GUL BAHĀR BEGAM (d. 1863), a dancing girl from Amritsar, was married to Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh in 1832. Gul Begam had danced before the Mahārājā's English guests at the time of his meeting with British Governor-General, Lord William Bentinck, at Ropar in October 1831. Raṇjīt Siṅgh thereafter grew very fond of her, 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 Lāl Sūrī, the court diarist, recording on 27 September 1832 the marriage in his chronicle, writes: "The Mahārājā 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 Mahārājā 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 Mahārājā 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 Bahār Begam, she rode with the Mahārājā on the same elephant, sat in the darbār without veil and dwarfed the influence of other wives on the Mahārājā. Popularly styled as Ahl-e-Nishāt (lit. fille de joie), Gul Bahār 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 Bahār Begam survived the Mahārājā and was awarded an annual pension of Rs 12,380 by the British.

        Gul Bahār Begam died at Lahore in 1863.


  1. Sūrī, Sohan Lāl, 'Umdat-ut-Twārīkh, Lahore, 1885-89
  2. Waheed-ud-Din, Faqir Syed, The Real Ranjit Singh. Karachi, 1965

Sardār Siṅgh Bhāṭīā