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WAFA BEGAM

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WAFA BEGAM, the senior wife of Shah Shuja, the king of Kabul, who after the dethronement of her husband came in February 1810 to Lahore where the Sikh sovereign, Ranjit Singh, made arrangements for her reception and accommodation suiting her status. In 1812, Shah Shuja fell into the hands of Jahandad Khan, the governor of Attock, who sent him to his brother, Ata Muhammad Khan, the governor of Kahsmir. Wafa Begam, fearing for the life of Shah Shuja who was held a prisoner in Kashmir, promised to gift to Ranjit Singh the Kohinoor diamond if he would have her husband released. When Fateh Khan, the Kabul Wazir, led an expedition to Kashmir jointly with the Sikhs, Diwan Muhkam Chand, the Sikh commander, had Shah Shuja freed from capativity in the Shergarh fort in Srinagar, and brought him to Lahore.

Though reluctant initially to part with the promised Kohinoor, the Begam as well as the Shah was eventually persuaded to surrender Kohinoor to the Maharaja on l June 1813. Wafa Begam and several other ladies of the royal harem managed to escape in disguise in November 1814 and reached Ludhiana where she was received with honour by the British who granted her an annual allowance of 18,000 rupees. The Shah also escaped from Lahore and joined Wafa Begam at Ludhiana in September 1815. After the former's restoration to his throne, in August 1839, both lived together in Kabul. Upon the assassination of Shah on 5 April 1842, Wafa Begam returned to Ludhiana and remained a pensioner of the British Government till her death.

References :

1. Suri, Sohan Lal, Umdat ut-Twarikh. Lahore, 1885-89
2. Cunningham, Joseph Davey, A History of the Sikhs. London, 1849
3. Garrett, H.L.O., and G.L. Chopra, Events at the Court of Ranjit Singh, 1810-1817. Lahore, 1935
4. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983

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