Thursday, 27 December 2012

Bahadur Shah Zafar

Shri Nathji would often quote Zafar, the poet-king. He was particularly found of this verse written by Zafar:
Ai Zafar usse aadmi na jaaniyegaa go ho kaisaa he saahibo faimo zakaa
Jisse aish men yaade Khuda na rahi jisse taish men khaufe Khuda na rahaa
O Zafar, call not such a one a man, no matter what his exalted status or fame
Who remembers not God in prosperity and fears not God when in fury
Bahadur Shah Zafar (born on 24 October 1775 – died 7 November 1862) was the last Mughal emperor and a member of the Timurid Dynasty. Zafar was the son of Mirza Akbar Shah II and Lalbai, who was a Hindu Rajput, and became Mughal Emperor when his father died on 28 September 1837. He used Zafar, a part of his name, meaning “victory” for his nom de plume (takhallus) as an Urdu poet, and he wrote many Urdu ghazals under it. After his involvement in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British tried and then exiled him from Delhi and sent him to Rangoon in then-British-controlled Desi.
Zafar's father, Akbar Shah II, ruled over a rapidly disintegrating empire between 1806 and 1837. It was during his time that the East India Company dispensed with the illusion of ruling in the name of the Mughal monarch and removed his name from the Persian texts that appeared on the coins struck by the company in the areas under their control.
Bahadur Shah Zafar presided over a Mughal empire that barely extended beyond Delhi's Red Fort. The East India Company was the dominant political and military power in mid-nineteenth century India. Outside Company controlled India, hundreds of kingdoms and principalities, from the large to the small, fragmented the land. The emperor in Delhi was paid some respect by the Company and allowed a pension, the authority to collect some taxes, and to maintain a small military force in Delhi, but he posed no threat to any power in India. Bahadur Shah himself did not take an interest in statecraft or possess any imperial ambitions. After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British exiled him from Delhi.
Bahadur Shah Zafar was a noted Urdu poet, and wrote a large number of Urdu ghazals. While some part of his opus was lost or destroyed during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, a large collection did survive, and was later compiled into the Kulliyyat-i-Zafar. The court that he maintained was home to several Urdu writers of high standing, including Mirza Ghalib, Dagh, Mumin, and Zauq. Bahadur Shah Zafar was a devout Sufi.  Zafar was himself regarded as a Sufi Pir and used to accept murids or pupils.
Emperor Bahadur Shah is seen by some in India as a freedom fighter (the mutiny soldiers made him their Commander-In-Chief), fighting for India's independence from the Company. When the victory of the British became certain, Bahadur Shah took refuge at Humayun's Tomb, in an area that was then at the outskirts of Delhi, and hid there. Company forces led by Major William Hodson surrounded the tomb and compelled his surrender on 20 September 1857. The next day Hodson shot his sons Mirza Mughal, Mirza Khizr Sultan, and grandson Mirza Abu Bakr
Many male members of his family were killed by Company forces, who imprisoned or exiled the surviving members of the Mughal dynasty.  Bahadur Shah was exiled to Rangoon, Burma in 1858. He was accompanied into exile by his wife Zeenat Mahal and some of the remaining members of the family. His departure as Emperor marked the end of more than three centuries of Mughal rule in India.
This is the actual photograph Bahadur Shah Zafar in 1858, just after his trial in Delhi and before his departure for exile in Rangoon. The only photograph ever taken of a Mughal emperor.
Bahadur Shah died in exile on 7 November 1862 in Rangoon. He was buried in Yangon's Dagon Township near the Shwedagon Pagoda, at the site that later became known as Bahadur Shah Zafar Dargah.

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