WAFĀ BEGAM, the senior wife of Shāh Shujā, the king of Kābul, who after the dethronement of her husband came in February 1810 to Lahore where the Sikh sovereign, Raṇjīt Siṅgh, made arrangements for her reception and accommodation suiting her status. In 1812, Shāh Shujā' fell into the hands of Jahāṅdād Khān, the governor of Attock, who sent him to his brother, 'Atā Muhammad Khān, the governor of Kashmīr. Wafā Begam, fearing for the life of Shāh Shujā' who was held a prisoner in Kashmīr, promised to gift to Raṇjīt Siṅgh the Koh-i-Nūr diamond if he would have her husband released. When Fateh Khān, the Kābul Wazīr, led an expedition to Kashmīr jointly with the Sikhs, Dīwān Muhkam Chand, the Sikh commander, had Shāh Shujā' freed from captivity in the Shergaṛh fort in Srīnagar, and brought him to Lahore. Though reluctant initially to part with the promised Koh-i-Nūr, the Begam as well as the Shāh was eventually persuaded to surrender Koh-i-Nūr to the Mahārājā on 1 June 1813. Wafā Begam and several other ladies of the royal harem managed to escape in disguise in November 1814 and reached Ludhiāṇā where she was received with honour by the British who granted her an annual allowance of 18,000 rupees. The Shāh also escaped from Lahore and joined Wafā Begam at Ludhiāṇā in September 1815. After the former's restoration to his throne, in August 1839, both lived together in Kābul. Upon the assassination of Shāh on 5 April 1842, Wafā Begam returned to Ludhiāṇā and remained a pensioner of the British Government till her death.


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Harī Rām Gupta