Nawab Wajid Ali Shah
(Detailed Notes : This may not be very good in terms of language, but gives enough sketch for the purpose of research. This text may be using some vernacular terms too, which may be otherwise hard to understand in context but we will be happy to assist in this regard)
The late King Amjad Ali Shah was not happy with Wajid Ali Shah and used to say to his Chief Consort who also happened to be the mother of their son that Wajid Ali Shah was not capable of ruling Oudh. The account of Ilahi Jan tells us that both the parents considered Wajid Ali Shah’s younger brother; General Sahib was a better choice. There was an elder stepbrother also by the name of Mustafa Ali Khan but he was physically unfit and therefore he was never considered for throne. Nusrat Naahid in her book,’Jaane Aalam aur Mahak Pari’ has given another reason for not considering Mustafa Ali as heir apparent of Oudh kingdom. Amjad Ali Shah was not happy with the mother of Mustafa Ali and therefore declared that, Mustafa was already one and half years old when he married Sultan Mahal. Fortune smiled on Wajid Ali Shah, to become the new King. Mirza Kaisar Zaman Wajid Ali Shah was born on 30th July 1822 in Lucknow. His mother Malika Kiswar Aara Begum was the Chief Consort of his father Amjad Ali Shah. His birth took place during the reign of first King of Oudh Ghazi-ud-Din Haider. He was 5 years old, when the first King died. At the time of birth, the royal astrologers predicted that the boy would opt to be a Jogi (mendicant) in his future life and therefore it was necessary that he be made a Jogi on his every birthday. The newly born baby was dressed in ochre colour clothes when he was six days old and then on he was made to wear ochre coloured cloak on his every birthday. Perhaps the Jogiana mela (fair) started by Wajid Ali Shah later in Kaiser Bagh had the embryonic beginning from this childhood practice. The young Prince was put under the tutelage of Maulvi Imdad Hussain Khan, a renowned scholar poet who also happened to be the former teacher of his father Amjad Ali Shah. The young disciple soon attained proficiency in Persian besides other royal pursuits like horse-man-ship and marksmanship. He had a natural flair towards music and learnt all his lessons with the beats of music. He also started poetic compositions from an early age. On June 6, 1842, his father, now King Amjad Ali Shah declared him as Wali Ahad (Crown Prince) of the realm. His passion for poetry and music increased day by day in spite of his parents disliking for these un-kingly pursuits and he became more and more involved in his areas of interest. He became a disciple of Urdu Poet Aatish and wrote poetry under the pen name of Akhtar’. Before becoming a King of Oudh, Wajid Ali Shah acquired mastery over music, dance and poetry, the threesome hobbies, which he continued till end of his life.
When one goes through the life story of Wajid Ali Shah Jaan-e-Aalam, several questions arise in the mind. He started with a new hope and zeal to bring administrative reforms in the state, the English stepped in. He revamped the military; the English grew apprehensive of his intentions and told him to keep off. He tried to act statesmanlike and started correspondence with other rulers, English thought these as acts of sedition. He tried to introduce Ganga Yamuna culture in Oudh, the English thought him a man of debased values. He wrote and enacted in dramas, wrote poetry, introduced new dance forms and music. A new culture of Oudh had finally come of age, which was mass oriented and not limited to the high ups in the society. Public at large participated in these and owned these as their own. The Company Bahadur or the East India Company Officials were posted to carry out the administration of the state. Instead of blaming their own officers for mal-administration who were more concerned with their own welfare rather that of the public, the Governor General turned his heat towards the hapless King. The King was blamed for all the ills in the state. The English Officials were asked to prepare report after report to show that the welfare of the people of Oudh would be better looked after by the Company rather than by their own Ruler. Finally after ruling for 9 years, the King of Oudh was retired to Calcutta in 1856 and where he died on Sept.21″ of the year 1887. He was running in his 9 years of age. Had the disposed King taken to sword in 1856, the mutiny that started in 1857, would have started a year earlier? The people of Oudh were behind him and they waited for the order of their Ruler, Alas the order never came. Wajid Ali Shah’s misplaced belief in the justice of Pax Britannica was finally shattered after no response of the Queen Victoria when the Queen Mother Malika Kishwar Ara Begum met her personally in London to explain the case of illegal annexation of Oudh.
The King and his Reign
Amjad Ali Shah died in the evening time of five-o-clock on the sixth day of June 1842. The new King sat on the throne in the night exactly at 21:35 hours and assumed the titles of Abul Muzaffar Naasir-ud-Din, Sikandar Jah, Badshah-e-Adil, Kaiser Jaman, Sultan-e- Aalam, and Mirza Wajid Ali Shah Bahadur’, There were wide scale rejoicings. The volleys of cannon fire, songs and dances by the dancing girls and people coming out in open to express their joy were the scene at that time. The King did not physically sit on the throne, but simply touched is seven times and bowed before it as there was a rumour that a snake concealed in the cushions of the throne was responsible for early deaths of the former rulers of Oudh. The next day, the King went in a state procession to pay his respect and invoke the blessings at the shrine of Hazrat Abbas. He distributed alms, addressed grievances of the poor and infirm people whom he met on the way to the shrine and also on his return.
It has earlier been said that Wajid Ali Shah had an elder brother whose name was Mustafa Ali Khan Haider. The Palace intrigues got better of his claim to the throne. He was declared a mad person and was kept confined in a secluded place, Some people have described Mustafa Ali Khan,- as a man of great gravity, determination and judgment”. It is also said that the annexation of Oudh would have delayed if not stopped provided if Mustafa was there on the scene. The younger brother of Wajid Ali Shah was popularly known as General Sahib but his full name was General Mirza Mahmood Jawad Ali Sikandar Hashmat Bahadur. He was a handsome person and liked by people. Queen Mother Kishwar Ara Begum had special liking for this son.
Wajid Ali Shah took the reins of Oudh during difficult times. English had increased their hold and wanted to have complete control over the affairs of Oudh with the King serving as a figurehead. A plan for advisory council was mooted out. Dalhosie had prepared the road map for annexation of Oudh, He deputed Sleeman and then Outram to prepare special reports on Oudh. They toured the countryside without permission of the King and at the expense of state treasury. They collected the material for reports, which suited them the most. Wajid Ali Shah followed the system of administration, which according to him was best for the people of Oudh. Fisher in his book A Clash of Cultures’ has said, “In the face of internal and external threats to his authority, however, Wajid Ali Shah maintained his principles as he understood them, and refused to participate in any significant abdication of his authority, even at the cost of his own disposition and exile”.
Lord Hardinge on his return from Punjab met the young King at Lucknow and lectured him on improving the administration of the state in two years or else the company will step in and take over the governance of Oudh from the King. May be the motivation came after hearing the sermon of Hardinge, or the inner urge propelled Wajid Ali Shah to start with full vigour, the reforms in administration. The first step was obvious, replacing the aged minister Amin-ud-Daula of his father’s time by a young Minister of his choice. The young man was Ali Naqi Khan whom the King met in some musical and dance recital party and took fancy for him for his exuberance and youthful behavior. Ali Naqi Khan also helped him in construction of two buildings and gardens in the Baradari of Kaiser Bagh and the two young people got together very well. English objected to Naqi Khan’s appointment on the ground that he lacked experience but the King went ahead. Later the Wazir gave his daughter in marriage to the King, which further cemented the bond. Ali Naqi Khan remained Wazir till the annexation of Oudh.
Abdul Halim Sharar in his book, ‘Gujista Lucknow’ has written that the young King had interest in improving the justice department and military. For dispensing justice to the common man, he kept two silver boxes, which preceded the royal procession, and people were asked to put their grievances in these boxes. The King had the keys and after his return to the palace, he used to open these boxes himself, read the applications and wrote his orders.
The King had great interest in reorganisation of royal military and wanted to make it compact yet effective striking force. He was convinced that Rajas and Taluqdars had developed their own power centers and entrenched interests, which was hindrance between the Court of Lucknow and the common man and between the Court and English on other hand. The King realised that the system was creating artificial barrier, and keeping the Court aloof from genuine aspirations of the public. The sum result was dwindling revenue, loss of prestige of Government Officials amongst the public and there was problem of law and order also. Public had respect for the Crown but was against the oppressive governance of the Rajas and Taluqdars. The King had to deal with such local powerful Chiefs who now considered their hereditary right to govern the land for which the Court earlier appointed them. Military reforms were considered basic to all other reforms. Old regiments were disbanded and new ones were created. The literary genius of Wajid Ali Shah found poetic names such as Banka, Tircha, and Ghanghor for new Risalas and paltans were named as Akbtari and Naadri. Wajid Ali Shah himself attended the Musa parade ground in early hours, and seated on horseback, continued to observe for hours together, the drill and firing practice of the troops. He was fascinated by the exercise of drill and march of English troops and he wanted the same discipline in his troops also. He used to fine those who came late and awarded those who excelled. He developed command orders in Persian like Rast Raau (march straight), Pas Baya (turn backward), Dastar Chap Bagirad (turn left). A new kind of spirit was seen in the troops and they were full of enthusiasm. A women force was also organised and they were also taught the same drill and march. Soon within a year time, the English Resident Col. Richmond took a cognisance of the reorganisation of military and was alarmed. He saw it as a conspiracy against the British and sent his report to Fort Williams accordingly. Soon the Governor General’s order came to the King in couched language that the law and order in Oudh was the responsibility of English troops and therefore it was a wasteful exercise to train the royal troops. Thus the military reorganisation dream was buried under the company orders. The Royal Hakim was also won over by the English Resident who advised through Malika Kishwar Aara Begum that the new King would fall ill if he continued with the same vigour for long. Next the King tried his hand in reforming the civil administration especially the revenue collection. He was impressed by the English system of administration and wanted to try in the frontier districts of Oudh. The plan was meticulously prepared and had the prior approval of Colonel Richmond. Major Bird took the plan to Mr. Thomson; the Lt. Governor who was at Agra and it was thus officially routed to the Fort Williams, Calcutta. The plan rested there for a long time and finally rejected. The King out of disgust remarked, “-should I approve of the Amani, they praise the ljarah settlement; and should I speak well of the Ijarah, they praise the Amani management”. For the purpose of revenue collection, the administration of districts followed the patent established during the Mughal times. The situation was further worsened with the arrival of Colonel Sleeman as Resident in October 1849. Encouraged by Dalhousie to prepare for the “great changes” in Oudh, the wily Colonel-made his residency as Court of Justice and a great intelligence gathering Center. The Colonel started interfering in the Court matters, dispensed justice to the subjects of the King that included the royal soldiers and even threatened to declare King a rebel for not dismissing the assistant minister Wassi Ali. He made a tour of the countryside without permission of the King and received the complaints from the people, assured them of action and sometimes pronounced the judgements on remittance of the taxes. The Colonel however in his zeal to improve the administration, crossed the thin layer dividing the roles of the King and the Company that further eroded the authority of the King and the local officers of the Court. Sir Henry Lawrence and Major Bird have mentioned in their reports about the wrong doings of Sleeman and some English Officers.
Amresh Misra has mentioned in his book titled, ‘ Lucknow Fire of Grace’ that, “The British were alarmed. They were doubly perplexed by the King’s intention to effect reforms in every sphere. To gauge the people’s mood, complain boxes were placed near roads. In them, most of the Complainants expressed their satisfaction over the existing judicial system founded over the principles of Mohammedan and Hindu law. So the King set about strengthening the existing judicial system and did not pay much heed to the British advice of introducing European style courts. He also stopped holding the practice of lavish Durbars, finding them inconvenient and burden to the valuable resources. To tighten professional conduct, people were encouraged to seek redress in the Awadh courts and come to the King only in cases of emergency. In land revenue management, the state established direct contact with the cultivators and the Ijara, or the contract revenue system was abolished. The King also transferred responsibilities to a set of trained officials, instead of concentrating autocratic powers in his hands. He bade the district collectors to take in to account the specifics of an area and public opinion while assessing the revenue. Justice on economic matters was dispensed in special courts and criticism was encouraged in the King’s personal durbar.”
Wajid Ali Shah felt perturbed and anguished by actions of the Resident and negation of all his reforms by the Fort Williams, Calcutta and, “fell sick and grew weak both in body and mind. In despair, he retired from the cares of the state affairs, leaving Ali Naqi Khan, to look after them. The Prime Minister followed the old line of business as a safer course”. Fisher continued in his book, although the new Badshah initially made efforts to reform the administration and army, these were largely blocked by the variant policies of the Resident and established officials. Thus frustrated in his involvement in the administration, Wajid Ali Shah withdrew increasingly in to his own court and household, evincing ever less concern with the events in the province”. If the Oudh Sovereign withdrew himself from the outer world, devoted more time in the palace and derived pleasure from doing harmless activities (which did not warrant the interference of Resident) then why there were so many hue and cries by the English?
Dr. Surendra Nath Sen, a noted historian was commissioned by the Govt. of India to write on the sepoy uprising of 1857, It is rather strange that despite availability of so many Hindoostani sources on Oudh history, he preferred to refer, quote and conclude about Wajid Ali Shah based only on English sources. Colonel Sleeman thought of a Board of Regency plan for Oudh that had the ingredients like the resident reigning supreme as president and three members drawn from the royal family and only surplus revenue left for the King and the Court. The role of King was envisaged as figurehead only. Lord Dalhousie Governor General had a different plan and he wanted annexation of Oudh one pretext of mismanagement. Even Col. Sleeman, the Resident and protagonist of Board of Regency for Oudh, resigned in protest and explained his reasons in the letter reproduced in Mukherji’s book. However Sleeman already did the damage in preparing and submitting a biased report about Oudh, which Dalhousie later used it to prepare his case for annexation. General Outram was asked to be d next Resident and execute the plan for annexation of Oudh. The Avodhya Hanuman Garhi incident happened at that time which was presented in a twisted form by the General to the Governor General’s Council as further proof of mismanagement by the King. This incident has been described in detail at a latter portion of this chapter.
The final curtain drop scene happened with another visit of Resident to Calcutta to discuss the details of the plan. Additional troops were sent to Oudh and then on 3rd of February 1856, the order of annexation of Oudh was read to the King. On 12th of same month, Wajid Ali Shah was no more the King of Oudh. He was asked to sign a treaty and to take a pension and leave the state of Oudh for British to manage. The deposed King refused to take the pension and decided to fight his legal battle by going to London. He being declared a sick person at Calcutta before the departure for London, his Mother, Malika Kishwar Ara Begum, his younger brother General Sahib and the Crown Prince undertook the arduous task. During their stay in London, the great Indian Mutiny broke out in 1857. Wajid Ali Shah was put on house arrest by the English and transferred from Matia Burj to Fort Williams. Malika Kishwar Ara Begum met Queen Victoria and presented the Oudh case and sought her intervention to reverse the annexation order. Queen Victoria sympathised with Malika but did nothing more. The heart broken Queen Mother Malika Kishwar Ara Begum died in Paris while en-route to Holy Pilgrimage of Mecca and was buried there. General Sahib returned to London but he died soon after. The Crown Prince continued to stay at Paris, and returned after some time. Wajid Ali Shah saw no light at the end of the tunnel and so accepted the Rs 12 lakhs a year pension in October 1859 with other stipulations as dictated by the Council. He died a sad man though outwardly appeared as a merry making person of joyful pursuits. Despite his craze for music and dance, the King was otherwise quite restrained in his habits. He never took wine, of partook any kind of intoxicant like opium, etc. He always offered namaaz and observed fasting all the thirty days in the period of Ramzan. He observed the mourning part of Moharram and other Shia customs with complete faith. The detail story about annexation of Oudh and his stay at Matia Burj will appear later in this chapter.
The Avant-garde of Oudh
No other King or Nawab of Oudh added as much colour to the cultural life of Oudh as Wajid Ali Shah did. His buildings of Kaiser Bagh were unique entertainment centers where open-air operas were staged. He created a grand spectacle of lakes, artificial mountains and fountains, animal zoo and a bird’s sanctuary in Matia Burj. He brought forth the concept of mass entertainment in which the common man had the feeling of participation. He was really a man of masses.
It is said that Wajid Ali Shah must have produced not less than 100 works. His contributions were varied that included music, dance form, poetry, and drama. His versatility is visible from his Treatise on Amorous Love Making, which is no less than a modern day scientific work on art and science of Erotica.
Like Amir Khusro, the poetry of Wajid Ali Shah, assimilated words taken from all the popular Hindoostani languages such as Bengali, Brij bhasa, Marwari, Punjabi, Awadhi, Deccani, Urdu, Persian and even English. His large harem of Begums coming from distant places of Hindoostan must have given him this novel idea. He wrote Ghazal, masnavi, marsiya, hijo, nauba and Salam. He used Akhtar as penname in his writings. Though his poetic attainments cannot form the part of classic literature, yet he tried to reach masses by using their slang. True to his personality he used the words and composed his writings, which few would have dared to write. Masnavi writing of Nawab Mirza Shauk left great influence on the mind of young Prince Wajid Ali Shah. He had the experience of his rich love life, which he tried to portray in the simple and rustic language that made him appear as the greatest of the sensual King of Oudh. His masnavi, Huzne Akhtar’ described his personal life, lives of his Begums, their indifference towards him and intrigues as well as his confinement in Fort Williams, Calcutta. His couplet,
“Dar-o-Deewar par Hasrat Ki Nazar Karte Hain,
Khush Raho Ahle Watan hum to safar karte hein”
was composed when he was forced to leave Oudh for Calcutta. The mind of Akhtar was full of sorrow but still he felt that his country and countrymen should be well and happy. Few Indians will know that Akhtar wrote this famous line and not revolutionary Ram Prasad Bismil of Kakori train dacoiti case that happened in 1940’s. Jaane Aalam Wajid Ali Shah himself composed Ghazals under the pen name of ‘Akbtar Piya’. He is said to have written about 100 books, Some of the important writings of Wajid Ali Shah are: six Diwaans of Ghazals that include ‘Shua-e-Faiz, ‘Kamar-e-Majmoon’, ‘Sukban-e-Ashraf’, ‘Guldasta-e- Aasikaan’, Akbtar-e-Mulk’, and Nazam-e-Namwar’. Many masnavis; Husn-e-Akhtar’, Khitabaat-e-Mahallat’, Baani’, Naajo’, Dulhan’, Darfan-e-Mausiki’, and Dariya-e-Tasshuk’. Three compilations of marsiyas, Kasai dul Mubarak’ which include kasidas in Urdu and Persian, ‘Mubhaisa Bainul Nafsulakl’, Sahifa-e-Sultani’, Nasahiye Akhtari’, Isq Nama’, Risala-e-Iman’, Daftar-e-Parisan’, Maqtale Motbir’, Dastur Wajidi’, Sautul Mubarak’, Haibat-e-Haidari’, Janhar-e-Uruj, and Trshad-e-Khakhani.
Ilahi Jaan has described in detail the drama of a beautiful lady Gijala, who was the wife of a King but was taken away by the Jins and reached the court of one powerful Raja Inder. She was so beautiful that Raja Inder proposed. The poor husband of Gijala, in great sorrow, became a Jogi and went from place to place in search of his wife. Finally the Jins felt pity on the King and he was presented before Raja Inder. Raja Inder asked the King to prove worthy of Gijala by display of his fighting abilities, and show his proficiency in music and dancing. The King came out successful in all the tests and Gijala was restored back to him. Wajid Ali Shah played the part of the King and it was a sight to watch the heavy weight King clad in bare saffron coloured cloak of a Jogi and moving in the Baradari of Kaiser Bagh in search of Ghijala with his Begums and followers, all wearing saffron coloured robes. The most beautiful lady of the harem was chosen every year to play the role of Gijala. The whole city of Lucknow was in mourning when Gijala was abducted by the Jins and after her return, there were marked festivities, celebrations and illuminations in Kaiserbagh. The drama continued for 10 days in the month of August every year and the gates of Kaiser Bagh were thrown open to the public on the condition that all would wear saffron coloured clothes to marry her.
Ilahi Jaan has mentioned that Wajid Ali Shah was fond of dancing and used to entertain the ladies of the harem by his dances. Once his mother, Malika Kishwar Ara Begum was so pleased with his dance that she presented him Rs.3000 as prize. Abdul Halim Sharar has out rightly rejected that Wajid Ali used to dance though he agreed that Wajid Ali Shah had a keen interest and intricate knowledge of dancing. He had a natural gift of laya and his thumbs of the feet moved naturally with the dance even when he was asleep. There is no doubt that Wajid Ali Shah had a sound knowledge of Kathak dance which he studied under Pandit Durga Prasad, the father of famous duo Kalka and Binda Din whose Gharana is still dominating the Kathak dance form in Hindoostan. Birju Mahraj is the present torchbearer. However Kathak Dance form was given a new lease of life in that the fast moving intricate foot-work and taal were harmonised to tell a story. Kathak originated from Jaipur and Benares but had temple moorings and therefore was craving for liberation to become one with the mortal being and express same language. Wajid Ali was conversant with story of Mathura and Vrindavan that told about the eternal love of Krishna and Radha or the atma (soul) and God. Kathak of Wajid Ali Shah was for ordinary masses and therefore had to cater the innate sensuality or the elements of human weaknesses. He gave a new form to Rabas by introducing Radha who spoke Urdu and Krishna spoke in Awadhi. Thus a new style of dance drama started which was the forerunner of famous Inder Sabha, a dance drama written by contemporary Amanat which became very popual in later Lucknow. Court of Nasir-ud-Din had at least 100 such groups of singers for entertainment. Muhammad Ali Shah and Amjad Ali Shah did not evince much interest in the music and dance. The period of Wajid Ali Shah was marked with bold experimentation both in the art of classical dance and music. Ghulam Raza Khan, a non-Dhrupad musician of Senia Gharana popularised Sitar as a solo instrument player. He invented Raza Khani Gat (a stylish instrumental composition), overflowing with melody, and conformed to sixteen beat rhythmic structures in medium or fast tempo. Wajid Ali Shah was patron to host of musicians but Kutub-ud-Daula, a resident of Rampur, carved out his name as a Sitarist of repute. Anis-ud-Daula, Musahib-ud-Daula, and Razi-ud-Daula were also singers but their fame mainly rested on the patronage of the King, Pyare Khan, Zafar Khan and Haider Khan and Wasit Khan were considered Ustads or Maestros and they were all related with the Tansen Gharana of Senias. Niamat Ullah Khan resided for full 11 years at Matia Burj with Wajid Ali Shah and thereafter he went to Nepal and remained there for 30 years entertaining Rana and his royal guests. He was the same musician who was taught by Ustad Basat Khan. Music saw both the rise and fall during the reign of Wajid Ali Shah. People of low caliber started writing and distributing Thumris, which were considered a part of lighter classical music as compared to difficult Dhrupad and Hori ragas. People gradually started liking Thumris more as these were easier to comprehend and catered to the popular taste. Wajid Ali Shah had mastery over music and he learnt under Ustad Wasit Khan. King was interested in inventing his own raginis and named them as Jogi, Kannar, Jubi and Shabpasand. He also named one ragini as Sultani. The level of classical music fell and ragas like Khammaj, Jhinjboti, Bhairvi, Sinduri, Tilak, Kamod and Peelu replaced practically all the difficult ragas. Ragini Bhairvi of Lucknow School of music was now recognised all over Hindoostan. Soozkhwano popularised these in every home and even ladies also took this lighter classical music as ducks took to water. Chhaju Khan was considered Ustad of Tappa. Sadiq Ali Khan and Munne Khan also were considered top ranking singers. During his stay at Matia Burj, Wajid Ali Shah patronized musicians like Ahmed Khan, Taj Khan, and Ghulam Hussain Khan. The musical concerts held at Matia Burj always remained a great draw for the Rais and elites of Calcutta of those days. Dulli Khan was a house hold name in Calcutta and every local musician acknowledged his mastery.
Kathak dance gave new impetus to Wajid Ali Shah to experiment with classical Hindoostani sangeet or music coming from since time immemorial. Again he wanted to do away with long alaaps and taans and introduce the thematic presentations of compositions and popular songs sung by women of rural Oudh. In this, he leaned towards Amir Khusro and adopted popular and simple Ragas and Raaginis with stamp of rural background. Thus were born Thumris, Dadra, jogi, juhi, jasmine, Shah Pasand and Raga Jhinjoti. The Court Musician Ghulam Raza created Raza Khani Gat which was a style of instrumental composition and suitable for the lighter compositions of Wajid Ali Shah.
Wajid Ali Shah was a disciplined singer and used to practice for two hours, Sur and laya are the foundation of good singing. Wajid Ali Shah developed mastery over laya so much that it was even difficult for an accomplished singer of repute to keep up with him. He was fond of singing Holi during festival time. His Wazir and close friend Nawab Ali Naqi Khan who also happened to be his father-in-law always joined him on such occasions. Ali Naqi Khan himself was a very good singer of Holi and was quite proficient in playing sitar (a string instrument) also The music connoisseurs of old days never forgot the musical concert organized during the Holi festival of 1867 celebrated at Matia Burj, Calcutta. Jadumal and Aghor Nath sang Dhrupad, Sajjad Muhammad played Sitar, sarod was played by Dhirendra Nath Bose and Shyam Lall Goswami played Israj. Murad Ali Khan Ram chandra Bararai and Surendra Mohan Tagore were another notable musicians present on the occasion. What better example of Hindu-Muslim jointly celebrating a festival can be cited? Wajid Ali Shah was spending Rupees 1,26,590 annually over the upkeep of his musical party of 360 persons.
Courtesans patronized light classical Thumris as these went very well with style of Kathak dance and ghazals evolved in Lucknow under Wajid Ali Shah. These form of singing and dances instantaneously hit popularity amongst the nobility and masses as these were easy to be learnt and did not require intricate understanding of classical ragas.
Kanshiram, the painter- architect was encouraged to develop a distinct Lucknow style of combining the features of the company school and Mughal School. His dotted figures resembled those of Von Gogh. Wajid Ali Shah initially encouraged the master painter of horses, Mummoo Jaan. His two albums are in the collection of Bharat Kala Bhawan of Benaras Hindu University.
Wajid Ali Shah’s sharp eyes did not leave alone the dresses worn in those days. He improvised Dehli Angharkha by leaving out the bodice and combining Jama with belabor. Two lapels were fixed on two ends of chest in such a fashion that the left nipple was visible. He also invented a special official cap for his durbar named Aalam Pasand, Those who were honoured with title of Daulas were asked to wear these caps when durbar was in session. One such illustration available shows Wajid Ali Shah wearing Lucknow Angarkha and Alam Pasand cap.
Begums and Parikhana of Wajid Ali Shah
Of all the Nawabs and Kings of Oudh, name of Wajid Ali Shah clearly stands out for his passion for women. He married not once but countless times and all classes of women. He created Parikhana (fairy place) where he kept his collection of Paries (fairies). He was not a hypocrite and therefore what he did, it was for everybody to see. His life was an open Book. Nobody can be as frank and open as Wajid Ali Shah in his book, Tarikh-e-Parikhana’ written in Persian, which gives a detail account of royal harem. Exactly that explains why his name still comes easily to the mind whenever and wherever the city of Lucknow is remembered.
Though it sounds rather strange that in the strict sense of the word, Wajid Ali Shah cannot be billed as an immoral person for he never had any concubine or mistress. He married each and every woman in his harem either by nikah or mutah and made sure that the lady if married before had divorced her previous husband. One young water carrier woman who used to carry water in the Mahalsera was given the title of Nawab Abrasan Begum and entered the harem of Wajid Ali Shah by mutah. Another young lady of the sweeper class who used to attend the Haremsera duties was married by mutah to the King and assigned the title Nawab Mustafa Begum. Those talented women married by mutah were given specialized training in dance and music and they were classified in several groups. Interesting names such as Radha Manjil walian, Jhumar walian, Latkan walian, Shardamanjil walian, nath walian, gbungbat walian, ras walian, and nakal walian, were given to these various groups. The diverse background of these ladies compelled Wajid Ali Shah to issue a book called Banni’ giving 20 instructions on their conduct in Mahalsara. These instructions are very practical and interesting to read.
Taarikh-e-Awadh mentions that Wajid Ali Shah had 120 women in his harem and so concurs Ilahi Jaan in her narration. Kamal-ud-Din Haider had accounted for 51 wives of Wajid Ali Shah where as Mahal Khana-i-Shahi gave the number of wives as 49. The book titled Begamaat-i-Khutut-i-Awadh or letters of Begums of Oudh tells us that the King had 37 wives. He had 45 sons and 34 daughters by these women. It was believed that Wajid Ali Shah was the incarnation of Shah Sulaiman and therefore he was so much virile and had so many women and children.
A gradation system was followed for the Begums. There was only one Chief Consort or Badshah Begum and whose eldest son had the right to the throne of Oudh. Those who were Begums drew higher allowances of Rs10, 000 per month besides enjoying the revenue of assigned jagirs. The status of Mahal was lower in the rank and therefore was fixed lower monthly allowances and property. Nikah and Mutah marriages were prevalent. Mumtua were the women who married by Mutah or the fixed period marriage. The presence of the bridegroom was not necessary in this kind of marriage. One Anju Begum wanted to be a Mumtua because it made possible weekly visit of the King but if married by Nikah, the visit turned out to be once a year.
Once Wajid Ali Shah tested the faithfulness of his women by announcing that everybody was free to leave the Mahalsara and found that except one Umrao Begum all of them left for their former places from where they came. Though they all came back because they were now accustomed to a different way of life. Some of them were ready to serve as Tawaifs but were willing to forego their Status of Begums. Once Wajid Ali Shah was attracted to one of the maidservant of Queen Mother and sought permission to marry her but his permission was not granted as the maidservant had a snake like mark on her back. Wajid Ali Shah called all his women except the Chief Consort and few other Begums and got their backs examined for the snake mark. The snake mark was found on the body of Nishat Mahal, Khurshed Mahal, Saleman Mahal, Hazrat Mahal, Dara Begum, Bari Begum, Chhoti Begum, and Hazrat Begum. Immediately the Chief Mullah was called and divorce was arranged with all these women and they were asked to leave with their belongings. Later Hindu Pundits were also called and they opined that if a snake was brought, burnt and buried under ground, this sign was not going to harm the King. This Hindu ritual was also followed but except Bari and Chhoti Begum nobody else was agreeable to return to the Palace.
The life in Mabalsera or Haremsera was not a very congenial one. It was like a golden cage or a large prison house where everything one can think in luxury was present but the inmates were not frce as they were bound by the strict palace rules and orders of the King. The movements were strictly regulated which made any person to enter or leave the palace very difficult. There was complete ban on entry of males in the mahalsera except the Khawajasaras and Physicians on call duty. There were Negro eunuchs and strongly built women Amazons in the palace duty and they were assigned the guard duty and other heavy-duty work like moving large capacity hot water caldrons for the royal bath.
Chief Consort Nawab Khas Mahal
Nawab Khas Mahal was the Chief Consort of Wajid Ali Shah. Her full titles were Nawab Khas Mahal Mukahddera Uzma Badshah Mahal Aalam Ara Saheba. She was also known as Aazam Bahu. She came from an impeccable pedigree stock. Her ancestors were well known noble family of Delhi. Her father was Nawab Ali Khan and her mother was Barati Khanum. It appears that Anjum -un-Nisa Begum, the Grand Mother of Wajid Ali Shah played an important role in arranging the marriage. Majha (pre-marriage ceremonies) were performed on Nov.14, 1837 but actual marriage took place in January 1838. She was praised for her qualities not only by her husband but several people. She was a gifted poetess and adept in writing musical compositions. She was considerate to the needy persons and helped many. The relations of the King with his chief consort went sour in the beginning because she wanted to rein her husband in his flirtations with women of every type of description. The quarrel started with the appointment of Moti Khanum as personal maid of Wajid Ali Shah. Begum complained to her parents in laws and the son got a severe reprimand for his misdemeanor and the maidservant was asked to leave the palace immediately. Later on it seems that Begum resigned to her fate and compromised with her life and Wajid Ali Shah’s interests. It seems rather strange that now Begum started selecting women for presentation before her husband. The long list of these women started with the name of Saheba Khanum, a singer and married woman. Other Women followed were Suleiman Pari, Ajaib Pari, Wajeer Pari, Nur Afshan Pari, Bilkish Pari, Shah Baksh Khawash, and Altaf Baksh Khawash. Wajid Ali Shah even entrusted the charge of his Pan khana to Begum for some time. Begum was primarily required to see the needs of these women. Muhammad Ali Hussain Khan later took over these duties from the Begum. Parikhana was actually meant to recruit and maintain a bevy of beautiful maidens who were talented in dance and music, Their talents were further honed under the watchful eyes of the King. They participated in the stage shows, dramas and other entertainment programmes being organized continuously in the Barahdari of Kaiser Bagh. Sometimes these women got pregnant and then they were removed from Parikhana and sent to royal harem. They gained importance and status with the motherhood.
To continue with the story of Begum, one can say, based on the narration of Ilahi Jaan and others like Sleeman who observed that Begum was however not as influential as the Queen Mother Malika Kishwar Ara. Begum also did not enjoy good relationship with Queen Mother either and they did not meet cordially or talked with each other till the last moment when the Queen Mother was leaving Calcutta to meet the English Queen Victoria. The hatred between the Begum and Queen Mother was further given boost by the marriage of Wazir’s daughter to the king Wajid Ali Shah. The long-term strategy of Queen Mother in arranging this marriage was to keep check on powerful Wazir and thereby on Begum. The rift widened apart so much so that the pet maid servant of Malika Kishwar Ara Begum, Ilahi Jaan has alleged in her narration that Begum even tried though unsuccessfully on two occasions to take the life of the Queen mother, first time by a snake left in the bed room and next by poison. Begum Khas Mahal appeared in the King’s Council for the first time when Resident Outram came to Durbar to announce the annexation of Oudh. Begum proposed to the British resident that let Mustafa Ali Shah, the other son of late Amjad Ali Shah be given the throne of Oudh in place of Wajid Ali Shah so that Kingdom of Oudh might continue and nobody should blame her husband responsible for loss of the Kingdom. Begum Khas Mahal traveled to Calcutta with the deposed King Wajid Ali Shah and expressed herself strongly against the decision of Wajid Ali Shah and Queen Mother that they will travel to London and present their case personally to the Queen Victoria and appeal against the annexation of Oudh. Major Bird and Maulvi Masih-ud-Din were already given briefs to prepare the case. Two men of doubtful characters namely Hussain Khan and Mir Aulad somehow became the advisors of Khas Mahal. The last named person was proficient in forgery and he was nicknamed Jalsaji Mushahir. These wicked advisors tried to work Begum against Major Bird and Maulvi and futility of the London mission. They considered all the expenditure in this exercise as wasteful. They brainwashed Begum so much that first she refused to consent the London expenses of Major Bird and then conveyed to her mother In law and younger brother of Wajid Ali Shah that they should meet their own expenditure during their stay at Calcutta. Begum also refused to allow the Crown Prince to travel to London. All these matters were reported to the deposed King and he settled these promptly. There was a long correspondence between the Begum and the British about allowing her a separate allowance, which was refused, and finally Wajid Ali Shah granted her a monthly allowance of Rs 1000 from his Own allowance. Matters grew still worse between the Begum and Wajid Ali Shah after he was sent to Fort Williams when the outbreak of 1857 started. Begum clamored for her properties of Alam Bagh and Khas Manzil in Lucknow but the British rejected her claims. She was not happy with the news brought by Major Herbert that the Governor General was contemplating to grant Rs15 lakhs to Birjis Qadr and Rs 5 lakhs to Begum Hazrat Mahal after they were granted amnesty Begum felt humiliated when Major Herbert considered these two as brave person and worthy of such honor. Some writers have pointed out that the two died before the British gave them any such honorable settlements. Infuriated with the British, Begum advised Wajid Ali Shah against sending of the appeal laden with flatter language and written as Qasida to the Governor General, which she considered against the dignity of the deposed King of Oudh.
Begum survived Wajid Ali Shah 7 years more but those were difficult years for her. She was not keeping good health and passed her time by pouring her disappointments, failings and futility of life in writing poetry. Her collections were published in a Diwan called Bayyaj-i-Usbbak and a masnavi called Masnavi-i-Alum. She also distinguished herself in the field of music by writing several compositions in Thumri and Geet. Begum died on March 13,1894 at Matia Burj. She was only 57 years of age but hard times she faced, did not allow her to live longer. One Najum-ud -Daula alias Pyare Sahib who was very close to her during the last few years, laid his hands on her jewellery and cash and as well as on the property which was left by her.
Raunaq Aara Begum Akhtar Mahal Sahiba
She was eldest daughter of Wazir Saiyyad Ali Naqi Khan and his wife Gauhar Aara Begum.Khas Mahal Begum was her cousin sister. Wajid Ali Shah presented his title of Akhtar to her and she was called Nawab Akhtar Mahal Sahiba.
She entered as Maasuq Pari in Pari Khana but after she became pregnant was accorded the status of Mahal. King Amjad Ali Shah conferred the title of Mirza Faridun Qadr Bahadur on her son. Faridun Qadr was married on 21% October 1851 and the next day Wajid Ali Shah gave a Daanate Walima or the bride’s banquet, which was also attended by British Resident. Mirza Faridun Qadr ‘s wife was the younger daughter of Wazir Ali Naqi Khan. Both father and son were now saadhu bhai as they married the two cousin sisters but now the new relationship made these two as mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Faghfur Bahu was another name for the new bride.
Her real name was Umrao Begum. She was daughter of one Umda Khanum, a resident of Chowk, Lucknow. She was very beautiful and talented lady who used to perform mujras. In one of these mujra, the crown Prince Wajid Ali Shah took fancy for her and both got married. She received the title of Sikandar Mahal. After Wajid Ali Shah became the King, her allowance was increased to Rs. 3000 per month and received the title of, Habib-ul-Sultan Mukuram-ul- Zamaani Sikandal Mahal Sahiba’. Wajid Ali Shah also built a beautiful garden by her name called Sikandar Bagh at a cost of 5 lakhs of rupees. It took one year to develop garden fully. She died issueless.
Divorce of Sarfarj Mahal Begum
The whole of Oudh was reverberating with the news of divorce of Sarfaraz Mahal when Col. Sleeman was touring Oudh on the orders of Lord Dalhousie. Sultana Sarfaraz Mahal was a very attractive young woman who was capable of enticing any male? When Wajid Ali Shah saw her, he could not resist himself and immediately proposed to marry her. Sarfaraz Mahal agreed too but on a condition that she had the freedom to meet her friends whenever she liked. As they say the passionate love is always blind so Wajid Ali Shah did not see any harm in agreeing to the condition put forth. At the time of marriage the King gave presents not only to Sarfaraz Mahal but also to all her friends. Friends of Sarfaraz Mahal continued their visits to the palace at odd hours and in the beginning these visits were ignored as per orders of the King. As the time passed, rumours started floating and took shape as bazaar gossips. Her physical intimacy with Razi-ud-Daula was well known within the precincts of Mahalsara but nobody was prepared to convey the news to the King since Sarfaraz Mahal was most powerful being the hot favorite of Wajid Ali Shah. The cup of sins of Sarfaraz Mahal was full now to the brim. The King now put his intelligence after Sarfaraz Mahal and made Sadiq Ali as incharge. Soon Sadiq Ali got the Sultana entangled in the love talks and got favorable reply but kept on postponing the personal meeting on one pretext or the other. Sadiq Ali also came to know the affair of Sarfaraz Mahal with the Court Musician Ghulam Raza and both of them were put on surveillance. One day when Ghulam Raza was not found in his bed, Sadiq Ali immediately informed the King. Both of them went to the chambers of Sarfaraz Mahal and caught Ghulam Raza in act. Sarfaraz Mahal was turned out from the palace and ordered to proceed to Mecca for atonement of her sin in the Holy Land. Ministers of Wajid Ali Shah were of the opinion that all the property and money of Sarfaraz Mahal and her friends should be confiscated and she should be sent to gallows for the grave crime she committed and brought disrepute to Oudh Royalty. Nothing was heard of Sarfaraz after she left for Mecca.
Rashk-e- Alam and Bahaar-un-Nisa
Rask-e-Alam, a Punjabi beauty also well versed in the art of singing and dancing came to Lucknow with her father Kaalwaha and elder sister Baharun-Nisa to try their luck in the Court of Wajid Ali Shah. Both the sisters were introduced in the Court through one elderly and rich Hafij. The younger sister Rshk-e-Alam was more beautiful and talented. Her singing attracted attention of the King She was allowed to stay in the palace and started regular singing and dancing. After some time, the King Wajid Ali Shah married her in a formal ceremony and the elder Dahaar-un-Nisa caught the fancy of Queen Mother Malika Kishwar Ara Begum who gave her a job of female attendant. Soon by her intelligence, Bahaar-un-Nisa won over the heart of Queen Mother. Bahaar-un-Nisa had to give a written undertaking that she will not marry for 5 years. God planned for Bahar something else for which she was totally unaware. She became intimate with one Pyare Sahib who happened to be the brother in law of Rani of Nanpaara estate who came and stayed in the Palace as royal guest for some time. Bahaar became pregnant and took measures to terminate her pregnancy, Her condition grew worse with excessive bleeding but with the intervention and better care taken by the Queen Mother, life of Bahaar was saved. Later when Queen Mother knew the whole story, Pyare Sahib was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment and Bahaar was given pardon Rashk-e-Alam made an appeal on behalf of her sister and got the remission of prison sentence of Pyare Saheb and both were then allowed to live happily as married couple., Bahanr-un-Nisa remained in the service of Queen Mother and she was one of the servants who accompanied the royal party to London. She had given a graphic account of the departure from Calcutta and journey to London and their stay.
Pari khana or House of Fairies (Academy of Performing Arts)
One cannot fail to notice Morris College of Hindustani Music now known as Bhathkhande University of Music located in front of the marble canal and bridge of Kaiser Bagh. This building also housed Canning College in 1874 but before that the premises were used as Parikbana (living place of fairies) of Wajid Ali Shah. The building had luxurious furnishings in oriental style complete with chandeliers, Persian rugs, a number of small chowkis (low height tables), diwans with costly and cosy spreads, and curtains all over. The building was specially refurbished to provide residential place for Paris and the saajindes (accompanists). Turkish Amazons were employed to keep watch over the building complex and inhabitants, as was the practice during those days.
Parikhana or Academy of Music and Fine Arts was a dream project of Wali Abad (Crown Prince) Wajid Ali Shah. Parikhana was created to recruit beautiful and talented women who were found well versed in the art of drama, music and dance and train them further to develop these art forms. Wajid Ali Shah was writing dramas and devising mass entertainment programmes for which he needed a pool of such talented women. There was talent hunt for such Pariyan all over the country and agents were suitably rewarded. Pariyan were allowed a comfortable living and made to practice under expert supervision. In Parikhana, Wajid Ali Shah spent hours together in the company of accomplished artists like Ghulam Raza, Khamman, Chhaju Khan, and Saabit Ali and with whom he practiced and attained mastery over playing musical instruments like tabla and sitaar. When all the Paryan used to sit in a circle and sang in their melodious voices with the accompaniment of sitar played by Wajid Ali Shah sitting in the middle, the glittering assembly gave an appearance no less than the Court of Indra the Lord of Hindu Gods. There is a famous painting (reproduced in this book) that shows Wajid Ali Shan reclining pose on a diwan and teaching intricacies of some finer points of art to his Pariyan. Lakhs of rupees were spent annually for preparation of the colourful and dazzling dresses for Paris and upkeep of the building and payment of compensations to the Paris and their instructors.
Next it was thought to outline the rudiments of music for teaching purpose. It is said that Wajid Ali Shah wrote such a book in consultation with his court musicians and professional singers.
Strict discipline was maintained and inmates were fined or removed from the Parikhana for any act of gross indiscipline. Once Wajid Ali Shah turned out one Pari because she had stolen jewelry of his son Mirza Falak Qadr Bahadur.There was no doubt that some Pariyan were so enchanting that their magic did the trick and Wajid Al Shah developed infatuation with them but such cases were on finger count. Some of his Pariyan deserted Wajid Ali Shah and left for pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Nawab Saltanat Mahal and Nawab Sarfaraz Mahal were upgraded from Pari to Mahal but they wanted their status back to Pari as they enjoyed more freedom in Parikbana. Similarly Khurshed Mahal, Amir Mahal, Ajaib Khanum became members of Parikhana after leaving their status of Mahal.
Annexation of Oudh and life at Matia Burj
The East India Company Rulers never felt comfortable in their dealings with Wajid Ali Shah as he refused to tow their line and acted independently. He disapproved advances, loans or investments in Company’s securities. He annulled most of the appointments of Company persons appointed during his father’s time. He pursued civil and military reforms vigorously. All these activities summed up in total alienation of British from the young King and formed one of the strongest reasons of annexation.
As has been stated earlier, Dr S.N. Sen took a simplistic line of approach in dealing with Wajid Ali Shah. He relied more on English sources like Colonel Sleeman who declared in 1849, “Oudh is now, in fact, without a Government. The King sees nobody else save the singers and eunuchs, and does not even pretend to know anything or care anything about public affairs. “Sleeman drafted a plan that the administration should be vested in a Board. The King should either transfer his authority to the Board or to abdicate in favor of the heir apparent, in which case the Board should act as Council of Regency. The Governor General Dalhousie was thinking something different for Oudh. General Outram was chosen as the man for carrying out the plan. Outram succeeded Sleeman in 1854. He sent his report about the condition of Oudh administration “, in same state, if not worse, in which Colonel Sleeman from time to time described them to be.” The earlier treaty of 1801 provided for reforms and improvements in administration through native officers. The abrogated treaty of 1837 envisaged for transfer of administration and not annexation. The Governor General Dalhousie wanted a fresh treaty for voluntary transfer, in perpetuity, of the administration to the East India Company in lieu of a guaranteed subvention for the King, his successors and members of the royal family, Dalhousie was quite clear in his mind and although there was delay in obtaining the sanction of the plan from England, which came in January 1856, he matured his plans to the details. He was ready with annexation in case the King refused to sign the new treaty. Outram was provided reinforcements of troops and was given instructions to use the force if the King wanted to resist.
In the morning at 8 a.m. of 4th of February 1856, Major General Outram, the English Resident escorted by Captain Hayes and Captain Weston, started for a crucial meeting with the King. The meeting was held at Zurd Kothi Palace and other people present were; the Wazir, King’s brother Sikander Hashmat, Residency Vakeel Muhsee-ud-Daula, his deputy Saheb-ud-Daula and the Minister of Finance Raja Balkishen. The Resident handed over the original letter of Governor General and reminded the King that a copy of the letter was sent to him two days earlier and contents were explained to the Wazir in detail. The King expressed his obligations and after a brief pause, slowly muttered, “Why have I deserved this? What have I committed?” The Resident refused to discuss the subject any further than what the Governor General had clearly outlined in the letter. Outram simply emphasized that the treaty of 1801 no longer existed and the new treaty offer of the Governor General was in the best interest of the King and he should accept it. The King had been provided a liberal maintenance (Rs 12 lakhs per annum) and his titles, honors, rank and dignity would be preserved and transmitted to the descendants in perpetuity. Authority of the King would be absolute in his palace and household, the exception being the power of life and death. All the relatives and scrvants would be adequatcly provided for. The King asked Saheb-ud-Daula to read loudly the contents of the treaty but choked with emotions, he could not proceed further. The King himself took the treaty document, read it and then painfully spoke out, ” Treaties are necessary between equals only: who am I now that the British Government should enter into treaties with? For a hundred years, this dynasty has flourished in Oude. It had ever received the favor, the support, and protection of the British Government. It had ever attempted faithfully and fully to perform its duty to the British Government. The kingdom is a creation of the British, who are able to make and to unmake, to promote and degrade. It has merely to issue its commands to ensure their fulfillment; not the slightest attempt will be made to oppose the views and wishes of the British Government; myself and subjects are its servants”. To the appertains of Muhsee-ud-Daula that all the palace guns were dismounted and the troops were being disarmed, the King told the Resident, “-how defenseless and incapable of resistance were his subjects and soldiers.” The Resident again harped on the generosity of the British Government and liberal considerations for the King and his dependants and, “what evil consequences” would follow if refused. Wazir expressed in favour of signing the treaty but the King’s brother repeated that the King was now not independent and therefore he was not in a position as one of the contracting powers to sign the treaty. The King was in tears and full of grief, he uncovered his head and placed his turban in the hands of the Resident and spoke that his titles, rank and position all gone, it was not for him to sign a treaty or enter into any negotiation. He was completely in the hands of the British Government, which had seated his grandfather on the throne and could at its pleasure consign him to obscurity. After some further engaging conversation, and reluctance on the part of King to sign the treaty, the Resident did some plain speaking that, “at the expiration of three days, unless the King acceded to the wishes of the British Government, I would have no alternative but to assume the Government of the Country”. Thereafter with usual ceremonies and honour, the Resident left the Palace.
The King sent his reply on the morning 8 a.m. of February 7th 1856. And at 9 a.m with clock like precision; Major Banks took over the charge of Lucknow city with the help of one Captain Weston and Sadr Kotwal. At 12:00 clock, a meeting of Wazir, high revenue and police officials were called where a formal announcement of administrative take over was announced. Mr. Gubbins and Mr. Ommanney were asked to take possession of records, the treasury and other public offices in the city. Besides carrying these details, Resident Outram’s letter to the Governor General, written on 7th February sheds some other interesting details like Outram also held a meeting with Malika Kishwar Ara Begum and promised her a separate allowance of Rs. One Lakh per annum on the condition that the King be persuaded to sign the treaty. It also appears that there was some understanding between Dalhousie and Outram that the pension amount of Rs. 12 lakh might be increased to Rs 15 lakhs per annum if the King objected on signing the treaty by simple excuse of the low amount of pension offered. Resident also held a series of meetings with the Wazir and asked him to use his influence over the King to sign the treaty. But none of these happened.
Again there was correspondence between the King and the Resident on the issue of disbanding the royal armed troops and police force. The King finally agreed that the existing arrangements would continue for some more time. There were rumours and more rumours in Oudh. First there was rumour about Mustafa Khan, the elder brother of King who was suspected of rebellious attempts in Lucknow but the Governor General cleared his name. Nawab Ali Naqi Khan, the Wazir was detained in Lucknow. Then the news came that Agent of Wajid Ali Shah had concluded arrangements with one Mirza Ali Akbar to bring the case of King before the English Parliament. Some Najeebs spread rumor in Bahraich that the King was being restored.
There was a large-scale social and economic upheaval that caused large-scale dissatisfaction amongst the people. On 12th of January 1856, Diljaur Singh Barqandaz wrote an application to the Governor General against the Government Officers of Shahabad who remained absent for months and disposing 50 to 60 cases in a day without any careful considerations. Witnesses had to wander for months without any purpose. Cases being decided on the basis of bribe. Due to changes in marketing practices after the British take over, price of maize was getting dearer and dearer and so the prices of wheat soared in Lucknow and public was distressed. It is interesting to read the application of Ram Nath and others dated 28th March 1857 forecasting rebellion, “Regular dacoities and murders are being committed on the road between Lucknow and Kanpur. Cases of theft at Lucknow cannot be numbered. Jagan Nath Grocer, who became Muslim in the reign of King of Oudh and was given the title of Sharf-ud-Daula, has become the Chief Contractor and has got taxes quadrupled. In collusion with the British Officers gets some one imprisoned and someone destroyed. This Shurf-ud-Daula bed usurped lacs of Rupees. On account of his oppression and negligence of British Officers, great rebellion might take place at Lucknow, which could not be easily suppressed. Everyone is tired of his life-“
Sleeman had inkling of this rising unrest and that was the reason he was against the annexation and removal of the King from the scene. It was late March 1857. Dalhousie sent Sir Henry Lawrence as the new Chief Commissioner to pacify the people of Oudh. It was too late a beginning as the seed of 1857 uprising was already sown now.
Soon after the news of annexation reached the public of Lucknow, there was a gloom cast all over. Leaders of all community met Wajid Ali Shah and assured him of their loyalty. They wanted to take up arms but Wajid Ali Shah desisted them from this course. He wanted to fight a legal battle and was a believer of British justice. He wanted to take his case across seven seas and draw the attention of Queen Victoria and the English Parliament to the gross injustice done by the East India Company to the people of Oudh.It is said that when the news of annexation reached the royal palace, Malika Kishwar Ara Begum was not properly dressed and she ran screaming towards Wajid Ali Shah’s chamber with naked feet and no body to attend. It was most heart-rending scene of both mother and son locked with each other, and crying. After the initial emotional outburst settled, both sat down and conferred in a closed chamber, ordering all the attendants to leave them alone for some time. Malika Kishwar Ara Begum was hopeful that if they travel to London and explain the case personally to Queen Victoria, she would certainly take the action and reverse the orders of Governor General. They thought the English Queen also enjoyed the same absolute power as the Kings enjoyed in Hindoostan. The services of Major Bird (who used to be Assistant Resident at Lucknow and was against the annexation) and Maulvi Masih-ud-Din Khan were engaged to make the arrangements at London and prepare the case for presentation to the Queen Victoria. The King finally decided to travel to Calcutta and appeal the Governor General against the attachment of the Country to the British dominion. The King was informed that he would be treated as uninvited guest and his journey would be entirely a private one and should make his own arrangement for stay at Calcutta. Further “, his retinue ought not to exceed 500 men”.
Departure from Lucknow and stay at Benares
The King’s party left Lucknow on the night of 13th March at 20:00 hrs and reached Kanpur on 14 th where his two officials namely Haider Hussain Khan Etmad-ud-Daula and Mirza Hussain Khan Ikram-ud-Daula were detained by the British for some revenue arrears and sent back to Lucknow. The King kept on writing to the Chief Commissioner Lucknow for release of his people so that they may provide him help in his Calcutta journey but the release was not in sight. The royal party stayed at the house of one English merchant by the name of Brandon who was a personal friend of Wajid Ali Shah. After staying for about one month at Kanpur, he arrived at Benares traveling via Allahabad and Gopiganj. The royal entourage was accorded a warm reception by Raja Ishwari Prasad Narain Singh of Benares and the King stayed in Nadesar Kothi, a two-storied building built in the heart of city. The poet Akhtar in Wajid Ali Shah wrote the following verse on the hospitality of Raja Benares:
“Benares ka Raja ajab nek tha
Hazaaron mein, Lakhon mein woh nek tha-
Ajab lutf se pandrah din rahe,
Ki kuch eshe-raftah bhi yad aa Gaye.”
The King also visited famous Hindu temple of Lord Vishwanath in Benares and he appropriated the expenditure of playing shehnai (musical instrument played on auspicious occasions and in temples of north India) on daily basis in the temple by himself. A Naubatkhana was built in front of the Temple. The Wajid Ali Shah Trust is carrying on the tradition and meets the expenditure of playing Shehnai. As Wajid Ali Shah mentioned in the above verse, after staying for 15 days at Benares, the royal party was divided in two groups and traveled to Calcutta by two different routes. Malika Kishwar Aara Begum and Begum Khas Mahal took the land route, and traveled by stagecoach. The King along with other members (110) of the party sailed by steamer McLeod moving down the course of the River Ganga flowing towards Calcutta.
It is said that Raja Ishwari Narain Singh did not celebrate Diwali in Benaras that year and when asked the reason, he replied:
“Kis se Kahun kis Gam mein hoon,
Apni Sarkar ke mit jaane mein hoon”
Whom shall I speak to! What tragedy has befallen on me! My King has been vanquished and it has grieved me the most.
Arrival in Calcutta and correspondence with Governor General
The royal party consisting of the deposed King, his Chief Wife Nawab Khas Mahal Begum, Queen Mother, General Sahib, Crown Prince and faithful Musahibs (companions) and servants finally arrived at Calcutta some two months later on May 13,1856. The King on payment of Rupees Two thousand monthly rental, hired the Kothi of Maharaja of Vardhman located in Matia Burj, which served the residential purpose. The deposed King on reaching Calcutta appealed to the Governor General but it was turned down. Now the King decided to travel to England but the royal physicians advised him against it, as he was not keeping good health.
The King was in constant touch with his people in Lucknow either by receiving letters from his near and dear ones especially the ladies of his harem or the messengers and people traveling from Lucknow. He was getting private articles of use and also love objects like samples of lock of hairs from his Mahals. He was enraged at the news of sale of his animals, forced opening of royal stores and forcible occupation of his private palaces by the officials of the Company in the city of Lucknow: He brought to the notice of the Governor General about the excesses committed by the Company Officials and implored him to take expedient measures to correct these. The charges and replies were:
1) Appropriation of Chhatar Manzil and turning out the family members and dependents of the King. (In Nov.1856, Jackson forcibly occupied Chhatar Manzil by virtually driving out the wives and dependents of ex-King and throwing out their belongings on the street. The headquarter of 32nd Regiment was established in the building.,)
-The Governor General expressed regret that it happened and the building was again placed at the disposal of the King.
2) Thousands of effects’ were confiscated and destroyed, and ancient and costly edifices pulled down.
-The Governor General denied these charges. Only Jilau Khana was pulled down to widen the street, as it was a mere outer wall of the Furhat Baksh Palace and in ruinous condition.
3) Furhat Baksh Palace used as a dog kennel and stable.
-The outhouses in the courtyards used by the menials and as stables were used for the same purposes here to fore.
4) Guards were placed over the private offices of the King.
-Guards were placed over public offices only and no office was appropriated, the records of which were not strictly of a public nature.
5) Doors of godown were broken and property spoiled.
-Certain godowns were opened for search of arms. Mift-ud-Daula, Agent of the King was called to open the godowns and told that force would be used if not complied.
6) The Officiating Commissioner refused to receive the applications from the family of the King.
-No petitions received from any relative of the King. No property of the King was spoiled but preserved from decay.
7) Animals belonging to the King were sold by auction. (In May 1856, 200 elephants, 2000 horses, 107 camels, 700 other animals, and 2 lakh pigeons were auctioned.)
-Those animals were sold whom the agents of the King had refused to provide food, and rejected them for some reason or the other.
8) Doors of Muchee Bhawan were broken; guards placed over it and list of Property prepared by the local officials.
-It was necessary as the structure was a fortress and cannons were found. Inventory was necessary to avoid any plunder.
9) Library of the King removed to the Martinere College notwithstanding the objections of Hism-ud-Daula (On 14th August, 1856, more than 3,00,000 books were shifted from Farhat Baksh to Kothi of Claude Martin)
-English books were moved to the Martinere College for better use and upkeep. Persian books were left untouched in damp and vaulted apartments of Kaiser Bagh at the insistence of Hism-ud-Daula.
10) Authorities of Lucknow informed the King’s officers not to leave the city under pain of a fine of Rs 10,000.
-Pending judicial enquiry about property of great importance, the officers were asked to remain in the city.
11)Captain Carnegie prohibited the payment of allowances of the King’s family; they were consequently in distress and the cattle on point of starvation.
-No such order was given.
12) Valuable arms were sold by auction at nominal prices without the knowledge of the King.
-The King’s lawyer was returned all the ornamental arms and was asked to reserve for the King all the arms he wished to retain. After his answer was in affirmative, the rest of the unserviceable arms were sold.
13) Authorities on trifling matters send for the Daroghas of the Mahals, by force through Barkundazes.
-This was untrue.
Life at Matia Burj, Calcutta
There used to be a peaceful locality in outskirts of Calcutta, stretched in the southern direction near the banks of River Hooghly. There was a high raise earthen mound here and that’s why people named it as Matia Burj. There were several beautiful Kothis stretching for more than 2 mile (3.2 kms) and the East India Company gave these to Wajid Ali Shah when he reached Calcutta. Sir Lawrence Peel, the Chief Justice of Supreme Court from 1848 to 1855, earlier occupied the Kothis and grounds at Garden Reach. Two Kothis were for the deposed King and one was for Nawab Khas Mahal and one for the Wazir Ali Naqi Khan and another large piece of adjoining land was allotted for the staff of the deposed King. Wajid Ali Shah named his two Kothis as Sultan Khana and Asad Manzil and named the Kothi of Nawab Khas Mahal as Murassa Manzil. Kothi of Ali Naqi Khan remained with him and his family till the end. Soon Wajid Ali Shah built more than twenty Kothis and developed beautiful gardens. Abdul Halim Sharar actually saw these Kothis that followed from south to north and named few such as Kasr-ul-Baiza, Gaushah-e-Sultani, Shahnshah Manzil, Shah Manzil, Noor Manzil, Tafrih Baksh, Baadami, Aasmaani, Tahniat Manzil, Hadd-e-Sultani, Sadd-e-Sultani and Adalat Manzil. There were several rooms, bungalows, and small palaces inside these gardens and built around the scattered ponds. All these buildings were nicely decorated and maintained by a battery of attendants kept for this purpose only. Soon Matia Burj became a city of beautiful buildings and surpassed those built by Wajid Ali Shah at Lucknow. All this extensive layout of buildings, gardens and tanks was protected by a continuous high raise boundary wall like sahr panah of old cities. There were shopping complexes built along the municipal road running lengthwise in the mini city of Matia Burj and these also provided residential space for the servants. The entrance to the royal compound was kept only through the four gates and none through the shops. The gates were manned 24 hours by the security force. The main residence of the deposed King, Sultan Khana had a nakkarkhana where naubat was played according to the hours of the day and night.
Wajid Ali Shah had developed great interest in birds and animals. He built huge steel enclosure where he inducted many animals like Cheetals, Deers, and other wild animals. Tigers were kept in separate cages. Monkeys of various types were collected and kept in an independent enclosure where they entertained the visitors by their antics and shrieks. One pair of Girrafe was also present. Camels from Baghdad (Iraq) were also brought and kept. Panthers, bears, wild jackals and other animals found their place here and even donkeys were also not forgotten. In the center of this zoological garden, a large marble tank was built whose blue green waters housed various types of birds and amphibious animals. The various ponds in the compound had colorful fishes and at the time of feeding, these fishes jumped to outdo each other and created a scene worth watching. The most interesting part of the compound was the artificial mountain built in the middle of a large tank created in front of Shahan Shah Manzil. Several mountain water springs were also carved out in this mountain. A large number of 2 m long snakes were brought and left on top of the mountain. When frogs were released on this mountain surface, these snakes made a beeline to catch and it was an unusual scene to watch these snakes climbing up and down on serpentine pathways of this mountain. Two Cheetahs were also brought and kept in cages that were near the base of this mountain. These Cheetahs were peaceful creatures but when poultry birds were released in their cages they just jumped and swallowed in one gallop.
Sultankhana had a number of brass cages that housed thousand of exotic birds. Several halls (gan) were secured by wire enclosures and birds were released in these. He spent a huge sum of money in collecting birds of all kinds and it became one of its types in the world. A pair of Reshanpar pigeons was purchased at a price of Rs 24 thousand and a pair of white pheasants cost the royal treasury amount of Rs 11 thousand. There were about 25 thousand pigeons, which were collected. It was said that the King sold off one gold and silver bed from late Amjad Ali Shah’s time to pay for some of these birds. The establishment for upkeep of birds and animals was manned by a large staff and supported by a huge budget. There were more than 800 animal attendants, 300 pigeon care takers, 300 fish keepers, and 40 snake charmers in employment. The attendants received salaries ranging between Rs. 6 to Rs 10 per month where as the officers got between Rs20 to Rs 30 per month. Thousand of rupees were spent on feeding of these birds and animals.
Total establishment had more than 1000 guards to look after this beautiful township of Matia Burj. There were 50 or so high up officials and faithful courtiers and 80 Mohirrirs to look after the offices and general arrangements. Then there were more than 20 royal departments, which catered the needs of the royal family and employed full time staff. All these people built houses on the land given to the deposed King and also built on the adjoining lands. The population of Matia Burj swelled to 40,000 and they were all dependent on the one lakh rupees pension paid to Wajid Ali Shah.
Many English people and local Bengali population used to visit Matia Burj and admired the beautiful fairyland created by the sheer genius of Wajid Ali Shah. They were amazed to find a new culture of Lucknow now transplanted in Bengal. Every body of some worth came and settled at Matia Burj, It looked like the old city of Lucknow disappeared from the map and took rebirth in its new avatar of Matia Burj.
Malika Kishwar Ara Begum Meeting with Queen Victoria
Before her final departure from Calcutta, the Queen Mother wanted to meet her daughter in-law Nawab Khas Mahal Begum to bid adieu. It was well known to all that the two ladies did not maintain the best of relations; but it was the generosity of Queen Mother that she thought to forgive the past and say good bye before she sailed for England. When she arrived at her daughter in law’s chamber, and waited, Khas Mahal Begum came and prostrated before her to be forgiven. Malika raised her and Khas Mahal leaned her head over the shoulder of her mother in law and started sobbing for a while. Then they both asked welfare of each other. It was a moving farewell and certainly the last, which nobody knew at that time. Khas Mahal first did not allow the Crown Prince to accompany the Queen Mother but on the intervention of his father, he was given the permission. Finally the Queen Mother, General Sahib and Crown Prince along with a retinue of more than 100 persons started for the journey by the ship ss Bengal which left Calcutta port in June 1856.
John Rose Brandon and Major Robert Bird were the two notable English men who were also present on the ship. Major Bird was to look after the overall arrangement and Brandon’s job was to find out suitable accommodation during their stay. When the luggage was being loaded then accidentally a baggage consisting of costly jewellery fell down in the sea, which was considered a bad omen. The opening of Suez Canal at that time cut the travel time by half between Hindoostan and England, a little less than three months. The ship anchored at the port Suez located on the mouth of Suez Canal and from there one traveled by inland route to the port Alexandria located at the other end of Suez Canal and which opened in Mediterranean waters. The P.O. company ship SS Indus reached Southampton port of England on 21″ August 1856. It was reported that there were about 110 people in the royal party on the ship. The sea voyage was not very smooth. They had to face a rough weather as soon the ship left Alexandria. Queen Mother, wearing loose garments and was taking a stroll on the decks, fell down and got hurt. The English Stewarts present at that place rushed to help the Mother but were restrained by her personal attendants. When she was being taken to her cabin, some thought she was dead. English Doctors advised her rest for few days. Later, when the Queen Mother got an opportunity, she checked the account books and updated her daily diary. On arrival at Southampton port, there were about 500 boxes that were offloaded. These were taken to the warehouse of the port and later sent to the destination without charging any taxes. Most of the baggage consisted of silver and gold utensils and food items. One Eunuch who accompanied the party was a lively person and kept everybody in good humor by his witty jokes. The servants of Malika used to puff hooka constantly and used to chirp a lot. A four horse drawn carriage was specially ordered for the Malika which stood near the anchored ship. The white color carriage was specially decorated in honor of the Malika. A large number of curious spectators lined up to have a glimpse of the Oudh Queen and her party. Malika was seated in palanquin when disembarked from the ship and after the curtains were put up, she came out from palanquin and entered the carriage. Carpets were laid from the ship to the carriage for the Queen Mother. When Malika was taking her seat in the carriage, a transparent curtain was put up at the request of waiting spectators. This arrangement was done so that the face and some portion of the dress of the Begum was visible that satisfied the curiosity of long waiting English people. Her shoes were of gold and were shining and her heels were also visible, as she did not wear the stockings. The London city Mayor Andrews and other dignitaries were present to welcome the Queen Mother. Next the royal procession started for Royal York Hotel, Southampton. There was a long line of horse drawn carriages following the Queen Mother’s carriage so there was no body on foot. Some of the royal servants used to run with the carriage of Malika and carried the supply of betel nut, tobacco and carried spittoons also. This experience of seeing an oriental Queen and her party was a novel one for the English people. One English man was not able to suppress his curiosity, ran and tried to climb one of the coaches to have a glimpse of the women. He was promptly shown the way out by the attendants. Major Bird was already present for he was made responsible for all the arrangements of the visit. He and the city Mayor Andrews came to see off the Queen Mother at hotel. When Malika entered the hotel, the crowd standing on the outside of the hotel gave her great ovation and shouted hurrah. The coach carrying General Mirza Wali Ahad arrived little later. He alighted from the coach without looking towards the crowd and entered the hotel lobby. The personality of General Sahib was impressive and at once carried the impression that he belonged to a noble family. When both the Malika and General Sahib climbed the second floor and stood on the balcony, Major Bird introduced the royal visitors to the crowd waiting on the street. It was a touching introduction that captivated the hearts of those present. Major Bird spoke, “Mirza Wali Ahad belongs to that royal family of Oudh who ruled over the province for many years. He has come with his mother to meet the Queen Victoria”. The English people collected outside the hotel once again shouted hurrah and in response, General Sahib bowed and saluted the public. Next Major Bird introduced the Queen Mother and told that Begum was now of 60 years old and lived a full regal life. Her feet never touched the bare ground so far as carpets were laid wherever and whenever she walked. The same Begum today traveled more than 6000 miles (9600 kms) with her son and the grandson. They had heard about the justice loving English people and therefore now want to redress the injustice done to them by the East India Company. The Company Officials in India had spread the canard that Queen Victoria had passed the order of annexation of Oudh but the benevolent Queen Victoria never desired to act in the manner. On this belief, they came to England to present and plead their case. They had brought with them a famous Vakil (advocate) of Oudh for this purpose by name Masih-ud-Din Khan sahib. With this introduction the royal party retired. During their stay in Southampton hotel, some English visitors found the attendants of Malika dirty in habits and their place of stay stinking with their scattered belongings.
After living for some time at the hotel of Southampton, the royal party moved to London.The distance between Southampton and London was covered by rail. One first class coach, two-second class coaches and several third class coaches were booked for the journey. The royal party consisted of 110 persons in all but had lot of baggage. People were astonished to see this large amount of baggage. When the royal party reached London, there was no body to welcome them. The hour of arrival at the London station was not made public and it was explained that Queen Victoria and other high-ranking Her Majesty Officials were out of London at that time. For the stay in London, Harley House, formerly the residence of Duke of Brunswick and located at the northern end of Marylebone street was selected and booked in advance by Brandon at the annual rental of Rs 5000 (Pounds 55). Many English visitors and newspapers of London reported unruly behaviour of Malika’s attendants. The servants of Begum were undisciplined lot and loitered in the streets after drinking bouts. They went out for shopping in odd hours and shouted a lot. At times some of these servants were arrested by the London police and later on discharged. Masih-ud-Din was very angry with these people and complained to the Queen Mother about their misbehaviour. General Sahib issued warnings to his servants.
Strategies were planned and revised daily. Begum was advised to take out a procession on the streets of London but she did not think it was proper. She was also advised against sending a letter to agent of Company threatening them to sue. The London newspapers were daily pouring out news about the royal Oudh mission. In mean while, the royal party decided to publish printed material for creating awareness amongst the English public. A book by the title, The Spoliation of Awadh written by Major Bird, another book by Samuel Lucas bearing title, The Spoliation of Oude by the East India Company’ and a book, ‘Oude: Its Princes and Its Government Vindicated’ written by Masih-ud-Din Khan appeared in London. The British Government proscribed the last written book. People are mostly interested in sensational tales and Kingston’s book, Private Life of an Eastern King ‘ which appeared earlier, was read widely not only by the public but even by the members of both the Houses of Parliament of England. The die was already cast. The Court of Directors while considering the petition of Wajid Ali Shah sent by the Malika on 10h of December formally invited the two Princes of Oudh to visit the East India House and meet the Board of Directors, The visit was arranged on 16″ January 1857, They both were received with due courtesy shown around the Company’s museum and entertained to a sumptuous dinner.
The month of May came and so with it the news of sepoy mutiny on 10th May at Meerut, Hindoostan reached Harley House. It was indeed the most trying period for the royal party and members were distressed to know that they were now suspect in the land of English people. They sent a petition to the Parliament and tried to allay their fear about involvement of Wajid Ali Shah and tried to prove his complete innocence in the matter. However the efforts for the meeting of Malika with Queen Victoria were continued. After some time, the newspapers of London reported that a meeting of the Oudh Queen Mother with Queen Victoria had been fixed on 4th July 1857. Queen Mother had been advised to wear Arabic or Egyptian dress during the meeting, She was allowed to bring 2 ladies and 2 men with her for the said meeting, The meeting was not fixed earlier due to death of the younger daughter of General Sahib. After observing a mourning period for 40 days, the Queen Mother started for the meeting on 41″ day along with a black handkerchief to display her gricf and mourning, The Queen Mother buried the black handkerchief in the ground of the Masjicd of the ambassador of Turkey. General Sahib was crying like young child and remained inconsolable. A big crowd assembled at the place and offered condolence to the royal party for the bereavement. Then Queen Mother with her sons and escorts proceeded to Buckingham Palace to meet Queen Victoria. A detail account of the meeting came from three different sources. One was by the reporting of London newspapers, second from the record of daily journal maintained by Queen Victoria herself and thirdly from Kamal-ud-Din Haider, a royal scribe. As soon as Malika, her son and grandson alighted from the coach, they were promptly received by Victoria’s female attendants and taken to the antechamber where they waited for the arrival of Queen Victoria. The English Queen appeared with two of her male officers, one of them acted as interpreter. After they both exchanged formal greetings, Malika presented nazar of gold mohurs to Victoria, which she graciously accepted. General Sahib and Crown Prince also presented their personal nazars and wanted to kiss the hands of the Queen of England as they were asked to do so but she shook hands with them. After some general talks about sailing and English mansions, the Queen Mother handed over a document and started explaining the case of annexation of Oudh Kingdom that alone took a little more than 2 and2 hours. Queen Mother in her briefing to Queen Victoria touched every important point, starting from the history of Oudh ruled by Nawabs and Kings and then came to the lies spread by the reports of Sleeman and Outram. Dalhousie prepared his case based on these reports and citing the treaty of 1837 where the King was asked to improve the administration and make arrangements to pay the balance of money due to the East India Company. The Oudh King did not fulfill his obligations and therefore there was left no other alternative except the annexation of Oudh. Queen Mother soberly explained that the Kingdom of Oudh always remained faithful to the English and helped them with money on various occasions when they needed. Nepalese war was cited as one of such case of help. Even when the news of annexation broke out there was a large-scale indignation amòngst the general public and they wanted to fight but Wajid Ali Shah refused to take lead and told them that he would never take a sword against the English. After all these years of faithfulness displayed by Wajid Ali Shah, annexation of Oudh was the reward, which the royal family of Oudh received. Queen Mother also referred Bishop Heber and views of other impartial writers and visitors about the peaceful and good rule in Oudh kingdom as compared to British controlled neighboring areas. After having explained the case, Queen Mother broke down and tears appeared from her eyes. Queen Victoria comforted her and assured that she would do her best to explain the case to her ministers and recommend them to return the Oudh kingdom. Queen Victoria at the same time explained that the form of monarchy in England was different than the East and the people’s representatives had the absolute say and therefore she was unable to commit any thing in the matter. Queen Victoria asked Malika to approach her without any hesitation for any future help including financial. At the end of conversation between the two Queens, Victoria asked whether Malika would like to meet the Prince of Wales, her son. Edward was called and Malika received him with great affection and tied around his neck a gold and diamond studded necklace with a jewelled perfume bottle dangling from it. Malika explained that it was customary to present such a gift so that when the guest left, the fragrance of the sweet memories remained behind. The Malika, a sad person, took leave from Queen Victoria, as she knew the outcome of the meeting. Soon after the Harley House received a note from the Buckingham palace stating that Queen Victoria felt sorry and the case of annexation of Oudh was finally sealed and cannot be opened. As earlier explained, Masih-ud-Din Khan not only prepared the case for presentation to Queen Victoria but he also at the same time filed a case against East India Company in the Privy Council (Supreme Court of England) at a cost of Rs 30,000 as he did not want to lose time.
It was not long after that the Board of Directors of East India Company communicated their decision on the petition of Wajid Ali Shah sent to them from Harley House. Wajid Ali Shah was granted annual pension of Rs.12 lakhs and continuance of the title of King but title would cease after his death. The Directors also suggested that the young Princes were to be trained and educated to become useful citizens. The news of house arrest of Wajid Ali Shah in Fort Williams reached the Queen Mother after her meeting with Queen Victoria. Immediately a rejoinder was issued to the Press that the King of Oudh had nothing to do with the sepoy uprising, A petition was also sent to both the houses of Parliament to clear the name of Wajid Ali Shah from the complicity of the uprising in Hindoostan. By December end, Queen Mother received permission to leave for Holy Mecca but providence planned differently for she was not destined to reach there. The Begum’s party left for Paris, France in January 1858 and they stayed in a hotel in rue Lafitte. In the 23rd day of same month, Malika Kishwar Ara Begum, the Queen Mother of Wajid Ali Shah, died. She was 53 years old then. She was buried in a cemetery called Pere Lachaise in the presence of a large number of mourners that included Ambassadors of Persia and Turkey. General Sahib was crying unashamedly. The Crown Prince decided to stay in Paris where as General Sahib and Masih-ud-Din Khan returned to England. It seems the deaths of two of his so close family members, one his own daughter and followed by his mother, proved too much for General Sahib and he too departed from this world within a short span of few weeks. His body was taken to Paris and buried next to his mother. Both mother and son now rest forever together with their mission unfulfilled and a shattered dream.
Why the mission failed?
Did Major Bird and the family members of Wajid Ali Shah were aware of the failure from the very beginning? Masih-ud-Din was a gifted and knowledgeable man about law: Was he so ignorant of the law that he conveniently forgot that Parliament reigned supreme in England and a mere appeal to Queen Victoria was of no meaning? If so why the exercise in futility was undertaken at the cost of two precious lives and huge expenditure. Pounds 50,000 worth of jewels were lost in the Red sea when the party was disembarking at Port Sucz. Some have reported that the jewel box was lost at the start of sea voyage at Calcutta itself when the royal party was embarking the ship. Many considered the loss a bad omen. The death of younger daughter of General Sahib occurred. To cap these all, the great Sepoy uprising of 1857 started at a time when the meeting with Queen Victoria was being negotiated.
Now the scene reverts back to Calcutta. The events moved in Calcutta rather quickly, When the 1857 sepoy uprising started, the Rebel Oudh Sepoys contacted Wajid Ali Shah and invited him but he refused their offer and informed the English about the rebel Sepoys meeting with him. Now the English did not consider wise to keep Wajid Ali Shah at Matia Burj and immediately transferred him to the safer precincts of Fort Williams. He was now more or less as a House Prisoner of English and was not allowed to see any outsider. In London, Masih-ud-Din Khan again started the proceedings and filed the claims of Oudh royalty. In Calcutta, some confidants of Wajid Ali Shah felt jealous of the possible success of Masih-ud-Din Khan and marginalization of their roles once he won the case. They went on brain washing the deposed King not to depend much on the London outcome and convey the acceptance of pension to the Viceroy and start living peacefully. King finally wrote to the Viceroy that he agreed with the pension proposal of the British Government and he should be paid the outstanding pension money without delay and the case filed in the Court of London should be considered as withdrawn. The reply, King received, was not very encouraging. It mentioned the grant of Rs 12 lakh pension annually and withdrawing the Rs 3 lakhs earlier granted for die establishment. King coaxed by his advisors even accepted these revised terms of payment of pension. The Government of India immediately wrote to England that the case filed by Wajid Ali Shah should be considered as withdrawn since he had accepted the offer of pension and related terms. In England, this news created stir and disbelief amidst the royal party. Masih-ud-Din Khan filed an objection in the Court that since King Wajid Ali Shah was in captivity, his statement was not to be construed as acceptable, They also wrote back to Wajid Ali Shah that he should desist from writing such letter as their case was strong and they firmly believe to win back the kingdom of Oudh. The mutiny of Oudh was suppressed and the freedom fighters including Begum Hazrat Mahal and Birjis Qadr fled to Nepal and took shelter with Rana. British Government released Wajid Ali Shah from house arrest and he was free again to start his usual life of pleasure at Matia Burj. His advisors were short of money as the money received from the King was gradually tapering off. They again became active and told the King that Masih-ud-Din Khan was telling in England that his King was under duress and that’s why such a letter was written. The King felt agitated this time and again a letter was shot back to the British Government that he was a free man and whatever stated earlier was true and he accepted the proposal of Government of India without any outside pressure. At the same time, the King cancelled the authority given to Masih-ud-Din Khan and thus the final chapter of mission was closed forever. It was earlier stated that first the Queen Mother died and then after 14 or 15 days her son General Sahib also followed her and only the Crown Prince was able to return.
Suddenly in 1887, the time was midnight and date 21 September, the deposed King of Oudh; Wajid Ali Shah went in eternal sleep. He was 68 years old at that time. He was buried in the Imambara of Sibtainabad at Matia Burj. And as if by some magic wand, the fragrance of Matia Burj also vanished. Nothing remained so that someone can visit and say in the words of Sharar, “Khawab tha Jo kuch ki Dekha, Jo suna Afsana thd’. (It was a dream what I saw and it was all a fable what I heard.) The last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar died in captivity in far off place, Rangoon, Burma but the last flame of Oudh died in Calcutta and not in his dearest city of Lucknow and not in his kingdom of Oudh. Though he died in Matia Burj, his soul still remains in the streets of Lucknow and in the hearts of every Lucknow walah. His music and dance form of Kathak adore the pride of place in the fine arts of Hindoostan. The Barahdari of Kaiser Bagh in Lucknow is still waiting for Jogi to return where his eternal Gijala (Radha) is wandering in the quest.
All the property of Matia Burj was sold by the British Government and distributed amongst the legal heirs of the Oudh dynasty. Property of worth in lakhs of rupees went a begging and evaporated in no time. In the early morning hours when the dew settles in Matia Burj, the eyes of some one must be moist and praying for peace to the departed soul of that man called the last King of Oudh, Wajid Ali Shah. The present Imambara building is the place where the last King of Oudh and his chief consort rest for eternity. The building also houses a copy of Holy Qur-aan written in his own hand by Wajid Ali Shah and a so-called ‘stamp’ as shown in the photograph.
Wajid Ali Shah’s sketch
From the portrait hung in the Picture Gallery of Lucknow and pictures available from other sources, Wajid Ali Shah appears to be a stout person. A rotund pleasing face with moustaches slightly twirling up, sensual lips, double chin and wearing long curly hairs, one or two tress showing up on the forehead. His eyes seem to be mischievous. The royal crown he wore, somewhat looks similar to his father, a high coronet cap top with a gold jewelled feathered aigrette, the base of the crown displays a gold pesb studded with precious stones set in decorative motifs. He was fond of wearing jewellery, which was normal for those days. The portrait shows the King wearing two pearl necklaces, each having two strands of beads and a large gold necklace that went along with amulets and wrist bands with rings worn on index finger of left and first finger of right hand. A strand of pearls around and earrings adorned the ears of the King. He had put on typical brocade Angharka of Lucknow design.
For his size, he possessed boundless energy, always bubbling for experimenting new ideas. He was a good horse rider and was ready on horseback at the break of the dawn in the Musa Grounds to inspect the parade and remained there for long hours. It all happened during early days when he was engaged in reorganising his military.
He was religious and as well as a secular character person. He used to say that one eye of his was Shia and the other one was Sunni. He appointed Sunni Muslims in high positions. Hindus also held high positions in his court. In one of his dance drama, he asked his characters to speak out Jai or victory to Rama. Lord Rama was a Hindu God. Though English Officers like Sleeman cited cases where Wajid Ali Shah ordered the razing of all the Hindu temples in the vicinity of a mosque when a slaughtered pig was found inside the Masjid compound and it was only the intervention of English Resident that saved the Hindus Idols from destruction. However this was the version of an English Officer who wanted a change in Oudh administration. It will be of interest to narrate the Hanuman Garhi of Ayodhya incident in detail here from the account received from the present living family member of Daraab Ali Khan who was a faithful servant of Bahu Begun. He narrated thus, “The Mahants of Hanuman Garhi, Ayodhya were kind to a Ghulam Hussain, a Sunni Muslim Fakir who was given shelter and food in the premises of the temple. One day, he incited the Sunni population of Muslim announcing that the Masjid built by Aurangjeb in Hanuman Garhi had been demolished by the Mahants. The Muslims of Ayodhya declared Jihad of die War and attacked Hanuman Garhi. The Hindus beat them and then took shelter in the place called Janmsthaali or the birthplace of Lord Rama. Captain Orr, Mr. Harse and Kotwal Mirza Munim Beg tried best to their ability to disturbance and restore peace. The royal troops were ready for action but were ordered not to interfere. Hindus broke open the gate and in the ensuing fight a total of 11 Hindus and 75 Muslims were killed. Next day Naib Kotwal Nassir Hussein gave all the Muslim dead bodies a mass burial and the place was there after known as Ganj Sabidan. After the incident, a section of Muslims complained to the Oudh Court about the demolition of the Masjid. Some Muslims represented to the King against the petition also, Wajid Ali Shah wrote on one of the petition,
“Hum Ishq ke bande hein, mazhab se nahein wakif.
Gar Kaaba hua to kya, butkhana hua to Kyat”
(I am a man of amity and ignorant of religion, Kaaba does not mean much to me just as a Temple where idols are installed.)
Wajid Ali Shah ordered a Commission of Enquiry, which gave the findings in favour of Hindus. Lord Dalhousie was keeping track of the event and satisfied, he offered congratulations to Wajid Ali Shah. A section of Muslims were not happy with the report of the Commission and planned another attack on Hanuman Garhi under the leadership of Maulvi Amir Ali for which the King forbade them. ‘The Maulvi was ultimately killed at Shujaganj near Rudauli”. This narration was quite different than the one, which the English had tried to convey and portray Wajid Ali Shah as incompetent administrator. One English Officer’s version carried the story that the royal forces were defeated and beaten back by the Hindus.
Wajid Ali Shah has been ignominiously portrayed as a great womaniser. The English writers took special delight in speaking volumes about the sensual side of the King but conveniently forgot to mention that such was the practice or fashion prevalent in European aristocracy including Kings and Emperors. The operational content of Victorian morality has been brought out in no uncertain terms in the book, ‘Mystery of the Court of London’. One has to go through the book to find out the true meaning of Victorian morality. The British Government proscribed the book in India soon after its publication. The Lords and Dukes of England kept mistresses secretly and a number of bastards were born from these unholy unions. Wajid Ali Shah had committed mistake that he publicly carried out these affairs, not clandestinely and acknowledged these in the books written by him. As stated earlier, he married all his women and gave them a status. Moreover he did not marry unless the already married lady got a legal divorce from her previous husband. His much-maligned Parikhana was in fact an Academy of Fine Arts where the young talented damsels were recruited after countrywide talent hunt for participation in operas beng staged on regular basis. They were looked after well and paid suitably. Prince Nayer Qader in his well-researched paper ‘ Wajid Ali Shah, King of Oudh’ has put forth a religious reason for Wajid Ali Shah having such a large harem. He writes, “King Wajid Ali Shah had less than a dozen wives during the period of reign. – In his orthodox Shia faith, a person could not even see a woman’s face, outside those within the prohibited degree, unless she was his wife. Therefore all those large number of women who were necessarily employed in his palaces for domestic and menial work were entered in to harem by being married to the King in the Muta form to cover the religious tenet. But the King was not intimate with all these women.’ (Jan-e-Alam pp.36) The underlying idea was to provide future security for his female servants, whom the King knew would be stranded on his demise. It goes to the credit of Wajid Ali Shah’s foresight that when the men servants went without sustenance, their female counterparts received life pensions from the Government as Muta wives of His late Majesty. (Oudh Pension Papers pp. 42-45) Not to speak of the female servants even some children were presented to Wajid Ali Shah, who gladly adopted them as his own sons, and who later got pensions equal to His Majesty’s children, and whose descendants even today are not in any way differentiated from other members of the ex-royal family.” The humane considerations of Wajid Ali Shah were not constrained to his 250 Muta wives and children but as Sharar has mentioned that there were between 22 to 35 thousand men whom he used to support. Notable among these were 1700 men of letters and 500 physicians and Scientists who were under the King’s employ.
He demonstrated his administrative ability as soon as he sat on the throne British started doubting his loyalty after he started his vigorous campaign of reforms in all the spheres. The English Masters applied brakes and King was advised to leave these matters alone. If a King was not allowed to do his normal duties then what he was expected to do? The mindset of Governor General was framed already. Knighton’s curry tales of an Eastern Queen and an Eastern King reached the English Parliament and East India Company’s House in London and the honourable members took these as reliable source material for future course of action on Oudh Affairs. It never happened in any country’s history that the Government decided a major course of action on the basis of any novel or a fairy tale story. English News Papers also did not lag behind in spreading such spicy tabloid material and canard about Oudh. Biased report after report was specially commissioned to form the background material for annexation of Oudh. ‘Wajid Ali Shah was, and his name still is, a victim of diplomacy that supported and served the ends of an alien Imperial rule. Queen Regent Hazrat Mahal in her historic proclamation of 1858, and in reply to Queen Victoria’s, rightly questioned, “If our people were discontented with our Royal predecessor Wajid Ali Shah, how comes it they are content with us! And no ruler ever experienced such loyalty and devotion of life and goods as we have done!”. Wajid Ali Shah was a person without any pretensions and he was considerate to all. He was easily accessible and talked politely with that Luckhnawi andaaz (touch). He contributed in every sphere of life. His imprint on originality is visible. He showed his passion in whatever work he undertook and sometimes stretched it to the point of absurdity even. He was prolific in writing, His love for birds and animals was unsurpassed. He himself was not a fantasy. He was for real. But, though, he created fantasy land for others. In short one can say that Wajid Ali Shah was no less than a genius. Perhaps Ghalib wrote the following couplet keeping Wajid Ali Shah in mind:
“Bas ki dushwaar hai har kam ka aasaan hona,
Aadmi ko bhi mayasar nahein insaan hona”.
(It is difficult for any work to be transformed in to easy one and more so it is not in the fate of a man to become a human being)