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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Begums of Bhopal Dr A Q Khan

I had mentioned that Bhopal was once attacked by the neighbouring Marahtas and Rajputs, but they were repulsed. In October 1812, the joint forces of Gwalior, Indore and Nagpur, numbering about 82,000, attacked Bhopal under the famous Scindia General, Jagua Bapu. Bhopal could muster only about 11,000 troops. After a few weeks some 5,000 Rajputs and Sikhs of the Bhopal army deserted, leaving only 6,000 troops to fight the 82,000. Every soldier, and even Nawab Ghous Muhammad Khan's wife, Zeenat, and daughter, Qudsia (later Nawab Qudsia Begum, the first Begum of Bhopal), fought with exemplary courage. Zeenat Begum, Qudsia Begum and loyal and brave Hindu men and women, following in the footsteps of Muslim women in the days of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), also fought alongside the soldiers. There was no time to observe purdah. As the days passed and the situation became precarious and hopeless, Vazir Muhammad Khan, the commander-in-chief, went to Hazrat Mastan Shah, a dervish who was always in a trance and praying. He requested him to pray for all Bhopalis. Mustan Shah rose and starting dancing and shouting "victory, victory," all the while stamping the ground at one place and pointing towards it. Vazir Muhammad Khan then ordered some soldiers to dig there. They found a cellar full of arms, ammunition and foodstuff. The soldiers were electrified. After careful planning and preparation Vazir Muhammad Khan opened the gates of the fort and he and his troops charged the enemy, while Zeenat Begum, an expert gunner, and other ladies fired on the enemy from the fortress wall. Thousands of enemy soldiers were killed and the rest fled – Bhopal was saved. As Nawab Ghous Muhammad Khan had meanwhile expired, Zeenat Begum became regent until she declared her daughter, Qudsia Begum, as ruler in 1819. She ruled for 25 years.


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