Sultan Shah Jahan Begum, Begum of Bhopal


This is a Carte de Visite portrait of the Begum of Bhopal, Shah Jahan Begum (1838-1901).

The state of Bhopal was unique in Indian history for being ruled exclusively by women for over a hundred years. Their line began with the 19-year-old widow of the second Nawab of Bhopal, Qudsia Begum. A remarkable matriarch, Qudsia fought for her legal right as a Muslim woman to take the title of ruler, which she did in 1819, paving the way for 107 years of queen’s rule in the state. For 80 of those years, she was around to see her daughter and granddaughter take the throne and, finally, name her great-granddaughter as heir apparent.

During her 33-year reign, Shah Jahan Begum, the third-generation Begum, displayed a drive to develop her empire and put it on the map as a hub for commerce and culture. One of her significant achievements was connecting the state to the national railway system in 1884 when the first steam engine chugged into Bhopal station. Shah Jahan Begum was a strong advocate of education and the arts. A poet herself, she fostered a nurturing environment in Bhopal for intellectuals, writers and musicians to gather and create beauty.

Sultan Shah Jahan Begum, Begum of Bhopal
Bourne and Shepherd
H: 8 cm x W: 3 cm
Accession No.
2017.49.1 (15a)