Saturday, November 14, 2015

The slumdog Princess: Descendant of India's Last Emperor


Descendants of India’s Last Emperor – Confined to Life in a Slum (Kolkata)

The descendant of India’s last emperor would have lived in luxurious palaces when they ruled over a huge and wealthy kingdom. However the lifestyle of Sultana Begum is far from the luxuries enjoyed by the rulers during the Mughal times.

It is said that Sultana Begum has been confined to a life in a slum which is on the outskirts of Kolkata and the 60 year old is the great grand daughter-in-law of the last emperor of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar. She had to face difficulties to make ends meet on her basic pension inspite of her royal heritage. Since the death of her husband Prince in 1980, Mirza Bedar Bukht has been leading a life of poverty.

 This Mughal heiress has been compelled to reside in a miniature two-room hut in Howrah which is a slum area in Kolkata and shares a kitchen with her neighbour, washing in the street, utilising the water coming from public taps. Inspite of the fact that she is related to the 19th century royal family, she goes about her daily life on the pension of just about £60 each month. She has informed that her other daughters and husbands being poor are unable to help them.

Contributed to Architectural Legacy to Indian

The £60, according to Indian currency amounts to 6,000, by way of pension covers the expenses for herself, her six children, five daughters and a son. Her predicament, in recent years has been emphasized by several campaigners who had pushed authorities in providing more care for India’s royal descendants, most of which were left in the lurch after the British rule had ended the Mughal dynasty.

 Sultana has descended from the Mughal dynasty which had contributed to a great extent the architectural legacy to the Indian sub-continent from the 16th, 17th and the 18th centuries. The Taj Mahal is one such example of some of the finest monuments built by the Muslim emperors, though the Mughals had also built the Red Fort, the Agra Fort and the Lahore Shalimar Gardens most of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

It is said that Sultana had spent years, appealing to the central and state government for help for basic living provision and a pension but till date the government has only provided her grand-daughter Roshan Ara with a job and a salary of £150.

1858 - Exiled to Rangoon

However, the other members of the household who seemed to be illiterate had failed the basic government test when they had been offered jobs. Sultana had spent several years running a tea stall before it was closed down and she then focused her attention in producing clothing for ladies. Sultana narrates that she is grateful to some who had come forward to support her.

Her husband, the late Muhammad Bedar Bakht, the son of Jamshid Bakht and the grandson of Jawan Bakht had informed her that they had come from respectable royal families who had never begged for a living. She stated that she had always asked governments to provide her with what her family deserves.

In 1837, the great grandfather of Sultana’s husband, Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar had been placed on the throne and was the last of the Mughal emperors who had ruled India for three centuries. Towards 1857, when the Indian soldiers had amalgamated and rebelled against their British master, Bahadur Shah Zafar was their commander-in-chief. In 1858, when the revolution was crushed by the British, he was exiled to Rangoon, where he lived there for five years till his death at the age of 87.

He had been accompanied by his wife, Zeenat Mahal during his exile together with some of the remaining family members. He had died in exile on 7th November 1862 in Rangoon, presently Yangon, and the capital of Burma.

Mughal Empire – Dominant Power In Indian Subcontinent

He was buried at the site which was later known as Bahadur Shah Zafar Dargah. Towards 1991, in the event of a restoration work-out, the original brick-lined graved was identified and he was honoured as a saint by the Burmese Muslims natives. Zeenat Mahal, his wife who died in 1886 and the granddaughter Raunaq Zamani were also buried alongside his burial. Though several of the children and grandchildren of Bahadur Shah had been killed as a result of the failed Indian Rebellion in 1857, the descendants of his surviving children had lived in Detroit Michigan in the United States and in various areas of India and Pakistan. The Mughal Empire which originated in Persia was the dominant power in the Indian subcontinent in the mid-16th century and the early 18th century. It ruled at its highest point, for around a quarter of the population of the world. Under the Mughals, the Indian economy was prosperous due to the development of road system and a uniform currency as well as with the union of the country. Town and cities grew under the Mughals, though for most part, the military and political centres had not been dedicated to commerce or industry.

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