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Published on 29 Oct 2010 | over 7 years ago

The Poet: The last Mughal Emperor of India, Abu Zafar Sirajuddin Muhammad Bahadur Shah Zafar ابو ظفر سراج الدّین محمّد بہادر شاہ ظفر (takhallus or pen-name: Zafar ظفر , short name: Bahadur Shah Zafar بہادر شاہ ظفر ). He was born in 1775 and was crowned the Emperor of India in 1838. In the last attempt by Indians against the British for Independence in 1857, he was declared the Emperor of whole India by the freedom fighters to gain legitimacy and support, probably without his authorization. The Emperor, 82 years old, ultimately took refuge in Humayun (Babar's son, the second Mughal Emperor) 's tomb which was in the outskirts of Delhi at that time. He was forced to surrender and was captured by a Maj. William Hodson. The British treated him true to their colonial nature. Most of his family members were murdered. At one stage when he asked for food as he was hungry, he was served 3 huge dishes. When he removed the lids he found severed heads of his two sons (Mirza Mughal , مرزا مغل and Khizar Sultan خضر سلطان ) and one grandson (Abu Bakr ابو بکر ). It is said that he accepted his fate with dignity and grace, and told the British that he had expected that from them.

Mirza Mughal (the eldest son and technically the crown prince), Khizar Sultan and Abu Bakr were shot by Maj. Hodson on 22 September, after their surrender. They were ordered to strip naked, their signet rings, turquoise arm-bands and bejewelled swords snatched, and were shot. Their bodies were displayed in public in front of the Delhi kotwali (the police station). The City Gate where they were shot is called the Khooni Darwazah (the Bloody Gate).

He was ultimately exiled to Rangoon (now Yangon), Burma (now Myanmar). His last 4 years were spent in a tragic captivity, along with his wife, Begum Zeenat Mahal بیگم زینت محل. He was kept under a 24-hour armed British guard. Details are sketchy, however a couple of people who visited him there have recorded some details. Perhaps the worst thing done to him was that the British took away his pen and notebook, so that he could not write. This must have been a torture for a high class poet like him. In 1862, after his death, he was buried in an unmarked grave. The British knew his importance as the last Emperor of India. Now that spot has been turned into a Muslim shrine (dargah). This picture was taken in Rangoon in May 1858. His Urdu poetry is known for its refine language and he writes about the fleeting nature of worldly joys and teaches humanity! He was no match for the House of Hanover!

See this Urdu verse:

ظفر آدمی اُسکو نہ جانیۓ گا ، ہو وہ کتنا ہی صاحبِ فہم و ذکا
جسے عیش میں یادِ خُدا نہ رہی ، جسے طیش میں خوفِ خُدا نہ رہا

(Tr: Zafar! do not consider him a man, no matter how intelligent and witty he might be; who in good times forgot God, and who, when in anger, did not remain afraid of God).
He once lamented:
کِتنا ہے بد نصیب ظفر دفن کے لیۓ
دو گز زمین بھی نہ ملی کُوۓ یار میں

(Tr: How unfortunate is Zafar, that for burial he could not get 2 yards of land near the beloved's abode).

His legacy: Fate was not kind to him. The Kingdom he inherited at 63 years of age had already disintegrated. He was ultimately forced by the Company Bahadur to be only a figurehead. But the people of India, especially of Delhi, treated him with respect. His service to Urdu language is tremendous. Four poets of highest caliber (Ghalib غالب , Daagh داغ , Zauq ذوق , and Momin مومن ), and many others, were paid from his court. He himself wrote numerous Urdu ghazals, most of them preserved in Kulliyaat-e Zafar. The inheritors of British India (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) consider him a national figure who led the revolt against the colonial masters. Important places are named after him. However, an empty grave in Delhi, where he had willed to be buried, still lies empty, waiting for his bones.

The Singer: Mehdi Hassan مہدی حسن was born in Luna, Rajasthan, India in 1927. After partition of the Indian Sub-continent, he moved to Pakistan in 1947. He first sang on Radio Pakistan in 1952. He is presently (2010) incapacitated by a stroke. He has been awarded 3 of the highest civil awards (Hilal-e Imtiaz ہلالِ امتیاز , Tamgha-e Imtiaz تمغۂ امتیاز , and the Pride of Performance Award تمغۂ حُسنِ کارکردگی ) by the Government of Pakistan.

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