Begum Sumru
Youth and Romance
BEGUM Sumru was the daughter of Latif Ali Khan, a nobleman of Arabian origin, who had settled in the town of Kotana, 30 miles north-west of Meerut. Her year of birth is about 1753. When she was six years old she lost her father. In consequence of ill treatment by the elder son of her father by another wife, her mother moved with her to Delhi. Here she seems to have taken up dancing as a profession, having all the qualities that go to make up a successful dancer. She had a graceful way; and she must have been uncommonly beautiful at the age of 15, to have caught the eye of Walter Reinhardt - a man with such power and position that he could have had the pick of land, and who, considering the amount he had travelled, must have been a good judge of the fairer sex. Contemporaries, even though they describe her when she was past her prime, say that she was a small dainty woman of delicate features, with a fair complexion and large eyes, and that she carried herself well and was polite and enjoyable company. Nor was she mere beauty and no brains. Her keen intelligence made every use of the education she received. She was able to write and speak Hindustani and Persian fluently.

It was in 1765, when Sumru was in the service of Jawahar Singh, the Rajah of Bharatpur, and engaged in the siege of Delhi, that this beautiful girl, whose name was Farzana, caught Sumru’s eye. From then on she never left his side, but accompanied him in all his campaigns. She is said to have married him according to all the forms considered necessary by Muslims. Sumru actually already had a wife; but she became insane, and remained so till her death at Sardhana in 1838. His marriage with the Begum was not blessed with any children. But Sumru had a son, Zafar Yab Khan, from his first wife. He was a minor, when his father died, and already given to riotous living. Therefore at the death of Sumru, his 82 European officers and 4000 troops petitioned Emperor Shah Alam II to install the Begum as Sumru’s successor. The Emperor having personal knowledge of her abilities and talents, readily complied with their request . And thus from 1778 began the long and colourful reign of Begum Sumru. Here was a woman in a man’s role, yet gifted with the qualities of both. Fearless in battle, upright in her dealings, she was gorgeous to those who befriended her and feared by those who offended her.

Conversion
Warrior Queen
Love and intrigue
Administration and politics
The Begum and her Jagir
Death
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