Begums of Bhopal

May 05, 2020

Destinations :: Bhopal

The most glorious phase of Bhopal's history was heralded by the Begums who ruled the city for over a hundred years. The Begums were great reformists and patrons of education, art, culture and public works. They built several great monuments, which still stand as testaments to the city's glorious past.


Qudsia Begum (1819-37), the first female ruler of Bhopal, came to power at the young age of eighteen. She built the elegant Jama Masjid and the Gohar Mahal Palace.


She was succeeded by her daughter, Sikander Begum (1844-68), who had great administrative ability. She brought about various reforms, such as providing proper roads, lighting, and opening schools and madarasas. She built the beautiful Moti Masjid, Moti Mahal and Shaukat Mahal.


Her successor, Shah Jahan Begum (1868-1901) was a great patron of the arts - music, poetry, painting and architecture. She authored several books in Urdu, and also carried out the first-ever compilation of the history of Bhopal in a book called Tajul Iqbal. A great administrator, she gave the city its waterworks, hospitals, postal system, printing presses, newspaper and railway service. She also left an indelible mark by building several beautiful structures, such as the Taj Mahal Palace, Taj-ul-Masajid, Sadar Manzil and Barah Mahal.


The last in the line of the great Begums was Sultan Jahan Begum (1901-1926). She was a champion of women's education and employment. She authored several books and became the first Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University. She encouraged arts and handicrafts through annual fairs, thus also creating employment for women. The notable structures to her credit are Qaser-e-Sultani Palace, which now houses the Saifia College, Noor-us-Sabah Palace, which is now a heritage hotel, Minto Hall, which housed the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha till 1996, the Edward Museum and Hamidia Library.


The reign of the Begums has no parallel anywhere in the history of India.