Tag Archives: Wajid Ali Shah

Princess Omdutel of Oude Buried At Paddington Old Cemetery

Awadh, UTTAR PRADESH / London, U. K / Paris, FRANCE :

While walking around Paddington Old Cemetery during my lunch break earlier today, for some reason I felt compelled to read the faded stone slab that marked the resting spot of Princess Omdutel. Instantly my attention was grabbed, a Princess buried in Kilburn, North West London of all places, that sure wasn’t something I was expecting to find.


I have walked past the grave of Princess Omdutel, perhaps a 100 times or more since I moved to Kilburn and never paid it any attention. Now she had my full attention.

The badly worn and faded inscription on the stone slab was barely readable, but after a lot of scratching of my head, I finally managed to decipher the words: Sacred to the memory of Princess Omdutel Aurau Begum, daughter of the late General Mirza Sekunder Hishmut Bahadur, Brother to His Majesty King of Oude, who died 14th April 1858 aged 18 months.

With a little help from Google and www.findagrave.com, I managed to find the following information: Princess of Oude. Oude, or Awadh, which was the epicentre of the 1857 Indian Mutiny, when the sepoys rebelled against the British after baulking at orders to use cartridges greased in pig and beef fat. Members of the Awadh Royal Family arrived in London soon afterwards, lobbying unsuccessfully for the return of their lands. The princess’s father, Mirza Bahadur, died two months before her and is buried in Père Lachaise in Paris.

The British obviously offered the Awadh Royal Family a haven in London after they were ousted. I’m not sure how long the family had ruled for in Awadh, which is a region in India. But from what I can gather it seems likely that they were a puppets installed by the British Government.

Princess Omdutel Aurau Begum, her life had barely begun, when she died at only 18 months of age. I wonder if any of the family survived and if so what became of them. It is also intriguing that her father died two months before her in Paris. No mention of the mother, which is kinda sad if you ask me…

I find it strange that I have walked past the grave of Princess Omdutel numerous times over the past twenty months and never once read it, until today. Very strange. Maybe she was wanting a mention on London Is Cool

source: http://www.londoniscool.com / London is Cool – a blog about Life in London / Home> Out and About in London / by William Wallace / February 21st, 2011

Malika Kishwar: A forgotten Indian queen in Paris

Awadh, UTTAR PRADESH / London, U. K / Paris, FRANCE :

The tragic story of Malika Kishwar, who rests in an unmarked grave in France’s most famous cemetery

The grave of Malika Kishwar at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The grave of Malika Kishwar at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

She lies buried amidst sepulchres that house the remains of many who are still famous.

There is Jim Morrison on the premises, the American rock legend whom trains of tourists come to pay homage, like pilgrims bearing flowers. Edith Piaf, the waif who sang her way to greatness, finds her peace nearby, as does Frederic Chopin, the composer whose pickled heart is in Warsaw but whose body dissolves in the French capital. Benjamin Franklin’s grandson rests here, and in the vicinity there is a man believed to have been sired by Napoleon. Oscar Wilde’s sculpted grave competes with Marcel Proust’s neat bed of stone, and many more still are the artists, writers, and persons of esteem who crowd the hillside cemetery that is Père Lachaise in Paris.

And yet, between them all, under a platform of rugged rock, lies this tragic Indian woman. Her name and cause have been largely forgotten, but since 1858, she has been here, longer than many of her revered neighbours. Tourists walk by with cameras, oblivious to her unmarked square existence. But every now and then there is a stray visitor who arrives on a quest: to locate the final resting place of that remarkable woman, the last queen of Awadh.

I was that visitor a few days ago, when I trekked up Paris’ most famous graveyard to look for this forgotten tomb.

The lady appears in yellowed old books by several names. She was to some Malika Kishwar, while others knew her as Janab-i Aliyah, Her Sublime Excellency, mother to the ruler of “Oude”, Wajid Ali Shah.

In 1856, when the British deposed this nawab from his ancestral seat in Lucknow, his family departed for colonial Calcutta, with all the money they could gather and what dignity they had left. But while the son (a “crazy imbecile” in the eyes of his sneering oppressors) prepared to fade quietly into history, the mother was determined to win back that which was her family’s by right.

That very year, this woman who knew little beyond her sequestered palace, set foot on a ship, determined to sail to England so she might speak—woman to woman—to the English queen in person. After all, declared the middle-aged begum, Victoria was “also a mother”; she would recognize the despair her people had unleashed, and restore to the House of Awadh territory, titles, and its rightful honour. And so proceeded Malika Kishwar, her health already in decline, braving cold winds in a foreign land, to plead the cause of royal justice.

The mission was doomed from the start. Advisers were many and much was the money they sought for the privilege of their counsel. The results, meanwhile, were nowhere to be found.

As historian Rosie Llewellyn-Jones records, Kishwar discovered quickly enough that Queen Victoria, in her “circular dress”, had little power to bestow anything more than polite conversation on her and her Awadhi line—when an audience was granted, they spoke about boats and English mansions, not about imperial treacheries and the unjust business in Lucknow.

In the British parliament, things got worse. A prayer at long last prepared was dismissed on spurious bureaucratic grounds: the begum was to submit a “humble petition”, words that she failed to use in the document laid before the House. While her son accepted British imperium, the mother was obstinate in battle. So, when she wished to travel, they sought to dragoon her into acknowledging their suzerainty—if Malika Kishwar and her ménage wanted passports, she would have to declare herself a “British subject”.

The begum refused to do anything of the sort, prepared, at best, to be under “British protection”, but never anybody’s “subject”. And legal quibbles aside, the Great Rebellion of 1857 compounded matters—there was now no prospect of relinquishing even a fragment of British power when the hour called for a demonstration of obdurate strength alone. Awadh was lost forever.

The tide having turned, in 1858, the begum decided to return at last, defeated and unhappy in the extreme. But in Paris she fell ill and died on 24 January. The funeral was simple, but there was yet some dignity and state—representatives of the Turkish and Persian sultans gave this Indian queen the regard the British denied her and her line.

A cenotaph was constructed by the grave, but it has long since fallen to pieces—when decades later the authorities at Père Lachaise sought funds to repair the tomb, her exiled son decided from Calcutta that it was simply not worth his pension, while the colonial state was even less inclined to honour a difficult woman lying several feet underground in an alien European country. And so, since that time, in a graveyard full of magnificent memorials, the queen of Awadh has remained, a shell of broken stone sheltering her from the weeds and overgrowth that alone have made a claim upon her and the story that she tells.

Others of her suite also suffered. A younger son had come with her, Sikandar Hashmat by name. He died in England, and was carried to join his mother in her unmarked grave. A grandson’s infant child was also buried within, turning the tally in Paris to three.

But it was in London that one more of the delegation fell, this one a baby princess, born to Sikandar Hashmat from his Rajput wife on British shores. I walked around a dull little place called Kilburn to look for this grave. And there, in a cemetery, after an hour between tombs set in the soggy English ground, I found a memorial to the child: Princess Omdutel Aurau Begum, “who died 14th April 1858”, months after her grandmother who was once a queen.

But Omdutel, all of 18 months, had a minor triumph where her royal grandmother had none—lying by a pathway in that cemetery in Kilburn, her grave at least bears her name.

The begum, on the other hand, has become to the passing tourist at Père Lachaise in Paris a plinth on which to rest, smoking a cigarette and looking on to a horizon full of the dead, till a stranger might appear to tell how they have under them.

Medium Rare is a column on society, politics and history. Manu S. Pillai is the author of The Ivory Throne: Chronicles Of The House Of Travancore.

He tweets at @UnamPillai

source: http://www.livemint.com / LiveMint / Home> Leisure> Medium Rare / by Manu S. Pillan / Friday – Jan 12th, 2018

Indra on Wajid Ali Shah’s throne!

The city of etiquette -Bada Imambara complex of Lucknow / Photo: Rajeev Bhatt
The city of etiquette -Bada Imambara complex of Lucknow / Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

“The Other Lucknow” captures the syncretic traditions of the city

Guru Dutt’s immensely popular film Chaudhvin Ka Chand opens with a Shakeel Budayuni song sung by Mohammad Rafi and composed by Ravi. The song  Ye Lakhnau Ki Sarzameen sums up Lucknow and the essence of its famed cultural heritage. Perhaps, no other city in the sprawling Hindi-speaking region evokes such nostalgia, romance, devotion and attachment as Banaras and Lucknow do.

So far, for nearly a century, we used to go back to Abdul Halim Sharar’s classic “Guzishta Lakhnau” that vividly describes the city’s cultural and social life, customs, traditions and history in great detail. This was serialised in the form of articles between 1913 and 1920 in Urdu literary journal “Dilgudaz” that Sharar had launched in 1887. Later, the articles were brought out as a book with a rather longish title “Hindustan mein mashriqi tamaddun ka akhiri namoona: Lakhnau” (Lucknow: The last example of Oriental culture in India). However, the world knows it simply as “Guzishta Lakhnau” (The Lucknow of the Old). National Book Trust published a Hindi translation in 1971 titled “Purana Lakhnau” (The Old Lucknow) with a scholarly introduction written by eminent Urdu critic Mohammad Hasan.

Born in 1860, Abdul Halim went to Matiaburz when he was nine years old. Matiaburz was the place near Calcutta (now Kolkata) where the deposed Nawab of Lucknow, Wajid Ali Shah, had shifted in 1856. How close his family was with the Nawab can be gauged from the fact that his maternal grandfather had gone to London to present Wajid Ali Shah’s case before Queen Victoria.

When still in his teens, Abdul Halim started writing and adopted the nom de plume ‘Sharar’ (spark). His book is a treasure trove of information about the history and culture of Lucknow which was a truly unique city representing the famed Ganga-Jamuni culture.

Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab, was an accomplished poet, musician, dancer, actor and dramatist. Urdu drama owes its beginning to him and dance-dramas like “Inder Sabha”, which he commissioned, where Indra, the king of Hindu gods, would sit on a throne wearing a dress that resembled that of the Nawab himself and fairies would sing thumris in Braj bhasha while conversing in chaste Urdu. What better picture of a syncretic culture can we find elsewhere?

Sharar divided the book into three parts and devoted the first two parts to the history of Awadh and Lucknow and that of the nawabs of Awadh. The third and the last part is the one that introduces us to the way people of Lucknow dressed, talked, ate, sang and danced, set new standards of cultured behaviour and etiquette, gathered to celebrate religious and social festivals at fairs, and offered an example of harmonious communal living. It was also a great centre of the Shias.


Now, Vani Prakashan, which is essentially a publishing house of Hindi books, has come out with a book on Lucknow in English in collaboration with the Ayodhya Research Institute, an autonomous organisation of the Uttar Pradesh government. Titled “The Other Lucknow: An Ethnographic Portrait of a City of Undying Memories and Nostalgia”, it is the outcome of a research project headed by social anthropologist Professor Nadeem Hasnain, who has put the book together.


The book appropriately opens with a poem that the Jnanpith award winning poet Kunwar Narain, who spent most of his creative life in the city, has written on Lucknow. It has been reproduced in Hindi which lends a special flavour to the book as the rest of it is a collection of articles, reports and analysis written in English. It is a sort of counterfoil to Sharar’s book as it brings the story of Lucknow in its fullness up to the present times.

“The Other Lucknow” is in a class of its own as it can equally serve a tourist as a guide book and an intellectual who wants to know and understand the history, culture, politics, arts and crafts, business and trade, literature, music and dance, architecture and religion – both past and present.

The book opens with a scholarly article “A Short Cultural History” by noted scholar Sandria Freitag followed by an excellent survey of the city’s social fabric underling its diversity. The survey is based on field research and informs us that Kashmiri Pandits, Bengalis, Punjabis, Sindhis, Malayalis, Oriyas, Maharashtrians and Assamese have also become an integral part of Lucknow’s population. It also offers a detailed description of the religious and caste communities residing in the city. In addition to paying close attention to the mohallas, mandis, bastis, landmarks, arts and craft, music and dance, religious places, Ram Leela, qawwalis and danstangoi, the book brings out the city’s Bollywood connection.

It concludes with an article on Dalit imaginations, laying bare the story of the mega monuments and parks created by former Chief Minister Mayawati to commemorate Dalit icons.

One is not surprised to read, as quoted by Nadeem Hasnain to begin his introduction, what William Russel, correspondent of The Times, London wrote in 1858 about Lucknow: “Not Rome, not Athens, nor Constantinople, not any city I have ever seen appears to me so striking and so beautiful as this.”

The writer is a senior literary critic

Corrections & Clarifications:

This article has been edited for a factual error.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Metroplus / by Kuldeep Kumar / July 09th, 2016