Muhammadi Khanam born in the 1820s, she came from a poor Syed family in Faizabad, then Awadh and now Uttar Pradesh. As a child, she was sold by her parents to royal agents due to their poverty. She soon became a courtesan by profession when she entered the royal harem as a Khawasin where she was promoted to Pari and was known as Mahek Pari.
She subsequently became Begum after being accepted as the royal concubine of the King of Awadh, the last Tajdaar-e-Avadh, Wajid Ali Shah. The title of Hazrat Mahal was conferred on her after the birth of their son and royal heir of Awadh, Birjis Qadra.
Begum Hazrat Mahal, also known as the Begum of Awadh, was one of India’s first women freedom fighters who led the battle of India’s first freedom movement in 1857 against the British East India Company.
Contribution of Begum Hazrat Mahal in Indian freedom struggle
In 1856, the East India Company gained control of the state of Awadh and forced the Nawab into submission. The Nawab complied despite Begum Hazrat Mahal’s protests and was sent into exile in Calcutta. She refused to bow to the British and decided to regain control of Awadh on her own.
When India’s first war of independence—the great rebellion—began in 1857, she made her son, Prince Brijis Qadra, Wali, ruler of Awadh with herself as queen mother, regent during his minority. In Lucknow, with her son, she took charge of the affairs of the revolutionary state of Awadh, which had entered into armed struggle with the Company.
During the Indian Revolution of 1857, two of Begum Hazrat Mahal’s main grievances were the destruction of mosques and temples, just to pave roads, and the violent use of new gunpowder cartridges that contained pig and cow bones.
Begum Hazrat Mahal addressed the rural people of Awadh and motivated them to join her in the struggle. She even spent all her wealth for the country, trying to provide a hundred thousand people who faithfully followed her.
With their support, she single-handedly led her troops to victory and recaptured Lucknow. She proved indispensable in this freedom struggle as she took to the battlefield alongside brave hearts like Rani Laxmi Bai, Bakht Khan and Maulvi Abdullah. She also worked closely with Nana Saheb and went to help the Maulvi of Faizabad during the attack on Shahjahanpur.
On 5 July 1857, she triumphantly restored Indian rule in Lucknow and once again handed the throne to her 14-year-old son.
However, Begum Hazrat Mahal lost control of Lucknow and most of Awadh, once the British troops returned on 16 March 1858, she retreated with her army, but the retreat did not stop her from trying to reorganize her troops elsewhere.
Finally, in late 1859, after a brief residency in the Terai, she had to emigrate to Nepal, where she was initially refused asylum by the Rana, Prime Minister Jang Bahadur, but was later allowed to stay, despite the British government’s demands for her. hand over
The British offered her a high pension to return to Awadh and work under them, but she refused and continued to resist British rule until her last breath. She died aged 59 on 7 Apr 1879 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her role in India’s first war of independence in 1857 gave her a hero status forever in the history of the Indian freedom movement against the British Empire.
After her death, on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1887, the British government pardoned Birjis Qadra and he was allowed to return home. The tomb of Begum Hazrat Mahal is located in the central park of Kathmandu near the Jama Masjid and is maintained by the Jama Masjid Committee.
On 15 August 1962, Begum Hazrat Mahal was honored at the old Victoria Park in Hazratganj, Lucknow for her exemplary role in India’s first freedom movement in 1857. A marble memorial was erected along with the park, which includes a marble slab with four round brass plaques bearing the coat of arms of the royal family of Awadh.
Begum Hazrat Mahal is an inspiration to all because she fought the biggest colonizers in the world, the British Raj all by herself. A bold and brave woman, Begum marked her place in history as the only major female leader of Awadh.
The brave queen never surrendered to the British despite several problems in her life and even continued to resist the British Raj during her years of exile in Nepal. She was one of the greatest advocates of her time, raising her voice against inequality and injustice. It also serves as a symbol of religious tolerance and friendship.
Written by: Vaishali Verma
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