The Begums of Bhopal: A History of the Princely State of Bhopal
Bloomsbury Academic, Jul 28, 2000 - History - 276 pages
Between 1819 and 1926 four Muslim women rulers reigned over Bhopal, the second largest Muslim state of India, despite staunch opposition from powerful neighbours and male claimants. Even the British East India Company initially opposed female rule in Bhopal until the Begums quoted Queen Victoria as their model and inspiration.
Qudsia, the first Begum, was supported by her powerful French-Bourbon Prime Minister in her departure from the traditional. She was succeeded in 1844 by Sikandar, her only daughter, who discarded purdah like her mother and was a powerful and awesome ruler, leading her armies into battle, and indulging in the male-dominated pastimes of polo and tiger-hunting. Sikandar's only daughter, the highly controversial and liberal Shahjehan, made her mark on the state by building extensively, while the last Begum, Sultan Jahan, was a pioneering figure in education reform, and a standard-bearer for women's emancipation. The story ends with her abdication in favour of her son, the first male ruler (Nawab) of Bhopal in five generations.
This book offers the first balanced history of the state and, in discussing the Begums' policies in dealing with the British, also provides a fascinating account of British Imperial relations with princely states.