Maulana Azad ancestral connection with 19th Century Shahjahanabad

Excerpts on the illustrious ancestors of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad from his autobiography.

Fading Facts: Sir Mian Muhammad Shafi Contributions towards the Aligarh Movement

Text by Rehan Asad| A review for the educational services of Sir Mian Mohammad Shafi, a shared piece of the 20th century South Asian Colonial History

On 27 December 1894, at the Mohammedan educational conference, a twenty-five lawyer who returned recently from England wrote and recited eulogy for the Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in English. Few lines of the poem are presented here.

The sacred Brick of this grand Hall,
The boarding house, the College Rooms,
And this great conference, each and all
Forever the national heirlooms
Priceless and Loved, Shall Waft, your name
Sir Syed through the coming days,
What our nation might befall
Immortal lo, shall be your frame
Never waning, but in numerous ways,
Be ever more, the joy of all!

Sir Mian Muhammad Shafi, born on 10 March 1869 and passed away on 07th January 1932. The portrait is taken from the family collection by courtesy of Mian Hassan Farrukh who also runs a webpage collecting a valuable history and background of Mian Family, Baghbanpura, Lahore.

Introduction to Mian Muhammad Shafi

The twenty-five-year young lawyer cited above was born on 10 March 1869 in historic “Mian family” of Arain tribe at Baghbanpura near Lahore. Many of his illustrious ancestors were conferred with titles and acknowledgments from the time of the Aurangzeb up to the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Punjab. Started his education from the vernacular middle school, he completed his education at Lahore University. On August 1889 AD, Shafi was sent to England to pursue studies at Bar. Fortunate enough to secure the admission at the honorable society of the Middle temple where his cousin Mian Shah Din was already studying for the Bar from last two years. In 1890 AD, elected as president of Anjuman-I- Islamia, London and in the same year, he competes for a scholarship in international and constitutional law and constitutional history at prestigious Middle Temple. At England, he actively participated at every forum that addressed the welfare of Indian students such as Indian section of the Royal Society of Arts, National Indian Association, and the society of encouragement and protection of Indian Arts. He holds the membership of Paddington parliament, an esteemed political society that constituted Member of Parliament, Barristers, Solicitors, and merchants. In 1892, he left England and started his legal career at Hoshiarpur although enrolled himself at both Allahabad and Lahore high courts.

Engagement with Aligarh Movement from the time of Sir Syed up to the approval of University Bill in 1920 during his tenure as the educational member of Viceroy Executive council

The participation of the Mian Muhammad Shafi in Aligarh movement traced from the time of the formation Anglo-Muhammadan Defence Association of Upper India in 1892. He represented Punjab province as a member of the association with Mr. Syed Mahmood and Mr. Theodore Beck (the then Principal of Aligarh College) as the joint secretaries. After his return from England in 1892, he participated in all annual meetings of All India Muhammadan Educational Conference. Several times, he presided female education and other sections of the conference. In the year 1898, the same year when the Great leader, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan departed from this world, he took a bigger responsibility of Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College. This was the appointment of Mian Muhammad Shafi as the as the trustee of Aligarh College. By the time of the sad demise of the great leader, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the College has marked as one of the best residential institutions in India. In the coming years, he was engaged in his political and legal career along with active participation in Aligarh movement. The coming years was the tough time for the Aligarh College as its regulatory body got afflicted with factional politics due to the rift between Aftab Ahmad Khan and Ali brothers? During these years, Mian Muhammad Shafi distanced himself from controversies. By 1910, the efforts for the University campaign were revived. All India Muslim University association was formed under the leadership of His Highness, the Agha Khan and Nawab Viqarul-Mulk to centralize the efforts required for the elevation of the College to University in 1910. Mian Muhammad Shafi was elected as vice-president of All India Muslim University Association, and Honorary general secretary of the Punjab Province. For the next two years, Mian Muhammad Shafi put all his efforts for the cause and raised a fund of more three hundred thousand Rupees for the upliftment of the College to University. He himself donated five thousand Rupees in 1912 for the noble mission. In May 1911, a delegation went to meet Sir Harcourt Butler, the then education member of Viceroy executive council for discussing and finalizing the draft of University constitution. Mian Muhammad Shafi was one of the three representatives responsible for the negotiations with education members on the behalf of delegation. On September 25, 1911, Mian Muhammad Shafi represented as a spokesperson for carrying negotiations between the government and University promoters association. On 9 August 1912, Butler gave an official answer from the authorities at London regarding the rejection of University Bill.  In the background of factional politics, Justice Shah Din, the cousin of Mian Muhammad Shafi presided Agra session of Muhammadan educational conference of 1913. This was the second occasion, the Muhammadan education conference was presided by Justice Shah Din. The first time, he presided ninth session of All India Muhammadan educational conference in 1894 during the lifetime of Great Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. Lady Shafi and Lady Shah Din represented Punjab on the opening ceremony of the girl’s section new building by Begum of Bhopal in 1915 at MAO College. Mian Muhammad Shafi presided the thirtieth session of Mohammadan educational conference, held at Aligarh, December 27-29, 1916. On this occasion, Mian Muhammad Shafi played an important role in bringing both factions on the table to accept the University approval on the terms and conditions of government. He sensed the risk of losing University funds and demand of the University seems to be jeopardized. The delegation of University committee meets Sir Nair, the successor of Butler as an education member in August 1917. The demand of the University committee was again rejected on the grounds of old boy’s association representation in the University court and control of trustees. The resignation of Sir Sankaran Nair from the seat of education member in June 1919 changed the direction of Aligarh University movement in the coming year. Imperial government as a successor of Sir Nair selected Mian Muhammad Shafi, a man with the long association with educational movement in India. He took the charge of the office at Shimla on 28 July 1919. Sir Butler now the lieutenant governor of United Province favored for reframing University constitution as a provincial University. Sir Mian Muhammad Shafi as an education member disagreed with Sir Butler suggestion of its provincial status. As an old associate of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, he was the firm believer of All India status of Aligarh University. On March 20, 1920, Mian Muhammad Shafi met the delegation of Muslim University committee as an education member. Muslim University bill was submitted to him. As an education member, Sir Muhammad Shafi introduced the bill on 9 September 1920 to Viceroy Executive council and got it approved. Sir Mian Muhammad Shafi efforts fulfilled the dreams of Late Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and all those members who were struggling for the cause from 1898. On 1 December 1920, the  Muslim University act was passed and Mr. Mohammad Ali Khan, Raja Saheb of Mahmudabad was appointed as the first vice-chancellor of the University.

Aligarh Movement Leaders at Vice Regal Lodge Shimla to demand the establishment of Aligarh Muslim University, 1911 AD. Standing on number thirteen from left to right in the portrait. The picture retrieved from

Who could have imagined that one of the spokespersons from the delegate that went to meet the education member, Sir Butler in 1911 would himself passed and approved the University bill after nine years as the education member of Viceroy executive council?

Educational services and contributions as education member  

The British Government rewarded Mian Muhammad Shafi with C.I.E in 1916  and was Knighted in 1925. During his tenure as the education member of Viceroy Executive Council, the Decca, Nagpur, Rangoon, Lucknow, Aligarh and Delhi Universities were established. The bill of Aligarh Muslim University that was lingered in backwater from last one decade was finalized by his efforts. Government sanctioned the reforms for Allahabad and Madras Universities in his tenure. For his remarkable efforts, the Aligarh Muslim University conferred a D.Lit. (Honoris Causa) on 28 December 1922 on the eve of its first convocation. Delhi University conferred him Doctor of Law and Viceroy gave him the honorary nomination as Pro-Chancellor of the University in the same year. He was also responsible for Indianization of education department. From the time of his joining the office in 1919,  the number Indian officers twenty-nine and that rose to one hundred twenty during his tenure.The man took a farewell banquet from Viceroy executive council on 24 September 1925 and passed away in Lahore on 07 January 1932. An old associate of Sir Syed and member of its first syndicate, the Aligarh movement was always his priority even after reaching the zenith of his career as Vice-President of Viceroy executive council in November 1922. Why Aligarh forgot a man whose soul and the body was embedded in the noble mission for more than forty years. From the time Sir Syed up to difficult days of factional politics, he never turned away his services from Aligarh. As an acknowledgment, the Aligarh University remembered members of the first syndicate by naming departments, hostels, and Halls after their name. Unfortunately, there is not a single building in University named after a man whose efforts led to the creation of the University in 1920 after a struggle of twenty-two years. His larger contributions in the creation of my alma mater were lost somewhere in research articles and journals. The write-up is with an intent to pay the tribute to one of the core members of its first syndicate whose name is difficult to trace outside the sphere of academic articles.


  1. Eminent Muslamans, Madras, GA, Natesan & Co., 1922, 1st ed.  
  2. In Memorium: Mian Sir Muhammad Shafi (1932). The Islamic Review, XX(2-3), 41-46.
  3. Lelyveld, D. (1975). Three Aligarh Students: Aftab Ahmad Khan, Ziauddin Ahmad, and Muhammad Ali. Modern Asian Studies9(2), 227-240.
  4. Reddy, S. (Ed.). (2013). Mapping the Nation: An Anthology of Indian Poetry in English, 1870–1920. Anthem Press.
  5. Mehra, P. (1985). A dictionary of modern Indian history, 1707-1947. Oxford University Press.
  6. Minault, G., & Lelyveld, D. (1974). The campaign for a Muslim University, 1898–1920. Modern Asian Studies8(2), 145-189.
  7. Rizvi, S. A. A. (1993). Mian Muhammad Shafi: An Analytical Study of his Activities and Achievements (1869-1932). South Asian Studies10(1), 87.

The legacy of eighteenth-century French adventurers of Maratha army at Aligarh

Text by Rehan Asad & Photos by Ovais Ahmad|Sulaiman Hall at Aligarh Muslim University was once a garden house of French Army commandants De Boigne and later his successor Perron who served Maratha leader Madhaji Sindhia. It was widely popular among locals as Saheb Bagh.

Gateway of  French Commandants residence, Saheb Bagh. Now the main gate of Sulaiman Hall at Aligarh Muslim University.

Background and history of Aligarh: Aligarh, a city located 140 km southeast of Indian capital city, New Delhi in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The name of Aligarh that came to prominence after the establishment of Mohammad Anglo-Oriental College by Sir Syed Khan (1875) traced as “Kol/Koil” in historical records. During Doab expansion of Qutub-Uddin Aibak in the late 12th century, it was mentioned as a fortress. Hisam-Ud-Din Ughlabuq, a Turkish noble during Aibak regime held the seat of Koil as a governor before his transfer to Oudh. It was during the reign of Ibrahim Lodi, the Koil was assigned to Muhammad Khan, a son of Suri Afghan, Umar Khan who built a fort here and the place was known as Muhammadgarh. During the reign of Farrukhsiyar and Muhammad Shah, a Turkman chief Sabit Khan was appointed as a Governor of Koil. During his reign, many major buildings were constructed and fort of Lodi days was renovated. The place was named after him as Sabitgarh. After the death of Sabit Khan, the Koil entered in turbulence as common with most of the North Indian districts due to struggle between Marathas, Jats, and Afghans to gain the control over declining Mughal Empire. In 1754, the Jat leader Suraj Mal appeared to took the possession of the central Doab and made Sabitgarh as a capital for a short period. Najaf Khan (1777) established imperial authority in entire Doab and Koil came under his governance until his death in 1782. It was during this period when Najaf Khan, Deputy Afrasyab Khan gave the name “Aligarh”. With the death of Najaf Khan, the politics over the seat of the reagent started at the court of Shah Alam II with Mirza Shafi Khan, Afrasyab Khan and Madhaji Scindhia as the main contender. This resulted in a bloody conflict with Mohammad Beg Hamdani, the Governor of the Agra who was reluctant to grab the power in decaying central administration. Finally, the Madhaji triumphed in the bloody conflict. Madhaji acquired the Aligarh fort from the brother of Afrasyab Khan who was responsible for the defense of the castle after the death of his brother. It was from this date Aligarh remained under Maratha control until its acquisition by British forces in 1803.

Benoit De Boigne (1751 1830). He became the member of the city council of Chambery in 1816 after his return from India. After his death, the son of his Indian wife Noor (Hellene) was considered as his legitimate heir. Picture from wiki images.

French Commandant in service of Madhaji Sindhia: In 1788, Ghulam Qadir Khan Rohilla, the grandson of Najib-Ud-Daula, stormed the fort of Aligarh when Madhaji Sindhia was engaged at war with Rajputs of Jaipur. He left behind small encampment at Aligarh after collecting a large amount of the booty. The Maratha leader ejected the armies of Rohilla leader and assigned Aligarh to the French officer, De Boigne. De Boigne was born as Benoit La Borgne at Chambery in Savoy, southeastern France in 1751. At the age of nineteen, the young De Boigne received his military training in Clare’s regiment of French Irish brigade. In 1776, he joined Russian army as the subaltern officer that was supporting Greek revolt against Ottoman occupation. Leaving Russian army, he turned to seek fortunes in India. Landed at Madras in 1778, he secured his job in the British army and commissioned as an officer in Madras (1783) in the bodyguards of Lord Macartney. Sought permission and recommendation letters from East India Company, the young adventurer moved to the court of Oudh at Lucknow. He accompanied with a British Officer, Major Robert Brown who was moving to Delhi on Emperor Mission.  It was in Delhi (1784); he came in the service of Madhaji Sindhia who was controlling all the affairs of Hindustan (North India) as a reagent of the Mughal Empire. Madhaji himself a military genius identified the worth of De Boigne and gave a responsible role in his army. De Boigne was asked to raise two battalions on the line of European warfare and handsome salary was allocated for his efforts. De Boigne recruited both Natives and Europeans for these battalions. He himself supervised every task from the preparation of uniforms to the procurement of ammunition. The battalions raised by De Boigne displayed an extraordinary performance to subdue Bundelkhand in an expedition led by Maratha chief, Appa Khande Rao. De Boigne played an important role in rescuing the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II in October 1784 from Agra who was held captive by rival camp headed by Mirza Mohammad Beg Hamdani. Whether it was the battle of Lalsot (July 1787), a rescue of blinded emperor Shah Alam II from the clutches of cruel Ghulam Qadir Rohilla, internal feuds of Sindhia with Holkars, the De Boigne military tactics played a key role in establishing Maratha success in North India. 

Establishment of Maratha garrison in Aligarh on European line under De Boigne: In 1789, the Aligarh was conferred as a jagir to the French general, De Boigne by Madhaji Sindhia. With Koil (Aligarh) as an administrative unit, the total jagir was divided into fifty-two pargana. The revenue generated from the Aligarh was used for westernization of Maratha troops of Madhaji in Hindustan (North India).  Within the short span of one year, De Boigne has raised two brigades with hundred cannons on European pattern. By 1792, De Boigne was able to raise an army of twenty-four thousand soldiers trained on French warfare along with one hundred thirty-two units of artillery. Aligarh became a training camp for the troops raised by French General. The soldiers recruited from different ethnic and religious background of India represented in Europeanized Maratha army of De Boigne. Telinga and Najeeb (predominantly Muslims, Rajputs and Purbea) battalions of Maratha army were trained to use flint matchlock. The De Boigne troops trained at Aligarh were tested at the battle of Marita in 1790 AD, where they succeeded over chivalrous Rathore Rajputs. In the same year, the De Boigne military leadership and his trained troops of Koil brought victory to Sindhia army against joint forces of the Raja of Jaipur and Ismail Beg, the nephew of his arch-rival, Mirza Mohammad Beg Hamdani. For accommodating a large number of troops, De Boigne constructed barracks for the soldiers and apartments for the officers at Aligarh. Agra, Meerut, Shikohabad, and Aligarh in Doab became the hub for arms and ammunition factories. De Boigne and later on his successor Perron renovated historic fortress of Lodis on the design of French engineers. It was a polygon shaped structure having ten sides and bastion on each angle. A thirty-two feet deep ditch around the boundary was created to provide an additional defense to the fortress. As a skilled administrator, De Boigne managed his province in an effective manner. The revenue collected from fifty-two pargana was raised from two million INR/per annum to three million INR/annum during his reign. The brigades represented officers from France, Scotland, and England. The soldiers mainly natives comprised both Hindus and Muslims from different ethnicities of India. Thomas Twinning, a young civil servant who visited De Boigne in 1794 at Aligarh sketched that blend of eastern and western practices was reflected in cuisine, and culture of De Boigne durbar. Historical records showed De Boigne even started negotiations with John Murray for the restoration of Taj Mahal. He has two children, one son, and daughter from his Indian wife Noor Begum later baptized as Hellene.

The retirement of De Boigne and succession by Perron: On 12 February 1794, the Madhaji Sindhia died at Poona. The fifteen-year-old Dault Rao Sindhia was appointed as a successor of one of the most powerful leaders and Army chief of Hindustan. Daulat Rao gave command of army and governance of all the Maratha domains located North of Chambal to De Boigne. At this moment of time, De Boigne commanded one of the strongest armies of Hindustan and governing a vast dominion. Even East India Company sought armed assistance from De Boigne when the mutiny broke out at Bengal in 1795 AD. The deteriorating health of De Boigne in the same year compelled him for retirement in 1796. Claude Martin letters cited the death of Madhaji Sindhia and retirement of De Boigne as an initial event that leads to the fall of Martha power in 1803.

Titles awarded by Mughal emperor to French Adventurer for successful expeditions for Maratha army. It was inscribed by the Perron on the tablet placed at the gateway of Saheb Bagh. Both Gregorian and Hijri dates are inscribed in the Urdu text.

Perron, another French officer of Maratha army took the position of De Boigne in 1796. Perron original name was Pierre Cuillier, and he came to India in 1780 as an officer. After serving short tenure at Rana of Gohud and Bharatpur, he was recruited by De Boigne in 1790 in the army of Madhaji Sindhia. His successful expedition at Battle of Kurdla (1795) against the Nizam army led by another Frenchman, Raymond raised his credentials as a successor of De Boigne.  For the next seven years, Perron governed the military affairs of Hindustan from his seat at Aligarh. Soon after resuming De Boigne position, Perron subdued defiant Sawai Pratap Singh of Jaipur who refused to pay tribute to the Imperial government of Mughals controlled by Maratha chief. He was honored with the Imperial title of “General Perron Bahadur Muzzafar Jang, Intizam-ud-daula, Nasirul-Mulk” along with mansab of haft hazari. On the zenith of his career, General Perron was the military in charge of the forts at Agra, Aligarh, Ajmer, Khurja, Delhi, Saharanpur, and Firozabad in Hindustan. In addition, he was ruling over the twenty-seven district in Aligarh region. With changing the equation of British and Oudh relations, the entire Rohilkhand and Doab provinces of Oudh were ceded to East India Company in 1801.

Following expansionist policy for North India, the East India Company ended the peace treaty with Marathas that was signed in 1781 for North India. In 1803 AD, the British army under command of Lord Lake moved towards Aligarh with a cavalry of eight thousand.  Perron ordered all his brigades to join him Aligarh. Before the start of Battle, the English officers and soldiers from different Brigades deserted their French general as they refused to fight with the fellow citizen. Captain Stewart and Captain Carnegie were among the first English officers on the list who deserted Perron. It was at this moment Perron opened a secret talk when he finds the doors of truce were closed by General Lake. At Sasni, the Perron met British forces with eight thousand cavalries but fled from the battle in the early stage. He took a confinement at Munda, a village located eight miles from Aligarh. Colonel Pedron with two thousand trained army held charge of Aligarh fort after flight of Perron. The forces of General Lake captured the fort on 4 September 1803 at the expense of fifty-five casualties with the death of some experienced British officers. This battle marks the end of the more than one-decade French legacy in Hindustan. After negotiations, the general Perron was given a safe passage and he left for Europe after the short stay at Lucknow and Calcutta. In the same month, 1803, the British forces captured Delhi after a battle with Bourquin another French officer of De Boigne days and Marathas lost their ground in North India.

Tablet inscribed at Aligarh fort depicting the name of the British forces who lost their lives in 1803 during takeover of the fort from French troops of Maratha Army
The apartment of De Boigne and later used by Perron in Saheb Bagh. This was later renovated by University authorities probably on the same design and used as Provost Office of the residential hostel at AMU.

Saheb Bagh

De Boigne made a beautiful mansion close to the historic fort of the Aligarh. It was a huge garden complex bounded a wall and gateway built in Indo-Saracenic style. Located on Anupshahr road between fort and city, the area around the Saheb Bagh became a cantonment of French General. Delhi Gazette (1874) cited the residence of De Boigne in these words: “De Boigne lives in his famous mansion, called Saheb Bagh, between the fort and city and on leaving for France he gave it to Perron who considerably improve the building and garden which was well laid out with all description of fruit trees procured from different climes. He adorned the place that was said by French officers that garden was next to that of Ram Bagh, on the Agra River, so beautiful was the scenery”. The gate of Perron garden house withstands the time of more than two hundred years. The tablet with the inscription written in both Persian and English is still present on the main gateway to the Sulaiman Hall. It mentioned the name of the Perron and date of inscription i.e., 1802 AD in English. In Persian, the titles conferred by Mughal emperor to the Perron were inscribed on the tablet: “Khudaya Bagh Nasir Ud Daula, Intizamul Mulk, General Perron Bahadur Muzzafar Jang hamesha bahar abaad, and Date: 1802 Gregorian and 1217 Hijri”.  Perron garden house was allocated to Aligarh Muslim University and it was converted as a residential hostel in 1945 AD by Dr. Sir Ziauddin Ahmad, then vice-chancellor of the University. It was named after ex-Judge (1923 AD) and Vice Chancellor (1929) of the University, Sir Shah Mohammad Sulaiman. The residential apartment of Perron Garden house is converted to Provost Office after necessary renovations. Today it lodges more than six hundred fifty students. The strategic fort of Maratha period is used as botanical garden of University. The tablet inscribed at fort displayed the name of the British officers killed during Anglo Maratha war of 1803 AD. Today these two monuments are the testimony of the De Boigne and Perron (stalwarts of Sindhia army) days at Aligarh (a power center of Hindustan during late 18th century). Now the residential locality in the area lying in the front of Sulaiman Hall is identified as Saheb Bagh. Quite a few of the residents know the actual story of the Sahib Bagh and story of the name engraved on the gate of Sulaiman Hall.

The only preserved structure of Saheb Bagh. Designed in Indo-Saracenic architecture, the Perron garden house gateway is two hundred fifteen-year-old structure at Aligarh Muslim University.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Mr. Ovais Ahmad, a student at Aligarh University for providing photographs.


Atkinson, Edwin Thomas, ed. Statistical, Descriptive and Historical Account of the North-Western Provinces of India: 2. Meerut division part 1. Vol. 2. North-Western Provinces Government, 1875.

Burke, Edmund. The Annual Register, Or, A View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year. Printed for J. Dodsley, London, 1799.

Keene, H.G., 2000. The Fall of the Moghul Empire. Atlantic Publishers & Dist.

The European military adventurers in India.* the last few years, the spectator archives, 1893. retrieved from:

Nevill, H. R. “Aligarh: a gazetteer, vol. VI of the District Gazetteer of the United province of the Agra and Oudh.” (1909). Printed at Government Press, Allahabad, United Provinces.

Marshman, John Clark. History of India from the Earliest Period to the Close of the East India Company’s Government. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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The royal caravan at Rampur during Mirza Jawan Bakht journey to Lucknow: A narration from an oriental source

Introduction: The eighteenth century India is documented as one of the most turbulent phases in history where one can find power brokers controlling the Imperial authority at Delhi. The Nawabs of Oudh, Marathas, Afghans, and British East India Company were main ruling forces in North India (Hindustan) that were fighting with each other to regain the control over titular Mughal Kings of “Qila-e-Moalla” in Delhi (Red Fort). On 23 April 1774 AD, after the final defeat of Rohilla Afghans by joint forces of British East India Company and Nawab of Oudh, led by Colonel Champion and Shuja-ud-daula, the princely state of Rampur was came in existence. Nawab Faizullah Khan retreated with his army in foothills of the Himalayas known as Lal Dhang after the death of Rohilla chief, Hafiz Rahmat Khan in the battlefield. After a guerilla war of five months, it was on 7 October 1774 AD, the joined forces of East India Company and Nawab Oudh opened the talk with retreated Rohilla armies in Lal Dhang. This resulted in the creation of the princely state of Rampur and Nawab Oudh occupation over the vast Rohilla territories in Katehar. History documented this agreement between Nawab Shuja-ud-daula and Nawab Faizullah Khan as the treaty of Lal Dhang. Nawab Faizullah Khan was considered as founder and first ruler of the princely state and it continued as an independent state until the freedom of India on 15 August 1947 AD.The Mughal Empire loses its central control and regional powers exert a greater influence. Even though the imperial power has lost but history witnessed symbolic regard and respect for Mughals from Marathas, Rohillas, and East India Company up to the time of last Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. One can find sporadic incidents of humiliation for example; insane Ghulam Qadir Rohilla, the unworthy grandson of Rohilla leader Najib Ud Daula, showed an act of barbarism toward the descendants of Babur and Akbar.

Translation of the narration: While reading an oriental text on Rohilla history titled as “Akhbar US Sanadid” Vol 1, by Hakim Maulvi Mohammad Najmul Ghani Khan Najmi, I found a narration that reflected the etiquettes and respect delivered by Nawab Faizullah Khan towards the Royal Princes from the house of Babur in the reign of Shah Alam II. “Mirza Jawan Bakht who was in charge of the affairs at Delhi in absence of Shah Alam left “Qila-e-Moalla” on 1198 Hijri (1784 CE) for traveling to Lucknow. When they reached Rampur, Nawab Syed Faizullah Khan offered Nazr, gifts and completed the rituals of hospitality with great pomp and show. On Tuesday, Jamadiul Akhir, 26, 1198 Hijri (corresponds to 17 May 1784 CE), the royal caravan of Shah Alam, with two princes, Mirza Javan Bakht and Mirza Sulaiman Shikoh left Delhi and reached Moradabad. In evening, Syed Faizullah Khan came to know about the arrival of Royal Caravan in Moradabad. In morning, the caravan of Mughal princes moved towards Rampur. Nawab Sahib received the Royal Princes at a distance of four miles from Rampur on the road to Muradabad. With all respect, the Mughal princes were brought to the fort of Rampur. Cash, essential commodities, elephant, horses, weapons, and tents were presented to them. In anecdotes of Shah Alam, these items were described in details. It was written that Nawab Faizullah Khan, the In charge of Rampur gifted two thousand Rupees, two Elephants, few horses, and many camps were presented to the royal princes. The Mughal princes stayed in Rampur for four days. On Friday, they offered congregational Friday prayers in Jama Masjid of Rampur. Mirza Jawan Bakht presented “Khillat” (a customary gift presented by the rulers) to the speaker of the mosque. With the intent of leaving, the prince mounted on his horse and caravan moved towards Bareilly. Nawab Faizullah Khan escorted the princes along with his sons and chiefs of the state. He escorted them up to the place where the tent of the Royal Princes was fixed. The royal food prepared with a variety of dishes was sent to the camp of Mirza Jawan Bakht and his fellow travelers by Umar Khan alias big mustache. Mizra Jawan Bakht sent a “khillat” for Nawab Sahab through Umar Khan. Mirza Jawan Bakht also gifted a turban and Shawl was gifted to Umar Khan. In morning, the royal caravan started to move towards Bareilly, the next station on the way to Lucknow“(Akhbar Us Sanadid).

Description of Mirza Jawan Bakht: The prince described above in the narration was the eldest son of Shah Alam II. As an heir apparent, he was responsible for running the affairs of “Qila-e-Moalla” in the long confinement of his father in Allahabad fort after the battle of Buxar. The oriental biographical dictionary of Beale and Keene (1894) mentioned the arrival date of Prince Jahandar Shah (titular name of Mirza Jawan Bakht) at Lucknow as April 1784 CE. The difference might appear due to the conversion of Hijri date to Gregorian from primary sources. The crown prince escape to Lucknow was intended primarily to hold talks with Warren Hastings and Nawab Oudh for rescuing the seat of Delhi from the Maratha control. The call of the prince was put on hold as both parties didn’t want to engage in direct confrontation with Sindhia who was in charge of the affairs at Qilla e Mulla. As a crown prince and symbolic authority from the house of Timur, the Governor General issued an order to keep the prince in his own camp away from the Sindhia at Lucknow. A generous stipend of five lakh per annum and an accommodation according to his rank was provided to the prince at Lucknow. In initial days of his stay at Oudh, the crown prince developed a close relationship with Asifuddaula but the relationship got strained in the coming years, which forced the prince to shift his accommodation at Benares. In Benares, Mr. Hastings provided him an accommodation and monthly stipend of twenty-five thousand rupees from Nawab Oudh. The unfortunate prince passed away in Benares on 25th Shaban, 1202 AH (1 June 1788 AD) and buried with Royal traditions close to the tomb of the venerated Muslim saint. All the principal citizens and British resident of Benares attended the funeral of the Jawan Bakht.

“A PORTRAIT OF PRINCE MIRZA JAWAN BAKHT, COMPANY SCHOOL, LUCKNOW, INDIA, CIRCA 1786. It was attributed to the celebrated Scottish artist Charles Smith. Smith was a contemporary of Johann Zoffany and an adventurer-artist who traveled widely throughout India under the protection of his countryman, the Governor-General, John Macpherson. Painting and account retrieved from

Prince Jawan Bakht died at an early age of thirty-nine years in efforts to save the seat of his ancestors in the backdrop of late 18th-century factional politics of Hindustan. The Governor-General Warren Hastings himself wrote about the prince as “gentle, lively, possessed of a high sense of humour, of a sound judgement, an uncommonly quick penetration, and a well-cultivated understanding, with a spirit of resignation and an equality of temper almost exceeding any within reach of my own knowledge or recollection“.

Jawan Bakht left behind an account titled “Biyaz Inayat Murshidzada”.  He was an excellent poet of “Rekhta”. The paintings of Prince that was attributed to Charles Smith, a celebrated Scottish painter and letters published in Proceedings of Indian History Congress by Kali Kinkar Datta (1949 AD) reflected the position although only symbolic held by the Prince Jawan Bakht as a crown prince from the house of Babur among the British administration. The hospitality of Faizullah Khan towards the Royal caravan as narrated by Ghani was the customary tradition followed by all the princely states of Hindustan. The symbolic generosity of British and other regional power towards the house of Timur and Babur finally ended with fall of Delhi in 1857 AD. The destiny forced to join the last Mughal emperor as the leader of mutineers marked the end of the dynasty but recorded the name of Bahadur Shah Zafar as the leader of first freedom movement of British India.The recitation of the couplet by an aged Emperor after the defeat reflected the similar valor of his ancestors and love for his homeland.
Ghaaziyon min bu rahegi jab talak imaan ki
Takht-e-London tak chalegi tégh Hindustan ki
As long as there remains the scent of faith in the hearts of the valiant
The sword of Hindustan shall flash from here till the throne of London (Translation by Rana Safvi, 2015).

Nazr: A customary gift offered to Indian princes and Royals in the days of Mughal India.

Khillat: Honorary robe or any gift offered by the Imperial government.

Rekhta: A form of Urdu dialect. The rekhta style poetry was famous in 17 and 18th century.

Qila-e-Moalla: It means fort of exalted dignity. A term used for the Red Fort in the 18th and 19th century.


Najmul Ghani Khan Najmi Rampuri, Akhbaar-US-Sanadid,  (Maktba Munshi Nawal Kishore(Lucknow), Urdu, 1918). Republished by Raza Library Rampur, 1997.

Husain, Iqbal. The Ruhela Chieftaincies: The Rise and Fall of Ruhela Power in India in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford University Press, USA, 1994.

Datta, Kali Kinkar. “CALCUTTA-OUDH CORRESPONDENCE RELATING TO JAHANDAR SHAH, 1788 AD.” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. Vol. 12. Indian History Congress, 1949.

Beale, Thomas William, and Henry George Keene. An Oriental Biographical Dictionary: Founded on Materials Collected by the Late Thomas William Beale. WH Allen, 1894.

Rana Safvi, 2015. Art and Culture, Exploring the last Mughal’s poetry as it intertwined with his life. Hindustan Times, Retrieved from