Bhopal district was carved out of the erstwhile Sehore District of Bhopal division vide M.P.Govt. Notification No.2477/1977/Sa/One/ dated 13th September, 1972.The district derives its name from the district head-quarters town Bhopal which is also the capital of Madhya Pradesh. The etymology of the term Bhopal has been derived from its former name Bhojpal as would be evident form the following extract from the imperial Gazetter of Central India,1908 P.240.

“The name (Bhopal) is popularly derived from Bhojpal or Bhoj’s dam, the great dam which now holds up the Bhopal city lakes, and is said to have been built by a Minister of Raja Bhoj,the Parmar ruler of Dhar. The still greater work which formerly held up the Tal (lake) being attributed to this monarch himself. The name is, however, invariably pronounced, Bhupal and Dr. Fleet considers it to be derived simply from Bhupala, a King, the popular derivation being an instance of the striving after a meaning so common in such cases.”

Initially the lake was quite big but as time has elapsed only a small portion of it has remained to be seen as “Bada Talab” i.e. the upper lake. Since long there is a famous saying about Bhopal lake, “Talon mein tal Bhopal tal, baki sab tallaiya”.

There is a legend that Bhopal, for long, was a part of “Mahakautar” a barrier of dense forests and hills, outlined by the Narmada separating the north, from north to south.Early history of the territory comprising Bhopal district was in oblivion. It was in the tenth century that the names of Rajput clans began to appear in Malwa. The most notable of them was Raja Bhoj who was both a great scholar and a great warrior.After the invasion by Altamash the Mohammadans began to infiltrate into Malwa which included Bhopal as a part. In 1401 Dilawar Khan Ghori took charge of this territory. He made Dhar as the capital of his kingdom. He was succeeded by his son.

In the beginning of 14th century a Gond warrior called Yadoram established the Gond Kingdom with his headquarters at Garha Mandla. The Gond dynasty had a number of powerful kings like Madan Shah, Gorakhdas, Arjundas and Sangram Shah. During the Mughal invasion in Malwa a sizeable area of the territory comprising Bhopal state was under the possession of Gond Kingdom. These territories were known as Chaklas of which Chakla Ginnour was one consisting of 750 villages. Bhopal was a part of it. The Gond king Nizam Shah was the ruler of this area.

Nizam Shah died of poisoning by Chain Shah. His widow, Kamlavati and son Naval Shah became helpless. Naval Shah was a minor then. After the death of Nizam Shah, Rani Kamlavati came to an agreement with Dost Mohammed Khan to manage the affairs of the xvi state. Dost Mohammed Khan was a shrewd and cunning Afghan Sardar who began acquiring smaller principalities. After the death of Rani Kamlavati. Dost Mohammed Khan seized the fort of Ginnor, curbed the rebels, bestowing the grants according to their degree of control upon the rest and earned their gratitude.

By treachery and deceit, destroyed the Deora Rajputs and also slaughtered and drowned them down into a river; which since then is known as Halali, the river of salughters. He shifted his headquarters to Islaminnagar and built a fort. Dost Mohammed died in 1726 at the age of 66. By this time he had carved out the state of Bhopal and placed it on a firm footing. It was Dost Mohammed Khan who had decided to build his capital at Bhopal in 1722. His successor Yar Mohammed Khan however went back to Islamnagar.

Marathas had a contest with Yar Mohammed Khan in which many lives were lost. The Marathas were making inroad to Malwa in 1737, Yar Mohammed Khan tried to make friendship with the Marathas by paying them handsome ransom, requesting however that his territories might not be devastated. Yar Mohammed Khan ruled for fifteen years. He died in 1742 and was buried in Islamnagar where his tomb is still standing.

On the death of Yar Mohammed Khan, his eldest son Faiz Mohammed Khan succeeded him with the assistance of Diwan Bijai Ram. In the mean time Sultan Mohammed Khan, the brother of Yar Mohammed Khan proclained himself as a ruler and obtained possession of Fatehgarh Fort at Bhopal. Again with the help of Bijai Ram, Faiz Mohammed denounced all claims on Bhopal in lieu of some Jagirs elsewhere. Faiz Mohammed Khan attacked Raisen Fort and took possession of it.

It was in 1745, that the Peshwa made inroads in Bhopal territory. He got help from Sultan Mohammed Khan. The Bhopal army was unable to resist the onslaught of Marathas and thus some surrounding areas viz, Ashta, Doraha, Ichhawar, Bhilsa, Shujalpur and Sehore etc. were ceded to them.

Faiz Mohammed Khan died on 12th December, 1777. Since he was childless, his brother Hayat Mohammed Khan succeeded him with the help of lady Mamola, the widow of Yar Mohammed Khan. But the Begum Salaha widow of Faiz Mohammed Khan wished herself to take the command of the state. Rivalries had started brewing and chaotic condition prevailed. To pacify the deteriorating conditions, lady Mamola took active part in making Hayat Mohammed Khan as the deputy of Begam Salaha. This arrangement was discarded by Hayat Mohammed Khan who revolted and assumed the title and power of Nawab.

The East India company had established its footing in India. Colonel Goddard of the East India Company had marched through Bhopal on his way to Bombay. Hayat Mohammed Khan maintained good relations and was faithful to them.

Nawab Faulad Khan was the Diwan but developed the enemity with lady Mamola and was slained by a member of the royal family. Chhota Khan was appointed Diwan in his place. In a fierce fight which took place at Phanda, there was a loss of troops and Chhota Khan lost his life. It is Chhota Khan who had built a stone bridge to dam the lower lake which is still known as “Pul Pukhta”. Ameer Mohammed Khan succeded his father. Since his behaviour was not good he was ousted by the Nawab. Due to internal disturbances Nawab Hayat Mohammed Khan confined himslef to his palace without taking any active part in the affairs of the state. He died on 10th Nov. 1808. After the death of Hayat Mohammed Khan, his son Ghaus Mohammed became the Nawab but he was not so effective. Wazir Mohammed Khan in fact wielded power and tried to influence the Britishers. At this time the Maratha power was being built up.

Nazar Mohammed Khan became his successor and remained in power from 1816 to 1819.On 28th February, 1818, he married Gauhar Begum who was also known Qudsia Begum. By persistent endeavour , he succeeded in entering into a pact with the Britishers. The important provisions of the treaty was that the British Govt. will guarantee and protect the principality of Bhopal against all enemies and will maintain friendship with it. Nazar Mohammed Khan died accidentally on 11th November 1819. On the death of Nazar Mohammed Khan Gohar Begam was vested with the supreme authority in the state by the political agent in Bhopal.

In November 1837, Nawab Jehangir Mohammed Khan was vested with powers of chief of the state. It was Nawab Jehangir Khan who built a new colony which is known as Jehangirabad. His relations with Sikandar Begum became strained after some time. The Begum moved to Islamnagar and gave birth to a daughter who was known as Shah Jahan Begum. Later on Sikandar Begum came to power. On the death of Sikandar Begum, Shah Jahan Begum became ruler of Bhopal with full powers. She did the good work for the welfare of the state. Her Highness earned the approbation of the Governor General for good administrative ability.

On the death of Shah Jahan Begum, her daughter, Sultan Jehan Begum became the ruler. She was married to Ahmed ali Khan who was given the title of “Wazirud Daula”. He died on 4th Jan. 1902 due to heart-attack.

A number of important buildings were constructed during the regime of her Highness,Sultan Jehan Begum. She was a patron of learning. It was during her time, the Sultania Girl’s School and Alexanderia Noble School (Now known as Hamidia High School) were established.

On the occasion of the Prince of Wales’ visit on 4th Feb, 1922. Her Highness announced a new constitution for the Bhopal state which consisted of the establishment of an Executive Council and a Legislative Council. The president of the Council was Her Highness herself.

Nawab Hamidulla Khan assumed the reign in 1926. His Highness was twice elected as the Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes once in 1931-32 and again in 1944-47 and took part in important deliberations affecting the political evolution of the country. With the announcement of the plan of independence of the country the Nawab of Bhopal resigned in 1947 from the Chancellorship of the Chamber of Princes.

In 1947, a new Ministry with a non-official majority was appointed by His Highness, but in 1948 His Highness expressed his desire to retain Bhopal as a separate unit. However, the agreement for merger was signed by the Ruler on April 30, 1949 and the State was taken over by the Union Government through a Chief Commissioner on June 1, 1949.

After the merger, Bhopal State was formed as a part ‘C’ State of Indian Union. Later as a consequence of the Reorganisation of states on linguistic basis on 1st Nov. 1956, Bhopal became the part C State or Madhya Pradesh. The Bhopal district was carved out on 02-10-1972, which continues to be one of the 45 districts of the State.

Source:District Census Handbook, Bhopal (PDF 2.60 MB) , Page.No:19-22


Bhopal state was an independent state of 18th century India, a princely state of India from 1818 to 1947, and an Indian state from 1949 to 1956. Its capital was the Bhopal city.

Early rulers (Nawab of Bhopal)

S.No. Name of the Bhopal Nawabs Ruled Time
1 Nawab Dost Muhammad Khan Bahadur ruled from 1723-1728
2 Nawab Sultan Muhammad Khan Bahadur ruled from 1728-1742 
3 Nawab Faiz Muhammad Khan Bahadur  ruled from 1742-1777
4 Nawab Hayat Muhammad Khan Bahadur  ruled from 1777-1807
5 Nawab Ghaus Muhammad Khan Bahadur  ruled from 1807-1826
6 Nawab Muiz Muhammad Khan Bahadur ruled from 1826-1837 
7 Nawab Jahangir Muhammad Khan Bahadur   ruled from 1837-1844
8 Al-Haj Nawab Sir Hafiz Muhammad Hamidullah Khan Bahadur  ruled from 1926-1947 

The rule of the Begums

The Begum of Bhopal who ruled the princely state of Bhopal in Central India in the 19th and 20th centuries. They include:

S.No. Name of the Bhopal Begum’s Ruled Time
1 Qudsia Begum, Regent of Bhopal ruled from 1819-1837
2 Nawab Sikandar Begum ruled from 1860-1868
3 Begum Sultan Shah Jehan  ruled from 1844-1860 and 1868-1901
4 Begum Kaikhusrau Jahan  ruled from 1901-1926
5 Begum Sajida Sultan  ruled from 1961-1995


The state was established in 1724 by the Afghan Sardar Dost Mohammed Khan, who was a commander in the Mughal army posted at Mangalgarh, which lies to the north of the modern city of Bhopal. Taking advantage of the disintegration of the Mughal empire, he usurped Mangalgarh and Berasia (now a tehsil of the Bhopal District). Sometime later, he helped the Gond Queen Kamalapati by executing her husband’s assassins and restoring the little Gond kingdom back to her. The Queen gave him a princely sum of money and the Mouza village (which is situated near modern Bhopal city).

After the death of last Gond queen, Dost Mohammed Khan took his chance and seized the little Gond Kingdom and established his capital 10 km away from modern Bhopal, at Jagdishpur. He named his capital Islamnagar, meaning the city of Islam. He built a small fort and some palaces at Islamnagar, the ruins of which can still be seen today. After few years, he built a bigger fort situated on the northern bank of the Upper Lake. He named this new fort Fatehgarh (“the fort of victory”). Later the capital was shifted to the current city of Bhopal.

Early rulers

Although Dost Mohammed Khan was the virtual ruler of Bhopal, he still acknowledged the suzerainty of the declining Mughal Empire. His successors however, acquired the title of “Nawab” and declared Bhopal an independent state. By the 1730s, the Marathas were expanding into the region, and Dost Mohammed Khan and his successors fought wars with their neighbors to protect the small territory and also fought among themselves for control of the state. The Marathas conquered several nearby states, including Indore to the west and Gwalior to the north, but Bhopal remained a Muslim-ruled state under Dost Mohammed Khan’s successors. Subsequently, Nawab Wazir Mohammed Khan, a general, created a truly strong state after fighting several wars.
Nawab Jehangir Mohammed Khan established a cantonment at a distance of one mile from the fort. This was called Jehangirabad after him. He built gardens and barracks for British guests and soldiers in Jehangirabad.

In 1778, during the First Anglo-Maratha War, when the British General Thomas Goddard campaigned across India, Bhopal was one of the few states that remained friendly to the British. In 1809, during the Second Anglo-Maratha War, General Close led a British expedition to Central India. The Nawab of Bhopal petitioned in vain to be received under British protection. In 1817, when the Third Anglo-Maratha War broke out, a treaty of dependence was signed between the British Government of India and the Nawab of Bhopal. Bhopal remained a friend of British Government during the British Raj in India.

In February-March 1818, Bhopal became a princely state in British India as a result of the Anglo-Bhopal treaty between the East India Company and Nawab Nazar Muhammad (Nawab of Bhopal during 1816-1819). Bhopal state included the present-day Bhopal, Raisen, and Sehore districts, and was part of the Central India Agency. It straddled the Vindhya Range, with the northern portion lying on the Malwa plateau, and the southern portion lying in the valley of the Narmada River, which formed the state’s southern boundary. Bhopal Agency was formed as an administrative section of Central India, consisting the Bhopal state and some princely states to the northeast, including Khilchipur, Narsingarh, Raigarh, and after 1931 the Dewas states. It was administered by an agent to the British Governor-General of India.

The rule of the Begums

Qudsia Begum

An interesting turn came in the history of Bhopal, when in 1819, 18 year old Qudsia Begum (also known as Gohar Begum) took over the reins after the assassination of her husband. She was the first female ruler of Bhopal. Although she was illiterate, she was brave and refused to follow the purdah tradition. She declared that her 2 year old daughter Sikander will follow her as the ruler. None of the male family members dared to challenge her decision. She cared very well for her subjects and took her dinners only after receiving the news every night that all her subjects had taken meals. She built the Jama Masjid of Bhopal. She also built her beautiful palace – ‘Gohar Mahal’. She ruled till 1837. Before her death, she had adequately prepared her daughter for ruling the state.

Sikander Jahan Begum
Sikander Jahan Begum

Sikander Jahan Begum

In 1844, Sikander Begum succeeded her mother as the ruler of Bhopal. Like her mother, she too never observed purdah. She was trained in the martial arts, and fought many battles during her reign (1844–1868).During the Indian rebellion of 1857, she sided with the British and crushed all those who revolted against them. She did a lot of public welfare too – she built roads and reconstructed the fort. She also built the Moti Masjid (meaning the Pearl Mosque) and Moti Mahal (the Pearl Palace).

Shah Jahan Begum

Sikander Begum’s successor Shah Jahan Begum was quite passionate about architecture, like her Mughal namesake emperor Shah Jahan. She built a vast mini-city, called Shahjahanabad after her. She also built a new palace for herself – Taj Mahal (not to be confused with the famous Taj Mahal at Agra). She built a lot of other beautiful buildings as well – Ali Manzil, Amir Ganj, Barah Mahal, Ali Manzil, Be nazir Complex, Khawasoura, Mughalpura, Nematpua and Nawab Manzils. Today also, one can see the ruins of Taj Mahal and some of its glorious parts that have survived the tests of time. Barah Mahal and Nawab Manzil have also withstood the test of time.

Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum ‘Sarkar Amma’ ( ruled during 1901-26)
Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum 'Sarkar Amma'

Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum ‘Sarkar Amma’

Sultan Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum, (9 July 1858-12 May 1930) daughter of Shah Jahan Begum, succeeded her in 1901, ruling to her abdication in favor of her son in 1926. She further advanced the emancipation of women and established a modern municipality in 1903[1]. She had her own palace Sadar Manzil (the present headquarters of Bhopal Municipal Corporation). But she preferred the quiet and serene environment at the outskirts of the city. She developed her own walled mini-city, named Ahmedabad after her late husband (not to be confused with Ahmedabad, Gujarat). This city was situated at Tekri Maulvee Zai-ud-din, which was at located a distance of a mile from the fort. She built a palace called Qaser-e-Sultani (now Saifia College). This area became a posh residency as royalty and elite moved here. The Begum installed the first water pump here and developed a garden called ‘Zie-up-Abser’. She also constructed a new palace called ‘Noor-us-Sabah’, which has been converted into a heritage hotel. She was the first president of the All India Conference on Education and first chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University.

The peaceful rule of Begums led to the rise of a unique mixed culture in Bhopal. The Hindus were given important administrative positions in the state. This led to communal peace and a cosmopolitan culture took its roots.

Sultan Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum’s son, Nawab Hamidullah Khan, ascended the throne in 1926. He was Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes

After Indian independence

Nawab Hamidullah Khan, 1930
Nawab Hamidullah Khan

Nawab Hamidullah Khan

India achieved independence on August 15, 1947. Bhopal was one of the last states to sign the ‘Instrument of Accession’. The ruler of Bhopal acceded to the Indian government, and Bhopal became an Indian state on 1 May 1949. Sindhi refugees from Pakistan were accommodated in Bairagarh, a western suburb of Bhopal.

The eldest daughter of Nawab Hamidullah Khan and presumptive heiress, Abida Sultan, gave up her right to the throne and opted for Pakistan in 1950. She entered Pakistan’s foreign service. Therefore, the Government of India excluded her from the succession and her younger sister Begum Sajida succeeded in her stead. Abida Sultan arrived in the newly created Pakistan when she was 37 and a mother of a young son. She was to spend the greater part of her life in Pakistan, and she died in 2002. Her son, Shaharyar Khan, was to become the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and then the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board. The last ruling Nawab of Pataudi, Iftikhar Ali Khan, married Begum Sajida. Upon the demise of Begum Sajida in 1995, her only son Mansoor Ali Khan, the titular Nawab of Pataudi, is regarded by many as being the head of the royal family of Bhopal.