WHILE Mayawati stalks the corridors of power in UP, my pen itches more in honour of a strong and a valiant woman.
Begum Hazrat Mahal needs no introduction; the recall value of her name is faster than any other name that features in the First War of Independence.
Millions of words have been written about her, some eulogizing her, others denigrating her with
malicious gossip, but none has been able to erase the courage of the Queen of the pusillanimous King, who could have easily fritted away her days like him, in the pursuit of pleasure, instead of rising to the occasion and tending grace and fragrance to that disorganized, fractured war of independence that stank of deceit and corruption.
What else can one expect from 'Mahak Pari'. And since sacrifice and courage loom large, her name has been able to survive tough competitors like Time and Change.
Hazrat Mahal lost the battle and retreated to Nepal with her son Birjis Qadr who had been declared King during the battle itself, by the freedom fighters.
This was an armchair journey. The click of the mouse opened this search for me. The screen blinkered as I read with interest an article by Kazim Rizvi titled 'Miserable condition of the grave of Warrior Lady'.
The author wrote : "Late Prince Anjum Qadar told me at a meeting that in Nepal, the Begum had built with her own money, a palace, an Imambara and a mosque. When she died in Nepal on April 7, 1879 she was buried in the Imambara in accordance with her will…. The Prince had complaints against Nepal Government Department of Tourism ( for not taking care of the monuments)… Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru took a great interest in the Begum's matter. The Indian ambassador to Nepal at that time took great interest too."
He further wrote "I went to Kathmandu, to make a survey of her mazaar and tried to locate it. It is surprising that even today the authorities know nothing about it. When I made further inquiries, I was told that on the other end of Kathmandu road, on one side of the palace of Nepal's Maharaj, there is definitely a grave in a dilapidated condition. When I reached and made detailed inquiries, I came to know that it was the grave of Begum Hazrat Mahal. It is a small and open grave. People have made a small enclosure around it for identification but there is no plaque. I was told that quiet a few years ago the Imambara had been demolished a grand market stands there. The beautiful mosque also built by the Begum has been re-built in a new style whose grandeur has of course been enhanced. "This kindled interest. The article carried no date through which it could be ascertained how old it was. But the million dollar question was "The state of Begum Hazrat Mahal's mazar" at present. A number of emails were sent and elicited interesting responses.
Sunil Sharma, Assistant Manager, Tourism, Marketing and Promotion, Nepal tourism emailed "We have no information regarding Begum Hazrat Mahal, if we do get any we will let you know".
S K Bihani, Librarian, Nepal Sanskritic Kendra, Embassy of India sent a similar reply. When the article of Kazim Rizvi was emailed to him he responded saying, "It is very difficult to say anything regarding this without visiting the place. We will certainly inform you of the condition of the grave when we visit the place." After this there was no other response.
P. Joshi from the Kathmandu Information Centre emailed "I have not a bit of information. You may however, contact history Professors or Muslim communities.".
Blood as they say runs thicker than water and there was no other recourse except to trace those strong filial bonds that branched from the family.
Dr M. Kaukab responded with an alacrity expected of a progeny. Dr M. Kaukab, the great grandson of Begum Hazrat Mahal, retired teacher from the Aligarh Muslim University, could be traced in Calcutta. "The mazar is in a very good condition now. Do you want the latest photographs ?" he asked.
Giving me background of the family, he said, "After Wajid Ali Shah's death in 1887 at Calcutta, no one was appointed successor but the British Government granted pension to the various descendants, leaving about 20,000 of his other dependants in utter distress.
"to be continued.."...contd from above
Wednesday - June 12, 2002 Page - 4
Column : EXPRESS Newsline
By SHARMILA KRISHNA
An Awadh legacy lies buried in Kathmandu
It was on the appeal of these people that Birjis Qadr returned to Calcutta from Kathmandu in 1893 to claim his rightful place as the eldest surviving son of Wajid Ali Shah.
In the agitation that followed Birjis Qadr was politically assassinated by poisoning at a banquet leaving behind his widow Nawab Mehtab Ara Begum (grand daughter of Bahadur Shah Zafar), a daughter and a posthumous son, Prince Meher Quder.
They were granted political pension like other family members but no special privileges, as they were the descendants of the "rebel" prince.
In 1957, on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of the First War of Independence, Prince Meher Quder, claimed this special privilege again.
The Government of independent India, graciously consented to name a park after Begum Hazrat Mahal, as well as issue a postage stamp in her memory also.
The eldest son of Meher Quder, Prince Anjum Quder was agreed to designate himself the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sibtainabad Imambara Trust and Endowment Fund, Calcutta. On his demise in 1997, his brother Prince Nayyer Quder, back from England after 40 years, succeeded him as the chairman. The third trustee is the youngest brother, Dr. M. Kaukab himself.
He gives in depth information about the mazar also "Huzoor-e-alia Begum Hazrat Mahal refused to give up the right to the Kingdom of Oudh and spurning all offers of amnesty, pension and royal status, retreated in stages towards the northern frontiers of Oudh with her son King Birjis Qadr.
Soon after the Queen's Proclamation of November 1, 1858, she issued a counter proclamation exposing the deceit and the diplomacy of the mighty usurpers of the native states of India and encouraged the followers to carry on the struggle.
Relentless pressure, however, obliged her to seek political asylum in Nepal. It was readily given with a palace in Burfbagh, Kathmandu and a military commission to Birjis Qadr in exchange of the jewellery and the treasure the Queen had with her.
She had a mosque built for her faithful on the main boulevard of the city. This came to be known as the Hindustani Masjid and it was in the courtyard of the mosque that she was buried in April 1879.
There was a public clamour on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of 1857 saying that the mosque and the graves were uncared for.
Prince Nayyer Quder visited Kathmandu to draw the attention of the dignitaries there. Later Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru assured the Indian Parliament that the government would look into the matter.
Now we learn that the Government of Nepal has taken over the mosque complex, retained and maintained its historic structure and built a three story mosque known as the "Jama Masjid Kathmandu".
All's well that ends well. All we can say is what Kazim Rizvi Remembered when he stood near the mazar.
Ai bad-e-saba aahista chal