Jul 9, 1858 - May 12, 1930

Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum

Rekhta Foundation

Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum
Traditionally, Indian women have been perceived to be mere spectators to history. Their role is either passive or forgotten. Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum was one such woman who seems to have been lost in the annals of history. She was one of the most prolific rulers of Bhopal, present-day capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. Despite being ruled by a series of widows during this time, the Purdah system (where women were to be veiled at all times) was strictly followed. The exhibit follows the life of Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum who made great strides in infrastructure, architecture, arts and education at a time when the women were so severely deprived. 

Full-size portrait of the Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum.

Gauhar-e-Iqbal
Written by Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum, the book describes the major events between the 1st and 7th years of her regime. The book also focuses on the socio-political conditions of Bhopal at that time.

Gauhar-e-Iqbal - Pg. 121

"Although there were many workshop already running in the jail but I added some more to them. Earlier there were workshops for making carpets and chequered carpets. I added workshops for making lungis, blankets, sarees, soaps, clothes and printing long bed-spreads. In this manner, I changed the concept of punishment so that the prisoners, once out of the prisons, do not indulge into criminal offences but engage in fruitful activities.

I could, therefore, see that within a span of two years only there was a reasonable control over criminal offences."

E-Books (Rekhta)
Gauhar-e-Iqbal

Gauhar-e-Iqbal - Pg. 230

Military School and its Need

"The mutiny of 1857 was the highest point of unrest and turbulence. During such a time, it would not be considered secure that a woman remains in control and leads governance of the state. She did, however, reflect the courage and conviction of her ancestors. The military too had the same courage that their counterparts had in the past. So, they could control unrest and prove thereby that even though nature had created women to meet their identified responsibilities yet some of them were born with such qualities that they could meet administrative responsibilities just as men do."

E-Book (Rekhta)
Gauhar-e-Iqbal

Gauhar-e-Iqbal - Pg. 335

Birjeesia Girls School

"I had been preoccupied for long with the idea of establishing a school for Hindu girls. This is because I keep my people dear to my heart irrespective of their faith. It is not proper, as of now, for any ruler to discriminate people along religious lines. In fact, efforts must be made at all costs to maintain equality. That is why it is my aim to impart education to both Muslim and Hindu girls. Had I not been constrained by certain religious considerations, I would not have ever established separate schools for them.

Although education for girls of both the communities is imparted on one pattern but keeping in view the fact that they needed religious education in greater measure at the early stages of their lives, they could not be educated together. As such, I established a paathshaala for girls after Birjees Jahan Begum. It was inaugurated on June 25, 1907 in a function held for the purpose.

Miss Vity Chaanappa addressed the audience following which I made my presentation and announced the inauguration of the school. I earnestly hope that this school will progress well and the parents of Hindu girls would be enthusiastic about getting their daughters educated."

E-Book (Rekhta)
Gauhar-e-Iqbal

An Account Of My Life
C. H. Payne

An account of my life is the English translation of Sultan Jahan Begum's autobiography Gauhar-e-Iqbal. It was written by C. H. Payne, who was the education advisor to the Begum. By her own admission, she did not aim to write a particularly intriguing book to appeal to the masses, but merely wanted to chronicle her life. It offers a rare glimpse into the private and often shielded life of the Bhopal state royalty.

E-Book (Rekhta)
An Account Of My Life - Translated by C. H. Payne

Akhtar-e-Iqbal
Sultan Jahan Begum's Akhtar-e-Iqbal is the second part of Gauhar-e-Iqbal. It chronicles her reign between the 8th and the 12th years. The period assumes greater importance as it was during these years that they enacted various reforms in judiciary, legislature, education, police and the postal services. She also travelled to Shimla (summer capital of the British), Europe and to the Delhi durbar. 

Akhtar-e-Iqbal - Pg. 177

Travel to Calcutta

"It made me happy when I came to know from His Excellency that he was interested in learning the Urdu language. He asked me for books that could help him in learning this language. So, I made selection and sent the same to him from Bhopal."

E-Book (Rekhta)
Akhtar-e-Iqbal

Akhtar-e-Iqbal - Pg. 179

Proposal for Establishing a Girls College

"The most important thing for women in India is to provide them with opportunities for education. So, it was planned to establish a college for both Hindu and Muslim girls to educate them according to their requirements. It was proposed to be established in her name in Delhi which had become the centre of all hopes and aspirations for all Indians."


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Akhtar-e-Iqbal

Akhtar-e-Iqbal - Pg. 184

Reforms in Courts and Police

"In 1912, an important decision was taken to separate the police and the court as a matter of principle. The services of Khan Bahadur Mohammad Sarwar were hired for supervising the police administration. Although this reform should have been done earlier, it could not happen for certain administrative reasons. Also, had it been done without meeting administrative requirements and addressing the fundamental issues, the process of reforms would have been incomplete.

In view of the conditions prevalent in the state it was required that the control of police should stay with Asrar Hasa Khan Naseer-ul-Maham. Now that all necessary requirements had been met and the affairs of state had been well taken care of by the good offices of Asrar Hasan Khan Naseer-ul-Maham and the police department had been created, it was time to separate the police and the judiciary for the sake of better dispensation with respect to administrative and judiciary matters."


E-Book (Rekhta)
Akhtar-e-Iqbal

Akhtar-e-Iqbal - Pg. 220

Conferment of Titles

"Owing to the kindness of His Highness Edward VIII, I was conferred with the titles of GCI in 1904 and GCIE in 1910. Now, His Highness George VI , the Kaiser-e-Hind, conferred upon me the title of CI (Crown of India) and presented the same with his own hands on the occasion of my coronation. This is the most respected title among all the titles in the world because it was proposed by the grand and the kind Queen Victoria in the honour of the female gender.

It is a matter of great surprise that there was no such title available for women before this even though great deeds had been done by women across the world and their names appeared alongside men for their services to nation and humanity."


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Akhtar-e-Iqbal

Akhtar-e-Iqbal - Pg. 232

"Instead of Muslims establishing their own high schools and colleges in an unsatisfactory manner, I like it better that they seek advantage from the government schools and colleges. I agree, though, that there should be enough boarding houses for Muslims from place to place and that their administration should stay with the able persons. Such boarding houses are beneficial for many reasons."


E-Book (Rekhta)
Akhtar-e-Iqbal

Akhtar-e-Iqbal - Pg. 252

"In the female clinics, orphan girls are educated to become nurses. Proper classes are held for this purpose. Apart from this, there is an Infant Home too where orphan children are educated. It is mandatory for them to stay in Lady Lansdowne Hospital until the age of five after which the boys be admitted to Madrasa Sulaimania and girls be sent for training in nursing where they also receive education in religious matters. So, right now some orphans who were already present there are getting their education training. In sum, the result of efforts made towards the education of girls has been extremely encouraging and they would surely yield better result in the future."


E-Book (Rekhta)
Akhtar-e-Iqbal

Genealogical Tree

The Genealogical Tree traces the lineage of Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum to the Founder of the Bhopal state.

Interestingly, the period between 1819 - 1926 was marked by the rule of four consecutive women. When women were denied the basic right to education, the dispensation to rule was indeed an anomaly.

It is said that when Qudsia Begum ascended the throne in 1819 after the assassination of her husband, none dared oppose her. Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum, thus, came from a long line of powerful women who refused to conform.

Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum at the time of her marriage

Taj Mahal and Benazir Palaces, Bhopal

The Taj Mahal was originally named Raj Mahal (Royal Palace) and took thirteen years to build. It is said that the then-English resident was so awed by the splendour of the palace that he suggested the name be changed to Taj Mahal after the Taj Mahal in Agra. On completion, the Begum announced a three year long festival to celebrate it.

Built as her residence, the Taj Mahal, Benazir Palaces and the then-proposed Taj-ul-Masjid were part of one complex. Situated along a lake, the Taj Mahal was a symbol of stateliness and opulence. The Palace had an enclosure which housed an imposing fountain that gave the illusion of rain.

The Taj Mahal palace was one of the biggest palaces at that time. The main entrance itself is a seven-storey structure which housed a massive fountain-like enclosure that gave the illusion of rain.

A blend of Indian and European architectural designs, the Shaukat Mahal was constructed as a wedding gift. With ornately carved exteriors, the architectural marvel has a church-like appearance.

The Nishat Afzah Garden (Garden of Delight) is the burial spot for Nawab Shah Jahan Begum, Sultan Jahan Begum's mother. Nawab Shah Jahan Begum acted as the Regent when her daughter was too young to be officially recognised.

A sudden illness, later diagnosed as cancer brought the end of the ruler on 16 June, 1901.

Iffat-ul-Muslimaat
Written by Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum in 1918, the book describes her progressive nature her comparison of the Purdah the Hijab systems in Europe,  Egypt and rest of the  world.

Iffat-ul-Muslimaat - Pg. 4

"In many families, educated Muslim women consider purdah a severe constraint. Even if they don’t necessarily think so, their liberal husbands, using their power of being their keepers, convince them that it constricts them. Such thinking is not so common but it has certainly found its way in many homes. Moving about without a veil is now considered to be fashionable.

One wishes they did something for the material benefit of the community as the Western women in their societies did. They could establish madrasas, study medicine, and benefit their sisters. They could do one thing or the other to find an aspect of good in the wrong that they are doing. But we have none even for an example."

Iffat-ul-Muslimaat - Pg. 31

"Jahanara Begum (daughter of emperor Shahjahan), was an able lady of great scholastic disposition. Once, she went out for a visit in the garden. An errant Iranian poet called Meer Saidi Tehrani who had concealed himself in a corner kept watching her movement. When Begum’s elephant happened to pass the spot where he was hiding, he recited this couplet:

burqa ba rukh afgand baro naaz ba baaghash
ta nikhat-e-gul bekhta aayed ba dimaaghash

You go to the garden in burqa to get the fragrance of flower in a filtered form.

The Begum ordered that the poet be presented before her with courtesy. She asked him to recite his couplet and gave him a prize of rupees five thousand."

Sultan Jahan Begum and the art of Oration- Seerat-e-Mustafa
History tells us that powerful oratory is as dangerous a weapon as any. Sultan Jahan Begum did not let the veiled system deter her right to voice her opinions. A devout and pious woman, she often gave speeches at the Princess of Wales Ladies Club describing the life of Prophet Muhammad. Aimed at increasing awareness, they served the dual purpose of education and religion. The collection of her speeches is compiled in Seerat-e-Mustafa published in the year 1901. 

Translation (Highlighted)

"I got Maimoona Sultan Shah Bano to translate (late) Maulana Shibli’s Badr-ul-Islam from Persian into Urdu. I also got a biography of the prophet of Islam (PBUH) written for the school students that they should be taught as a part of their curriculum. Shah Bano did both with great competence. She also wrote another good book called Zikr-e-Mubarak which has been included in the syllabi of many madrasas."

E-Book (Rekhta)
Seerat-e-Mustafa

Photo: Sultana Jahan Begum with her mother Shah Jahan Begum

The mother-daughter duo that broke all shackles of the regressive society that restricted women. At a time when they could even wield a pen, they wielded power with the practiced ease of someone born to do to it. It is one of the rare portraits of the two of them together.

Tarbiyat-ul-Atfaal

Children are required to be educated and trained according to certain norms and principles. This book is a guide on how one may contribute towards regulating the lives of children from the very early stages of their lives. It enumerates the ways their personality can be pruned to become well carved human beings. It broadly discusses the importance of organised living and takes up matters like manners of bathing, dressing up, appearance, dining, going for a walk, their movement outside home and their going to bed.

It also discusses aspects relating to their health, punctuality, physical fitness, importance of good manners, obedience and the need to take them out to places of interest and education.

The book is designed to instill confidence in children in the way they should conduct themselves and lead their lives.

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Tarbiyat-ul-Atfaal

Bachchon Ki Parwarish

This book is a valuable guide written with an aim to disseminate useful knowledge regarding the bringing up of children. It includes chapters and sections on the preparation of maternity room for delivering a child, basic information about the newly-born child, premature birth, bathing of children, their clothing, toiletries, and general care of their body.

Minute details regarding how to stop breast-feeding, how to take a child to sleep, how to identify diseases, and how to manage them skilfully are also dealt with in practical terms. The books is a valuable guide to mothers and attendants as it takes care of all the stages related to the birth and growth of a child.

E-Book (Rekhta)
Bachchon Ki Parwarish

Biographies written by Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum
Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum often wrote about the rich legacy of her ancestors. Her accounts are rich in detail as is possible of someone who has experienced things closely. Emotive and informational, they are one of the most definitive accounts of the Royal family. 
Tuzk-e-Sultani
Tazk-e-Sultani is the first of a two-part series by Sultan Jahan Begum. The queen traces her lineage and explores the political and cultural legacy of her ancestors. In many ways, it is the history of the Bhopal state. Also called Taj-ul-Iqbal, it was published in 1328 Hijri (Islamic calendar). It is also an important commentary on the relationship between the Bhopal Nawabs and the British.

Tuzk-e-Sultani - Pg. 35

THE EARLY DAYS OF MY LIFE

"The details of my life as entered in Tarikh-e-Taj-ul-Iqbal shed no light on my life. I consider it fit, therefore, that I should myself write about my education and the particulars of my early life."

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Tuzk-e-Sultani

Tuzk-e-Sultani - Pg. 39

"In the fifth year of my life I was initiated into the learning and reading of the Holy Quran amidst great celebration. This is how my daily schedule was outlined:"

Copy of Time Table

Before the Zuhar prayers

5 AM to 6 AM - Morning walk
6 AM to 7 AM - Breakfast
8 AM to 10 AM - Recitation of the Holy Quran
10 AM to 11 AM - Lunch with His Highness
11 AM to 12 Noon - Leisure

After the Zuhar prayers

12 Noon to 01 AM - Practice Handwriting
1 PM to 3 PM - Lessons in English
3 PM to 4 PM - Lessons in Persian
4 PM to 5 PM - Lessons in Mathematics
5 PM to 5:30 PM - Lessons in Bank or Pushto
5:30 PM to 6 PM - Horseriding
6 PM to 7 PM - Dinner
8 PM - To Bed

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Tuzk-e-Sultani

Tuzk-e-Sultani - Pg. 40 (Contd.)

Copy of Time Table

Before the Zuhar prayers

5 AM to 6 AM - Morning walk
6 AM to 7 AM - Breakfast
8 AM to 10 AM - Recitation of the Holy Quran
10 AM to 11 AM - Lunch with His Highness
11 AM to 12 Noon - Leisure

After the Zuhar prayers

12 Noon to 01 AM - Practice Handwriting
1 PM to 3 PM - Lessons in English
3 PM to 4 PM - Lessons in Persian
4 PM to 5 PM - Lessons in Mathematics
5 PM to 5:30 PM - Lessons in Bank or Pushto
5:30 PM to 6 PM - Horseriding
6 PM to 7 PM - Dinner
8 PM - To Bed

E-Book (Rekhta)
Tuzk-e-Sultani

Tuzk-e-Sultani - Pg. 100

Journey to Calcutta and Attendance in the Durbar of Star of India

"Expressions like “Parliamentary Governance,” “Democratic Governance,” or “Parliamentary System” are alien to the people of the East, especially Indians."

E-Book (Rekhta)
Tuzk-e-Sultani

Tuzk-e-Sultani - Pg. 101

"Although the Western thoughts have made way in India because of the British rule in this country but the Indians who had been governed by dynastic emperors found these concepts rather outlandish. Ordinarily, Indians show their allegiance to Kaiser-e-Hind and consider him their real emperor. In spite of the fact that the elements of democratic governance are inbuilt in the Indian system of administration, it is broadly considered to be the gift of the British Empire. Thus, the news of the arrival of Empire’s heir filled all with pleasure from the peasants to those belonging to the highest echelons in this country. This was noticeable especially in the state of Bhopal which has had a historical relationship with the British Empire since the very beginning of their setting foot in the region."

E-Book (Rekhta)
Tuzk-e-Sultani

Hayaat-e-Sultani
The subject of Hayaat-e-Sultani were the Begum's children. She had two daughters and three boys among whom Nawab Hafiz Sir Muhammad Nasru'llah Khan Sahib Bahadur was the heir apparent. She gave detailed descriptions of all the ceremonies that accompany the birth and growing up of royal princes and princesses. She writes at length about her coronation ceremony as well as the reforms she undertook in the field of public welfare, women's education and legislature. Some of the speeches she gave at public functions are also included in the book. 

Hayaat-e-Sultani - Pg. 68

Protection of Ancient Relics/Archaeological Monuments/Antiquity

"In the vicinity of Bhopal kingdom, Sanchi is one of the major antiquities of the world. It has relics from different ages from the rise of Buddhism to its decline. It has an ancient monastery which dates back to 250 BC, as well as the remains of several architectural wonders which also reflect the impact of other styles of building on Indian architecture. This extremely valuable architectural monument lay in a state of neglect for long. It was only when the royal administration sanctioned amount for its repairs that it could be restored to its lost glory. Proper arrangements of stay were also made for the tourists from all over the world.

Apart from restoring the ancient Dak Bunglow, one more bunglow was also constructed. Roads and steps leading to the monastery were repaired, a stream of water was laid out ,and greenery spread all over. Trees on two rows were also planted from the station to the foot of the hills."

Hayaat-e-Sultani - Pg. 69

The Need for Women’s Education

"The royal court paid attention to the education of girls, apart from the education of boys. Several madrasas were established but that alone was not enough. There were other issues that also needed attention in order to reform the community at large. These included a well-orchestrated programme of activities for strengthening the cultural roots of the recipients of new knowledge."

Tazkira-e-Baqi
A daughter fondly remembers her father, Nawab Baqi Muhammad Khan Bahadur. She explores his life and recounts what she remembers of her father. Sultan Jahan's mother married the nobleman who was of middle-rank in 1855. She was his third wife and together they had two children. 

Umrauddaulah, Nawab Baqi Mohammad Khan Bahadur Nusrat Jung

Father of Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum

Tazkira-e-Baqi - Pg. 1

"My father, Nawab Baqi Mohammad Khan, whose biography is in your hands, was one of the descendants of the family that contributed towards the establishment and strengthening of the state of Bhopal. The history of this state cannot remain oblivious to the services of the ancestors who played their roles during the tenure of each descendant of the state. It is only proper for me to present a brief account of these elders in this biography but the major hurdle remains that much material is not available to do so."

Tazkira-e-Baqi - Pg. 57

"Rani Jhansi had already planned to attack Bhopal. The readers may well appreciate that it was only Nawab Umrauddaulah Bahadur who could offer his advice and convince the begum for finding ways to avert this attack."

Footnote

The role of this Rani is well recorded in the history of mutiny. When she heard about the faithfulness of the Nawab Sikander Begum to the British, she warned her several times and finally sent her a message that she would attack Bhopal once she was through her recent expeditions. Nawab Sikandar Begum got back instantly saying that “Bhopal has ever been loyal towards the British and shall remain so ever. We have our arms ready here for you and you may proceed when you so desire."

Tazkira-e-Baqi - Pg. 58 (Contd.)

"Rani Jhansi had already planned to attack Bhopal. The readers may well appreciate that it was only Nawab Umrauddaulah Bahadur who could offer his advice and convince the begum for finding ways to avert this attack."

Footnote

The role of this Rani is well recorded in the history of mutiny. When she heard about the faithfulness of the Nawab Sikander Begum to the British, she warned her several times and finally sent her a message that she would attack Bhopal once she was through her recent expeditions. Nawab Sikandar Begum got back instantly saying that “Bhopal has ever been loyal towards the British and shall remain so ever. We have our arms ready here for you and you may proceed when you so desire."

Tazkira-e-Baqi - Pg. 58 (Contd.)

"Rani Jhansi had already planned to attack Bhopal. The readers may well appreciate that it was only Nawab Umrauddaulah Bahadur who could offer his advice and convince the begum for finding ways to avert this attack."

Footnote

The role of this Rani is well recorded in the history of mutiny. When she heard about the faithfulness of the Nawab Sikander Begum to the British, she warned her several times and finally sent her a message that she would attack Bhopal once she was through her recent expeditions. Nawab Sikandar Begum got back instantly saying that “Bhopal has ever been loyal towards the British and shall remain so ever. We have our arms ready here for you and you may proceed when you so desire."

Tazkira-e-Baqi - Pg. 84

Interest in Business

"Nawab sahib was also interested in business. He had established a shop called “Lillahi” with branches in Mecca, Medina and Egypt. These shops offered good assistance to those who went on a Haj pilgrimage. They used to deposit their money in Mecca and get bills of exchange to draw money at Medina. The business of grains, clothes, and pearls was conducted on a big scale. With the death of Nawab sahib, all these shop faced closure because of mismanagement of those controlling the shops."

Hayaat-e-Qudsi
Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum

Hayaat-e-Qudsi is a biographical account of Begum Qudsia. A courtesan, she shrewdly used her position to gain favors from the noblemen. The Emperor quickly recognized her sharp mind and flair for administration and appointed her as the mansabdar in his Army. A mansabdar was of high-rank and kept order in the Army in his absence. Sultan Jahan Begum writes about the woman who yielded power from behind the curtain for many years. A woman so influential ironically died in a prison.

E-Book (Rekhta)
Hayaat-e-Qudsi

Hayaat-e-Shahjahani
Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum (1914)

The life of Shah Jahan Begum

The book describes the life of the late Nawab Shah Jahan Begum of Bhopal written by Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum. The book was published by the Times Press Mumbai in 1926. Sultan Jahan had a difficult relationship with her mother and even on her deathbed, Shah Jahan Begum refused to make amends.

E-Book (Rekhta)
Hayaat-e-Shahjahani

Translated in English

Hayat-i-Shahjehani was also translated by B. Ghosal. It was published by the Times Press Mumbai in 1926. The translation is not only true to word but also to spirit. It beautifully captures the very core of the text.

E-Book (Rekhta)
Hayat-i-Shahjehani - Translated by G. Ghosal

Recognition for her achievements

Stately and progressive, she received many honors from the British government like the order of the Star of India, Order of the British Empire and Order of the Indian Empire. She was also the President of the All-India Muslim Ladies Association.

Photo: The Begum of Bhopal in her later years

One Anna stamp

One of the stamps that were issued during the reign of Nawab Sultan Jahan's reign. It was priced at 1 Anna (a form of currency in colonial India). The sigil of the Bhopal state is featured prominently on the stamp.

Old-age portrait of Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum
The Begum of Bhopal stepped down from her position as the ruler in favour of her only surviving child, Hamidullah Khan in 1926. She ruled for 25 glorious years of a just and prosperous rule, marked by great strides in education, health, public works and taxation. It was an end of an era as she breathed her last on 12 May 1930. 

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
(In order of their mention in this exhibit)

1. Gauhar-e-Iqbal

2. An Account Of My Life

3. Akhtar-e-Iqbal

4. Iffat-ul-Muslimaat

5. Seerat-e-Mustafa

6. Tarbiyat-ul-Atfaal

7. Bachchon Ki Parwarish

8. Tuzk-e-Sultani

9. Hayaat-e-Sultani

10. Tazkira-e-Baqi

11. Hayaat-e-Qudsi

12. Hayaat-e-Shahjahani

13. Hayaat-e-Shahjahani - Translated by B. Ghosal

Rekhta Foundation
Credits: Story

CONCEPT
Rekhta Foundation

E-BOOKS
Suman Mishra

CONTENT DEVELOPMENT
Prof. Anisur Rahman, Faiyaz Ahmad Wajeeh, Neha Malara

PHOTOGRAPHY
Aalok Soni

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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