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July 10, 2011

Later Mughal History of the Panjab (1707 - 1793)


July 10, 2011

A banker by profession, Salim Ansar has a passion for history and historic books. His personal library already boasts a treasure trove of over 7,000 rare and unique books.
Every week, we shall take a leaf from one such book and treat you to a little taste of history.
BOOK NAME: Later Mughal History of the Panjab (1707 - 1793)
AUTHOR: Hari Ram Gupta
PUBLISHER: Asia Publishing - New Delhi
The following excerpt has been taken from Pages: 109 115
Mughlani Begam belonged to the noblest Mughal family after Aurangzeb, which controlled the entire Mughal Empire for about thirty years, and ruled over the Panjab for about forty years. She was a lady of remarkable address and daring and played such an important part in the politics of the Punjab from 1753 to 1757 that she was the pivot round which centered all the political affairs of the country. Her diplomacy was vigorous and effective, steady and sturdy and she easily succeeded in achieving the object of her wishes. She possessed a powerful personality and played a domineering role in all her dealings. If she was not implicitly obeyed, coaxed or cajoled she was terrible in her wrath. Ambitious as she was she loved power, which sometimes exceeded the bounds of propriety. ... All this ruined not only her own honour, prestige, position and even wealth, but also that of her husband, the father-in-law and the Delhi Empire. Her story is a tale of woe which befell the Panjab and Delhi alike. Born with a silver spoon in her mouth she died a pauper, as the wife of her own household servant.
Mughlani Begam was the wife of the celebrated viceroy of the Panjab, Muin-ul-Mulk (1748-53), popularly known as Mir Mannu and son of Nawab Qamar-ud-din Khan, the Prime Minister of Delhi, (1724-28). Her mother was Dardana Begam, who was sister of Khan Bahadur Zakariya Khan, Viceroy of the Panjab from 1726 to 1745 and daughter of Abdul Samd Khan,

Viceroy of the Panjab from 1713 to 1726. Her father was Jani Khan, a leading noble at the Lahore Court.
Her original name appears to have been Surayya Begam. In her husband s family she was given the name of Murad Begam in accordance with Indian custom. Popularly she was known as the Mughlani Begam.
Muin-ul-Mulk, after his victory over Ahmad Shah Abdali in March, 1748, was appointed by the dying Muhammad Shah to the viceroyalty of the Panjab in view of his vigorous character which enabled him to check further inroads of the Afghan invader and to crush the Sikhs, who had been steadily acquiring power. If Muhammad Shah had ever displayed any far-sighted statesmanship, it was in ordering Muin s appointment to the Panjab, the frontier province of the Mughal Empire, then liable to foreign peril and internal insecurity.
During the short period of Muin s office from 1748 to 1753, Ahmad Shah led two invasions, in 1749 and 1751. On these two occasions the Mughal Viceroy fought single-handed, without receiving any assistance whatsoever from his master of Delhi. The second invasion lasted six months, and ultimately Muin was defeated. But his pleasing personality, ready wit and frankness of manners saved him his life and office. Abdali confirmed him in his post, under his own suzerainty and retired to Afghanistan.
He was equally successful in checking the power of the Sikhs. He maintained a continuous campaign against them, and almost brought their lawless activities to an end. However, he suddenly died on the 3rd November 1753, in the prime of life, under rather suspicious circumstances. The eye-witness, Miskin, to whom we shall have again to refer frequently in these pages and who, at this time, was in attendance upon Muin, gives a remarkable description of his death, the revolt of the soldiery and the Begam s cleverness. He says: Nawab Sahib (Muin-ul-Mulk) stayed for some time at village Tilakpur, on the bank of the river (Ravi) eight kos from Lahore. One day, at this place, in the month of Muharram he mounted a horse to go hunting. A little while before he had sent out Khwajah Mirza Khan with a few other Mughalia Jamadars to repress the Sikhs. On his return from hunting he halted at a certain fort which had been built by him. This fort was garrisoned by foot soldiers permanently stationed in it. He took his meal here at mid-day and had a siesta. He got up when about three hours of the day remained (about 3:00pm). By chance his armlet of nine gems which always remained tied up on the arm broke off and the gems fell upon the floor. I brought this fact to his notice. He picked up the gems himself and made them over to an official. He then attended the call of nature, washed himself and said his afternoon prayer. Afterwards he put on a vilayti satin dress of green colour, mounted a horse and came out of the fort. Just then Khwajah Mirza presented himself before him with a few Sikh heads. He gave away prizes to the men who had cut off the heads and turned his attentions towards his own troops .
Muin-ul-Mulk put his horse to a gallop over an open field to join his troops which lay encamped at a short distance. All of a sudden he was taken ill. The doctors tried their best to bring about his recovery, but he died a little after midnight. The strange thing was that the colour of his body from face to chest had turned blue. This sad occurrence caused a heart-rending crying and bewailing in the whole army. At this time the Begam Sahiba entrusting the body of the Nawab to the custody of some reliable persons opened the doors of the treasury and kept herself busy for three days nights in paying wages to the soldiers. On the fourth day Bhikari Khan said that he would take the Nawab s corpse to Delhi, while the Begam insisted on taking it to Lahore. This led to a quarrel between them. Bhikari Khan thereupon appointed 500 of his men to guard the corpse and raised the standard of rebellion. The Begam was surprised at his conduct and she summoned all the chiefs before her. Accordingly, all the Indian sardars came and rendered submission to her; but the Mughalia troops had been seduced by Bhikari Khan to his side. The Begam therefore sent for Qasim Khan who was ordered to win over the Mughalia troops by any means he could. Qasim Khan said that he would bring all the captains (of the Mughalias) by promising them favours but in his absence the corpse was to be guarded. The Begam posted me and my companions on this duty. On our arrival, Bhikari Khan s guard left the corpse and departed, and we took up our position to wait upon the Begam; but Khwajah Mirza remained on the side of Bhikari Khan with 300 horsemen. The Begam then marched to Lahore (with the corpse) and entered the city.
The news of Muin s death reached Delhi on the 12th November and Emperor Ahmad Shah on the 13th November appointed his three-year-old son Mahmud Khan the Viceroy of the two provinces of Lahore and Multan. The robes of honour were conferred on the Prince in the Diwan-i-Khas, and quite in the fitness of things, the three-year-old baby-warden of the north-western marches was provided with a two-year-old deputy in the person of Muhammad Amin, son of late Muin-ul-Mulk, for whom a khilat and jewels were sent through Mir Jamil-ud-din Khan. The actual administration was, placed under the control of Mumin Khan but the real control lay in the hands of the Begam.
The Panjab had, however, formed a part of the Afghan kingdom since 1752; and the Viceroy derived his real power from Ahmad Shah Abdali and not from Ahmad Shah of Delhi. The Begam was not satisfied at receiving a formal nomination from Delhi; but, in order to retain her son in office she looked up to the Durrani Emperor for confirmation. The Deputy Mumin Khan was also not certain of retaining his office until he had received formal orders from the Afghan king. Both of them therefore, offered their submission to Jahan Khan, the governor of Peshawar, who then lay encamped at Hasan Abdal, requesting him to communicate with his master in Kandahar. As a result of these negotiations, Ahmad Shah Durrani appointed Muhammad Amin Khan Governor of the Panjab and Mumin Khan his Deputy about the end of January 1754. This occasion was celebrated with great rejoicing.
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