Darling daughter, intelligent wife and wise mother - this amazing woman meant the world to three successive rulers of Golconda.

Features Saturday, April 23, 2016 - 18:24

The city of Hyderabad was founded by the fifth ruler of Golconda, Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah. He built the new city where the village of Chichlam had stood - it was where he had met his beloved wife Bhagmati, a common girl who grew up there. After more than a decade of being married,  Sultan Muhammad Quli and Bhagmati finally gave birth to a baby girl, whom they named Hayat Bakshi, or the giver of life. They didn’t waste time worrying about succession, and instead, focused their energies on bringing her up just as they would have if she’d been a prince. In fact, when she was born, the Sultan ordered that celebrations must be held in the kingdom exactly as they were when princes were born. The founder of Hyderabad was truly a remarkable man, ahead of his times in many ways. The attentive upbringing that Hayat Bakshi received, prepared her for the significant role that she would later play in the affairs of her land.

Hayat Bakshi Begum Mosque


When Hayat Bakshi grew up into a beautiful young girl, her doting father wanted to ensure that she succeeded him. His younger brother had a son, who could potentially stake claim to the throne. So the Sultan had Hayat Bakshi married to the young man, who went on to become the next ruler of Golconda after his death.

Hayat Bakshi Begum Mosque


Hayat Bakshi’s husband Sultan Mohammad was a wonderful man. He was very religious, loving and artistic, and heeded his wife’s advice and inputs in the affairs of the kingdom. But their idyllic life took a hit when their son was born under an inauspicious star. The royal astrologers forbade the father and son from looking at each other’s faces for 12 long years. Unfortunately, the Sultan died before its completion, after an inadvertent encounter with his son. The next ruler of the kingdom was his twelve-year-old son Sultan Abdullah Qutb Shah. And Hayat Bakshi, who was only in her twenties, became the Queen Mother, or Ma Saheba, as she is known to this day. Masab Tank near the vibrant Banjara Hills area of Hyderabad gets its name from Ma Saheba.

Since Sultan Abdullah Qutb Shah was just a boy when he became the king, it was Ma Saheba who had to take charge of ruling the kingdom until he was about eighteen.

Most of her son’s reign was very peaceful, and she spent her years in retirement, but only until the Mughal prince Aurangzeb turned up with his troops. Ma Saheba, loved and trusted by everyone in the kingdom, sought an audience with Aurangzeb and managed to negotiate a deal with him. The Sultan’s daughter would be married to Aurangzeb’s son, ensuring that Golconda would go to the Mughals after the Sultan’s death. Satisfied, Aurangzeb retreated and didn’t bother Golconda for at least thirty years. And thanks to Ma Saheba, the Qutb Shahi rule in Golconda got a new lease of life.

A restored section of the sarai around the mosque


Since Hayat Bakshi was the daughter of a prolific builder, it comes as no surprise that she commissioned a beautiful mosque and a huge sarai or inn in Hayath Nagar, an area named after her. The Hayath Bakshi Begum mosque is a beautiful example of Qutb Shahi architecture and is set in a sprawling compound surrounded by an arcaded sarai with more than 130 rooms for weary travellers to rest in. To the north-east of the mosque is a huge step well called the Hathi Baoli, presumably for use by travelers and their animals.

An unrestored part of the sarai


An unrestored part of the sarai


The well next to the mosque


The well next to the mosque


Darling daughter, intelligent wife and wise mother - this amazing woman, who meant the world to three successive rulers of Golconda, is buried under an imposing tomb along with the rest of her family in the Qutb Shahi Tomb complex.

The tomb of Hayat Bakshi Begum


All photographs by Madhumita Gopalan

(Madhumita Gopalan is a photographer, blogger and history enthusiast who loves photo-documenting travel, culture and architecture. She blogs at www.madhugopalan.com.)


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