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Ganna Begam

The story of Ganna Begam spans the period of the late Mughals,and concentrates on the time of the invasion of Ahmad Shah Abdali.She was the daughter of Ali Quili,a nobleman of Iran ,and Surayia a danseuse and singer who wrote songs herself. She acquired the skill of singing,dancing and composing songs from her mother. She was beautiful,and her voice had such sweetness that she earned the sobriquet Ganna,which means sugarcane,though her real name was Chand.Her youth and beauty charmed many youngmen of her time,but she loved a Mughal prince,who was declared Mughal Emperor and ruled for a very short time of only seven months. Jabahar Singh of Bharatpur was one of her admirers,and so was the prince of Oudh Suja- ud -din,but she was married off to Imad -ul -mulk,the Wazir of the Mughal Emperor of Delhi.When Ahmad Shah Abdali,invaded Delhi,he ordered Imad to marry Umdah,daughter of Mughlani Begam,the ruler of Punjab,and Ganna was reduced to the status of her slave,or bandi. Ganna escaped from the ignominy of her life and took shelter in Gwalior under the protection of Mahadahji Sindhia.Her husband Imad lost his power and post in Delhi and lived as a jaigirdar or landlord at Nurpur near Gwalior. Who constructed a tomb on Ganna's dead body, is not known.Some say it is Mahadahji Sindhia,while others say it was her husband Imad, but it still exists in Nurpur,and on it was inscribed the epitaph"Ah-gam e Ganna"(The sigh that comes out for the sorrow of Ganna.).Many writers have taken as their subject the life of Ganna.Among them the most notable are Brindabanlal Barma,Rup Singh Chandel,Dr. Rajendra Bhatnagar,Raj Gopal Barma,Bhagabati Prasad Kulshrestha and the famous Bengali novelist Tarasankar Bandopadhay. Oral tradition has it that Ganna Begam disguised herself as a man and came to meet Jabahar Singh in a secret rendezvous. She was prepared to marry him and stay with him. But while staying in an inn she heard from two way farers that Jabahar Singh was eyeing the wealth of his elder brother's widow and would marry her. This broke her heart and she sustained herself by joining the army of Mahadahji Schindhia in her male disguise and taking the name of Guni Singh.Her/his knowledge of language ,Urdu,Parsi,Hindi,impressed Mahadahji Schindhia himself and he made her his personal kalamci, or letter writer. Her keen intelligence and alacrity also helped her to become a spy and she was able to forestall attempts on Mahadahji Schindia's life.On one occassion while accompanying Schindia on a journey and crossing a river she fell from horse back and was about to drown when Scindia saved her . When changing her wet clothes Schindia discovered that she was a woman and not a man in his army. On another occassion when Ganna was singing Mahadahji was drawn to her room by her sweet voice and by seeing her name Ganna inscribed on her bina ,her personal musical instrument,he came to know her true identity. It was her act of spying,when she got the news that her husband Imad was conspiring with the Muslim fakirs against the rule of Mahadahji Schindia in a tomb of a Muslim saint that got her into trouble

 She went there and though in disguise was recognised by Imad who ordered his soldiers to capture her. She was caught, but drank poison which she carried in her ring and died.