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Bahadur Shah Zafar’s last day as the Mughal Emperor

On 20th September 1857, the British consolidated their control over Delhi and it was the end for many sepoys that were fighting the British. Bahadur Shah Zafar, who was the last leg of the Timurid line of succession, also threw the towels in, the next day by surrendering. 19th-21st September, 1857 were the most fateful days for the Mughal empire, as the great Mughal glory was coming to an end. Bahadur Shah’s last day as the Emperor of the Mughal empire was of struggle and hunger. His last day was spent with a porter who was carrying his chair, a couple of Khwajasara (Eunuchs) while being at the Dargah of Mehboob e Illahi Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya where he submitted his most priceless possession.  One of the most graphic accounts of Bahadur Shah’s last days has been recorded by Khwaja Hasan Nizami in his book Begumat Ke Aasoon (written in the early 1920s), which includes stories that he heard from his mother, whose father was Khwaja Shah Gulam Hasan, who was the Sajjadanasheen (hereditary administrator) of the Nizamuddin Dargah at that time.

On his last day as the emperor, Bahadur Shah left the Qila-e-Moalla (Red Fort was known by this name back then) and went straight to the Nizamuddin Dargah with his porter and Khwajasara. Records tell, that Bahadur Shah was in a state of despair and was covered in dust. Upon hearing that the Badshah was there, the in charge of the Nizamuddin Dargah (Khwaja Shah Gulam Hasan) came out to present himself, and the Badshah had a faint smile upon seeing him. After this, Bahadur Shah gave a box to the in-charge and said “When Amir Timur conquered Constantinople, he acquired this from the treasure of Sultan Yaldram Bayazid. It has five hairs from the blessed beard of our beloved prophet. This has been passed down in our family as a special blessing. Now there is no place for me in this wide world, and I don’t know where can I take them. I am placing them in your trust as you are the worthiest person to take care of them. They have provided much solace to my heart over the years. Today, on the most calamitous day of my life, I part with them.” To this day, those hair are showcased to the followers of Prophet Muhammad, on Eid-Milad-un-Nabi or Prophet’s birthday. After giving the relics to Khwaja Hasan, Bahadur Shah asked him for some food as he had not eaten anything for a long time. This is when the Khwaja Hasan asked Bahadur Shah to accompany him home, but Bahadur Shah refused as he didn’t want to put the life of his spiritual master’s son in danger. So, Khwaja Hasan went to his home and brought Besan Ki Roti and Sirke Ki Chutney for Bahadur Shah. This was his last meal as the Mughal Emperor. After eating, Bahadur Shah made his way to the Humayun’s Tomb.

The next day, which was 20th September, Bahadur Shah met Bakht Khan who was the Commander of Indian Forces in Delhi. Bahadur Shah was inspired by a speech that Bakht had made, where he had said, “Although the British have taken the City, militarily it is not a big blow to the Rebel Army as the whole of Hindustan is up in arms against the British and everyone is looking up to you for guidance. Travel with me to the mountains from where the fight can be continued in such a way that the British would not be able to break through.” Bakht was referring to Bahadur Shah in this speech. But, as soon as Bakht Khan left from Humayun’s tomb after meeting with Badshah, it became all over for him, as Mirza Ilahi Bux and Munshi Rajab Ali, who were British spies, overheard this conversation and persuaded Bahadur Shah to stay in Delhi. Bahadur Shah even after being warned by Khwajasaras decided to stay in Delhi with Major Hudson rather than going with Bakht Khan.  Bahadur Shah was then arrested and put under trial by Major Hudson and later exiled to Rangoon. He died in 1862 and was buried in Rangoon, although he had carved out two yards for him in Delhi, next to the Dargah of Bakhtiar Kaki, as he wanted to be buried next to him.

“I have known for some time that I am the last of the glorious Timurid line. Now someone else will be the ruler. Their law will prevail. I don’t have any regrets; after all, we too had usurped the throne from someone else.” – Abu Zafar Siraj-ud-Din Muhammad Bahadur Shah


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