Descendants of the last Mughul emperor in Hyderabad

THE LAST Moghul Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar allowed his Hindu ministers
to smear his forehead with gulal on Holi every year. He believed that
his religion would not be affected by this social ritual and was sure
that God would redeem him for he had not broken the heart of his


A very nice picture of Bahadur Shah Zafar, together with a brief
account of his times with reference to the Bhakti movement.

"Bahadurshah Zafar - the last of the great Mughals - was a passionate
lover of poetry and eminent Urdu poets Ghalib and Zauk graced his
court. Mir preceded them by a few decades lamenting the disintegration
of a civilized way of life that followed in the wake of the decay of
this great empire."


BBC Report on Bahadur Shah's possible descendants in Hyderabad

A documentary film depicting the lives of the descendants of India's
last Moghul emperor has been released in India.
This is the first time that the emperor's descendants, who had been
living in complete anonymity, decided to disclose their identity.

The film-maker, Arijit Gupta, says his film is an attempt to make the
people aware of the struggles of this surviving Moghul family.

The Moghuls ruled India for more than 300 years starting from 1526.

The film entitled, "The Living Moghuls", is based on the family history
of 80-year-old Begum Laila Umahani, the fourth generation direct
descendant of Bahadur Shah Zafar and his first wife, Ashraf Mahal.

"The film narrates how after Bahadur Shah Zafar's exile to Burma in
1857, Mirza Quaiush, who was his only son, managed to escape from the
British army and fled to Kathmandu in Nepal.

However, Quaiush secretly came back to India and was given shelter in
Rajasthan by its ruler.

Quaiush's son - Mirza Abdullah - also migrated from one place to
another and finally went to Hyderabad, where his son Mirza Pyare was

Begum Laila Umhani, the daughter of Mirza Pyare was also born in

Speaking to the BBC, Begum Laila Umahani - said she had not disclosed
her identity because some people made a mockery out of it."

"In the film, I narrate how our lives changed, my childhood memories
and how we lost everything we owned," she said. Her two sons - Ziauddin
Tucy is a retired government employee and Masiuddin Tucy is a food

One of the shots in the film show how this family now has to stand in
queue to get a ticket and enter Red Fort - built by one of their

An article on Bahadur Shah's descendants in Delhi and Hyderabad

The family after several futile approaches made to Indira Gandhi and
subsequent governments in Delhi, preferred to take a backseat "Who will
listen to me now? Instead they will mock so it is better to remain
silent to keep our dignity intact," Begum Laila says in the
documentary. She reportedly broke her silence before the camera after
much coaxing from Arijeet Gupta.


The film-maker, Arijeet Gupta met the family in 1998 after he saw a
letter from Ziauddin Tucy addressed to the powers that be requesting
the family to grant benefits/ pensions to help them survive with
dignity. Since Laila Begum was not ready to articulate her viewpoint,
and there could not be many compromises on authenticity, this
documentary took five years to complete, he says.

More at

EVEN AS Begum Laila Umahani fights for recognition from the Government,
she has to encounter another battle of words and letters - from Pakeeza
Begum, claimed to be the only direct descendant of Bahadur Shah Zafar.
A resident of Neeti Bagh in New Delhi -- her ancestral house Chandni
Mahal is in the Walled City -- Begum Pakeeza denies that Begum Laila is
a direct descendant of the last Moghul Emperor. "The entire Delhi knows
that only I am only the direct descendant of the king and not she
because only the heir apparent - Vali Ahad -- was supposed to be one
and Mirza Qwesh -- whom she refers to as her forefather -- was never a
crown prince as reported in a Delhi daily earlier. He wanted to be one
and to do that he also accepted the humiliating conditions of the
British but never succeeded. While he was only attempting to become
one, the 1857 Mutiny broke out. My great grandfather Mirza Fatehul Mulk
was the heir apparent."

She narrates the historical background that she says is found in record
books too. It is reported that historians Maheshwar Dayal and Tara
Chand also verified the same in their books. "Mirza Fatehul Mulk
Bahadur alias Mirza Fakhruh was appointed the heir apparent in 1853. At
the time of Mutiny, the son of Mirza Fakhruh, Mirza Farkhunda Jamal was
only four or five year old. When Major Hudson killed the sons and
grandsons of Bahadur Shah Zafar at Khooni Darwaza, Delhi on Bahadur
Shah Zafar Marg, and soon after this news broke out, the nurse - Anna
-- of Mirza Farkhunda Jamal took the child secretly without even
informing the family because those who were responsible for the Mutiny
were among the family only. For years, she did not reveal his identity
and nurtured him by doing different work at different places. That is
how she managed to save the last successor."

Some time after the Mutiny the British announced that there would be no
killings and punishment, Anna brought the child back to the mother. The
British Government released political pension in favour of Mirza
Farkhunda Jamal as the heir apparent. After the death of Mirza Jamal,
the pension was received by his sons and daughters -- Qamar Sultan
Begum -- daughter of Mirza Jamal who kept receiving this share even
after Independence. She refused to take it sometime after the
Independence saying now we are free citizens and everyone is equal in
this democratic country. Sultan Begum died in June 1993. She had two
daughters, Begum Tahira Sultan and Pakeeza Sultan Begum. The former is
settled in London while the latter lives in Delhi and is also an
ex-director ICCR and an expert on Africa.

She questions the authenticity of Begum Laila's statements: "Why was
Mirza Qwesh running away even after the Mutiny? Despite the fact
British announced that there would be no killings? Who was he afraid
of? The British? Who, as her statements go that he was helped by the
Indian soldiers of British Army to flee to Kathmandu? There were no
Indian soldiers in British Army and even if there had been any, they
were British soldiers and not from the King's Army."

She contends: "He was running away from his own people who got to know
of his schemes and policies that he accepted the Britishers'
humiliating condition to become the successor of the Moghuls."

The lady argues: "I don't have any problem if she gets any help from
the Government but she should not disturb the lineage by giving wrong
statements." She also expresses regret that without going to history
books and records with the Government Arijeet Gupta went ahead to make
his documentary film.

Another article on Bahadur Shah's descendants in Hyderabad




Isidore Domnick Mendis

The Living Mughals is the story of four lost generations of the Mughal
dynasty after Bahadur Shah Zafar. Arijeet Gupta's film unearths the
direct descendents of the dynasty who now live in Hyderabad and have
been lost in the mists of time.


"The family suffers from a severe identity crisis. Until recently, not
even their neighbours were privy to the fact that they are the direct
descendents of Mughals. They never revealed their identity first
fearing the British and after independence they knew no one would
believe them as their financial status had become pitiable.

It was a Herculean task for Gupta to convince them about a film on
their lives. The family agreed on the film only when Gupta told them
that if they don't speak, history will never know what happened to
the descendants of Mughuls after Bahadur Shah Zafar. The last chapter
on the Mughals would remain incomplete forever.

" Of course, now I am very close to the family. I call the Begum mataji
(mother). My happiest moment came when the film was shown for the first
time on July 9, 2002. The family exudes a grace and charm befitting the
Mughals," says Gupta.

Apart from the Begum, the most interesting members of the family are
her two sons-- Ziauddin and Masiuddin. The 65-year-old Ziauddin
specialises on the ghazals of Bahadur Shah Zafar. He is a very
scholarly person and a retired employee of the Andhra Pradesh

The other brother, Masiuddin is a real foodie. He is a consultant with
ITC's Hotel Kakatiya Sheraton and Towers in Hyderabad and is doing
research on the original Lashkare cuisine of the Mughals. He is also an
expert on kebabs.

" The Mughals in India developed six cuisines for six different
ranks---from the soldier to the emperor," says Masiuddin who adds that
what passes off as the original Mughlai food these days is a misnomer.

" Today's Mughlai food is a mismatch and fusion of various types of
food. When my

research is completed I will give the original Mughlai food a new name.
I'll either call it the Laskare cuisine or Chugtai--after the man who
developed the original Lashkare food," says Masiuddin.
" Despite belonging to a line that ruled India for centuries, the
family has no political ambitions. In fact most of them detest
politics," says Gupta.

Heartened by the critical response the film has received, Gupta now
wants to make another film on the origins of Mughals starting from
Samarkand in Uzbekistan from where Babar first came to establish an
empire in India.