Bahadur Shah, during India's first war of independence in
1857 was nominated by the freedom-fighters as their
Commander-in-Chief. In the initial stages victory favored
the Indians, and for the time being Bahadur Shah had the
satisfaction of being the Emperor of Hindustan. But within
months the reinforced British army crushed the resistance.
Bahadur Shah was overthrown. He was arrested from Humayun's
tomb (now in New Delhi), where he was hiding with his three
sons and only grandson. He was tried for treachery. His sons
and grandson were put to death and he himself was exiled to
Rangoon, where he died in jail. Thus with his death was
extinguished the Mughal dynastic rule and with that of his
only grandson, the family of the Great Mughals.
This oval portrait of Bahadur Shah Zafar portrays his
grandeur overbrimming with gloom, an apt definition of his
personality. He has been painted with the fabulous Mughal
crown on his head and enormous jewels on his person but
instead of the Mughal's usual jama, he is seen holding on
his shoulders a gown in the English manner. This is not
without significance. It is as if he had Hindustan in his
head and heart, in his thoughts and emotions, but on his
shoulders carried the yoke of British power in India.
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