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Bhopal State

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Bhopal State

Bhopal State
भोपाल रियासत / بھوپال ریاست
Princely state of India (1818–1949)

Flag Coat of arms
Nasr Minullah[2]
Bhopal State (1949–56), after merger with India
Capital Bhopal
Islamnagar (for a brief period)
Languages Persian (official), [Urdu]
Religion Islam and Hinduism
Government Monarchy
Nawab of Bhopal
 •  1707-1728 Dost Mohammad Khan (first)
 •  1926–1949 Hamidullah Khan (last)
 •  Established 1707[4]
 •  Disestablished 1 June 1949
Today part of Madhya Pradesh, India

Bhopal State (pronounced ) was an independent state of 18th century India, a princely salute state with 19 gun salute in a subsidiary alliance with British India from 1818 to 1947, and an independent state from 1947 to 1949. Islamnagar was founded and served as the State's first capital, which was later shifted to the city of Bhopal.

The state was founded by Dost Mohammad Khan, an Afghan soldier in the Mughal army who belonged to the Mirazi Khel clan of the Orakzai tribe of pashtuns, who became a mercenary after the Emperor Aurangzeb's death and annexed several territories to his feudal territory. It came under the suzerainty of the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1723 shortly after its foundation in 1707. In 1737, Marathas defeated the Mughals and the Nawab of Bhopal in the Battle of Bhopal, and started collecting tribute from the state. After the defeat of the Marathas in the Third Anglo-Maratha War, Bhopal became a British princely state in 1818. Bhopal State was the second largest state in pre-independence India, with a Muslim leadership, first being Hyderabad State. The state was merged into the Union of India in 1949 as Bhopal.


Dost Muhammad Khan Bahadur, Founder of Bhopal State

The State of Bhopal was established by Dost Mohammad Khan (1672–1728), an Afghan pashtun soldier in the Mughal army.[6] After the death of the emperor Aurangzeb, Khan started providing mercenary services to several local chieftains in the politically unstable Malwa region. In 1709, he took on the lease of the Berasia estate. Later, he usurped the Rajput principality of Mangalgarh and the Gond kingdom of Rani Kamlapati, after the death of their female rulers to whom he had been providing mercenary services.[7] He also annexed several other territories in Malwa to his state.

During the early 1720s, Khan founded the city of Bhopal into a fortified city and assumed the title of Nawab.[8] Khan became close to the Sayyid Brothers, who had become highly influential king-makers in the Mughal court. Khan's support to the Sayyids earned him the enmity of the rival Mughal nobleman Nizam-ul-Mulk, who invaded Bhopal in March 1724, forcing Khan to cede much of his territory, give up his son as a hostage, and accept the Nizam's suzerainty.[9]

Dost Mohammad Khan and his Afghan associates brought "Islamic influence" to the culture and architecture in the foundation of Bhopal, the ruins of which can be found at Islamnagar near Bhopal. After Khan's death in 1728, the Bhopal state remained under the influence of the Nizam.[10] The state also paid tribute to the Marathas, who defeated the Mughals and the Nawab of Bhopal at the Battle of Bhopal in 1737.

Nawab Faiz Muhammed Khan (1742–1777) moved the capital from Islamnagar to Bhopal. He was a religious recluse, and the state was effectively ruled by his stepmother Mamola Bai.[10][11] The state became a British protectorate in 1818 and was ruled by the descendents of Dost Mohammad Khan until 1949, when it was merged with the Republic of India. For two years after the departure of the British from India in 1947, Bhopal had survived as an independent state.

Early rulers

By the 1730s, the Marathas were expanding into the region, and the successors fought wars with their neighbours to protect the small territory and also fought among themselves for control of the state. The Marathas conquered several nearby states, including Indore to the west and Gwalior to the north, but Bhopal remained a Muslim-ruled state under Dost Mohammed Khan's successors. Subsequently, Nawab Wazir Mohammed Khan, a general, created a truly strong state after fighting several wars.

Nawab Jahangir Mohammed Khan established a cantonment at a distance of one mile from the fort. This was called Jahangirabad after him. He built gardens and barracks for British guests and soldiers in Jahangirabad.

In 1778, during the First Anglo-Maratha War, when the British General Thomas Goddard campaigned across India, Bhopal was one of the few states that remained friendly to the British. In 1809, during the Second Anglo-Maratha War, General Close led a British expedition to Central India. The Nawab of Bhopal petitioned in vain to be received under British protection. In 1817, when the Third Anglo-Maratha War broke out, a treaty of dependence was signed between the British Government of India and the Nawab of Bhopal. Bhopal remained a friend of British Government during the British Raj in India.

In February–March 1818, Bhopal became a princely state in British India as a result of the Anglo-Bhopal treaty between the East India Company and Nawab Nazar Muhammad (Nawab of Bhopal during 1816–1819). Bhopal state included the present-day Bhopal, Raisen, and Sehore districts, and was part of the Central India Agency. It straddled the Vindhya Range, with the northern portion lying on the Malwa plateau, and the southern portion lying in the valley of the Narmada River, which formed the state's southern boundary. Bhopal Agency was formed as an administrative section of Central India, consisting the Bhopal state and some princely states to the northeast, including Khilchipur, Narsingarh, Raigarh, and after 1931 the Dewas states. It was administered by an agent to the British Governor-General of India.

The rule of the Begums

The Bhopal State postal service was introduced during the rule of the Begums.

Between 1819 and 1926, it was ruled by four women – Begums – unique in the royalty of those days. Qudsia Begum was the first woman ruler, who was succeeded by her only daughter Sikandar Begum, who in turn was succeeded by her only daughter, Shahjehan Begum. Sultan Jahan Begum was the last women ruler, who after 25 years of rule, abdicated in favour of her son, Hamidullah Khan. The rule of Begums gave the city its waterworks, railways, a postal system and a municipality constituted in 1907.

Qudsia Begum

In 1819, 18-year-old Qudsia Begum (also known as Gohar Begum) took over the reins after the assassination of her husband. She was the first female ruler of Bhopal. Although she was illiterate, she was brave and refused to follow the purdah tradition. She declared that her 2-year old daughter Sikander will follow her as the ruler. None of the male family members dared to challenge her decision. She cared very well for her subjects and took her dinners only after receiving the news every night that all her subjects had taken meals. She built the Jama Masjid (mosque) and her beautiful palace the 'Gohar Mahal'(also called Nazar Bagh) in Bhopal. She ruled till 1837 when she died having adequately prepared her daughter for ruling the state.

Sikander Jahan Begum

Sikandar Begum

In 1844, Sikander Begum succeeded her mother as the ruler of Bhopal. Like her mother, she too never observed purdah. She was trained in the martial arts, and fought many battles during her reign (1844–1868).

During the Indian rebellion of 1857, she sided with the British and crushed all those who revolted against them. She did a lot of public welfare too – she built roads and reconstructed the fort. She also built the Moti Masjid (meaning the Pearl Mosque) and Moti Mahal (the Pearl Palace).

Indian rebellion of 1857

During the Indian rebellion of 1857, the Bhopal state sided with the East India Company, as per the treaty of 1818. The rebellion in Bhopal and neighbouring areas was suppressed by Sikander Begum in its initial stages.

By June 1857, the rebellion had spread to neighbouring areas of Bhopal, such as Indore, Mhow, and Neemuch. In the beginning of July 1857, Sikandar Begum was informed by Bakhshi Murawwat Mohammed Khan Nasrat Jang, that the rebel forces from neighbouring areas were marching towards Bhopal. She asked Khan to repulse the rebel forces from Mhow.[12]

In some of the mosques of Bhopal, the rebellion against the East India Company was declared as jihad by the Maulvis and the Pathans. The rebels maintained contacts with Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, Tatya Tope, the Nawab of Tonk, Nawab of Banda and others. They also acknowledged Bahadur Shah Zafar as the emperor of India, and sent offerings to Delhi in form of horses and cash.[12]

It was reported that the rebels were mobilising people for revolt by spreading messages through chapatis in villages. Sikander Begum banned the distribution of these chapatis from village to village. She required undertakings from the balahi and patel (chiefs) of every village, to report any violations to the concerned thana (police station). Sikandar Begum also banned the circulation of any seditious notices either found lying on the road or stuck on the walls. Maulvi Abdul Qayyum, the darogha of Fatehgarh fort distributed 500 copies of a pamphlet issued by the rebels of Cawnpore (now Kanpur). The pamphlet claimed that the British were interfering with the religious sentiments of Hindus and Muslims, and urged them to rebel against the British rule in India. Sikandar Begum instituted an inquiry against the Maulvi, who was charged of collusion with the rebels. She also published a pamphlet from Sikandari press, denying the charges of British interference in the religious affairs of Hindus and Muslims.

The Bhopal state had an army under the direct command of British officers, raised under the Anglo-Bhopal treaty of 1818, and consisting of 600 cavalry and 400 infantry. When the signs of a rebellion started appearing in the army, Major William Henry Richards (the Political Agent at Bhopal) and other British officers withdrew to a safer place at Hoshangabad near Bhopal, leaving the matter under the direct charge of the Begum. Mama Qahhar Khan, the jamadar in the Vilayatian Regiment, and the sepoys under him refused to accept their pay, and revolted; they were punished by being discharged from the service.

In the Berasia tehsil of Bhopal, the rebel leaders Shajaat Khan Pindari and Jahangir Muhammad Khan raised a small force consisting of 70 sepoys. They launched an attack on Berasia on 14 July 1857. The rebels looted the township, and killed Babu Subh Rao (the assistant Political Agent), Munshi Mukhdum Bakhsh and other British loyalists. They also plundered the local treasury and seized the assets of the state officers they had killed. They were supported by some sepoys from the Bhopal Contingent stationed at Berasia. Sikandar Begum took measures against the rebels in Berasia and neighbouring areas, forcing them to flee. Shajaat Khan Pindari had plans to flee and join Fazil Muhammad Khan, the jagirdar of Garhi Ambapani, or Prince Bhawani Singh of Narsingarh. However, he was arrested with help of spies, and brought to the Sehore jail along with his followers. He and his son were hanged near idgah of the town, and then buried beneath a mahua tree by some sweepers.[12]

On 6 August 1857, Risaldar Wali Shah and Kotha-Havaldar Mahavir declared a sepoy rebellion at Sehore cantonment near Bhopal. They pronounced the symbols of revolt as the Nishan-i-Muhammadi ("the symbol of Muhammad", for Muslims) and the Nishan-i-Mahaviri ("the symbol of Mahavir", for Hindus). The rebel sepoys decided to collect at least Rs. 200,000 from the Mahajans of Sehore, by foul or fair means. The rebel leader Mahavir looted Rs. 700 from the state treasury of the Sehore tehsil. They also ransacked and burned the bungalows of the British officers, and made attempts to plunder arms and ammunitions from the magazine.

In the Piklon tehsil of Bhopal, the rebellion was led by Muhammad Abu Saeed Khan (popularly known as Nawab of Itarsiwala), Raja Chhatarsal of Agra, Aqil Muhammad Khan, Fazil Muhammad Khan and Adil Muhammad Khan of Garhi Ambapani. The rebel leaders planned to occupy the town. Sikander Begum sought help from the Scindia Maharaja of Gwalior to defeat the rebels, but the rebel army consisting of around 300 men attacked Piklon. The small state force was forced to retreat, and the tehsildar of Piklon fled to Scindia's territory. The rebels plundered the Piklon town, and neighbouring villages such as Chopra, Bisraha and Bisrai. They also established a thana (station) at Piklon. However, they were soon ousted by the state forces.

Shah Jahan Begum

A young Shah Jahan Begum

Sikander Begum's successor Shah Jahan Begum (begum 1844–60, Sikandar Begum being regent; ruled 1868–1901) was quite passionate about architecture, like her Mughal namesake emperor Shah Jahan. She built a vast mini-city, called Shahjahanabad after her. She also built a new palace for herself, the Taj Mahal (not to be confused with the famous Taj Mahal at Agra). She built many other beautiful buildings as well, including Ali Manzil, Amir Ganj, Barah Mahal, Ali Manzil, Be nazir Complex, Khawasoura, Mughalpura, Nematpua and Nawab Manzils. Today, one can see the ruins of Taj Mahal and some of the parts that have stood the test of time; Barah Mahal and Nawab Manzil have also stood the test of time. During her rule, in 1900, the complete failure of the monsoon rains led to a severe famine in Bhopal. Most notable among the achievements of Shah Jahan Begum was that under her rule the economy flourished. During this period Bhopal had the highest GDP contribution towards the Indian economy mainly due to its superior craftsmanship and rich gold works.

Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum

Sultan Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum, GCSI, GCIE, GBE, CI, KIH (9 July 1858 – 12 May 1930) daughter of Shah Jahan Begum, succeeded her in 1901, ruling to her abdication in favour of her son in 1926. She further advanced the emancipation of women and established a modern municipality in 1903.[13] She had her own palace Sadar Manzil (the present headquarters of Bhopal Municipal Corporation); yet preferred the quiet and serene environment at the outskirts of the city. She developed her own walled mini-city, named Ahmedabad after her late husband (not to be confused with Ahmedabad, Gujarat). This city was situated at Tekri Maulvee Zai-ud-din, which was at located a distance of a mile from the fort. She built a palace called Qaser-e-Sultani (now Saifia College). This area became a posh residency as royalty and elite moved here. The Begum installed the first water pump here and developed a garden called 'Zie-up-Abser'. She also constructed a new palace called 'Noor-us-Sabah', which has been converted into a heritage hotel. She was the first president of the All India Conference on Education and first chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University.

The peaceful rule of Begums led to the rise of a unique mixed culture in Bhopal. The Hindus were given important administrative positions in the state. This led to communal peace and a cosmopolitan culture took its roots.

Sultan Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum's son, Nawab Hamidullah Khan, ascended the throne in 1926. He was Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes.

After Indian independence

After India achieved independence on 15 August 1947, Bhopal was one of the last states to sign the Instrument of Accession.

The last Nawab expressed his wish to retain Bhopal as a separate unit in March 1948. Agitations against the Nawab broke out in December 1948, leading to the arrest of prominent leaders including Bhai Ratan Kumar Gupta and Shankar Dayal Sharma. On 23 January 1949, Sharma was sentenced to eight months imprisonment for violating restrictions on public meetings; some other satyagrahis were also arrested. Later, the political detainees were released and the Nawab signed the agreement for merger on 30 April 1949.[14]

The Bhopal princely state was taken over by the Union Government of India on 1 June 1949. The new Bhopal State was declared a "Part C" state, governed by a chief commissioner appointed by the President of India. Sindhi refugees from Pakistan were accommodated in Bairagarh, a western suburb of Bhopal.

The eldest daughter of Nawab Hamidullah Khan and presumptive heiress, Abida Sultan, gave up her right to the throne and opted for Pakistan in 1950. She entered Pakistan's foreign service. Therefore, the Government of India excluded her from the succession and her younger sister Begum Sajida succeeded in her stead. Abida Sultan arrived in the newly created Pakistan when she was 37 and a mother of a young son. She was to spend the greater part of her life in Pakistan, and she died in 2001. Her son, Shaharyar Khan, was to become the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and then the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board. If his mother had not given up her claim to the throne, Shaharyar Khan would have been the Nawab of Bhopal as well as the Nawab of Kurwai, since his father was the Nawab of Kurwai State.

Upon the demise of Begum Sajida in 1995, the title was debatedly left to her oldest daughter Nawabzadi Saleha Sultan Begum Sahiba, Bhopal being a matriarchy.[15] Nawab Begum Saleha Sultan is married to Nawab Muhammad Bashir ud-din Khan Bahadur, Bashir Yar Jung, also belonging to the Paigah family, a family once almost as powerful as the Nizams of Hyderabad.[16] The title was also claimed by her son Mansoor Ali Khan, the titular Nawab of Pataudi, and his descendants.[17][18]

List of rulers of Bhopal

Sajida Sultan became the titular ruler after her elder sister and presumptive heiress Abida migrated to Pakistan
  • Nawab Dost Mohammad Khan (1707–1728)
  • Nawab Yar Mohammad Khan (1728–1742)
  • Nawab Faiz Mohammad Khan (1742–1777)
  • Nawab Hayat Mohammad Khan (1777–1807)
  • Nawab Ghous Mohammad Khan (1807–1826)
  • Nawab Wazir Mohammad Khan (in opposition to Ghous Mohammad Khan) – (1807–1816)
  • Nawab Nazar Mohammad Khan (son of Wazir Mohammad Khan) – (1816–1819)
  • Nawab Sultan Qudsia Begum (daughter of Ghous Mohammad and wife of Nazar Mohammad Khan) – (1819–1837)
  • Nawab Jahangir Mohammad Khan (husband of Sikandar Jahan Begum) – (1837–1844)
  • Nawab Sikander Jahan Begum (1860–1868)
  • Nawab Sultan Shah Jahan Begum (1844–1860 and 1868–1901)
  • Kaikhusrau Jahan, Begum of Bhopal (1901–1926)
  • Nawab Hamidullah Khan (1926–1949)

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ 2011 District Census Handbook: Bhopal
  12. ^ a b c
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^

Further reading

  • A brief history of the Bhopal principality in Central India : from the period of its foundation, about one hundred and fifty years ago, to the present time; by Maj. William Hough, 1865.
  • The Taj-ul Ikbal Tarikh Bhopal, Or, The History of Bhopal, by Shah Jahan Begum, H. C. Barstow. Published by Thacker, Spink, Simla, 1876.
  • The life and works of Muhammad Siddiq Hasan Khan, Nawab of Bhopal, 1248–1307 (1832–1890), by Saeedullah. Published by Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1973.
  • The Begums of Bhopal: A Dynasty of Women Rulers in Raj India, by Shahraryar M. Khan. Published by I. B.Tauris, London, 2000. ISBN 1-86064-528-3. Excerpts

External links

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