Bahadur Shah Zafar
Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh signing the visitor's book during his visit to the Mazar of Bahadur Shah Zafar, in Yangon, Myanmar on May 29, 2012.
Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh and his wife Smt. Gursharan Kaur pray after offering chadar at the Mazar of Bahadur Shah Zafar, in Yangon, Myanmar on May
Bahadur Shah Zafar
Personal LifeAkbar Shah Saani II, father of Bahadur Shah Zafar, had a difficult time holding on to his Mughal Empire under the accelerating control of British Empire over India. The East India Company even took off his name and details from the currency of India of that time. He had to give up his throne but he was not in favor of Zafar succeeding him. His queen, Mumtaz Begum, was pressurizing him to make her son, Mirza Jahangir, as the king after him. But before any of that could happen, Mirza Jahangir had got into great conflict with the British Empire and the British made sure that did not happen.
As A Poet
As A Religious ManZafar was a follower of Sufism. He used to speak the message of sufisim and used to take disciples under him. The newspaper of those times called the Delhi Urdu Akhbaar declared him as a Sufi saint. In his youth, Zafar used to dress up very normally even when he could have dressed up lavishly like the other members of his royal family. He tried to live ad be like a poor scholar. He acquired the highest teachings in the mystical studies of Sufism. In the course of following Sufism with his full dedication, he also got attracted to the magical and superstitious side of Sufism. He thought himself to be spiritually powerful enough to cure people of their problems and despair. He used to practice the charms to ward off evil. He used to often get involved in performing rites to cleanse himself of the effects of the evil eye. He used to keep pirs, magicians and Hindu astrologers in his court, and used to take their advice on important matters. Sacrifices of domestic animals and ample donation to the poor and unfortunate were regularly made to ward off the evil. Zafar was of the view that Hinduism and Islam are essentially made of the same element. He followed this philosophy in his own empire by having a composite culture, including the Hindus and Muslims in his court. He used to celebrate Hindu festivals in his court. For example, during the festival of Holi he used to spray colors on his wives, friends and relatives and during Dusshera he used to distribute gifts to his Hindu officers and courtiers. All of this is to present a picture of how Zafar was sensitive towards Hindu religion.Read more at
FamilyBahadur Shah Zafar is known to have had four wives and numerous concubines. In order of marriage, his wives were:
- Begum Ashraf Mahal
- Begum Akhtar Mahal
- Begum Zeenat Mahal
- Begum Taj Mahal
- Mirza Fath-ul-Mulk Bahadur (alias Mirza Fakhru)
- Mirza Mughal
- Mirza Khazr Sultan
- Jawan Bakht
- Mirza Quaish
- Mirza Shah Abbas
- Rabeya Begum
- Begum Fatima Sultan
- Kulsum Zamani Begum
- Raunaq Zamani Begum (possibly a granddaughter)
- Delhi line - son: Mirza Fath-ul-Mulk Bahadur (alias Mirza Fakhru); grandson: Mirza Farkhunda Jamal; great-grandchildren: Hamid Shah and Begum Qamar Sultan.
- Howrah line - son: Jawan Bakht, grandson: Jamshid Bakht, great-grandson: Mirza Muhammad Bedar Bakht (married Sultana Begum, who currently runs a tea stall in Howrah).
- Hyderabad line - son: Mirza Quaish, grandson: Mirza Abdullah, great-grandson: Mirza Pyare (married Habib Begum), great-great-granddaughter: Begum Laila Ummahani (married Yakub Habeebuddin Tucy) and lived with her children in anonymity for years (her surviving sons Ziauddin Tucy is a retired government employee and Masiuddin Tucy is a food consultant).
- 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, which also claims to be descended from Baron Gardner.
- He became the 17th Mughal emperor on 28 September 1837 after the death of his father. In fact, he had not been his father’s preferred choice to succeed him. Akbar II was planning to name Mirza Jahangir, son of his wife Mumtaz Begum as the successor but could not do so after Mirza Jahangir got into serious conflict with the British.
- Zafar was not an ambitious person and did not exercise much power even after becoming the emperor. The British, who were by now gaining much political control over India, did not consider him to be a threat.
- His empire barely extended beyond Delhi’s Red Fort; he had power only over a limited area of land though he had the authority to collect some taxes and to maintain a small military force in Delhi.
- As an emperor he saw to his best that all his subjects belonging to different religions were treated fairly. He believed in the equality of religions and felt it was his duty to protect the religious rights of the Hindus along with the Muslims.
- During his reign, he ensured that the major Hindu festivals like Holi and Diwali were celebrated in the court. He was very sensitive towards the religious sentiments of Hindus and did not support the extremist views of some Orthodox Muslim sheikhs.
- He was a devout sufi, a poet and a dervish. He was a noted Urdu poet who composed several ghazals which were known for their emotional and intense content. He was a prolific writer and even though much of his poetry collections were destroyed in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the remainder of his poems was later complied into Kulliyyat-i-Zafar.
- In 1857, as the Indian rebellion against the British was spreading, Sepoy regiments seized Delhi. Rebelling Indian kings felt that Zafar would be the most suitable person to be the Emperor of India under whom the smaller kingdoms would be united in the fight against the British.
- He gave his public support to the rebellion and even appointed his son Mirza Mughal as the commander in chief of his forces. Mirza Mughal was very inexperienced, and did not lead the army competently. The city’s administration was in disarray and the army was in a chaos.
- When it became apparent that the British would emerge victorious, Bahadur Shah sought refuge at Humanyun’s Tomb at the outskirts of Delhi. However, British officials led by Major William Hodson discovered his hiding place and forced him to surrender on 20 September 1857.
- Many male members of Zafar’s family including his sons Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr Sultan were killed by the British, while the surviving members, including Bahadur Shah himself, were imprisoned or exiled.
- Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled to Rangoon, Burma, in 1858, along with his wife Zeenat Mahal and some of the of the remaining members of the family.