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Chitapavan brahmin Bajirao I married Mastani and they had a son named Shamsher Ali Bahadur (born Krushnarao). From Shamsher started the family line that would rule the Banda District and, three generations later, go on to fight shoulder to shoulder with another warrior lioness of India, the Rani of Jhansi. (“Khoob ladhi mardani voh toh Jhansi wali rani thi!” )

The Ali Bahadur clan of Bhopal, Indore and Sehore trace their ancestors to Nawab Ali Bahadur I, son of Shamsher. Shamsher was given the provinces that came in Mastani’s dowry to govern. Kashibai took Mastani’s six-year-old son Shamsher Bahadur (also named as Krushnarao) into her household and raised him in Shaniwarwada as one of her own. Shamsher grew up into a formidable warrior and fought in the Third Battle of Panipat between the Marathas and Afghans. Barely 27 at the time he lost his life in that battle.

Shamsher’s son, Ali Bahadur I ruled over Baji Rao’s lands in Bundelkhand, and founded the state of Banda, Uttar Pradesh. He was sent away to Banda by Peshwa Raghunathrao, second son of Kashibai, who was Bajirao I’s first wife. It was Peshwa Raghunathrao who changed the written history of the Peshwas and appropriated it for himself and his family.

“Ali Bahadur I was a spitting image of Bajirao I and had his temperament,” says the Ahmedabad-based author, who wrote Mastani in 2012. “Raghunathrao’s son (Bajirao II) was an ‘aiyash’ and there was fear that the Peshwai would go to Ali Bahadur I instead.

Ali Bahadur I was sent away to Banda and Bajirao II systematically erased 10-year-long official records in Shaniwarwada of Mastani’s household expenses, dealings and revenue. He started the rumour that she was a mistress and courtesan.

The Nawabs of Banda however were destined to make history.

In 1858, Nawab Ali Bahadur II, a descendent of Shamser, recieved a rakhi from the astute Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi. He was thereby honor-bound to come to her rescue in her fight against the British. Eschewing his friendship with the British he fought alongside her. Nawab Ali Bahadur II sent 1000 trained soldiers and 300 gunners to the Rani and 1000 soldiers to Tatya Tope. This defiance of the British cost the Nawab and his decendants dearly. It ended their rule and their pension of four lakhs rupees from the British. They were exiled for life.

“Until independence, we would need the viceroy’s permission to travel out of Indore principality,” says Aziz Ali Bahadur, great grandson of Ali Bahadur II to Pioneer.

The current line of descendants are from Nawab Saif Ali Bahadur, grandson of Ali Bahadur II and his 13 sons and seven daughters from three wives. He was the last recipient of the political pension awarded by the British to Ali Bahadur II when he was exiled to Indore after 1858.

In 1947, Saif moved his large family to Sehore for financial prudence. The family home there is called Nawab Banda compound. “We could have moved to Pakistan,” says Afaque Ali Bahadur, another son of Saif, “But why should we? This is our land. We fought for it.”

Aziz has just finished writing Bajirao Aur Unke Vanshaj, which traces the bloodline right down to his recently born grandson.

The inscription at Mastani Darwaza in Shaniwarwada ends with Shamsher Ali Bahadur and Ali Bahadur I.

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Ritu Marwah has pursued theater, writing, marketing, startup management, raising children, coaching debate and hiking. Ritu has a master’s degree in business and worked in London for the Tata group for ten years. Ritu is social media editor at India Currents.

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