GUL BAHAR BEGAM
GUL BAHAR BEGAM (d. 1863), a dancing girl from Amritsar, was married to Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1832. Gul Begam had danced before the Maharaja`s English guests at the time of his meeting with British Governor General, Lord William Bentinck, at Ropar in October 1831. Ranjil Singh there after grew very fond other, and eventually admitted her into his harem as a wedded wife. He subsequently visited the Golden Temple in an act of contrition for marrying a lady whose status did not match his own.
Sohan Lal Sun, the court diarist, recording on 27 September 1832 the marriage in his chronicle, writes: “The Maharaja put on saffron garments, decorated himself with ornaments and jewellery… Gul Begam was dressed in yellow garments, with her hands and feet decorated with henna and bedecked with bejewelled gold ornaments from hand to mouth… the Maharaja took his seat in a chair and made Gul Begam sit in another.Garlands of roses interwoven with pearls were tied around the forehead of the Maharaja and a gold nose ring with a pearl was fixed in the nose of Gul Begam and lovely words of congratulations filled the heart of the audience with pleasure.” Renamed Gul Bahar Begam, she rode with the Maharaja on the same elephant, sat in the darbd without veil and dwarfed the influence of other wives on the Maharaja. Popularly styled as Ahle Nishat (lit. fille de joie}, Gul Bahar Begam is stated to have the finest figure, the fairest hair and the darkest eyes.
Having no issue of her own she adopted a Muslim boy, whose progeny still lives in Lahore. She also built a mosque, which is still extant. Gul Bahar Begam survived the Maharaja and was awarded an annual pension of Rs 12,380 by the British. Gul Bahar Begam died at Lahore in 1863.
1. Sun, Sohan Lal, `Umdat-ut-Twurikh. Lahore, 1885-89
2. Waheed-ud-Din, Faqir Syed, The Real Ranjil Singh. Karachi, 1965