Birjis Qadr

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Birjis Qadr
Nawab of Awadh
Birjis Qadr
6th Nawab of Awadh [note 1]
Reign5 July 1857 – 3 March 1858
PredecessorWajid Ali Shah
SuccessorMonarchy abolished
RegentBegum Hazrat Mahal
Born(1845-08-20)20 August 1845
Qaisar Bagh, Lucknow, Oudh (present-day Uttar Pradesh, India)
Died14 August 1893(1893-08-14) (aged 47)
Arabagh Palace, Kolkata, British India (present-day West Bengal, India)
Sibtainabad Imambara, Kolkata
SpouseMehtab Ara Begum
FatherWajid Ali Shah
MotherBegum Hazrat Mahal
ReligionShia Islam

Birjis Qadr (20 August 1845 – 14 August 1893) was the Nawab of Awadh from 1857 until 1858.

Following the outbreak of the Sepoy Mutiny, Qadr's mother appointed him as the monarch of the state in 1857 and herself became his regent. Although they provided stiff resistance to the British forces, they fled to Kathmandu in Nepal in the following year after the capture of Lucknow. In Kathmandu, he became a poet and organised mushairas.

In 1887, he returned to India and moved to Metiabruz, a neighbourhood of Kolkata. In 1893, he was allegedly murdered by his own relatives.

Early life and enthronement[edit]

From left to right: Qadr's father Wajid Ali Shah, Qadr, Qadr's mother Begum Hazrat Mahal

Qadr was born on in August 1845 at Qaisar Bagh, Lucknow in Oudh State[1] to Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and Begum Hazrat Mahal.[2] In 1856, Qadr's father Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was deposed by the British on the pretext of mis-governance and was exiled to Metiabruz, a neighbourhood of Calcutta (present-day Kolkata).[3]

In 1857, the Sepoy Mutiny broke out against the East India Company and was led by Begum Hazrat, over Awadh. On 5 June 1857, after a decisive victory of the rebel forces in the Battle of Chinhat, which forced the Britishers to take refuge in The Residency (this will eventually lead to the famed Siege of Lucknow), eleven-year old Qadr was declared as Nawab of Awadh by Begum Hazrat under the active persuasion of Jailal Singh, the chief spokesman of the rebel army and the coronation was widely supported by court-nobles.[4] Rudrangshu Mukherjee notes that though the rebel army allowed Begum Hazrat to rule the state on Qadr's behalf, they had carved out a large degree of autonomy.[5][4] Qadr subsequently wrote to the-then Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah I, asking for confirmation of his regency which was granted, pending which he was awarded with the title of Wazir.[4]


In September 1857, a British regiment under James Outram and Henry Havelock managed to breach the rebel defenses and enter The Residency but were greatly reduced in strength to provide any relief and isolated as an unit, barely managed to wrest control of some adjoining territory, under its strongholds.[4] Qadr and Begum Hajrat issued routine proclamations that sought to emphasize upon the range of alleged injustices rendered by the British on the natives from seizure of the commoners' property and forceful imposition of Christianity to the whimsical dethroning of Wajid Ali Shah and random toppling of local independent provinces under dubious grounds.[4] Rudrangshu Mukherjee notes that the rebels were in great spirits who enforced a highly effective blockade of supply to the Residency.[4] Also, the rebellion drew strong support from the common masses and almost all appeals by the Britishers for negotiation-deals and requests for help, were ignored in totality.[4] Overall, despite an effective suppression of the Sepoy Mutiny over other parts of India, Lucknow (and Awadh) remained the last major bastion for anti-British forces in India and attracted numerous rebels from other territories including Nana Sahib, Holkar et al.[4]

In November 1857, another British regiment under Colin Campbell, assisted with extensive help by the besieged population of The Residency, breached multiple defenses across the outskirts of Lucknow and defeated the local rebel forces to evacuate the Britishers, safely.[4] Thereafter he choose to leave for defending other cities (esp. Alambagh et al), that were under imminent threat of an attack by rebels but without setting up a stronghold over Lucknow.[4] This, in turn, helped the rebels who continued to congregate in large numbers at Lucknow, a place that was geographically and strategically advantageous, and mobilize their future strategies.[4] At Alambagh, where Outram made his final settlement, he was attacked six times with the strength of the rebels often exceeding 30,000.[4]

However, by December, the communication networks and rebellions in other parts of India were completely crushed and the rebel chiefs had realized of their complete isolation with no prospects of incoming help and the prospects of a futile war in the face of an imminent defeat.[4] In the same month, the rebels suffered from an internal feud. Ahmadullah Shah, the Maulvi of Faizabad, challenged Qadr's leadership on the apparent basis of a divine will, thus polarizing the mutineers.[4] The factions clashed, at-least once and their military strategies were often contrarian, affecting battles.[4] Desertions and defections were also becoming increasingly commonplace.[4] Despite all these, internal intelligence reports by British authorities noted that they were too ill-placed to leverage the tensions to any advantage.[4]

Campbell re-pushed towards Lucknow, around late February, 1858 and by 16 March 1858, after intense street-battles, the British forces had captured Lucknow in entirety, forcing the Begum, her supporters and Qadr to leave the city.[4] However Campbell failed to secure the escape routes and the rebel populace drifted across to the countryside, which meant that the fall of Lucknow did not automatically lead to the submission of Awadh, as anticipated.[4]

Begum Hazrat Mahal declined a British offer of mercy and a pension, thus declining to renounce the rights of her son[1] and dispersed into the countrysides of Baundi.[4] Notably, whilst the fall of Lucknow terminated the Maulvi faction in entirety, Hajrat Mahal maintained a semblance of her erstwhile rule from a local fort; receiving collections, hosting parliaments and issuing orders under the name of Qadr.[4] They sought to mobilize the rebel forces and planned another round of armed struggle against the British authorities.[4] Proclamations were issued, urging the local caps to rebel against the British institutions in an organised fashion and Qadr even promised of monetary reimbursement for those who suffered from battle related injuries or death.[4]

In May 1858, Qadr wrote a letter to Jung Bahadur Rana, the Prime Minister of Nepal, claiming that the British had corrupted the faiths of Hindus and Muslims of the state, and urged him to send his troops to Awadh to fight the British.[6] An unsympathetic Rana rejected the accusations and refused to help Qadr, instead asking him to surrender to Henry Montgomery Lawrence, the commissioner of Lucknow and ask for pardon.[7]

In the meanwhile, as the local rebels were mostly defeated and subject to exemplary punishment by the Britishers, they soon crossed the West Rapti River to take refuge in Kathmandu, Nepal.[1]

Exile in Nepal[edit]

Qadr in Nepal, sitting left, 1870s

After arriving in Kathmandu, Qadr again wrote to Rana for asylum and despite his initial hesitance, both of them were allowed to stay at the Barf Bagh, a palace near the Thapathali Durbar.[8] In a simultaneous bargain, about 40,000 rupees worth of jewels were purchased by the Rana, for a mere 15,000 rupees.[9] Others have since observed that the Rana provided refuge only to those rebels, who afforded to pay for it, earning precious jewels in the process. [9]

While staying in Kathmandu, Qadr became a shayar (poet) and organised mehfils in the city, the earliest of which were recorded in 1864.[10] He wrote poems in the tarahi mushaira.[10] Qadr's poems were recorded by Khwaja Naeemuddin Badakashi, a Kashmiri Muslim living in Kathmandu.[10]

Return to India and death[edit]

In 1893, a few years after the death of his exiled father, Qadr returned to Kolkata.[10]

He died on 14 August 1893 at Arabagh Palace.[11] According to his grandson Koukab Qadr, Birjis' wife Mehtab Ara Begum was supposedly the lone eye-witness to a dinner, wherein Birjis Qadr along with his son and other confidantes, were poisoned to death, by his siblings and jealous begums. Ara Begum, being pregnant, did not attend the dinner and hence, survived.[2]

Personal life[edit]

While in Nepal, he married Mehtab Ara Begum, a grand-daughter of Bahadur Shah Zafar.[12] They had two sons, Khurshid Qadr and Mehar Qadr and three daughters.[12][2]


  1. ^ a b c Mahmood, Parvez. "The Begum's War". The Friday Times. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "'As children, we wanted revenge on the British'". The Times of India. 30 September 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  3. ^ Ghosh, Deepanjan (26 July 2018). "Forgotten history: How the last Nawab of Oudh built a mini Lucknow in Calcutta". Archived from the original on 13 April 2019. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Mukherjee, Rudrangshu (2002). Awadh in Revolt, 1857-1858: A Study of Popular Resistance. Orient Blackswan. ISBN 9788178240275.
  5. ^ Safvi, Rana (19 November 2018). "The Forgotten Women of 1857". The Wire. Archived from the original on 13 April 2019. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  6. ^ Jafri2009, p. 101.
  7. ^ Jafri2009, p. 102.
  8. ^ Jafri2009, p. 103.
  9. ^ a b Jafri2009, p. 105.
  10. ^ a b c d Gautam, Prawash (9 June 2018). "Birjis Qadr's Kathmandu Mehfil". Kathmandu Post. Archived from the original on 13 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  11. ^ Abdus Subhan (21 August 1995). "Pastmasters". The Asian Age. p. 13.
  12. ^ a b Rajmohan Gandhi (2009). A Tale of Two Revolts. Penguin. p. 194. ISBN 9788184758252.


  • Jafri, Sayyid Zahir Hussain (2009), The Great Uprising of 1857, Anamika Publishers, ISBN 9788179752777


  1. ^ Limited recognition

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