Bahu Begum was only legitimate daughter of he Nawab Mutaman-ud-Daulah Muhammad Ishaq, a noble in the Court of the Mughal Emperor Mohammad Shah.Her name was Ummat-uz Zohra but she is famous as Bahu Begum, the wife of Nawab Shuja-ud Daulah of Awadh.
The marriage took place in 1746 after her father’s death, and was a grand affair, with all expenses, amounting to a staggering two crores (according to the LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT of BAHU BEGUM, by A. F. M. ABDUL ALI, Keeper of Imperial Records) borne by her brother Najmud Daulah, who had no children of his own.
It was an occasion for the display of “uncommon splendour and extraordinary expense under the personal charge of the Emperor.’ Among the presents offered to the bride “there were a thousand cups of silver weighing each a hundred rupees’. Moreover she was a recipient of a “jagir consisting of parganas of Salone etc. which yielded an annual income of nine lakhs of rupees’.
Nawab Shuja-ud Daulah had such a high regard for her that used to place the seals of his government in her custody and allowed her to enjoy a perquisite derived from “a tax of a twenty fourth part of the yearly pay of every officer and soldier of cavalry.” Further he granted her an additional jagir of the extensive district of Gonda for the payment of establishments of “the Khas and Khurd Mahals.”
The next Nawab Vazir was Asaf-ud-Dowlah, (1775-97), her son. He quarrelled with his mother and left Faizabad, the head-quarters of his father, for Lucknow. But Bahu Begum continued to live at Faizabad till her death in 1816.
Faizabad had risen to a height of unparalleled magnificence under the rule of her husband almost rivalling Delhi. According to Mr. H. R. Nevill, I.C.S., “it was full of merchants from Persia, China and Europe and money flowed like water.”
After the death of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah in 1797 his adopted son Wazir Ali succeeded him, but his reign was short-lived and the British put his uncle Sadat Ali Khan on the masnad of Awadh in 1798. Sadat Ali Khan was the step-son of Bahu Begum.
Bahu Begum did not get along with the new nawab and it was “a want of cordiality and confidence between them which drove her to the protection of the British and led eventually to making them the “residuary legatees” of her will.”
(letter from N. B. Edmonstone to the Resident at Lucknow, dated 17th August, 1808)
He reduced her allowance and stationed troops in Faizabad. The enraged Bahu Begum wrote to the Marquis of Wellesley and even appeared before Mr. Lumsden the Resident in Lucknow. She appeared in her Sedan ~chair and spoke for herself using no medium as her spokesman and without allowing admittance any one except her Minister, Jawahir Ali Khan.
Her stepson was affronted by this ‘unseemly boldness’ on her part and told her that he was ashamed of this unusual proceeding. Bahu Begum retorted that it was he who had driven him to take this unusual step.
This sealed the complete alienation between them.
Mr. Lumsden informed the .Governor-General about the Begum’s desire and the Marqius of Wellesley sent a report to the Court of Directors in London.
The Begum was asked to furnish a physical will as a verbal agreement may not be enough.This was to have a full statement of her properties and possessions.
Her will provided for three lakhs of rupees to be given to her trusted minister, the khwajasara Darb Ali Khan to construct a mausoleum for her.
One lakh of rupees was to be paid as donation to the shrines of Kerbala, Najaf-i-Ashraf and other holy places at the discretion of the above Minister.
Revenue of certain villages were assigned to defray expenses of the mausoleum’s upkeep and the surplus revenue of these villages to be given to the poor and religious me inhabiting the said mausoleum.
Bahu Begum would go every year to her nephew’s house in Faizabad for the first ten days of Muharram to pay respects to the Tazia of Imam Hussain. That year in 1816, at the age of 88 she caught a chill on her return and died of it.
“The day before she died she said that ‘the great Nawab’ (meaning Shuja-ud-Daulah, her husband) had come to take her.’
“Darab Ali Khan who enjoyed her perfect confidence carried her venerated corpse to the river and washed it.” She was “borne with great respect and ceremony’’ to the Jawahir Bagh on the shoulders of the nobles of Faizabad ; “around her bier walked servants scattering silver and gold for the repose of her soul with a lavish hand that enriched the needy and relieved the poor. Darab Ali Khan opened the earth in the ‘baradari’ at the very spot where she used to sit, spread below her some sacred dust which had been brought from Karbala by pilgrims and laid her on it to rest. A thousand men sat all night reading the sacred texts for the Quran till the day dawned and the shadows were removed.”
The mausoleum was built in 1816 by Darab Khan for his mistress.
it has 3 small domes on each level to support the floor above, thereby transferring the load to the supporting walls and increasing it’s strength.
The distinctive beauty of this for me was the fact that each ceiling except the uppermost was beautifully decorated. Tje one on the second level is lovely and well maintained.
Since Bahu Begum was a devout Shia and had endowed the shrines in Iraq it was good to see an Imambara in tje cenotaph chamber and hear that regular majlis are held here in Muharram.
Each level had a painted and decorated ceiling
The outside had picture perfect arches and cupolas
Some input on my request from Rafiq Kidwai
“This is an impressive structure
The double dome is regular feature even the Taj has one
Its mostly to do with the proportion of the space
What works for the inside is not impressive or proportionate for the external structure “
Pic 1- exterior
Pic 2- crypt and grave chamber
Pic 3- first floor with cenotaph and an Imambara
Pic 4&5- a beautiful blue ceiling above the second dome. Have not heard of any other structure with double domes that has a decorated ceiling as it’s an empty space
Pic 6 – under the top dome