Be it a time of war or peace, a time of victory over sworn enemies, or an evening of a diplomatic feast, a grand show of Mahalakha Bai’s dance was inevitable. Nearly 200 years ago Mahalakha Bai displayed her art in every ‘darbar’ in Hyderabad. She was also hailed as the first woman poet to be accepted by the scholars at a time when women were not even allowed to step into a ‘Mushaira’.
Mahalakha Bai was lauded at the end of 18th Century and the beginning of the 19th Century.
During the reign of the second and third Nizams, her name was known to one and all in Hyderabad. And Mahalakha Bai, or Chanda Bibi has an unforgettable and indelible relationship with Osmania University as it was built on her own land.
Mahalakha Bai was born in Hyderabad to a dancer Mida Bai and was named Chanda Bibi. As she grew she carved an identity for herself as a brilliant dancer, poetess and a politician. From 1768 to 1825, Mahalakha Bai had become an unforgettable part of Hyderabad’s history.
Minister of the Second Nizam, Mir Alam adored Chanda Bibi’s poetry. During his time, she was given the area from Nampally to Moula Ali and made a Jagirdar of that area. Beginning from Moula Ali, Osmania University, Adikmet and Hyderguda was the extent of this Jagir. Chanda Bibi never married but had adopted Hussan Afza Banu, Hasin Lakha Banu and Mohammed Maqbool. These lands had devolved unto these three on her death. However, after some time the Nizam government had taken the Jagir back in order to establish the present day Osmania University.
Mahalakha Bai’s grandmother was from Ahmedabad, Gujarat ,who travelled along Aurangabad to Hyderabad along with her family with a devotional troupe. Chanda Bibi was awarded the title of Mahalakha Bai by the Second Nizam, Mir Nizam Ali Khan. Scottish historian Jon Malcolm was a guest in the Second Nizam’s court during the time and was responsible for preserving Mahalakha Bai’s story. At his farwell ceremony after Chanda Bibi’s dance she had gifted the young man a book of her ghazals which is now at the London Museum. Chanda Bibi always ended her verses with the names of the Prophet, his daughter Fatehma, his son in law Ali, their sons Hassan and Hussain.
She learnt Hindustani music along with martial arts and sword art from the army and worked closely with Shah Taj Ali, a poet and painter in the Nizam’s court. Her residence in Nampally, Husna Rang Mahal, is presently the Nampally girls school. The Moula Ali ‘dargah’ was of high importance to Mahalakha Bai. When Mida Bai had fallen ill during Chanda Bibi’s birth, it is said that a visit to Moula Ali had cured her. She had built a small walled enclosure near the hillock and would invite several poets for Mushairas. When Mida Bai died in 1792, she had arranged for the burial near Moula Ali. Her grave today rests next to her mother’s in Moula Ali. This today is known as Chanda Mahal.
A monument built in remembrance of a remarkable woman who had made an indelible mark in history is now in a dilapidated condition without any care. Osmania University which was built on Mahalaka Bai’s Jagir must take the responsibility of remembering her and reminding Hyderabad of her remarkable personality.
A Rudhira (Research Scholar)
Courtest: Telangana Today