top of page

H.M. Abu’l-Muzaffar Siraj-ud-din Muhammad Bahadur Shah II

247259-200.png
June 30, 1837
gold-medal-vector-816269_edited.png
Mirza Firuz Shah
subject-icon-1_edited.png
People
Untitled-2.png
Bahadur Shah II 1837–1857

Painted by August Schoefft, Dated on 1845, Delhi

IMG100674

DESCRIPTION

Bahadur Shah Zafar or Bahadur Shah II (Persian: بهادرشاه ظفر‎) (born as Mirza Abu Zafar Siraj-ud-din Muhammad) (24 October 1775 – 7 November 1862) was the last Mughal emperor. He was the second son of and became the successor to his father, Akbar II, upon his death on 28 September 1837. He was a nominal Emperor, as the Mughal Empire existed in name only and his authority was limited only to the walled city of Old Delhi (Shahjahanbad). Following his involvement in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British exiled him to Rangoon in British-controlled Burma (now in Myanmar), after convicting him on several charges.


Zafar's father, Akbar II, had been imprisoned by the British and he was not his father's preferred choice as his successor. One of Akbar Shah's queens, Mumtaz Begum, pressured him to declare her son, Mirza Jahangir, as his successor. However, The East India Company exiled Jahangir after he attacked their resident, in the Red Fort, paving the way for Zafar to assume the throne. 


Reign


Bahadur Shah Zafar ruled over a Mughal Empire that had by the early 20th century been reduced to only the city of Delhi and the surrounding territory as far as Palam. The Maratha Empire had brought an end to the Mughal Empire in the Deccan during the 18th century and the regions of India formerly under Mughal rule had either been absorbed by the Marathas or had declared independence and become smaller kingdoms. The Marathas installed Shah Alam II in the throne in 1772, under the protection of the Maratha general Mahadaji Shinde and maintained suzerainty over Mughal affairs in Delhi. The East India Company became the dominant political and military power in mid-nineteenth-century India. Outside the region controlled by the company, hundreds of kingdoms and principalities, fragmented their land. The emperor was respected by the company, who provided him with a pension. The emperor permitted the company to collect taxes from Delhi and maintain a military force in it. Zafar never had any interest in statecraft or had any "imperial ambition". After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British exiled him from Delhi.


Bahadur Shah Zafar was a noted Urdu poet, having written a 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 compiled into the Kulliyyat-i-Zafar. The court that he maintained was home to several prolific Urdu writers, including Mirza Ghalib, Dagh, Mumin, and Zauq.


Rebellion of 1857


As the Indian rebellion of 1857 spread, Sepoy regiments reached the Mughal Court at Delhi. Because of Zafar's neutral views on religions, many Indian kings and regiments accepted and declared him as the Emperor of India.


On 12 May 1857, Zafar held his first formal audience in several years. It was attended by several sepoys who were described as treating him "familiarly or disrespectfully". When the sepoys first arrived at Bahadur Shah Zafar's court, he asked them why they had come to him, because he had no means of maintaining them. Bahadur Shah Zafar's conduct was indecisive. However, he yielded to the demands of the sepoys when he was told that they would not be able to win against the East India Company without him.


On 16 May, sepoys and palace servants killed fifty-two Europeans who were prisoners of the palace and who were discovered hiding in the city. The executions took place under a peepul tree in front of the palace, despite Zafar's protests. The aim of the executioners who were not the supporters of Zafar was to implicate him in the killings. Once he had joined them, Bahadur Shah II took ownership for all the actions of the mutineers. Though dismayed by the looting and disorder, he gave his public support to the rebellion. It was later believed that Bahadur Shah was not directly responsible for the massacre, but that he may have been able to prevent it, and he was therefore considered a consenting party during his trial.


The administration of the city and its new occupying army was described as "chaotic and troublesome", which functioned "haphazardly". The Emperor nominated his eldest son, Mirza Mughal, as the commander in chief of his forces. However, Mirza Mughal had little military experience and was rejected by the sepoys. The sepoys did not have any commander since each regiment refused to accept orders from someone other than their own officers. Mirza Mughal's administration extended no further than the city. Outside Gujjar herders began levying their own tolls on traffic, and it became increasingly difficult to feed the city.


During the Siege of Delhi when the victory of the British became certain, Zafar took refuge at Humayun's Tomb, in an area that was then at the outskirts of Delhi. Company forces led by Major William Hodson surrounded the tomb and Zafar was captured on 20 September 1857. The next day, Hodson shot his sons Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr Sultan, and grandson Mirza Abu Bakht under his own authority at the Khooni Darwaza, near the Delhi Gate and declared Delhi to be captured. Bahadur Shah himself was taken to his wife's haveli, where he was treated disrespectfully by his captors. When brought news of the executions of his sons and grandson, the former emperor was described as being so shocked and depressed that he was unable to react.

Rate This BookDon’t love itNot greatGoodGreatLove itRate This Book

Your content has been submitted

Post Comment
Ratings & Review
Click To Close Comment Box
Click To Post Your Comment
Show Reviews

Ismail Mazari

average rating is null out of 5

Very good information.

MUGHAL IMAGES

The Mughal Images immediately took a much greater interest in realistic portraiture than was typical of Persian miniatures. Animals and plants were the main subject of many miniatures for albums and were more realistically depicted. To upload your images click here.

The
Mughal Library brings readers of our history and related subjects on one platform. our goal is to share knowledge between researchers and students in a friendly environment.


 

bottom of page