Qudsia Begum

Qudsia Begum, born Udham Bai (fl. 1768[1]) was a wife of Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah and mother of emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur. She was an administrator and served as de facto regent of India from 1748 to 1754.[2][3]

Qudsia Begum
Mir Miran 001.jpg
Miniature painting showing Qudsiya Begum being entertained with fireworks and dance (1742 CE by Mir Miran)
Diedfl. 1768
Delhi, Mughal Empire
SpouseMuhammad Shah
IssueAhmad Shah Bahadur
HouseTimurid (by marriage)

Early yearsEdit

A Hindu by origin, Udham Bai had been formerly a public dancing girl.[4] She had a brother named Man Khan.[5] She was introduced to Muhammad Shah's attention by Khadija Khanum, the daughter of Umdat-Ul-Mulk, Amir Khan.[6] The emperor was so fascinated by her, that he raised her to the dignity of an empress.[7] She was a woman of no refinement who denigrated her position.[8] She gave birth to Muhammad Shah's only surviving son, Ahmad Shah Bahadur on 23 December 1725.[9] Her son was, however, brought up by Muhammad Shah's empresses Badshah Begum[10] and Sahiba Mahal.[11]

Empress dowagerEdit

In April 1748, Muhammad Shah died. Her son, Ahmad Shah Bahadur, who was in camp with Safdar Jang near Panipat to return to Delhi and claim the throne. On Safdar Jang's advice, he was enthroned at Panipat and returned to Delhi a few days later.[12] Ahmad Shah Bahadur proved to be an ineffective ruler and was strongly influenced by his mother. A series of defeats and internal struggles led to his downfall.[13]

She was successively given[14] the titles of "Bai-Ju Sahiba", "Nawab Qudsiya", "Sahiba-uz-Zamani", "Sahibjiu Sahiba", "Hazrat Qibla-i-Alam", and "Mumtaz Mahal".[15] She was known for her generosity.[16] She gave pension to the Begums and the children of the late emperor not only from the government's purse but also from her own funds. She, however, behaved ruthlessly with Badshah Begum and Sahiba Mahal.[17]

Imperial officials used to sit down at her porch daily and she would hold discussions with them from behind a screen or through the medium of eunuchs. All petitions of the realm and closed envelopes were read out to her and she would pass orders on them without consulting anyone. A court historian once lamented, "Oh God! That the affairs of Hindustan should be conducted by a woman as foolish as this!"[18]

She had an affair with the eunuch Javed Khan Nawab Bahadur.[14][19] He had been an assistant controller of the harem servants and manager of the Begums' estates during the late reign.[20] Javed Khan was assassinated by Safdar Jang on 27 August 1752.[21] She and her son grieved him deeply. It is said that she put on white robes and discarded her jewels and ornaments like a widow.[22]

The mansab of commanding 50,000 horse was conferred upon her, and her birthday was celebrated with greater pomp than that of the Emperor himself. Her brother, Man Khan, a vagabond haunting the lanes and occasionally following the profession of a male dancer in a supporting role for singing girls, was created a mansabdar of 6,000 with the title of Mutaqad-ud-Daulah Bahadur.[14] At a time when the soldiers were daily mutinying for their long overdue pay and the Court could not raise even two hundred thousand rupees for this purpose, Qudsia Begum spent two crore rupees in celebrating her birthday on 21 January 1754.[14]

On 26 May 1754,[23] Ahmad Shah was attacked on a journey by a band of Marathas under Malhar Rao Holkar.[8] While running away from Sikandrabad, he took along with him Qudsia Begum, his son Mahmud Shah Bahadur, his favourite wife Inayetpuri Bai, and his half-sister Hazrat Begum leaving all other empresses and princesses at the mercy of the enemies.[19] When Ghazi ud-Din Khan Feroze Jung III reached Delhi[24] on 2 June 1754, the emperor was deposed,[25] arrested and imprisoned with his mother.[8] The two of them were then blinded.[1]


She wielded great influence and commissioned various public and private works. The Golden Mosque near the Red Fort was constructed between 1747 and 1751 for Nawab Bahadur Javid Khan.[26] In 1748, her son commissioned a garden, known as Qudsia Bagh. It consisted of a stone barahdari and a mosque inside it.[27]


  1. ^ a b François Xavier Wendel (1991). Jean Deloche (ed.). Wendel's Memoirs on the Origin, Growth and Present State of Jat Power in Hindustan (1768). Institut français de Pondichery. p. 124.
  2. ^ Everett Jenkins, Jr. (7 May 2015). The Muslim Diaspora (Volume 2, 1500-1799): A Comprehensive Chronology of the Spread of Islam in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. McFarland. p. 261. ISBN 978-1-4766-0889-1.
  3. ^ Guida M. Jackson; Guida Myrl Jackson-Laufer; Lecturer in English Foundations Department Guida M Jackson (1999). Women Rulers Throughout the Ages: An Illustrated Guide. ABC-CLIO. p. 468. ISBN 978-1-57607-091-8.
  4. ^ Dr. B. P. Saha (1997). Begams, Concubines, and Memsahibs. Vikas Publishing House. p. 90. ISBN 9788125902850.
  5. ^ Siddha Mohana Mitra (1909). Moslem-Hindu Entente Cordiale: With Special Reference to Lord Morley's Indian Reforms, Part 13. Publishing Department, Oriental Institute. p. 5.
  6. ^ Muhammad Umar (1998). Muslim Society in Northern India During the Eighteenth Century. Available with the author. p. 215. ISBN 9788121508308.
  7. ^ Sarkar 1932, p. 334.
  8. ^ a b c Bilkees I. Latif (2010). Forgotten. Penguin Books India. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-14-306454-1.
  9. ^ Thomas William Beale (1894). Henry George Keene (ed.). An Oriental Biographical Dictionary. W.H. Allen. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-4047-0648-4.
  10. ^ Sarkar, Jadunath (1997). Fall of the Mughal Empire (4th ed.). Hyderabad: Orient Longman. p. 169. ISBN 9788125011491.
  11. ^ Beveridge H. (1952). "The Maathir-ul-umara – Volume 2". Internet Archive. p. 653. Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  12. ^ Edwards, Michael (1960). The Orchid House: Splendours and Miseries of the Kingdom of Oudh, 1827-1857. Cassell. p. 7.
  13. ^ Guida M. Jackson (20 August 2009). Women Leaders of Africa, Asia, Middle East, and Pacific: A Biographical Reference. Xlibris Corporation. p. 327. ISBN 978-1-4691-1353-1.
  14. ^ a b c d Sarkar 1932, p. 336.
  15. ^ Sharma 2016, p. 145.
  16. ^ Sharma 2016, p. 223.
  17. ^ Kumari, Savita. Udham Bai: A Glimpse into the Aplendid Life of a Later Mughal Queen. p. 51.
  18. ^ Sarkar 1932, p. 335.
  19. ^ a b Sharma 2016, p. 66.
  20. ^ Sarkar 1932, p. 337.
  21. ^ Haryana (India) (1983). Haryana District Gazetteers: Sirsa. Haryana Gazetteers Organization. p. 46.
  22. ^ Sarkar 1964, p. 277.
  23. ^ Sarkar 1964, p. 334.
  24. ^ Krishna Prakash Agarwal (1979). British Take-over of India: Modus Operandi : an Original Study of the Policies and Methods Adopted by the British While Taking Over India, Based on Treaties and Other Official Documents, Volume 2. Oriental Publishers & Distributors. p. 144.
  25. ^ Hari Ram Gupta, ed. (1961). Marathas and Panipat. Panjab University. p. 24.
  26. ^ "Ahmad Shah (Mughal emperor) - Encyclopædia Britannica". Britannica.com. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  27. ^ Professor R. Nath; Ajay Nath (18 June 2020). MONUMENTS OF DELHI: Architectural & Historical. Ajay Nath, The Heritage Ajmer/Jaipur, India. p. 97.


External linksEdit

  Media related to Qudsia Begum at Wikimedia Commons