Hazrat Mahal

Birth:1820 -

A dancing girl who became a queen. A dancing girl, who caught the eye of Wajid Ali Shah, entered the royal harem and became a queen. Wajid Ali Shah was the king of Awadh, which was then a large part of the current state of Uttar Pradesh, India. After bearing a son, Birjis Qadar, Begum Hazrat Mahal who was born Iftikhar-un-Nisa was granted the status of queen. In July 1857, Begum Hazrat Mahal had her 12-year-old son crowned king of Awadh. Wajid Ali Shah was somewhat taken aback by her exercise of authority but Bahadur Shah II ratified this investiture. It was taken for granted that Begum Hazrat Mahal would rule in the name of her son. In the upheaval of 1857, defending the honour of her nation, Begum Hazrat Mahal emerged as a natural leader of men. She had the charisma to galvanise both the nobility and the masses of Awadh, who had taken the February 7, 1856 the annexation of Awadh lying down. Not conversant with the arts of war herself, she commanded brave and experienced generals like Raja Jai Lal Singh. Begum Hazrat Mahal was endowed with great physical charm and grace as well as organisational skills. The siege of Lucknow was efficiently organised, and left an indelible imprint on British memory. When the British rallied, the desertions were mainly from the nobility. Hazrat Mahal confiscated the property of Raja Man Singh, who after initially siding with Awadh went over to the British. Begum Hazrat Mahal lost the Battle of Musabagh, despite the great courage and gallantry displayed by her troops, but she did not lose heart. The British, however, had annexed Oudh in 1856 and Wajid Ali Shah was exiled to Calcutta. She took charge of the affairs of the state of Awadh despite her divorce from Wajid Ali Shah. Begum Hazrat Mahal emerged as a politician through tumultuous events. This was most evident in her rejoinder to the proclamation of Queen Victoria, on November 1, 1858, ending the rule of the East India Company. The proclamation provided an opening to end the uprising.

Compiler: M. Nauman Khan

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