Begum Hazrat Mahal
Begum of Nawab of Awadh
Begum Hazrat Mahal
BornMuhammadi Khanum
1820[citation needed]
Faizabad, Awadh
Died7 April 1879 (aged 59)
Kathmandu, Kingdom of Nepal
HusbandNawab Wajid Ali Shah
ReligionShia Islam[1]

Begum Hazrat Mahal (c. 1820 – 7 April 1879), also known as the Begum of Awadh, was the second wife of Nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah, and the regent of Awadh in 1857–1858. She is known for the leading role she had in the rebellion against the British East India Company during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

After her husband had been exiled to Calcutta and the Indian Rebellion broke out, she made her son, Prince Birjis Qadr, the Wali (ruler) of Awadh, with herself as regent during his minority. However, she was forced to abandon this role after a short reign.[2] By way of Hallaur, she finally found asylum in Nepal, where she died in 1879. Her role in the rebellion has given her a heroine status in the post-colonial history of India.


Early life

Begum Hazrat Mahal's name was Mohammadi Khanum, and she was born in 1820 at Faizabad, the former capital of Oudh State. She was sold by her parents and became a tawaif by profession. She entered the royal harem as a Khawasin after having been sold to Royal agents, where she was promoted to a pari,[3] and was known as Mahek Pari.[citation needed]

She became a Begum after being accepted as a royal concubine of the King of Awadh,[4] the last Tajdaar-e-Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah; became his junior wife[5] and the title 'Hazrat Mahal' was bestowed on her after the birth of their son, Birjis Qadr. In 1856, the British annexed Awadh, and Wajid Ali Shah was exiled to Calcutta. Begum Hazrat Mahal remained in Lucknow with her son[6][7] and soon took charge of the affairs of the rebel state of Awadh as it entered armed struggle with the British East India Company.[8]

Indian Rebellion of 1857

During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Begum Hazrat Mahal's band of supporters rebelled against the forces of the British under the leadership of Raja Jailal Singh; they seized control of Lucknow, and she took power as the guardian of her minor son, Prince Birjis Qadr, whom she had declared as the ruler (Wali) of Awadh.[3] As regent, she automatically came to have a leadership role in the rebellion against the British.

One of the principal complaints of Begum Hazrat Mahal was that the East India Company had casually demolished temples and mosques just to make way for roads.[9] In a proclamation issued during the final days of the revolt, she mocked the British claim to allow freedom of worship:[9]

To eat pigs and drink wine, to bite greased cartridges and to mix pig's fat with sweetmeats, to destroy Hindu and Mussalman temples and mosques on the pretense of making roads, to build churches, to send clergymen into the streets to preach the Christian religion, to institute English schools, and pay people a monthly stipend for learning the English sciences, while the places of worship of Hindus and Mussalmans are to this day entirely neglected; with all this, how can people believe that religion will not be interfered with?[9]

Hazrat Mahal worked in association with Nana Saheb, but later joined the Maulavi of Faizabad in the attack on Shahjahanpur. When the forces under the command of the British re-captured Lucknow and most of Oudh, she was forced to retreat.

Later life

Ultimately, she had to retreat to Nepal, where she was initially refused asylum by the Rana prime minister Jung Bahadur,[10] but was later allowed to stay.[11]

She died there in 1879 and was buried in a nameless grave in the grounds of Kathmandu's Jama Masjid.[12]

After her death, on the occasion of the jubilee of Queen Victoria (1887), the British Government pardoned Birjis Qadr and he was allowed to return home.[13]


Begum Hazrat Mahal's tomb is located in the central part of Kathmandu near Jama Masjid, Ghantaghar, not far away from the famous Darbar Marg. It is looked after by the Jama Masjid Central Committee.[2]

On 15 August 1962, Mahal was honoured at the Old Victoria Park in Hazratganj, Lucknow for her role in the Great Revolt.[14][15][16] Along with the renaming of the park, a marble memorial was constructed, which includes a marble tablet with four round brass plaques bearing the coat of arms of the Awadh royal family. The park has been used for Ramlilas and bonfires during Dusshera, as well as Lucknow Mahotsava (Lucknow Exposition).[17][better source needed]

On 10 May 1984, the Government of India issued a commemorative stamp in honour of Mahal. The first day cover was designed by C.R. Pakrashi, and the cancellation was done by Alka Sharma. 15,00,000 stamps were issued.[18][14]

The Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India has started the Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship for Meritorious Girls belonging to minority communities in India. This scholarship is implemented through the Maulana Azad Education Foundation.[19][20]



  1. ^ "Begum Hazrat Mahal Biography, History and Facts". 3 February 2018. Archived from the original on 24 August 2018. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b "A link to Indian freedom movement in Nepal". The Hindu. 8 April 2014. Archived from the original on 10 April 2014. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  3. ^ a b Michael Edwardes (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books; p. 104
  4. ^ Christopher Hibbert (1980) The Great Mutiny, Harmondsworth: Penguin; p. 371
  5. ^ Saul David (2002) The Indian Mutiny, Viking; p. 185
  6. ^ "Begum Hazrat Mahal". Archived from the original on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  7. ^ "Begum Hazrat Mahal: The Revolutionary Queen of Awadh". Indian Culture Portal. Ministry of Culture, Government of India; Indian Institute of Technology Bombay; Indira Gandhi National Open University. Archived from the original on 17 July 2022. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  8. ^ Sharma, Vinod Chandra (March 1959). Uttar Pradesh District Gazetteers. Vol. 37. Government of Uttar Pradesh. pp. 56–57. Archived from the original on 14 August 2022. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  9. ^ a b c William Dalrymple The Last Mughal; the fall of a dynasty: Delhi, 1857, Viking Penguin, 2006, p. 69
  10. ^ Hibbert (1980); pp. 374–375
  11. ^ Hibbert (1980); pp. 386–387
  12. ^ Krishna, Sharmila (11 June 2002). "Far from the madding crowd she lies, forlorn & forgotten". The Indian Express - LUCKNOW. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  13. ^ Harcourt, E.S (2012). Lucknow the Last Phase of an Oriental Culture (seventh ed.). Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-19-563375-7.
  14. ^ a b "Little known, little remembered: Begum Hazrat Mahal". Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  15. ^ Ruggles, D. Fairchild (2014). Woman's Eye, Woman's Hand: Making Art and Architecture in Modern India. Zubaan. ISBN 9789383074785. Archived from the original on 1 July 2023. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  16. ^ Yecurī, Sītārāma (2008). The great revolt, a left appraisal. People's Democracy. ISBN 9788190621809. Archived from the original on 1 July 2023. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  17. ^ "Begum Hazrat Mahal in Lucknow | My India". 27 August 2013. Archived from the original on 31 May 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  18. ^ "Begum Hazrat Mahal". Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  19. ^ "Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship". 18 October 2017. Archived from the original on 1 June 2018.
  20. ^ "Schemes for Minority Women". Archived from the original on 11 January 2019. Retrieved 14 October 2020.