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Begum Hazrat Mahal: Tenacious Leadership in the 1857 Rebellion

Begum Hazrat Mahal, a prominent woman of the 1857 rebellion, was born in 1830 in Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh. Her actual name was Muhammadi Khanum. Her father is Gulam Hussain of Faizabad. At a tender age, she showed good talent in literature. She was married to Wajid Ali Shah, the Nawab of Awadh. They were blessed with a son Mirza Birjis Khadir Bahadur.

On 13 February, 1856, the British troops imprisoned Wajid Ali Shah. They sent him to Calcutta on 13 March and occupied Awadh illegitimately. This irked the people and native rulers. They revolted against the British under the leadership of Begum Hazrat Mahal. The native rulers and people met at the Chavani area of Lucknow, the capital of Awadh on 31 May, 1857 and declared independence. They taught a lesson to the British troops and wiped out their power in Lucknow.


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Later, Begum Hazrat Mahal declared her son Birjis Khadir as the Nawab of Awadh on 7 July, 1857. As the King’s mother, she gathered 1,80,000 troops and renovated the Lucknow fort spending huge amount of money. She established a high level committee for the good governance of the state in which she appointed members like Mummu Khan, Maharaja Balakrishna, Babu Purna Chand, Munshi Ghulam Hazrat, Mohammad Ibrahim Khan, Raja Man Singh, Raja Desibaksh Singh, Raja Beni Prasad and also others. She appointed Sharaf-ud-Doula as Chief Minister and Raja Jail Lal Sing as Collector. Hazrat Mahal ruled the state on behalf of her son for about ten months and challenged the British force by inspiring patriotism among the people and the fellow native rulers.

She issued a historic statement on 31 December, 1858 challenging the proclamation issued by Queen Victoria on 1 November, 1858. But, when Delhi, the prime center for the First War of Independence was captured, the British troops surrounded and attacked Lucknow in March 1859. There was a fierce battle between the Company troops and the Begum troops.


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When defeat became inevitable, Begum Hazrat Mahal retreated to the Nepal forests along with the co-revolutionary leaders like Nana Sahib Peshwa and others. The British rulers offered her huge amount of money and luxurious facilities in order to bring her back to Lucknow. But, the Begum denied them and made it clear that nothing else was acceptable to her except Independent Awadh state. Begum Hazrat Mahal was struggling for the independence of her state till her last breath. She passed away at Khathmound of Nepal on 7 April, 1879. In 1984 Government of India released a postal stamp in her honour.


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Syed Naseer Ahamed

Syed Naseer Ahamad is a Telugu writer and journalist who has written several books on the role of Muslims in the struggle for the freedom of India. Many of his books have been translated into other languages. He can be contacted at [email protected] and cellphone number 91-9440241727. Writing since 1998 exclusively on THE ROLE OF MUSLIMS IN THE STRUGGLE FOR THE FREEDOM OF INDIA. Syed Naseer Ahamed http://M.Com ., LL.B., D.J. Flat No. C-2, Sree Ram's Arcade, Amaravathi Road UNDAVALLI - 522501 Tadepalli Mandalam, Guntur, AP