Begums of Bhopal

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The Nawabs of Bhopal were the Muslim rulers of the princely state of Bhopal, now part of the modern state of Madhya Pradesh, in India. The last Nawab was Hamidullah Khan, who acceded his state to India in 1947.

The female Nawabs were also known as the Begums, their official title being Nawab Begum of Bhopal.

The majority of the inhabitants in the principality were Hindu


1730-95 De facto Ruler Begum Mamola Bai of Bhopal (India)
1777 Regent
of Bhopal

Exercised a dominant influence during the reign of her husband, Yar Mohammad Khan (1728-42) after their marriage. After his death, she was de facto ruler during the reign of her stepson Faiz Mohammad Khan, who concentrated on religious contemplation. After his death she acted as regent and quickly proclaimed Faiz' brother, Hayat, as Nawab, but Faiz' widow, Bahu Begum, lead a revolt and set up an alternative government which lasted until 1780. Also during Hayat's reign she was the effective ruler, and it was she who took decisions on military campaigns and all other administrative affairs. She was born as a Hindu Rajput Princess, and lived (1715-95).

Qusida Begum Sahiba

1819-44 Regent Dowager Begum Kudsiyya Begum of Bhopal (India)

HH Qusida Begum Sahiba, Gohar Begum or Princess Qudsia took as ruler after the assassination of her husband, Mawab Nazar Mohammad Khan. 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 had a difficult relationship with the British, recognizing the importance of maintaining good relations with them, but the other hand she resented their inference in her government. Resigned in favour of daughter, and lived (1801-81).

Sikander Begum

1844-49 Regent Begum H.H. Sikander Begum Sahiba of Bhopal (India)
1859-68 Nawab Begum Regnant

Had been proclaimed Reigning Begum at the age of 15 months in 1819 under the regency of her mother, Begum Quisada, who resigned in 1844, and on a special Dunbar conveyed in Bhopal, the British Political Agent, J.D. Cunningham, read out a proclamation from the Governor-General that Sikander would be the sole regent and exercise full executive powers on behalf of her 9 year old daughter, Shahjehan. She was the most aggressive, dynamic and charismatic. She rode, played polo, went tiger hunting and was an expert swordswoman. She reorganized the army, whose commander she was. She backed the winning horse in the 1857 mutiny and became the star of several British Dunbars held for Indian rulers. She was a devout Muslim but did not take the veil, but was the first Indian ruler to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. She had separated from her husband, Gahangir Muhammad, who had been titular ruler, after a short period. She lived (1818-68).

Jahan Begum

1844-59 H.H. Nawwab Sultan Shah Jahan Begum Sahiba, Nawab Begum of Bhopal (India)
1868-1901 Nawab Begum Regnant

Proclaimed by the British authorities as successor to her father and reigned under the Regency of her mother, Begum Sikander, who was recognised as the sole ruler of Bhopal from 1860 until her death. Instead she was installed as Heir Apparent. She threw off purdah on the death of her first husband first husband, General H.H. Nasir ud-Daula, Nawab Baqi Muhammad Khan Bahadur, in 1867 and finally succeeded on the death of her mother in 1868. Secondly married to H.H. Wala Jah, Amir ul-Mulk, Nawab Sayyid 'Abu'l-Taiyib Muhammad Saddiq Hasan Khan Bahadur, Nawab Consort of Bhopal (1832-90), who was Assistant Minister and 1871-74 and Chief Minister 1874-84, deprived of his titles and dismissed from all his official posts by order of the Viceroy 1884. She attended the Imperial Durbar at Delhi in 1877. She reorganised her army, administration and revenue collection along modern lines, introduced a modern judicial system, established a nominated parliament to represent different groups, built railways, founded a hospital, built dispensaries and schools, installed water works, and lit the capital with gaslight. During most of her reign, she was at odds with her daughter, Sultan Jahan, and died without them being reconciled. She lived (1838-1901).  

Jahan Begum

1901-26 H.H. Sikander Saulat, Iftikhar ul-Mulk, Nawab Sultan Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum Sahiba, Nawab Begum of Bhopal (India)
1901-02 Chief Minister of Bhopal

Also known as Sarkar Amman or Shah Jahan, she succeeded her mother, Sikander Begum. She was a forceful ruler, and reformed the administration of state. She attended the coronation of George V in 1911 dressed in a burqa with her awards worn on the outside. During the trip, she visited Paris, a spa in Bad Nauenheim in Germany, spent a week in Génève and travelled by the Orient Express to Istanbul, where she met the sultan-emperor, Mehmet Reshad. She also visited Hungary, Italy and Egypt where she embarked on her return journey to a Bhopal struck by plague. Later that year she attended the Imperial Dunbar in Delhi. She introduced free compulsory primary education in 1918. Established an Executive and Legislative Council 1922. A great reformer, like her mother and grandmother, she reformed taxation, the army, police, the judiciary and jails, expanded agriculture, and constructed extensive irrigation and public works. She established an appointed state council and legislative assembly, and instigated elections for municipalities. However, her main legacy is public health, by pioneering widespread inoculation and vaccination programmes, improving sanitation, hygiene and the water supply. In 1926 she returned to London to settle the rules of succession in a British court. She abdicated in favour of son while still in London, and after some further legal conundrum, her granddaughter, Abida, was declared heir apparent. Sultan Jahan argued in favour of the rights of the firstborn, regardless of gender. 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. After her abdication, she became an advocate of women’s rights, and in 1928 she discarded purdah, and lived (1858-1930).

1935-49 Vice-President of the State Council and President of the Cabinet Princess Abida Sultan Begum of Bhopal (India)
1960-61 Titular Nawab Sahiba, Begum Sultan of Bhopal 

Her full name was Colonel Suraya Jah, Gauhar-i-Taj, Nawab Abida Sultan Begum Sahiba, but was normally known as Begum Abida Sultan. She was appointed as Heir Apparent to her father and recognized as such by the Indian government in 1928. In 1950 she moved to Pakistan. were she was a Delegate to UN in 1954, Ambassador to Brazil and Chile 1954-59. She was also an active politician and supporter of Miss Fatima Jinnah's candidacy for President of Pakistan. She Contested the succession after the death of her father, HH Sikander Savlat Ifrikar il-Mulk Haji Sir Muhammad Hamidullah Khan Badur, in February 1960, but the Indian government ruled against her in January 1961 in favour of her sister, H.H. Sikander Saulat Iftikhar ul-Mulk Haji Nawab Mehr Tai Sajida Sultan Begum Sahiba,  Nawab Begum of Bhopal (1960-95). Aida lived (1913-2002).

1960-95 Head of the Princely Family H.H. Sikander Saulat Iftikhar ul-Mulk Haji Nawab Mehr Tai Sajida Sultan Begum Sahiba, Nawab Begum of Bhopal (India)

Recognized by the Government of India as ruler of Bhopal, at the 13. of January 1961 with effect from 4. February 1960, as her older sister, Abaida Sultan had emmigrated to Pakistan. After her husband, Muhammed Iftikhar Ali Khan of Pataudi (1910-1917-52) was killed in a polo-accident, she was regent for her son Mansur Ali Khan (b. 1941), who was captain of the Indian Cricket team 1960-75. Under the name of Begum Sajida Sultan, she was member of the Indian Parliament for Bhopal 1957-62. Succeeded by grandson, and lived (1915-95).

Last update 11.12.11






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