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The Last Nizam of Hyderabad

Last updated on: January 17, 2023 11:38 IST
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What you need to know about Mukarram Jah Bahadur, the 8th Nizam, who will be laid to rest in Hyderabad on Wednesday, January 18, 2023.

IMAGE: Prince Mukarram Jah Mir Barkat Ali Khan, the 8th Nizam of Hyderabad, at the historic Mecca Masjid in the old city of Hyderabad after Friday prayers in 2010.
The Nizam will be buried at the Mecca Masjid. Photograph: ANI Photo

Who was the 8th Nizam?

Mir Barkat Ali Khan, also known as Mukarram Jah Bahadur, the 8th Nizam of Hyderabad, passed away in Istanbul on January 14, 2023.

Why did he die in Turkey?

His mother Princess Durru Shehvar was the imperial princess of the Ottoman empire in Turkey and daughter of the last Ottoman Caliph Abdul Majid II. Besides, the Nizam's wife is a Turkish citizen.

Is he important?

The Nizam died largely forgotten at the age of 89.

So why is everyone writing about him?

Because of his lineage. His family ruled Hyderabad for 236 years.


And how did the Nizams start ruling Hyderabad?

Mughal Emperor Farrukhsiyar in 1712 convinced Qamaruddin to take over as viceroy of the Deccan with the hereditary title of Nizam-ul-Mulk (Regulator of the Realm).

Why Qamaruddin?

The story goes back to the conquest of Golconda by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1687.

Aurangzeb won the battle against Abdul Hassan, the last ruler of the Qutb Shahi kingdom, but lost his general, Khwaja Abid.


Qamaruddin was Khwaja Abid's grandson.

The story goes that when Qamruddin was six years old he was brought to Aurangzeb's court by his father Firuz Jung in 1677.

The legend goes that when Aurangzeb saw young Qamaruddin, the emperor received him with kindness and bestowed upon him a mansab (hereditary title).

Aurangzeb then told Firuz Jung, 'The star of destiny shines on the forehead of your son.'

The emperor's forecast was not misplaced; Qamruddin became the first Nizam of Hyderabad.

IMAGE: Prince Mukarram Jah was the grandson of the seventh Nizam Osman Ali Khan, who was renowned for his miserliness. Photograph: ANI Photo

The Nizam and the Mughals

Though Hyderabad was a vassal of the Mughal empire, the then Nizam refused to align with the Mughals during the 1857 revolt against the British.

What was the Nizam's dynasty called?

The Asaf Jahi dynasty.

Asaf Jah, or the Equal to Asaf, was the grand wazir in the court of the biblical ruler Solomon, which was the highest title that could be awarded to a subject of the Mughal empire.

And how did the Nizam's rule end?

Mukarram's grandfather Osman Ali Khan wanted Hyderabad to be a part of Pakistan, and if not to be an independent cpuntry after India's Independence in 1947. The Nizam's private army, the Razakars, embarked on a reign of terror.

This led Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India's first home minister, to launch Operation Polo in September 1948.

The Indian Army was deployed in Hyderabad and defeated the Razakars within days.

Hyderabad became the 562nd princely state to accede to India.

Where was Mukarram Jah when the Indian Army captured Hyderabad?

He had escaped to Karachi with his mother Princess Durrushehvar and brother Muffakhan Jah. The princess and her sons moved to a suite at the Savoy Hotel in London, where they would live for the next two years.

Even though Nizam Osman Ali Khan demanded that his grandsons be sent back to India, Princess Durrushehvar was adamant and did not do so.

And what about Mukarram Jah's father Azam Jah?

After his wife left with his two sons, Azam Jah reportedly sank into a life of depravity.

He died a lonely death in 1970, bitter that he has been overlooked for the throne. Nizam Osman Ali Khan considered his son unfit to rule Hyderabad.

In his final moments Azam Jah used to call for 'Joe', the nickname he had given his son Mukarram Jah.

Neither Mukarram Jah nor his mother Princess Durrushehvar attended Azam Jah's funeral.

IMAGE: Mukarram Jah with his younger brother Muffakham Jah. Photograph: Kind courtesy S N Barid/Wikimedia Commons

When did Mukarram Jah become the Nizam?

In 1967 after his grandfather Mir Osman Ali Khan passed away.

The first thing he told the press was that his grandfather never seemed to keep track of his wealth and he had not heard of any hidden treasure.

His biggest worry as Nizam was to take care of 14,718 staff and their dependents.

At the Chowmahalla palace complex from where he ruled, he had 28 people whose only job was to bring drinking water to the Nizam and his immediate family from the traditional well outside the city.

The Nizam and his legendary wealth

In the 1950s Osman Ali Khan's personal wealth stood at 1.35 billion rupees (then estimated at 100 million pounds).

In 1949, The New York Times reported then that the Nizam's wealth could not be computed, but was estimated at something in excess of then $2 billion.

The New York Timessaid the Nizam's pearls alone would fill an Olympic sized swimming pool, or pave Broadway from Times Square to Columbus Circle.

The Big Blow

In 1970, then prime minister Indira Gandhi introduced a bill in Parliament abolishing princely privileges.

After Independence, 279 princes received 50 million rupees a year between them in which the top scale was the Nizam of Hyderbad.

The reason for receiving princely privileges was that because they had surrendered their kingdoms to the Indian Union in 1947 on condition they would get privy purses.

Though the bill was not passed in Parliament and, in fact, lost by one vote, Indira Gandhi got an ordinance to withdraw privy purses of all the erstwhile princes of India.

By 1971, all the enthusiasm of becoming Nizam evaporated for Mukarram Jah.

IMAGE: Workers dig a grave where Prince Mukarram Jah will be laid to rest at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, January 16, 2023. Photograph: PTI Photo

Moving to Australia

In 1972, Nizam migrated to Australia, to be with his friend George Hobdy, a doctor in Western Australia.

He became a shepherd and once told an interviewer, 'Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam, was a shepherd so I see no reason why I shouldn't be one.'

He led such a reclusive existence that he preferred to drive bulldozers in the Australian bush rather than meeting the then Australian prime minister.

In his book, The Last Nizam, John Zubrzycki reports that when Prime Minister Bob Hawke wanted to meet the Nizam in Perth, Mukarram Jah refused to meet him.

'I just want to be left alone. I don't need the publicity. I know I am the Nizam of Hyderabad and that's all that matters,' he said.

He left Australia in the 1990s and shuttled between London, Istanbul and Hyderabad.

Who were his wives?

The Nizam married 5 times. He had co-wives at times or got divorced to marry another wife.

The first was a Turkish noblewoman, Esra Birgin.

His second wife was Helen Simmons. After which he married a Miss Turkey, Manolya Onur, to be followed by a Moroccan lady, Jamila Boularas, and then a Turkish lady, Ayesha Arkide, in 1995.

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