History of Bhopal

Establishment as a City

If we look at the origins of Bhopal city, it dates back to the 11th century, when the legendary Raja Bhoja of the Parmara dynasty formed his capital Bhojapal, between two beautiful man made lakes. It was an uncertain time in the history of India and small kingdoms saw a rise and fall frequently. Bhojapal lost its glory and identity as a beautiful capital, when the Parmaras lost their power and city was attacked by the neighboring kingdoms.

The Present Day Bhopal

The present city of Bhopal was founded by Dost Mohammed, an Afghan soldier, when the Mughal kingdom was nearing its decline after the death of the Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707. It was another chapter in the history of Bhopal, when Islamic influence upon its culture and architecture started replacing the mostly Hindu identity of Bhopal. Dost Mohammed Khan captured the tiny Gond Kingdom and established the capital of this kingdom at Jagdishpur, near present Bhopal; it was renamed as Islamnagar. Islamnagar was beautified through construction of several palaces and forts built in this era. Dost Mohammed finally built a grand fort called Fatehgarh ("the fort of victory") in Bhopal on the northern bank of the Upper Lake.

Bhopal under British India

Bhopal managed to exist as an independent Moslem state even after the death of Dost Mohammad. His successors fought hard against Marathas and inside rebellions. Though by 1730, Marathas captured all the neighboring states but Bhopal didn't succumb. Finally, Nawab Wazir Mohammed Khan succeeded in establishing a strong Bhopal state conquering several battles. Bhopal chose to remain friends with Britishers and signed the dependence treaty with British Raj after Anglo-Maratha war of 1817.

Bhopal Under Begums' Rule

Then, came the era of famous 'begamats', when a dynasty of powerful 'Begums' (Moslem Queens) started reigning the royal city of Bhopal from the early nineteenth century till 1926, a period of almost hundred years. They gave the royal city its present look and introduced some innovations such as waterworks, railways and a central postal system. Several monuments built in this era provide Bhopal a unique identity. These architectural landmarks stand tall to remind us of the glorious past of Bhopal under these queens.

Nawabs of Bhopal

After the princely status of Bhopal was replaced by that of an Indian state in 1947, it was declared the capital of area-wise largest state of India, Madhya Pradesh. During the Mughal period, it was a princely state ruled by the Nawabs, who were subservient to the central Mughal Empire. Nawab Dost Muhammad Khan Bahadur ruled Bhopal from 1723 to 1728. Nawab Sultan Muhammad Khan Bahadur took over as second nawab and ruled the city from 1728 to 1742. The last nawab Al-Haj Nawab Sir Hafiz Muhammad Hamidullah Khan Bahadur reined the city from 1926 to 1947.

The famous 'Begums' ruled Bhopal in the 19th and 20th centuries. These begums were pious and devotee Moslems and ruled the princely state with utmost sincerity. Qudsia Begum, with the title 'Regent of Bhopal' ruled the state from 1819 to 1837. Nawab Sikandar Begum ruled from 1860 to 1868, Begum Sultan Shah Jehan followed her and ruled till 1901. Begum Kaikhusrau Jahan contributed to the progress of the city from 1901 to 1926. Begum Sajida Sultan was the last begum who ruled from 1961 to 1995.

The Nawabs of Bhopal ruled the princely state - Bhopal before the Indian independence. During the medieval period and during the British rule in India, the Nawabs were the supreme authority of Bhopal. Contrary to the popular notion, the most illustrious Bhopal Nawabs were women. According to historical findings, the first among the Nawabs of Bhopal was Nawab Dost Muhammed Khan - the man who rebuilt the city founded by Raja Bhoj.

The era of female Nawabs started with Begum Nawab Qudsia Begum. Born in 1801, she married Nawab Nazar Mohammed Khan in the year 1817. Qudsia Begum took the 'scepter' in her hand when her husband was killed in 1819. She proved herself as an able ruler and at the same time groomed her daughter Sikander. Nawab Sikander Jahan Begum succeeded Qudsia and kept the good work intact. She was a woman with strong will power. She was generous and kind hearted. Nawab Shah Jahan Begum was the next ruler. She was an intellectual woman and did not hesitate to protest against British highhandedness.

Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum - the last Begum Nawab was the most prolific of Nawabs and rose to great heights. She became the foremost chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University. Her social works and reform measures are remembered till today. Her son Nawab Hamidullah Khan ascended the throne in 1926. With his enthronement, the golden period of women Nawabs in the history of Bhopal ended. Hamidullah signed the 'Instrument of Accession' in the year 1947 by which the province of Bhopal became a part of the Republic of India.

Begums of Bhopal

A discussion about the history of Bhopal will bring forward a very important period when the place was ruled by the 'The Begums of Bhopal'. The meteoric rise of the female rulers in the male dominated world can be considered as a fascinating example of women power. Not only that, being a part of the conservative Islamic royal families, their endeavors were even more praiseworthy.

The Begums of Bhopal took hold of the administration of the princely state of Bhopal during the rule of Qudsia in the nineteenth century. She ruled the province with firm hands on behalf of Sikander - her daughter. Qudsia performed the dual role of bringing up Sikander and governing the state with elan. Sikander, with her mother's guidance grew up as a strong lady. Not only in her physical strength but she excelled in every other aspects also. She was one of the nineteenth century social reformer and modernist.

Shajehan succeeded her mother Sikander and carried on the good work despite constant opposition from her subjects and the British. Her popularity suffered a blow because of her ill-mannered husband. She was a great connoisseur of arts and music. Sultan Jahan was the last Begum of Bhopal and rose with her own capability. She became the first chancellor of the Muslim Aligarh University and the foremost president of the All India Education Conference. She was a social worker in true sense and dedicated herself to the promotion of education among the women.

Anglo-Bhopal treaty and Accession into Free India

After 1818 Anglo-Bhopal treaty, Bhopal succeeded to exist as a princely state under British India. The boundaries of Bhopal state included Bhopal, Raisen, and Sehore districts. Geographically, it was located between the Vindhya Range, with the Malwa plateau in the north and Narmada River valley in the south. In the British period, it was run through the Central India Agency and covered some other districts such as Khilchipur, Narsingarh, and Raigarh too. The British Governor-General of India administered these states through an agent. After the accession of Bhopal into Indian federation in 1947, Bhopal was declared an Indian state in 1949.

Present Nawabs

Nawab Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the former captain of Indian cricket team was son of the last ruling Nawab of Pataudi, Iftikhar Ali Khan, and Begum Sajida, the last ruling queen of Bhopal. After Begum Sajida's demise in 1995, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi was hailed as the head of the royal family of Bhopal. The title was automatically transferred to his son Saif Ali Khan, the famous Bollywood star in 2011 after the demise of Tiger Pataudi.