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The Defiant Rise of Begum Hazrat Mahal: A Forgotten Heroine

Begum Hazrat Mahal, who is also known as Begum of Awadh, was the first wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. She rebelled in opposition to the British East India Company during the Indian uprising in 1857. After her husband had been expatriated to Calcutta, she took charge of the relationships in Awadh and detained control of Lucknow. Begum Hazrat Mahal also arranged for her son, Prince Birjis Qadra, to become the Ruler of Awadh. He was forced to dump this role after a short time in power.

Begum Hazrat Mahal was an enormous Indian freedom fighter who played a most important role during India’s First War of Independence in 1857-1858. She was also known as the Begum of Awadh and the wife of the Lucknow ruler, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. Her maiden name was Muhammadi Khanum, and she has bestowed the title ‘Hazrat Mahal’ after the birth of their son, Birjis Qadr. Besides, Begum Hazrat Mahal’s elegant nature and physical charm place the qualities of a strong leader and a skillful strategist, which were strongly witnessed from side to side in her help to India’s first fight for independence against the British.

In the First War of Independence, from 1857 to 1858, Begum Hazrat Mahal’s band faction, led by Raja Jailal Singh, rebelled against the forces of the British East India Company. Afterward, they detained control of Lucknow, and she affirmed her son, Birjis Qadra, as the ruler of Oudh. When the forces under the command of the British recaptured Lucknow and most of Oudh, she was strained to move away. Hazrat Mahal worked in the organization along with Nana Saheb. But afterward, he joined the Maulavi of Faizabad in the attack onShahjahanpur.

One of the major complaints of Begum Hazrat Mahal was that the East India Company had indifferently demolished temples and mosques to make way for roads. In a public statement issued during the final days of the rebellion, she mocked the British maintain to allow freedom of worship. To eat pigs and drink wine or to nibble greased cartridges and to mix pig’s fat with sweetmeats and to obliterate Hindu and Mussalman temples on the pretense of making roads, to build churches or to send clergymen into the streets to lecture the Christian religion.

In the 1850s, when the British ruthlessly expanded their control across India, they came across the region of Oudh, which was then a former seat of art, culture and literature. They finally annexed Oudh in 1856 by exiling Nawab Wajid Ali Shah to Kolkata, thus leaving the kingdom without a head and in a disordered mess. It was then when Begum Hazrat Mahal took over the reins; despite her divorce from the Nawab, she took charge of the relationships of the state of Awadh.

She took up the charge in her own hands and decided to get Awadh back from the British. She fought boldly and urged the rustic folks to participate in the war. Later her armed forces seized control of Lucknow, and she placed her 14-year-old son on the throne of Awadh on 5 July 1857. With the support of the people of Awadh, she could recapture the lost territory of Awadh from British rule. Within a year, in 1857, when India’s first move violently for independence broke out, and people revolted against the British, she emerged as one of the famous leaders in the war.

With various famous heroes of 1857, such as Nana Saheb, Beni Madho, Tatya Tope, Kunwar Singh, Firuz Shah and other revolutionaries of northern India, Begum Hazrat Mahal fought bravely in the first freedom struggle of India. Besides Rani Laxmi Bai, Bakht Khan and Maulvi Ahmadullah, she also played a unique role in the 1857 struggle. Begum Hazrat Mahal was a strategist who fought on the battlefield. She worked in union with Nana Saheb and later joined the Maulavi of Faizabad in the molest on Shahjahanpur.

After the battle, she kept an army in the field throughout the year, and she could never reinstate herself and her son in Lucknow. Begum Hazrat Mahal further accused the British of using dissatisfaction among the native people as a pretense to take over the country by demanding the reinstatement of her family as equitable rulers. Residing for a short period in Terai, she also lost most of her adherents by the end of 1859 and was strained to travel to Nepal, where after much influence, she was endorsed to stay. She spent her whole assets filling the one hundred thousand refugees of 1857 who had also traveled with her to Nepal.

Afterward, the British offered a heavy annuity to return to her kingdom and work under the company, but she refused. Despite the difficulty of the British government asking for her to give up to face trial, she was approved to live in the Himalayan kingdom, where she died in 1879.

Despite being an emblem of India’s first Freedom Struggle, Hazrat Mahal’s mausoleum lies in a misfortunate shape after sabotage, and she was beyond at the recent centenary of the “First War of Independence” held in Uttar Pradesh, becoming a lost hero in the pages of Indian history. Although for her vast contributions to Indian Independence, the Government of India issued an honoring stamp in honor of Begum Hazrat Mahal on 10 May 1984. Begum Hazrat Mahal was honored at the Old Victoria Park in Hazratganj, Lucknow, for her function in the First War of Independence on 15 August 1962. Besides renaming the open space, a marble memorial was constructed, including a marble slab with four around brass plaques that posture the Coat of Arms of the Awadh royal family. The recreational area has been used for Ramlilas and bonfires during Dusshera and Lucknow Mahotsava.

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