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Bahadur Shah II, better known as Bahadur Shah Zafar in history was the last Mughal Emperor who remained at helm from 1837 to 1857. He was born on October 24, 1775 and was the son of Akbar shah II. He was over sixty when he ascended to the throne of Delhi. He was a very good poet and a calligrapher as well as a Sufi. After the war of independence of 1857, he was exiled to Rangoon in 1858 where he died in 1862 at the age of 87.
Bahadur Shah was not the favourite son of his father who was also opposed to his succession as the emperor. Akbar Shah was very much under the influence of his wife Mumtaz Begum who pressed him to make Mirza Jahangir as his heir successor. But fortunately things happened in such a way that road was prepared for the succession of Zafar. Prince Janangir was exiled by the company as he attacked the English resident at the Red Fort. This paved the way for the emperorship of Bahadur Shah Zafar. But it was not the easy times because the authority of the emperor had been confined to the Red Fort only. The British were the predominant military and the political force. They used to provide pension to the Emperor that was the only source of his livelihood. The company had even overtaken the right to issue coins and there was a mere illusion of the Mughal rule over India and nothing else.
Bahadur Shah himself was quite uninterested in the statecraft. He had no imperial interest. His only interest was poetry. He himself was a great poet who wrote four diwans. Zafar was his poetic surname. His court was the home of large number of great Urdu poets of the time. In fact the Urdu poetry flourished during this period because the patronization it received from the emperor himself.
The story of Bahadur Shah Zafar remains incomplete without the description of his wife Zeenat Mahal. He married Zeenat Mahal in 1840 who gave birth to his favouite son Mir Jawan Bakht. She had great influence upon the emperor who handed over all his powers to his beloved wife. She became the de facto ruler of India. Her greatest desire was to make his son the next emperor of India but the English law of primogeniture was the main hurdle in this regard. Even during the war of independence she prevented his son to come into contact with the rebels knowing the fact that the uprising would be suppressed easily and after that she would make her son the ruler. But the British wanted to end monarchy. Therefore, she was also exiled to Rangoon along with her son where she died in 1886.
The most significant event taking place during his reign was the uprising of 1857. The people of India made a concerted effort to liberate their country the foreign occupation. The uprising sprung from Meerut where sepoy revolted and marched towards Delhi. They declared Bahadur Shah Zafar as the emperor of India who also accepted their allegiance. The emperor nominated his son Mirza Mughal as the commander in chief of the armed forces. The situation was highly chaotic but ultimately the revolt was suppressed by the British. Bahadur Shah Zafar took refuge in the Humayun’s tomb from where he was apprehended by Major William Hudson. The very next day his sons Mirza Mughal, Mirza Khizzer Sultan and grandson Mirza Abu Bakar were executed. Bahadur Shah himself was exiled to Rangoon where he died in 1862 at the age of 87. This marked the end of the Mughal rule in India.