Bahadur Shah Zafar, a short biography

On the 24th of October in 1775 CE, the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was born in Shahjanabad, Mughal Empire (now in Old Delhi, India). He was the son of Akbar II and ascended the throne in 1837.

At the time of his enthronement, he was a very old man — sixty-one years and eleven months. The sprawling empire of his ancestors was long gone but he still had a task to fulfill and he did so with dignity, consistency, and amiable naivety.

He was a nominal Emperor, as the Mughal Empire existed in name only, and his authority was limited only to the walled city of Old Delhi (Shahjahanabad). He was a devout, gentle, and kind Sufi Muslim. He consciously saw his role as a protector of both his Hindu and Muslim subjects.

Bahadur Shah Zafar was a skilled calligrapher and an accomplished poet, not only in Urdu and Persian but also in Braj Bhasha (a dialect of Hindi) and Punjabi. His court was home to the most outstanding writers and poets of his time such as Mirza Ghalib and Muhammad Ibrahim Zauq.

According to Dirk Collier, Bahadur Shah Zafar is seen as a freedom fighter who fought against the British during the Indian Uprising of 1857. He was most certainly an Indian patriot who lost his sons after he was defeated and captured. Later, he was exiled to Rangoon, British Burma where he died in 1862 at the age of 87.

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