Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nargis Begum, the forgotten Bahmani queen, Bidar

Described as a woman of great sagacity, she ruled the kingdom between 1450 and 1473

neglected edifice:The tomb of Makhduma-e-Jahan Nargis Begum at Ashtur on the outskirts of Bidar.

We have all read stories of the brave conquests of Chand Bibi and Razia Sultana. But few know of Makhduma-e-Jahan Nargis Begum, the Bahmani queen who ruled the Deccan for over two decades.

“It is sad and unfortunate that there is no mention of Nargis Begum any where in our history textbooks,” says writer Anees Hashmi.

“Nargis Begum was not the queen of a small presidency. She ruled Bidar, which has been described as the capital of Muslim India in the medieval period. During her reign, the Bahmani Kingdom stretched from Berar in the north to Kanchipuram in the south and from Konkan in the west to Machilipatnam in the east, Mr. Hashmi said.

Writer N. Hanif, in his book The Biographical Encyclopaedia of Sufis , has called Nargis Begum “a woman of great sagacity” and said she was “among the few remarkable women who have appeared in the ruling dynasties of medieval India”.


Listing her achievements, writer Devu Pattar said: “She ruled the Bahmani Kingdom between 1450 and 1473. She headed the council of regents after the death of her husband Humayun (a Bahmani king).

She fought wars with the kings of Konkan, Belgaum and Kanchipuram. She introduced administrative reforms, land survey and helped Mohamud Gawan build the famed madrassa in Bidar. Unfortunately, she never got due credit for her works.”

The queen died in Bijapur while returning from a battlefield in Belgaum. She was interred in the royal necropolis of Ashtur on the outskirts of Bidar. The tomb, which is situated opposite that of her husband's, has both architectural and cultural significance.

The tomb is built in typical Persian style, unlike the tombs of her ancestors which are in Turkish style. Only a few of the coloured tiles fixed at the base of the dome remain today. Stuccowork can be seen on the four walls and on the dome. A stone inscription in Persian reads: ‘Makhduma –e-jahan (ruler of the world) Nargis Begum, most gracious queen of Sultan Humayun, sleeps here'.

It is the only tomb in Ashtur, which has tombs of 16 Bahmani rulers, which is east facing.

Khalil Ahmed, a resident of Ashtur, says cattle have knocked down an information board that was in front of Nargis Begum's tomb.

Historian B.R. Konda says, “The tomb is neglected as the queen herself.”

He adds, “It is the responsibility of the people of Bidar district to create awareness about this great historical leader.”