Budaun: A Sleepy Town with a Vibrant History

While chatting with my school friend, Ashish Bannerji a few days ago, Budaun (pronounced as Badayun) came into our discussions. Budaun is the mentha capital of India. Also, Budaun is among a few districts where farmers are licensed to grow opium by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). The villages near my branch were growing opium too. Some villagers, I knew, were growing opium and illegally making heroin in their village huts. I was recollecting some incidents relating to my two-year stint in Budaun district. I went there for my rural posting. It was from 1989-91. Budaun was then among dacoit-infested districts declared by the Central government. My story is not on the notoriety of the place but the historical heritage and simplicity of Budaun.

Buduan was a small backward district with Buduan city, the district headquarter, then a sleepy town. We had to go to Bareilly for any major shopping. Budaun was on a meter-gauge train line, with a couple of trains passing by every day. I remember that I sometimes used to play cricket on the platform of the Budaun station with my nephew when they used to visit us. The station was very close to our house.

Budaun station

Budaun is a historical city with its history lost in its dusty avenues and sleepy streets. It seems nothing more than a secluded small town. But moving around the city, you can come across numerous historical ruins and monuments that reveal many legends from its past. Situated on the banks of the river Ganga, Budaun is indeed a hidden gem of Uttar Pradesh. Buduan city is around 235 km from the national capital Delhi and around 300 km from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh.

According to Prof. Goti John, this city was named Bedamooth in an ancient inscription (stone writeup), which is now in Lucknow Museum. It was a part of the Panchala janapada. Historian Mr. Roz Khan Lodhi said that King Ashoka built a Buddh Vihar and Quila (fort) and he named it BuddhMau. According to the British historian Mr. George Smith, Budaun was named after Koli prince Budh.

Budaun was the capital of Delhi Sultanate for four years from 1210 CE to 1214 CE during Sultan Iltutmish rule (reign: 1210-1236 CE). It was the most important post of Northern Frontier during Mughal reign. According to the known history, Budaun was founded about 905 CE, and an inscription, probably of the 12th century, gives a list of twelve Rathore kings reigning at Budaun then called Vodamayuta. Kanauj was conquered after 1085 CE by Mahmud, the son of the Ghaznavid Sultan, driving out the Rashtrakuta chief. The Rashtrakuta chief then moved their capital to Vodamayuta, where they ruled until conquered by Qutb-ud-din Aibak (reign: 1206–1210 CE).

In the year 1223 CE, Iltutmish built a huge mosque, Jama Masjid here. This mosque is the third oldest existing and second largest mosque of the country after Delhi’s Jama Masjid, having a standard capacity of 23,500. Iltutmish was the first Muslim sovereign to rule from Delhi, and is thus considered the effective founder of the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526 CE).

Jama Masjid, Budaun

The city also has a mausoleum of love, known as Roza Ikhlas Khan. The widow of Nawab Ikhlas Khan had constructed a Roza in memory of her husband (Ikhlas Khan). It is a different matter that this mausoleum did not get fame like the Taj Mahal.

Roza Ikhlas Khan
Roza Ikhlas Khan

There is a 17th century tomb in Sheikhupur near the Budaun city that houses the grave of Parwar Khanum, sister of Mumtaz Mahal, the chief consort of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666 CE). These sisters were niece of empress Nur Jahan, wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir (1569-1627 CE). Parwar Khanum was married to Nawab Mohtashim Khan, who was also buried here. He was given a jagir of 4,000 bighas and 22 villages in Budaun by Jahangir. Mohtashim was son of Nawab Qutubuddin Koka, who was grand son of the Sufi saint Salim Chisti and he later became Subedar of Bengal. He was also the foster brother of Jahangir.

Mausoleum of Parwar Khanum
Mausoleum of Parwar Khanum

The famous Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, whose Dargah is in Delhi, was born in Budaun in 1238 CE. The city houses shrines of Sufi saints dating back to 13th century. These shrines house graves of Sayyeed Hasan, popularly known as ‘Bade Sarkar’ and his brother Sayeed Vilayat Shah, popularly known as ‘Chhote Sarkar’. They are believed to be the descendants of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib. It’s said that Mughal emperor Akbar visited the shrine of Chhote Sarkar to pray for a son. After the birth of Salim, he was happy and granted 700 bighas of land for the dargah.

Image: Amar Ujala

Shakeel Badayuni, a famous Urdu poet, lyricist, and songwriter in Bollywood was born here. The Indian government had honoured him with the title Geetkar-e-Azam. His descendants still live in the house but are not rich people as is evident from the disrepair of the house.

There is a famous chowk in Budaun called Labela Chowk. There is nothing special about it except that the name is quite interesting. I was staying in the Civil Lines area. I enjoyed my stay in this city, it’s a different experience. Budaun casts a nostalgic charm. It transports you back to the era of mighty rulers and mystic Sufi saints who once graced the land.

5 thoughts on “Budaun: A Sleepy Town with a Vibrant History

  1. Nilanjana Moitra

    We have grown up songs penned by Shakeel Badayuni like Chaudhavin ka Chaand ho…, heard his name so many times on Vividh Bharati. I never knew that Badaun is a place with such historical heritage. Thanks for writing a post dedicating to such a non-descript place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Nilanjana, Shakil Badayuni is best remembered for most of his songs with music director Naushad. Shakiil won three Filmfare Awards in a row from 1961 to 1963 for his songs ‘Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil’ (Bees Saal Baad), ‘Husnwale Tera Jawab Nahin’ (Gharana), and ‘Chaudvin Ka Chand Ho’ (Chaudhvin Ka Chand). His best films with Naushad include Baiju Bawra, Mother India, and Mughal-e-Azam. Besides Naushad, he also worked for Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay.


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