Hyderabad has undergone great changes over centuries
but the memory of the Asaf Jahs raises memories of a romantic past.
The Qutub Shahi sultanate
of Golconda fort was conquered by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in
1687 and made a part of his Deccan province with his capital at
Nizam-ul-Mulk (Prime Minister) of the Mughals was appointed the
Governor of the Deccan with the title of Asaf Jah in 1724.
According to a legend,
when he was on his way to the Deccan, one day while on a hunt he lost
his way in the jungle. Famished and woebegone, a hermit offered him
water and bread to eat. The Nizam could eat only seven loaves. The
sage then blessed him and said: Your family will rule for seven
On his death in 1748 a
war of succession ensued and during the next 14 years, two o his sons
and one grandson were killed in internecine warfare. In 1763, Mir
Nizam Ali Khan became the second Asaf Jah. He shifted the capital of
the Deccan from Aurgangabad to Hyderabad.
After the subsidiary
Alliance treaty of 1798, the British Resident, Kirkaptrick, decided
to build an official residence. According to an informal
understanding with the Diwan (Prime Minister), he submitted a
petition to the Nizam for the allotment of a piece of land for that
purpose. The Resident got a sketch map of the land drawn on a large
sheet of paper. The Nizam thinking that the Resident wanted to take
his entire state, rejected it. On the diwans advice the
Resident resubmitted the same sketch on a piece of paper of the size
of a visiting card. This time the request was built on that. That was
the beginning of the British influence on dress, food and social
manners in Hyderabad. The Residency now houses the Womens
The second Nizam also had
a womens brigade in his army. It was the panic created by that
which contributed by that which contributed to his defeat in the war
with the Marathas in 1795. A British cantonment was established
during the reign of the third Nizam, Sikander Jah, and was named
after him-Secunderabad. It became the twin city of Hyderabad with the
shimmering Hussain Sagar lake between them.
During the Mutiny of
1857, Hyderabad sided with the British and thus saved them. A
disorganized mob attacked the Residency but was easily repulsed.
From 1853, for 30 long
years the great Diwan, Sir Salar Jung ruled the state and modernized
it in many respects. However, he himself had to take the Nizams
permission to go out of the walled city. He was also not allowed to
improve the civic amenities within the four walls lest it should make
it easy for the British to enter it! The street leading to the
Nizams palace stank and was appropriately called mutri
After crushing the
mutiny, the British forced the fifth Nizam to declare his
sovereignty. To signify that, in 1858, coins were struck and the
Friday Khutba read in mosques in his name.
On the death of the fifth
Nizamin 1869, his son, Mir Mehboob Ali Khan who was not yet three was
installed as the sixth Nizam. The British Resident protested that the
permission of the Viceroy had not been taken for that. The reply was
that such permission was not required and had never been taken
The Resident then said
that he and his offices would not attend the durbar (court)
without shoes or sit on the floor as they had done hitherto.
Arrangements in the durbar were made accordingly. On one side the
British Resident and the staff sat on chairs, while on the other side
the Indian nobles sat barefoot on the ground. Wooden platforms were
put to raise the levels of the seats of that Indians to that of the
On British insistence to
give the child-ruler modern education an English tutor, Clark, was
appointed to head the team of Indian teachers. A special class was
constituted in the palace to which, besides the Nizam, the sons of
some other nobles were enrolled. Like any other child the young boy
was not too happy to attend school. His Indian tutor would go and
plead with him with folded hands to come to the class. The Nizam
would run away to the ladies quarter and the tutor would wait with
folded hands till the royal student was somehow brought out. If he
committed any misdemeanor, another child was punished to convey a
warning to him indirectly. Mehboob came to be reputed for curing
people of snake-bite by the mere invocation of his name. He also used
to go about the city incognito at night and there are many stories of
his impulsive charity and generosity to people in distress.
Two significant medical
events occurred during his rule. Two Chloroform Commission were set
up to determine the risk involved in its use. The Nizam gave a
financial grant and watched the experiments himself. Ronald Ross
discovered the malaria parasite and the process of its transmission
in 1879. For that he won the Noble Prize in 1902.
It was during his rule in
1908 that the worst floods in the history of the Musi river occurred.
This flood destroyed a large part of the city and cause unprecedented
damage. The Nizam was persuaded to worship the Goddess Bhavani in
order to make the floods recede. He also opened his palaces to
accommodate the victims of the flood.
A dandy, Mehboob never
wore the same dress twice. He thus had the largest wardrobe in the
world which can still be seen in the Purani Haveli. He died rather
early at the age of 43.
The seventh Nizam, Mir
Osman Ali Khan ascended the gaddi (throne) in 1911.
He moved his residence
form the old city to the new city to a mansion bought from one Kamal
Khan whose initials K.K. were inscribed all over the building was
named King Kothi, they could remain intact. That is how the Nizams
residence came to acquire that hybrid name.
Lake the first, the
second and the sixth Nizam, he composed poetry in Persian and Urdu
and his poems were required to be published on the front page of all
Urdu papers along with the corrections made very respectfully by his
poetic tutor. Once it was ordered that his poetry should be
prescribed for post graduate classes in Urdu. It was with great
difficulty and amusing tact that he was persuaded to withdraw that
He constructed a number
of buildings like the High Court, the Osmania Hospital, the state
Central Library and most important Osmania University which was the
fir5st university in India to have an Indian language-Urdu-as the
medium of instruction. The city was improved and it attracted men of
letters in Urdu form all over the country and the city came to be
called a bride amongst cities.
The Nizam was prudent and
came to be reputed as the richest man of the world. But he was
indifferent about his dress and his surroundings to the point of
eccentricity. He did not believe in the allopathic system of medicine
and a stethoscope touched his body only once-to ascertain whether he
One of his Prime
Ministers, Salar Jung III, removed from office after only two years,
sought a sublimation of his frustration by setting up a unique
one-man collection-the framed Salar Jung Museum.
Another Prime Minister,
Maharaja Kishen Pershad, was a great patron of arts and letters. He
showed his secularism by marring three Hindu and four Muslim wives.
The children from respective wives adopted the religion of their
The last two decades of
the reign of Nizam VII saw the rise of political agitation in the
State. A megalomaniac leader of fanatic Muslims, Kasim Razvi,
encouraged the Nizam to become independent. Prolonged but
unsuccessful negotiations followed and finally the state was subdued
and amalgamated into India in September 1948.
The two eldest sons of
the last Nizam were born nine months apart and married on the same
day. The elder, the Prince of berar, to the daughter of the last
deposed Caliph of Turkey and the younger to her cousin. They were two
of the most beautiful women of their time. But their marriages were
doomed. The elder son Prince of Berar stayed in Bella Vista-now the
Administrative Staff College of India and the Junior Prince who was a
poet, in the Hill Fort Palace which alter became the Ritz Hotel. They
held their courts at night and slept during the day. The prime of
Berar in his eagerness to become the Nizam had prayers done for the
early demise of his father. The Nizam struck back by overlooking him
in favour of grandson Mukkarram Jah as his next heir.
Mukkaram Jah now stays
mostly in Australia and comes here off and on. His younger brother,
Mufakkam Jah divides his time between Hyderabad and England and is
involved in some institutions.
The first Nizam said in
his will that he was leaving enough money to last seven generations.
It is now the tenth generations. It is now the tenth generation which
is still living on that money in spite of prodigality on the part of