Bhopal (state)

Bhopal (state)

Bhopal state audio|Bhopal.ogg|pronunciation (Hindi: भोपाल, Urdu: بھوپال, IPA2|bʰoːpɑːl) was an independent state of 18th century India, a princely state of British India from 1818 to 1947, and an Indian state from 1949 to 1956. Its capital was the Bhopal city.


The state was established in 1724 by the Afghan Sardar Dost Mohammed Khan, who was a commander in the Mughal army posted at Mangalgarh, which lies to the north of the modern city of Bhopal. Taking advantage of the disintegration of the Mughal empire, he usurped Mangalgarh and Berasia (now a tehsil of the Bhopal District). When Dost Mohammed Khan's nephew assassinated the Gond Queen Kamalapati's husband, he executed his own nephew and restored the Queen's little kingdom back to her. The Queen gave him a princely sum of money and the Mouza village (which is situated near modern Bhopal city).

After the death of last Gond queen, Dost Mohammed Khan took his chance and seized the little Gond Kingdom and established his capital 10 km away from modern Bhopal, at Jagdishpur. He named his capital Islamnagar, meaning the city of Islam. He built a small fort and some palaces at Islamnagar, the ruins of which can still be seen today. After few years, he built a bigger fort situated on the northern bank of the Upper Lake. He named this new fort Fatehgarh ("the fort of victory"). Later the capital was shifted to the current city of Bhopal.

Early rulers

Although Dost Mohammed Khan was the virtual ruler of Bhopal, he still acknowledged the suzerainty of the declining Mughal Empire. His successors however, acquired the title of "Nawab" and declared Bhopal an independent state. By the 1730s the Marathas were expanding into the region, and Dost Mohammed Khan and his successors fought wars with their neighbours to protect the small territory and also fought among themselves for control of the state. The Hindu 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 Jehangir Mohammed Khan established a cantonment at a distance of one mile from the fort. This was called Jehangirabad after him. He built gardens and barracks for British guests and soldiers in Jehangirabad.

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

Qudsia Begum

An interesting turn came in the history of Bhopal, when 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 of Bhopal. She also built her beautiful palace - 'Gohar Mahal'. She ruled till 1837. Before her death, she had adequately prepared her daughter for ruling the state.

ikander Jahan 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 Muhammad Khan, that the rebel forces from neighbouring areas were marching towards Bhopal. She ordered Khan to repulse the rebel forces from Mhow.cite web
title=How Bhopal Ruler Tackled 1857 Revolt
author=Pervez Bari
work=Radiance Viewsweekly Vol. XLIV No. 28

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.

It was reported that the rebels were mobilizing people for revolt by spreading messages through "chapatis" in villages. Sikander Begum banned the distribution of these chapatis from village to village. She asked her officers to an undertaking 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 urged 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 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 treat of 1818, and comprising 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 shifted to a safer place at Hoshangabad near Bhopal, leaving the matters under the direct charge of the Begum. Mama Qahhar Khan, the "jamadar" in the Vilayatian Regiment, and the sepoys under him refused to accept the pay, and revolted. Their services were promptly terminated.

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 July 14, 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 killed state officers. 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.

On August 6, 1857, Risaldar Wali Shah and Kotha-Havaldar Mahavir declared a sepoy rebellion a 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. 2 lakh 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

Sikander Begum's successor Shah Jahan Begum 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 - Taj Mahal (not to be confused with the famous Taj Mahal at Agra). She built a lot of other beautiful buildings as well - Ali Manzil, Amir Ganj, Barah Mahal, Ali Manzil, Be nazir Complex, Khawasoura, Mughalpura, Nematpua and Nawab Manzils. Today also, one can see the ruins of Taj Mahal and some of its glorious parts that have survived the tests of time. Barah Mahal and Nawab Manzil have also withstood the test of time. During her rule, in 1900, the complete failure of the monsoon rains led to a severe famine in Bhopal.

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 favor of her son in 1926. She further advanced the emancipation of women and established a modern municipality in 1903 [Encyclopaedia Britannica] . She had her own palace Sadar Manzil (the present headquarters of Bhopal Municipal Corporation). But she 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

India achieved independence on August 15, 1947. Bhopal was one of the last states to sign the 'Instrument of Accession'. The ruler of Bhopal acceded to the Indian government, and Bhopal became an Indian state on 1 May 1949. 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 2002. 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.

The last ruling Nawab of Pataudi, Iftikhar Ali Khan, married Begum Sajida. Upon the demise of Begum Sajida in 1995, her only son Mansoor Ali Khan, the titular Nawab of Pataudi, is regarded by many as being the head of the royal family of Bhopal.

Modern Bhopal state

Bhopal state, which included the present-day districts of Bhopal, Raisen, and Sehore, became a "Part C" state, governed by a chief commissioner appointed by the President of India. Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma served as chief minister of Bhopal state from 1952 to 1956, and later became President of India from 1992 to 1997.

According to the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, Bhopal state was integrated into the state of Madhya Pradesh, and Bhopal was declared as its capital. The population of the city rose rapidly.


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