Begums Of Bhopal
Image Courtesy - Wikimedia Commons
Right from the beginning, Bhopal has always been instrumental in women's empowerment and always treated its women equally. From 18th century, the Queen and Begums of Bhopal, Rani Kamlapati, Qudsia Begum, Sikandar Jahan Begum, Shahjehan Begum and Sultan Jahan Begum are inspirational figures who fought against dominant norms to create their own destiny. In this era, the women were even more firm in the prejudices, machismo and standards of a patriarchal society than they are today.
The Begums established hospitals, schools, markets, libraries and many such institutions for the upliftment and development of Bhopal City. They were equally keen and active participants in the field of literature too. The literary relationship started when Shahjahan Begum was ruling this princely state. She was the Sahibe Diwan Shaira of United India with takhallus Shireen and Tajwar. She had written a dictionary in 6 languages called Khazinatul Ulhat and wrote the seventh one when she passed away. Just like her mother, Sultan Jahan Begum was a very progressive woman and had a keen interest in literature. In 1920 she became the first Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.
Begums of Bhopal had a unique way of presenting themselves that explained their dominance and resonated with their achievements as women. Sultan Jahan Begum saw the opportunity and scope in various fields and founded Princess of Wales, The Ladies Club, which then Viceroy Lord Minto's wife inaugurated. The Club was intended to provide a delightful change for ladies after the household's hard duties and offer opportunities to partake in all sorts of intellectual, moral and national movements. She emphasised Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb (Social and Religious Unity) in the city.
She established Pari Bazaar Bhopal, a symbol of women empowerment and a prominent Bagh. Being a progressionist, she made Pari Bazaar and Ladies Club the progressive women's movement venue that resonated with her vision.
The impact of the begums' rule can be seen in every nook and corner of the Bhopal, whether food, fashion, accessories or utensils. Every accessory or clothing they embraced became a style statement, and till today women follow with pride.