Asghari Begum: Late Tabassum's mother who rebelled against religious dogma by embracing Hindu identity

In a documentary on Swami Shraddhanand, the late actress Tabassum once recalled her mother's fondness for Hinduism.
Tabassum was married to Vijay Govil, the elder brother of the films and television actor Arun Govil. (File Photo)
Tabassum was married to Vijay Govil, the elder brother of the films and television actor Arun Govil. (File Photo)IANS

Veteran Bollywood actress Tabassum, who hosted the iconic television series, "Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan" on Doordarshan for two decades, passed away following a massive cardiac arrest last Friday.

Rushed to a private hospital after she suffered chest pain, Tabassum breathed her last around 8.40 p.m.

Tabassum was married to Vijay Govil, the elder brother of the film and television actor Arun Govil - who portrayed the character of Lord Rama in the epic serial "Ramayana" (1987) and previously as King Vikramaditya in another cult serial, "Vikram Aur Betaal" (1985), both made by Ramanand Sagar.

Tabassum's connection with Hinduism

Although a devout Muslim by faith, it is said that Tabassum was strongly connected with Hindu traditions because of her mother Asghari Begum.

In a short undated video clip shared by the Twitter handle 'Gems of Bollywood Fan' Tabassum can be seen speaking about her mother's connection with Hinduism.

In the short clip, Tabassum narrates the unique tale of her rebellious and inquisitive mother Asghari Begum who decided to connect with her Hindu roots at the age of 12. She was already fluent in Arabic and Persian and had a sound knowledge of the Islamic faith, all because of her father who was a 'maulvi'.

Little Asghari's wish to learn the 'Vedas' and the 'Upanishads' did not go down well with her orthodox father. He refused to entertain her wishes. However, little Asghari had made up her mind to attain the knowledge she wanted. She ran away from her house and got in contact with Hindu social reformer 'Swami Shraddhanand'. He became her 'guru' and gave her the name 'Shanti Devi'. This further infuriated Shanti Devi's family and they started demanding her return.

The 1-minute 42-second long video of Tabassum narrating the tale of her mother ends with a cliffhanger. However, there is more to the story.

The Killing of Swami Shraddhanand

Mahatma Munshi Ram or Swami Shraddhanand (File Photo)
Mahatma Munshi Ram or Swami Shraddhanand (File Photo)Internet Archive Book Images

As stated above, Asghari Begum's inclination towards Hinduism did not go down well with her father. Swami Shraddhanand's involvement was criticized by the Muslim community. Mahatma Gandhi was a vocal critic of Swami Shraddhanand and his 'Shuddhi' movement which was initiated by him to counter the proselytization tactics of Islam and Christianity.

At last, on 23 December 1926, he was assassinated by a fanatic named Abdul Rashid.

Tabassum and her mother's unique story is a shining example of India's vibrant culture of tolerance. Even though Swami Shraddhanand died a tragic death, the pride with which Tabassum narrates her mother's story in the clip is enough to tell that in the long run, Swami Shraddhanand's teachings won over Abdul Rashid's hate. (KB)

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