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

A reader feedback of Dastan-e-Ghadar, a translation by Rana Safvi

Cover page of the book

Rehan Asad| Readers review of Dastane-e-ghadar

The memoirs of Zahir Dehlvi released with the title of Dastane-e-ghadar in the English language is a great effort of Rana Safvi for preserving the culture of 19th century Zafar’s Delhi and event surrounded by the siege of Delhi in 1857 AD. I was among one of the few readers who booked the book in advance from Amazon before it releases. I will be going to read the memoirs of 1857 AD Delhi in English from an eyewitness for the first time in my life. This might be a reason for the underlying curiosity other than the scholarly affiliation with the translator, Rana Safvi who carries an excellent reputation in historical writings. The event of 1857 AD that is first war of Independence for us and mutiny for British Empire hold an important significance in shaping the future of Indian Sub-Continent. This is a well-researched topic for historians and scholars. Although, a lacuna exists in the role of Bahadur Shah Zafar and circumstances that forced him to join as the leader of the rebels. The plight of noble citizens of Delhi is an unforgettable traumatic fact for Indians. Very few oriental accounts like Sarguzasht-e-Delhi by Jivan Lal and Begmat ke aanso by Khwaja Hasan Nizami has covered the events and aftermath of 1857 AD.  As mentioned in translators introduction by Rana Safvi that Zahir was the poet, not a historian, that’s why main accounts were left without dates and he skipped few major events related to mutiny. The main strength of memoir is the role of Zahir Dehlvi as an eyewitness for most of the incidents that were centered in Delhi. Recently education research shifted focus from quantitative to qualitative approach as the latter carries an importance in understanding phenomenon or process. Even my area of expertise i.e., Medical Education (one of the evidence-based field in education) gave more emphasis on qualitative research in comparison with quantitative approach. In the terms of educational research, the Zahir accounts can be considered as a qualitative data that reached to the readers in the form of written narrations. The memoirs gave an excellent description of the cultural zenith of Delhi that was achieved after British control in 1803 AD. Although a detailed account has been presented in Dalrymple’s, the last Mughal. Again Zahir memoirs gave us a flavor of tale reading from an eyewitness, a unique distinction to this book. For example, the description Sair-gul-faroshan is narrated in a manner that reader can find himself standing in the procession. The narrations and events of mutiny gave an in-depth description of the devastation caused by the arrival of the mutineer (freedom fighters) in the cultural capital of early nineteenth century India. The reciprocation of East India company appeared to be worst for the noble citizen than the treatment of mutineers. The events of mutiny and helplessness of Bahadur Shah Zafar as described by the Zahir will create an empathy among the readers. One can feel the pain and trauma experienced by Bahadur Shah Zafar and his noble citizens during the fall of Delhi at the hands of British forces. The events of September 1857 during the siege of Delhi reminds me of 1258 AD siege of Baghdad (once a cultural capital of Abbasids under Caliph Al Mustasim). I can draw the similarities between two events, both cities reached the cultural epitome, marked the end of the strongest dynasties, their leaders supervised the cultural renaissance and catastrophic end of the civilizations by the hands of conquerors. The story of the migration of Zahir (a generous poet from a Mughal court and genealogical offspring of Caliph Ali) is a sample version for understanding the plight of the most cultured and educated citizens of Hindustan. From the court of Rampur to the generosities of Nawab Ibrahim Khan at Tonk, the narrations of princely states helps us to understand the vibrant culture of North Indian princely states. An affiliation of Jaipur and Alwar state towards culture, Sufism and Urdu poetry reflected moral and religious syncretism developed down the centuries in Hindustan. In some narrations, the hyperbole is present while describing both positive and negative attributes, for example, the description of the princely states of Jaipur and Hyderabad states, it is quite evident. This might be happened due to the old age and sufferings he received with the loss of his family members especially his son and son in law. The valuable addition of the timeline of Ghadar, historical notes, maps and Qila-e-Molla plan will facilitate the readers to correlate the memoirs of Zahir Dehlvi with dates, personalities, and architectural landmarks. The first time, I came to know the origin of the names of Paiwala’n Bazar and Kucha Chela’n from Rana Safvi notes. I would like to thanks and congratulate Rana Safvi for translating a worthy account.


Dr. Mohammad Rehan Asad

Daang estate: exploring heydays of Colonial zamindars in District Pilibhit

Photo & text by Rehan Asad|Dang, a small village of Tahsil Pilibhit is located twenty kilometers northwest of the main city of Pilibhit District. The village is inhabited by three thousand five hundred human souls distributed in four hundred seventy households. During Colonial days, the village held a significance due to the residence of one of the richest zamindar of the Pargana Jahanabad, District Pilibhit. The District Gazette of 1934 AD mentioned the name of this village in the same context. “Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad son of Sheikh Mohammad Buksh of village Dang, an Arain hold seven villages and fifteen shares in District Pilibhit and pay revenue of ten thousand four hundred thirty-eight INR (Drake, 1934AD)”[1]. They also held three whole villages in District Bareilly. On reviewing District Gazetteer, I found that it was the highest revenue paid to the Government in Pargana Jahanabad and third highest in the District. During the compilation of the book on historical perspectives of Arain diaspora, I found several pieces of evidence related to the philanthropies of Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad and his father Shiekh Mohammad Buksh.

Last week I traveled to this village for exploring the pieces of evidence related to the family of Shiekh Mohammad Buksh. The village seems to be similar to all other villages with exception of well built old haveli of approximately one thousand square yards, a mosque and an extension of Haveli. One of the middle-aged man from a village introduced me to the old aged resident to provide rich narratives of the village during Colonial days. For the locals, Sheikh Mohammad Buksh and Shiekh Nazeer Ahmad were known as “Bade Miyan” and “Chote Miyan”. Usually, Colonial zamindars were remembered for their atrocities and exploitation of the cultivators. Surprisingly, here in Village Dang, Bade Miyan and Chote Miyan were venerated as the pious leader and caretaker of their forefathers. The old man was filled with nostalgia on recalling the days of Chote Miyan. He narrates that village was frequently visited by government officials such as “thanedar”, “tahsildars”, “deputy collector” and in few occasion by the district magistrate in Colonial days. During the official visit to Pargana Jahanabad, the Mehaman Khana of Chote Miyan offered hospitality and lodging to these officials. According to locals, the compound of Chote Miyan was spread in an area of around three acres (approximately thirteen thousand square yards). The entire area was enclosed by a wall and main entrance has a grand gateway guarded by security guards. On the left flank, there was the nicely built area for the family known as zenan khana. I got a chance to take photos of this building that is now owned by three families.It has seven to eight rooms, verandah bounded by pillars and traditional arches, and a spacious brick-lined courtyard.  The roof was supported by timber and iron grid.

The boundary of the female section of the haveli.
In between, I saw small bricks in the boundary. This might be the remains of the old structure that were expanded by Shiekh Mohammad Buksh in the early 20th century.
One of the entrances to the inner courtyard of female section. There is a brick courtyard bounded by the high wall before this gate.
A spacious kitchen of around 800 square ft in area. It was famous for hospitality and charity during heydays. Now in the ruined state. The current occupants are using it for grain storage.
koī baaqī na rahā hai na rahegā koī
be-nishāñ ho gae sab Shaan dikhāne vaale
A verse of Barq Mirza Raza, a prominent poet of Oudh and teacher of the last Nawab of Lucknow, Wajid Ali Shah seems to be applicable in this context.
A plinth at the roof of zenana khana built for the praying of ladies. The purdahnashin ladies can offer prayers in the open air.
Two small apartments with similar arrangement were built on the first floor on right and left the side. This provides a relief for females in summers.
The inner section of zenana khana (Women section) that is now divided into three portions. Across the breadth, the verandah was bounded by six arches. The length of the verandah is bounded by four arches.

The right flank was occupied by mehman khana built in an area of around two thousand square yards with an almost same arrangement like zenan khana (female quarters) except for an addition of metal shade verandah in the front of the main verandah.

Mehmankhana: This section was later on modified by the occupants. It was divided into three portions with certain modification. I got the chance to take a look from outside.

Few small apartments were present in between these two buildings that were used for the lodging of relatives so that purdahnashin females can access it.  In addition, there were units for servants, karinda (accountants), and other workers. An open space in the compound was used for the horses, elephants and motor car that was introduced in days of Chote Miyan. All the small apartments are now demolished and open space is known as “gher” in the local language is now occupied with small village houses. Outside the compound, the mosque is located in proximity to Mehmankhana. This was built by the father of Sheikh Mohammad Buksh alias Bade Miyan in the late 19th century.

Photo of a mosque from behind. When it was constructed by Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad father almost a century before it was on the high platform. In last hundred years, the construction of roads raised the level of the ground.

In front of the mosque, there was a guest house known as “Sarai” built by Bade Miyan for the stay of the passers-by travelers. A madrassa was also started by him to gave basic teachings of Urdu, Arabic, and Hindi for the inhabitants of nearby villages. On crossing the road, the opposite side has a huge brick-lined pool for the cultivation of fishes that remain intact until the end of zamindari days. A big feast was arranged on special occasions such as Muharram and Rabiul Awwal from the time of the ancestors up to days of Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad. Irrespective of caste, creed, and religion, the local from Dang and nearby villages were invited on these occasions to receive the hospitality of the Chote Miyan. An adherent follower of Sufi Islam, Chote Miyan bear the complete expense of the “Urs/death anniversary” of a saint buried in the premises of the police station, Jahanabad. According to the locals, this was a tradition from the time of his ancestors. The local thandedar /Station Officer whether a Hindu or Muslim make all the preparation of this feast. I found a reflection of syncretism in this traditional celebration. These type of celebration were part of the culture of United Province and Oudh in those days. Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad alias Chote Miyan was first in Pargana who purchased a Ford-Ferguson tractor and modern agrarian equipment during British days. As a far-sighted man, he held huge agrarian lands in the category of “Sir” or “Khudkasht” land.  The descendants received more than two hundred acres of the agrarian land even after the abolition of the zamindari. By 1970, the eldest son of Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad sold all the possessions and say Goodbye to the village that was a seat of his ancestors for more than century. He perceived the political changes as the loss of power and respect that was enjoyed by the family for more than a century. The educated descendants of the family relocated to the United States by 1980. I visited the graves of “Chote Miyan” and “Bade Miyan” in the graveyard nearby the mosque. More than seventy years have passed since the death of “Chote Miyan” but the two names were still revered and respected by the local villagers. The villagers have many narrations of the philanthropic deeds of Chote Miyan passing to them from their elders. I will end by writing with a saying of Sheikh Sadi.”To give pleasure to a single heart by the single kind act is better than a thousand heads bowing in a prayer”. I think this was a reward from Almighty God to these generous landlords for taking care of their assamis ( cultivators).

[1]Drake-Brockman, D.L. (1934), District Gazetteer of United Provinces of Agra and OudhSupplementet D:  Pilibhit District. Continue reading “Daang estate: exploring heydays of Colonial zamindars in District Pilibhit”