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Seven Loaves - Seven Asaf Jahs

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 Aurangabad.

Mir Qamruddin, 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 generations.

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 diwan’s 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 Women’s College.

The second Nizam also had a women’s 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 Nizam’s 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 Nizam’s palace stank and was appropriately called mutri gali(urine street).

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 before.

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 British.

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 Nizam’s 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 order.

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 was dead.

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 respective mothers.

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 some princes.

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