Bahadur Shah Zafar was the last of the great Mughal kings. He was also the last of the kings from Akbar’s court to abdicate the throne. The last of the “Emperors of the World” had a great impact on India’s society. This is because his reign was so short. His reign did not leave much of an impact on the society as the earlier ones, but there are several stories that still have relevance today and explain the way the Mughals conducted their business.
In comparison to earlier rulers, who were all dead by the time of Akbar, Bahadur Shah was exceptionally young and dynamic. He was young enough to be the Emperor’s right hand man without any need to be in the army. This meant that he was also extremely powerful in other ways as well. The fact that he was an academic genius and had a vast knowledge of both Hindu and Muslim scriptures makes his role even more remarkable in the pantheon of baluch/bahar poets.
Although the title’Empress’ bore little connection with his position as a poet, he was never considered a mere consort or a daughter by any of the other three emperors of the Qutub Shahid dynasty. However, he is often referred to as ‘the last emperor’ simply because he was the last to abdicate the throne. His biographer, Mir Abdul Baqi Ghazi, called him the last emperor in a post-scripture account. The text referred to him as a ‘bahu’ (king), and he did actually rule for two years and twelve months, a period which was designated as his ‘permanent’ regnal year.
As far as scholarship is concerned, we are left to judge the reliability of his biographer Mir Abdul Baqi Ghazi on what he wrote after the departure of the Qutub Shahid. This could have been true, either because he himself was not satisfied with the accuracy of his account or because Mir Baqi Ghazi had some personal grudge against the Qutub and wished to play down any reference to the emperor’s reign by referring to him as a merely military leader. In any case, his account does not support the view that Bahadur Shah Zafar was a thoroughly unreliable source of Islamic literary material. Rather, his works have rightly earned him a place in the literary pantheon.
The most widely quoted and oft cited evidence against the attribution of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s works to any emperor before him is the fact that his grandfather, who was a vizier and was in turn a contemporary of the shah, had mentioned about the poet in his memoirs. However, this evidence cannot be trusted and is no more reliable than numerous hearsay statements. To be fair to Mir Abdul Baqi Ghazi, who was a better scholar and poets than Mir Islam Shah, he may well have mentioned the name of the poet indirectly without mentioning it explicitly. For example, he may have mentioned the name of a famous Persian poet by the name of Mohavmed Nasir.
Some historians of the time, though, attribute the creation of bahadur shah zafar to the poet-king Akbar Muhammad Badin, whose daughter, Fatima Akbar, was married to Akbar and thus brought up the poet in her home. However, in fact Akbar did not live long after the creation of bahadur shah zafar and was only succeeded by his son, Akbar Zafar. It must therefore be admitted that there is no conclusive proof that the term bahadur actually originated from Akbar.
There were several incidents that happened in the life of Akbar that are believed to have contributed to the creation of bahadur shah zafar. On one hand, he allowed the sepoys to use the horse-drawn car of the emir, instead of the horse of the Qutab Shah (the father of the shah). This marked a considerable step forward in terms of the relations between the two rulers. Also, Akbar introduced a new system of tax, in which the soldiers were charged with collecting money for the upkeep of the army and not for the provision of arms. This meant that the army had to be paid for its upkeep directly and this is believed to have encouraged the creation of bahadur shah zafar poems.
The exact birth place of Mirza Ghalib, the daughter of Akbar, is not known. However, historians have traced her birth to a town called Mirza Ghalib in Rajasthan. According to this legend, Mirza Ghalib was taken as a child by the emperor to her mother’s house, where she was taught to read and write. She was then trained as a driver by the khans and later as an empress by her son.