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53. Bahadur Shah II

17th Mughal Emperor of India

Full name
Abu Zafar Sirajuddin Muhammad Bahadur Shah Zafar

Born24 October 1775(1775-10-24)
Delhi, Mughal Empire
Died7 November 1862(1862-11-07) (aged 87)
Rangoon, British Burma

Abu Zafar Sirajuddin Muhammad Bahadur Shah Zafar (Hindi: अबू ज़फर सिराजुद्दीन मुहम्मद बहादुर शाह ज़फर) (Urdu: ابو ظفر سِراجُ الْدین محمد بُہادر شاہ ظفر), also known as Bahadur Shah or Bahadur Shah II (Hindi: बहादुर शाह) (Urdu :as the last ruler of the Timurid Dynasty. He was the son of Akbar Shah II and Lalbai, who was a Hindu Rajput“victory” was his nom de plume (takhallus) as an Urdu poet. Even in defeat it is traditionally believed that he said
غازیوں میں بو رھےگی جب تلک ایمان کی تخت لندن تک چلےگی تیغ ھندوستان کی
Ghāzioń méń bū rahegi jab talak imān ki; Takht-e-London tak chalegi tégh Hindustan ki
As long as there remains the scent of faith in the hearts of our heroes, so long shall the sword of Hindustan flash before the throne of London

Emperor Bahadur Shah is seen as a freedom fighter (he was Commander-In-Chief of the mutiny army), fighting for India's independence from the British. As the last ruling member of the imperial Timurid Dynasty he was surprisingly composed and calm when Major Hodson presented decapitated heads of his own sons to him as Nazr gifts. He is famously remembered to have said.
Thanks to Allah, the descendents of Timur always come in front of their fathers in this way.

Zafar's father, Akbar Shah II, ruled over a rapidly disintegrating empire between 1806 to 1837. It was during his time that the East India Company dispensed with the illusion of ruling in the name of the Mughal monarch and removed his name from the Persian texts that appeared on the coins struck by the company in the areas under their control.
Bahadur Shah Zafar who succeeded him was not Akbar Shah Saani’s choice as his successor. Akbar Shah was, in fact, under great pressure by one of his queens, Mumtaz Begum to declare her son Mirza Jahangir as the successor. Akbar Shah would have probably accepted this demand but Mirza Jahangir had fallen afoul of the British and they would have none of this.

As emperor
Bahadur Shah Zafar presided over a Mughal empire that barely extended beyond Delhi's Red Fort. The British were the dominant political and military power in 19th-century India. Outside British India, hundreds of kingdoms and principalities, from the large to the small, fragmented the land. The emperor in Delhi was paid some respect by the British and allowed a pension, the authority to collect some taxes, and to maintain a small military force in Delhi, but he posed no threat to any power in India. Bahadur Shah II himself did not take an interest in statecraft or possess any imperial ambitions.
Bahadur Shah Zafar was a noted Urdu poet. He wrote a large number of Urdu ghazals. While some part of his opus was lost or destroyed during the Indian Rebellion of 1857-1858, a large collection did survive, and was later compiled into the Kulliyyat-i Zafar. The court that he maintained, although somewhat decadent and arguably pretentious for someone who was effectively a pensioner of the British East India Company, was home to several Urdu writers of high standing, including Ghalib, Dagh, Mumin, and Zauq.
In 1858 Bahadur Shah Zafar had warned the Indian people against this policy of the British. The Shahi Firman issued on May 12, 1857 declared:
To all the Hindus and Muslims of India, Taking my duty by the people into consideration at this hour, I have decided to stand by my people. Whoever shows cowardice at this delicate hour, or whoever in innocence will help the cunning English, believing in their promises, he would stand disillusioned very soon. He should remember that the English will pay him for his faithfulness to them in the same manner as they have paid the rulers of Oudh. It is the imperative duty of Hindus and Mussalmans to join the revolt against the English. They should work and be guided by their leaders in their towns and should take steps to restore order in the country. It is the bounden duty of all people that they should, as far as possible, copy out this Firman and display it at all important places in the towns. But before doing so, they should get themselves armed and declare war on the English.

 Religious attitudes

Bahadur Shah Zafar was a devout Sufi. Zafar was himself regarded as a Sufi Pir and used to accept murids or pupils. The loyalist newspaper Delhi Urdu Akhbaar once called him one of the leading saints of the age, approved of by the divine court. Prior to his accession, in his youth he made it a point to live and look like a poor scholar and dervish, in stark contrast to his three well dressed dandy brothers, Mirza Jahangir, Salim and Babur. In 1828, when Zafar was 53 and a decade before he succeeded the throne, Major Archer reported, "Zafar is a man of spare figure and stature, plainly apparelled, almost approaching to meanness. His appearance is that of an indigent munshi or teacher of languages".
As a poet and dervish, Zafar imbibed the highest subtleties of mystical Sufi teachings. At the same time, he was deeply susceptible to the magical and superstitious side of Orthodox Sufism. Like many of his followers, he believed that his position as both a Sufi pir and emperor gave him tangible spiritual powers. In an incident in which one of his followers was bitten by a snake, Zafar attempted to cure him by sending a "seal of Bezoar" (a stone antidote to poison) and some water on which he had breathed, and giving it to the man to drink.

A panorama in 12 folds showing the procession of the Emperor Bahadur Shah to celebrate the feast of the 'Id, 1843.
The emperor also had a staunch belief in ta'aviz or charms, especially as a palliative for his constant complaint of piles, or to ward off evil spells. During one period of illness, he gathered a group of Sufi pirs and told them that several of his wives suspected that some party or the other had cast a spell over him. Therefore, he requested them to take some steps to remedy this so as to remove all apprehension on this account. They replied that they would write off some charms for him. They were to be mixed in water which when drunk would protect him from the evil eye. A coterie of pirs, miracle workers and Hindu astrologers were in constant attendance to the emperor. On their advice, he regularly sacrificed buffaloes and camels, buried eggs and arrested alleged black magicians, in addition to wearing a special ring that cured indigestion. On their advice, he also regularly donated cows to the poor, elephants to the sufi shrines and a horse to the khadims or clergy of Jama Masjid.

Marriage certificate of Bahadur Shah II (r. 1837-57) with Zinat Mahal Begam, on 18 November 1840

Autograph of Bahadur Shah of Delhi dated 29th April 1844.
Zafar consciously saw his role as a protector of his Hindu subjects, and a moderator of extreme Muslim demands and the intense puritanism of many of the Orthodox Muslim sheikhs of the Ulema. In one of his verses, Zafar explicitly stated that both Hinduism to cherish and embody a multicultural composite Hindu-Islamic Mughal culture. For instance, the Hindu elite used to frequently visit the dargah or tomb of the great Sufi pir, Nizam-ud-din Auliya. They could quote Hafez and were very fond of Persian poetry. Their children, especially those belonging to the administrative Khatri and Kayasth castes studied under maulvis and attended the more liberal madrasas, bringing food offerings for their teachers on Hindu festivals. On the other hand, the emperor's Muslim subjects emulated him in honouring the Hindu holy men, while many in court, including Zafar himself, followed the old Mughal custom, originally borrowed from high class Hindus, of only drinking the water from the Ganges.
Zafar and his court used to celebrate Hindu festivals. During the spring festival of Holi, he would spray his courtiers, wives and concubines with different coloured paints, initiating the celebrations by bathing in the water of seven wells. The autumn Hindu festival of Dusshera was celebrated in the palace by the distribution of nazrs or presents to Zafar's Hindu officers and the colouring of the horses in the royal stud. In the evening, Zafar would then watch the Ram Lila processions annually celebrated in Delhi with the burning of giant effigies of Ravana and his brothers. He even went to the extent of demanding that the route of the procession be changed so that it would skirt the entire flank of the palace, allowing it to be enjoyed in all its glory. On Diwali, Zafar would weigh himself against seven kinds of grain, gold, coral, etc., and directed their distribution among the city's poor.
He was reputedly known to have profound sensitivities to the feelings of his Hindu subjects. One evening, when Zafar was riding out across the river for an airing, a Hindu waited on the king and disclosed his wish to become a Muslim. Hakim Ahsanullah Khan, Zafar's prime minister flatly denied this request and the emperor had him removed from his presence. During the Phulwalon ki Sair or Flower-sellers fair held annually at the ancient Jog Maya Temple the pankah into the shrine as he could not accompany it into the temple. On a separate occasion, a mob of 200 Muslims showed up at the royal palace demanding to be allowed to slaughter cows, which are holy to Hindus, in Eid. To this, Zafar angrily replied that the religion of Muslims did not depend upon the sacrifice of cows.
The Delhi Ulema and Bahadur Shah Zafar staunchly disdained each other. Zafar perceived the Muslim sheikhs to be narrow minded. One evening's entertainment at the Palace consisted of Kadir Baksh impersonating a Maluvi in the presence of the king. Zafar was reportedly so pleased that he ordered Mahbub Ali Khan, the chief eunuch to give him the usual present. On the other hand, many of the Delhi maulvis and their followers considered the king to be a mushrik or heretic. They were of the opinion that it was not right to pray in the mosques that were frequented by the emperor or were under royal patronage. Zafar was devoted to Ali (son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammed) and the festival of Muharram was celebrated with great enthusiasm in the palace, with the king listening to the marsiya mourning poems. This led to persistent rumors that Zafar had actually converted to the Shiite sect of Islam, which were seen as heretical by the Sunni Muslim clergy. This led to Zafar receiving several outraged delegations from the Delhi ulema threatening to take the ultimate sanction of excluding his name from the Friday prayers, effectively excommunicating him and delegitimising his rule, if the rumor ever proved true.[8]

 Zafar Mahal

Zafar Gate of Zafar Mahal, Mehrauli, today
Closely woven into the history of the last remains of Mughal rule is the history of Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli, a locality of Delhi. Zafar Mahal was originally built by Akbar II, but it was his son, Bahadur Shah Zafar, who constructed the gateway and added to the palace in the mid-19th century. Mehrauli was then a popular venue for hunting parties, picnics and jaunts, and the dargah was an added attraction. The emperor visited often with his retinue - and stayed in royal style at Zafar Mahal.Another interesting feature of Zafar Mahal is that it literally spans centuries. A plastered dome near the gate is probably 15th century; other sections are relatively newer and show definite signs of Western influences. There is, for instance, a fireplace in one of the walls that stands near the Moti Masjid. And the staircase to the balcony is a wide one with low steps - very unlike the steep, narrow staircases of most Indian Islamic architecture.
The balcony, with its 'jharokha’ windows, is where the emperor and his family could look out over the road. In Bahadurshah’s time, the main Mehrauli-Gurgaon road passed in front of Zafar Mahal, and all passersby were expected to dismount as a sign of respect for the emperor. When the British refused to comply, Bahadurshah solved the problem creatively - he bought the surrounding land and diverted the road so that it would pass well away from Zafar Mahal! The Phool Walon Ki Sair gradually turned into a major three day celebration during the time when Bahadur Shah Zafar, son and successor to Akbar Shah Saani ruled from Delhi.
Zafar used to move his court to a building adjacent to the Shrine of Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki and stayed at Mehrauli for a week during the celebrations. The building where he stayed during the period was originally built by his father and Zafar added an impressive gate and a Baaraadari to the structure and renamed it Zafar Mahal.
The celebrations spread out in different parts of Mehrauli with the Jahaz Mahal, (a Lodhi period structure, that was once in the middle of the Hauz-e-Shamsi but is now at one end of the much depleted Hauz, becoming a center where Qawwali mehfils would be organised while the Jharna, built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq and later added to by Akbar Shah II became a place where the women of the court relaxed.

Events of 1857

Capture of Bahadur Shah Zafar and his sons by William Hodson at Humayun's tomb on 20 September 1857

Bahadur Shah Zafar in 1858, just after his show trial in Delhi and before his departure for exile in Rangoon. This is possibly the only photograph ever taken of a Mughal emperor.
As the Indian rebellion of 1857 spread, Sepoy regiments seized Delhi. Seeking a figure that could unite all Indians, Hindu and Muslim alike, most rebelling Indian kings and the Indian regiments accepted Zafar as the Emperor of India.,under whom the smaller Indian kingdoms would unite until the British were defeated. Zafar was the least threatening and least ambitious of monarchs, and the legacy of the Mughal Empire was more acceptable a uniting force to most allied kings than the domination of any other Indian kingdom.
When the victory of the British became certain, Zafar took refuge at Humayun's Tomb, in an area that was then at the outskirts of Delhi, and hid there. British forces led by Major William Hodson surrounded the tomb and compelled his surrender on 20 September 1857. The next day British officer William Hodson shot his sons Mirza Mughal, Mirza Khizr Sultan, and grandson Mirza Abu Bakr under his own authority at the Khooni Darwaza (the bloody gate) near Delhi Gate. On hearing the news Zafar reacted with shocked silence while his wife Zeenat Mahal was content as she believed her son was now Zafar's heir.

Begum Zeenat Mahal, wife of Bahadur Shah Zafar
Numerous male members of his family were killed by British forces, who imprisoned or exiled the surviving members of the Mughal dynasty. After a show trial, Zafar himself was exiled to Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Union of Myanmar) in 1858 along with his wife Zeenat Mahal and some of the remaining members of the family. His departure as Emperor marked the end of more than three centuries of Mughal rule in India.
Bahadur Shah died in exile on 7 November 1862. He was buried near the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, at the site that later became known as Bahadur Shah Zafar Dargah. His wife Zeenat Mahal died in 1886.
In a marble enclosure adjoining the dargah of Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki at Mehrauli, an empty grave or Sardgah marks the site where he had willed to be buried along with some of his Mughal predecessors, Akbar Shah II, Bahadur Shah I (also known as Shah Alam I) and Shah Alam II.


In 1959, the All India Bahadur Shah Zafar Academy was founded expressly to spread awareness of his contribution to the first major anti-British movement in India. Several movies in Hindi or Urdu have depicted his role during the rebellion of 1857. Roads bearing his name are found in New Delhi, Lahore, Varanasi, and other cities. A statue of Bahadur Shah Zafar has been erected at the Vijayanagaram palace in Varanasi. In Bangladesh, the Victoria Park in old Dhaka has been renamed "Bahadur Shah Zafar Park". And in several Pakistani cities, avenues, roads, shopping centres, and other landmarks carry the name of the last Mughal emperor.


Prince Fakhr-ud Din Mirza, eldest son of Bahadur Shah II, February 1856. (d. 10th July 1856)

Sons of Bahadur Shah. On the left is Jawan Bakht, and on the right is the Mirza Shah Abbas.
Bahadur Shah Zafar is known to have had four wives. His wives were:
  • Begum Ashraf Mahal
  • Begum Akhtar Mahal
  • Begum Zeenat Mahal
  • Begum Taj Mahal
Zafar had six legitimate sons, including:
  • Mirza Dara Bakht Miran Shah
  • Mirza Shah Rukh
  • Mirza Fath-ul-Mulk Bahadur (alias Mirza Fakhru)
  • Mirza Mughal
  • Mirza Khazr Sultan
  • Jawan Bakht
  • Mirza Quaish
  • Mirza Shah Abbas
He also had four legitimate daughters, including:
  • Rabeya Begum
  • Begum Fatima Sultan
  • Kulsum Zamani Begum
  • Raunaq Zamani Begum (possibly a granddaughter)
Most of his sons and grandsons were killed during or in the aftermath of the rebellion of 1857. Of those who survived, the following four lines of descent are known:
  • Delhi line—son: Mirza Fath-ul-Mulk Bahadur (alias Mirza Fakhru); grandson: Mirza Farkhunda Jamal; great-grandchildren: Ahmad Shah, Hamid Shah and Begum Qamar Sultan; Children of Ahmad Shah: Farrukh Mirza, Nadir Mirza, Mirza Taimur, Akbar Shah and Mohammad Shah Taimur; Children of Farrukh Mirza: Parvez Mirza, Javed Mirza, Mulahat Mirza, Zahid Mirza, Shahid Mirza; Children of Mohammad Shah temuri: Mirza Babar Shah Temuri, Mirza Birjees Shah Temuri, Sabahat Temuri, Mirza Zafar Shah Temuri, Saira temuri and Mirza Azfar Shah Temuri.Children of Mirza Zafar Shah Temuri: Hoor Temuri, Zuhaab Mirza Temuri, Harris Mirza Temuri
  • Howrah line—son: Jawan Bakht, grandson: Jamshid Bakht, great-grandson: Mirza Muhammad Bedar Bakht (married Sultana Begum).
  • Varanasi line -- [Shah Alam Ameer of Delhi, Son: Mirza Jahaandar Shah Alais Mirza Khan Bakht (Married - Jahanbaad Begum)], [Ali Gohar Mirza Ali Bahadur had five sons], [Mirza Kazim Bakht married Birjis Ara Begum, Son: Mirza Yousuf Bakht married Hasina Sultan Begum, Grandson: Mirza Zaheeruddin Alim Bakht married Khurshid Laqah Begum (had five sons - two daughters), Great Grandson: Mirza Daud Bakht married Fakhre Ara Kaniz Mehndi Begum (D/O. Late Mobarrak Bakht Mirza Illyas Hussain Bahadur, grandson of late king of Oudh - Wife: Sultan Bano Mehndi Begum (In Kolkata).
  • Hyderabad line—son: Mirza Quaish, grandson: Mirza Abdullah, great-grandson: Mirza Pyare (married Habib Begum), great-great-granddaughter: Begum Laila Ummahani (married Moinuddin Tucy), great-great-great-granddaughter: Lalarukh Ummahani (married Shaik Umer) she has two daughters (Humera Fatima & Zubera Fatima) and two sons (Abrar Umer and Asrar Umer).
Descendants of Mughal rulers other than Bahadur Shah Zafar also survive to this day. They include the line of Jalaluddin Mirza in Bengal, who served at the court of the Maharaja of Dighapatia, and the Toluqari family.

Source : Wikipedia

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