Monday, 29 December 2014

A benevolent Begum of Bengal - Munni Begum - British Raj

The Chawk Mosque. W.Bengal
In the case of Indian  Nawobs in the early centuries, seldom had their wife -Sahiba or Begum played an active role in politics.There are some exceptions. However, in those days administration of a kingdom was the main domain of males and the role of women was very much restricted. As a result, women's capacity to lead a nation, their administrative skill and ability  remained unexplored. In the case of Munni Begum, wife of Mir Jafer (the man who became a traitor of Nawob Siraj-ud-daula), there arose an opportunity for her to show her skills and tactics to manage a royal house on her own with the help of the East India British company officials. 

The Chawk Mosque in the city of Murshidabad, India was founded in 1767 AD by Munny Begum, wife of Nawab  Mir Jafar, under the supervision of Shaikh Khalilallah. The mosque was a silent spectator of Bengal's glorious past history of Nawobs vis a vis British East India company. It is located in Nizamat Fort Area near the Hazarduari Palace and its other nearby buildings.

The Munni Begum was in the good book of Robert Clive and Warren Hastings of BEI company. Her popularity was mainly  not only due to her lavish gifts  to Clive and other servants in the company,  but also  her financial help to orphanages, widows and destitute girls. Coming from a poor family, she always had a soft corner for the poor and destitute. She  received numerous gifts from  the East India company  in return for her several favors to the company.  she was a Gaddinashin Begum receiving INR 12000.00 pension per month

Munni Begum, the second wife of Mir Jafar was appointed Nawob by the East India company after the defeat of siraj-ud-daula. She was born to a poor mother in village Balkunda near Sikandra. Because of poverty  her mother sold  her to a dancing troupe which took her to places far and wide and at last to Murshidabad. A dancing  girl of exceptional beauty and skill,  she and her troupe were advised to stay in that town. Later she found a place in the royal harem. Being smart and intelligent, she  won the heart of Mir Jafer  and became the most favorite among Jafer's wives.

After  Jafer's death on 6 February,1765, she inherited his vast wealth and became closer to Clive and Hastings. She gave Rs. Five lakhs to Clive to put her son  Najmuddaula on the Mansad.  After the death of both her sons between 1766 and 1770  her fame faded away.  The grand son of Babbu Begum, Mir Jafer's another wife  ultimately became the young Nabob on recommendation of court of directors in London. Munni Begum 's guardianship of Harem administration previously approved by Warren Hastings was canceled. Further, Hastings was accused of having received bribes from the  Begum for her  new position in the royal house.

On the day Munni  Begam died - 10 January, 1813 at the ripe age of ninety-seven, at Fort William, Calcutta, the Union Jack was hoisted half-mast and ninety guns were fired as a mark of respect to her and her good deeds to the British company. She was buried  with due honors in the  the family graveyard of Mir Jafar.

She left  behind a vast fortune in cash, gold and jewels along with a distinctive place in the history of Bengal  as a   humane and selfless benevolent Begum who started her carrier in the shadow of poverty and hunger.