Happy women’s day, everyone! I’ve not blogged at all since 2017 began, and what better way to resume than by remembering two incredible women from Hyderabad’s past. The city has seen so many, many iconic women – right from Bhagmati, after whom many believe Hyderabad was first named Bhagnagar (although many historians dispute her very existence), to present day superstars like Sindhu, Sania and Saina. Since I cannot possibly talk about all of them, I’m going to stick to two exceptional ladies from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The first is Hayath Bakshi Begum from 17th century Golconda. She was the daughter of the Qutb Shahi Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, who founded the city of Hyderabad. She was brought up to play an important role in her kingdom. Her father chose his nephew, a contender to the throne to be her husband and the next Sultan of Golconda. Hayath Bakshi’s husband loved and respected her immensely, and regularly asked for her opinions regarding the affairs of the state. Unfortunately, he passed away when she was only in her twenties, and their 12 year old son was suddenly the Sultan of Golconda. Since he was so young, it was up to his mother to run the kingdom until he turned 18. After that, she went into retirement, and became active again only when she needed to save her kingdom from the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. She negotiated a deal with him that bought Golconda at least 30 more years of peace.
Here are some pictures of the beautiful Hayathnagar mosque, a sarai (inn for travellers) and a baoli (step well) commissioned by Hayath Bakshi Begum in the Hayathnagar locality.
The 18th century gave Hyderabad another shining star in the form of Mah Laqa Chanda, an 18th century poet and courtesan. She was the first woman to publish an anthology of her poems in Urdu. She was raised by her sister and her husband, Prime Minister to the second Nizam of Hyderabad. She was proficient in music, poetry, horse-riding and even archery, and shattered so many stereotypes way back in the 18th century. She actually marched with the Nizam’s army in battle. She advised him on important matters of policy. She was an immensely talented dancer who had a fan following from all walks of life. She commissioned a library. She paid for the education of hundreds of girls. She was no ordinary woman – she was truly special.
Mah Laqa is buried in a beautiful garden tomb at the foot of the holy Maula Ali hill in Hyderabad. Here are some pictures:
I hope you enjoyed reading about these two wonderful women who enriched the world around them – happy women’s day again!