Life of Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar through his Poems

The Mughals invaded India and ascended the throne of Delhi sultanate largely sometime between the 1400s to the1500s. With them they brought their exquisite and exemplary art and culture to India. From intricately beautiful architectural work that can be seen in every nook and corner of India; to the mouth-watering delicacies by the Mughlai khansamas (male chefs); and to the utterly mesmerizing language of Urdu, which is music to ears, the Mughal empire’s legacy lives on.

Persian, the language of the Mughals went through a sea-change with the blending of both the Indian and Persian culture giving birth to a language initially called Hindustani and later Urdu. Urdu poetry and poets reached the pinnacle of success during the beginning of the British Raj, and the art never lost its charm whatsoever. Shayari and mushaira competitions are held even today in different parts of the country.

Delhi, in particluar, has stood witness to a plethora of emperors during the peak days of glory of the Mughals till the very end. The Mughal sultanate’s capital in the north was Delhi that received and embraced artists, poets, dancers, from far away countries and the Mughals also encouraged performances from homegrown talents.

Bahadur Shah Zafar

One such Mughal Emperor was Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal Emperor of India. He was known to be a kind soul who unlike other emperors was not keen on war or in acquiring land. Instead, he was more inclined towards art, philosophy and of course, poetry. He had revered poets like Ibrahim Zauq, Momin Khan Momin and Mirza Ghalib in his court. It is also widely known that Dagh Dehlvi, an infamous poet, is the step-grandson of Zafar.

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Apart from being a poetry lover, he also actively wrote a number of poems which give us an idea about the events in his life. For instance, when his rebellion against the Britishers in1857 failed, expressing his grief, he wrote:

اے وائے انقلاب زمانے کے جور سے

دلی ظفرؔ کے ہاتھ سے پل میں نکل گئی

“Ai vaaye inqilaab zamaane ke zor se Dilli Zafar ke haath se pal mein nikal gayi”


"Alas! What a revolution, due to cruelty of the age

Delhi slipped out of Zafar's hands in a moment."

Bahadur Shah Zafar captured by the British

However, even after his capture by the British officer, Major Hudson, Zafar did not lose hope. He penned down his thoughts, which surely must have ignited the fire of freedom in the hearts of his followers. It goes as this,

ہندوں میں بو رھےگی جب تک ایمان کی

تخت لندن تک چلےگی تیغ ھندوستان کی

“Hindion mein bu rahegi jab talak imaan ki Takht e London tak chalegi tegh Hindustan ki.”


"As long as Indians have even an ounce of honesty and dignity-

So long shall the sword of Hindustan flash before the throne of London."

Bahadur Shah Zafar breathed his last in the year 1862, while imprisoned in Rangoon, according to the people who were close to him, knew of his love for Delhi and that he wanted to be buried at Delhi. He even had designated his summer palace at Mehrauli as his last resting place, but it could never materialise.

کتنا ہے بد نصیب ظفرؔ دفن کے لیے

دو گز زمین بھی نہ ملی کوئے یار میں

"Kitna hai bad-nasib 'Zafar' dafn ke liye

Do gaz zameen bhi na mili ku-e-yaar mein"


"How unfortunate is ‘Zafar’ who is unable to find for his burial

even two yards of ground in the streets of his beloved"

His shayari, ghazals gives one a peep into his mind and life as the last Mughal ruler of India. The poem which is represented below is believed to be one of his last poems written while imprisoned in Rangoon.

"Ya mujhe afsar-e-shahana banaya hota Ya mera taj gadayana banaya hota

I wish you had made me the master of royals, Or made my crown the bowl for alms and betrayals.

apna diwana banaya hota tmujhe tu ne

Kyun khirad-mand banaya na banaya hota