capable Begum still maintained, in spite of all these disorders, the whole administration in tact is a sure indication of her grit.

Veer Savarkar

Begum Hazrat Mahal of Oudh was the last of the breed of able queens and generals. The queen led her kingdom's army into battle during the revolt of 1857. Even after she was defeated she defied Queen Victoria's famous Proclamation and issued a counter Proclamation....

Qurratulain Hyder

She wiped out the blot of cowardice from the face of the ruling family of Avadh.

—Prince Anjum Quder

Begum Hazrat Mahal, Raja Jia Lal ....they were the lodestar of the first war of independence.

—Roshan Taqui, Lucknow 1857:The Two Wars

..who like Joan of Arc of 15th century France had challenged the hegemony of the British, fired hope in the sunken hearts, appeared from the unknown like a meteor and spread the flame of freedom in the length and breadth of Oudh.

—M. Kaukab Qadr

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ the Red Year, Michael Edwards, Cardinal 1975, page 104
  3. ^ The Great Mutiny, Christopher Hibbert, Penguin 1980, page 371
  4. ^ The Indian Mutiny, Saul David, Viking 2002, page 185
  5. ^
  6. ^ The Great Mutiny india 1857, Christopher Hibbert, Penguin1980, page 374/375
  7. ^ The Great Mutiny india 1857, Christopher Hibbert, Penguin1980, page 386/387
  8. ^

External links



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