Mir Osman Ali Khan

Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII (6 April 1886 – 24 February 1967), was the last Nizam[9] (ruler) of the Princely State of Hyderabad, the largest princely state in British India.The Nizam had 149 children.[2][3][10][a] He ascended the throne on 11 August 1911, at the age of 25[11] and ruled the Kingdom of Hyderabad between 1911 and 1948, until India annexed it.[12] He was styled as His Exalted Highness-(H.E.H.) the Nizam of Hyderabad,[13] and was one of the wealthiest individuals of all time. In 1937, Time featured him on its cover as the world's richest person.

He was reputedly a benevolent ruler who patronised education, science, and development. During his 37-year rule, electricity was introduced, and railways, roads and airports were developed. He was known as the "Architect of modern Hyderabad" and is credited with establishing many public institutions in the city of Hyderabad, including among others: Osmania University, Osmania General Hospital, State Bank of Hyderabad, Begumpet Airport, and the Hyderabad High Court. Two reservoirs, Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar, were built during his reign, to prevent another great flood in the city.[14] He was also a philanthropist, donating millions of rupees to various educational and religious institutions across India and donated towards compiling the holy Mahabharata. Apart from his wealth, he was known for his eccentricities; he used to knit his own socks and borrow cigarettes from guests.[15]

The Nizam originally wanted to join India, but after its independence in 1947, he did not wish to accede his state to the newly formed nation. By then, his power had weakened because of the Telangana movement and the rise of a radical militia known as the Razakars whom he could not put down. In 1948, the Indian Army invaded and annexed Hyderabad State, and the Nizam had to surrender. Post-independence, he became the Rajpramukh of Hyderabad State between 1950 and 1956, after which the state was partitioned and became part of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.[16][17]

Even after losing the throne, he continued his efforts to serve the people. In 1951, he not only started the construction of Nizam Orthopedic hospital (now Nizams Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) and gave it to the government on a 99-year lease for a monthly rent of just Re.1,[15] he also donated 14,000 acres (5,700 ha) of land from his personal estate to Vinobha Bhave's Bhoodan movement for re-distribution among landless farmers.[11]

Mir Osman Ali Khan was born 5 April 1886, the second son of Mahbub Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VI and Amat-uz-Zahra Begum[contradictory] at Purani Haveli (also known as Masarrat Mahal palace). He was educated privately and reportedly became fluent in Urdu, Persian, Arabic and English.[18][19] Under Nawab Muhammad Ali Beg he received court ethics and military training.[20]

On the recommendation of the Viceroy of India, Lord Elgin in 1898, in early 1899 Sir Brian Egerton (of the Egerton family and former tutor to Maharajah of Bikaner Ganga Singh) was appointed as Mir Osman Ali Khan's English tutor for two years. During this period he lived away from the principal palace. He lived on his own to avoid the unwholesome atmosphere of palace quarters under the guidance of Sir Egerton and other British officials and mentors so he could flourish as a gentleman of the highest class. Sir Egerton recorded that as a child, Mir Osman Ali Khan was magnanimous and "anxious to learn". Because of the indomitable attitude of zenana (the women) who were determined to send Mir Osman Ali Khan out of Hyderabad for further studies, he pursued them at Mayo College after consultation with the principal nobles of the Paigah family.[20][21]

Mir Mahaboob Ali Khan the VI Nizam died on 29 August 1911 and on the same day Mir Osman Ali Khan was proclaimed Nizam VII under the supervision of Nawab Shahab Jung, a minister of Police and Public works. On 12 September 1911, the crowning ceremony was official celebrated at Chowmahalla Palace. His coronation Durbar (court) included the prime minister of Hyderabad, Kishen Pershad, Colonel Alexander Pinhey (1911–1916) British resident of Hyderabad, the Paigah, and the distinguished nobles of the state and the head of principalities under Nizam domain.[19][20][22][23]

The famous mines of Golconda were the major source of wealth for the Nizams,[24] with the Kingdom of Hyderabad being the only supplier of diamonds for the global market in the 18th century.[24]

Mir Osman Ali Khan acceded as the Nizam of Hyderabad upon the death of his father in 1911. The state of Hyderabad was the largest of the princely states in pre-independence India. With an area of 86,000 square miles (223,000 km2), it was roughly the size of the present-day United Kingdom. The Nizam was the highest-ranking prince in India, was one of only five princes entitled to a 21-gun salute, held the unique title of "Nizam", and titled "His Exalted Highness" and "Faithful Ally of the British Crown".[25][failed verification]

In 1908, three years before the Nizam's coronation, the city of Hyderabad was struck by a major flood that resulted in the death of thousands. The Nizam, on the advice of Sir M. Visvesvaraya, ordered the construction of two large reservoirs—the Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar—to prevent another flood.[26]

He was given the title of "Faithful Ally of the British Crown" after World War One because of his financial contribution to the British Empire's war effort. (For example, No. 110 Squadron RAF's original complement of Airco DH.9A aircraft were Osman Ali's gift. Each aircraft bore an inscription to that effect, and the unit became known as the "Hyderabad Squadron".)[27] He also paid for a Royal Navy vessel, the N-class destroyer, HMAS Nizam commissioned in 1940 and transferred to the Royal Australian Navy.[28]

In 1918, the Nizam issued a firman (decree) that established Osmania University, the first university to have Urdu as the language of instruction. The present campus was completed in 1934. The firman also mentioned the university's detailed mission and objectives.[29]

In 1919, the Nizam ordered the formation of the Executive Council of Hyderabad, presided over by Sir Sayyid Ali Imam, including eight other members, each in charge of one or more departments. The president of the Executive Council would also be the prime minister of Hyderabad.[30]

The Begumpet Airport was established in the 1930s with the formation of Hyderabad Aero Club by the Nizam. Initially, the Nizam's Deccan Airways, the earliest airline in British India, used it as a domestic and international airport. The terminal building was constructed in 1937.[31]

President of Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito meeting with the Nizam, c. 1956

The Nizam arranged a matrimonial alliance with deposed caliph Abdulmejid II whereby the Nizam's first son Azam Jah would marry Princess Durrushehvar of the Ottoman Empire. It was believed that the matrimonial alliance between the Nizam and the Abdulmejid II would lead to the emergence of a Muslim ruler who could be acceptable to the world powers in place of the Ottoman Sultans. After India's Independence, the Nizam attempted to declare his sovereignty over the state of Hyderabad, either as a protectorate of the British Empire or as a sovereign monarchy. However, his power weakened because of the Telangana Rebellion and the rise of the Razakars, a radical Muslim militia who wanted Hyderabad to remain under Muslim rule. In 1948, India invaded and annexed Hyderabad State, and the rule of the Nizam ended. He became the Rajpramukh and served from 26 January 1950 to 31 October 1956.[32]

By donating to major educational institutions throughout India, he introduced many educational reforms during his reign. Up to 11% of his budget was spent on education.[33]

The Nizam made large donations to many institutions in India and abroad with special emphasis given to educational institutions such as the Jamia Nizamia and the Darul Uloom Deoband.[34][35]

The Nizam at the inauguration of the Osmania University Arts College, c. 1937.

He founded the Osmania University in 1918 through a royal firman;[36] today[when?] it is one of the largest universities in India. Schools, colleges and a Department for Translation were set up. Primary education was made compulsory and provided free for the poor.[37]

He also donated Rs 1 million for the Banaras Hindu University,[38][39] Rs. 500,000 for the Aligarh Muslim University,[40] and 300,000 for the Indian Institute of Science.[41]

Nearly all the major public buildings and institutions in Hyderabad city, such as the Hyderabad High Court, Jubilee Hall, Nizamia Observatory, Moazzam Jahi Market, Kachiguda Railway Station, Asafiya Library (State Central Library, Hyderabad), the Town Hall now known as the Assembly Hall, Hyderabad Museum now known as the State Museum; hospitals like Osmania General Hospital, Nizamia Hospital and many other buildings were constructed under his reign.[42][43][44] He also built the Hyderabad House in Delhi, now used for diplomatic meetings by the Government of India.[45][46]

In 1941, he started his own bank, the Hyderabad State Bank. It was later renamed State Bank of Hyderabad and merged with the State Bank of India as the state's central bank in 2017. It was established on 8 August 1941 under the Hyderabad State Bank Act. The bank managed the Osmania Sikka (Hyderabadi rupee), the currency of the state of Hyderabad. It was the only state in India which had its own currency, and the only state in British India where the ruler was allowed to issue currency. In 1953, the bank absorbed, by merger, the Mercantile Bank of Hyderabad, which Raja Pannalal Pitti had founded in 1935.[47][need quotation to verify]

In 1956, the Reserve Bank of India took over the bank as its first subsidiary and renamed it State Bank of Hyderabad (SBH). The Subsidiary Banks Act was passed in 1959. On 1 October 1959, SBH and the other banks of the princely states became subsidiaries of SBI. It merged with SBI on 31 March 2017.[48]

After the Great Musi Flood of 1908, which killed an estimated 50,000 people, the Nizam constructed two lakes to prevent flooding—the Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar[49][unreliable source?][14][50] named after himself, and his son Azam Jah respectively.[51]

The Nizam founded agricultural research in the Marathwada region of Hyderabad State with the establishment of the Main Experimental Farm in 1918 in Parbhani. During his rule, agricultural education was available only at Hyderabad; crop research centres for sorghum, cotton, and fruits existed in Parbhani. After independence, the Indian government developed this facility further and renamed Marathwada Agriculture University on 18 May 1972.[52]

India's first airport—the Begumpet Airport—was established in the 1930s with the formation of the Hyderabad Aero Club by the Nizam. Initially, it was used as a domestic and international airport by Deccan Airways Limited, the first airline in British India. The airport terminal was constructed in 1937.[53]

The Nizam donated Rs. 82,825 to the Yadagirigutta temple at Bhongir, Rs. 29,999 to the Sita Ramachandraswamy temple, Bhadrachalam[54] and Rs. 8,000 to the Tirupati Balaji Temple.[55]

He also donated Rs. 50,000 towards the re-construction of Sitarambagh temple located in the old city of Hyderabad,[54] and bestowed a grant of 100,000 Hyderabadi rupees towards the reconstruction of Thousand Pillar Temple.[56]

After hearing about the Golden Temple of Amritsar through Maharaja Ranjit Singh,[57][58] Mir Osman Ali Khan started providing it with yearly grants.[59][60]

In 1932, there was a need for money for the publication of the Holy Mahabharata by the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute located in Pune. A formal request was made to Mir Osman Ali Khan who granted Rs. 1000 per year for a period of 11 years.[61]

He also gave Rs 50,000 for the construction of the institute's guest house[62] which stands today as the Nizam Guest House.[63][64]

There is myth that the Nizam donated 5000 kg of gold in 1965. This was clarified in an article in The Hindu.[65] The National Defence Fund under the Prime Minister's Office said no information of such a donation had been recorded. In fact, the Nizam invested 425,000 grams (425 kg) of gold in the National Defence Gold Scheme, floated in October 1965 with a 6.5% interest rate, to tide India over during the economic crisis.[66]

After Indian independence in 1947, the country was partitioned into India and Pakistan. The princely states were left free to make whatever arrangement they wished with either India or Pakistan. The Nizam ruled over more than 16 million people and 82,698 square miles (214,190 km2) of territory when the British withdrew from the sub-continent in 1947. The Nizam refused to join either India or Pakistan, preferring to form a separate independent kingdom within the British Commonwealth of Nations.[67]

This proposal for independence was rejected by the British government, but the Nizam continued to explore it. Towards this end, he kept up open negotiations with the Government of India regarding the modalities of a future relationship while opening covert negotiations with Pakistan in a similar vein. The Nizam cited the Razakars as evidence that the people of the state were opposed to any agreement with India.[citation needed]

The new Indian government ultimately decided to invade Hyderabad in 1948, in an operation code-named Operation Polo. Under the supervision of Major General Jayanto Nath Chaudhuri, one division of the Indian Army and a tank brigade invaded and captured Hyderabad.[68]

The Nizam possessed such enormous wealth that he was portrayed on the cover of Time magazine on 22 February 1937, being described as the world's richest man.[69] He used the Jacob Diamond, a 185-carat diamond that is part of the Nizam's jewellery, a precious collection running into several thousand crores of rupees today, as a paperweight.[70] During his days as Nizam, he was reputed to be the richest man in the world, having a fortune estimated at US$2 billion in the early 1940s ($36.5 billion today)[71] or two per cent of the US economy then. At the time, the treasury of the newly independent Union government of India reported annual revenue of only US$1 billion.[72]

The Nizam is known to have remained the richest man in South Asia until his death in 1967, but his fortune had fallen to US$1 billion by then as more than 97% of his wealth, including jewellery belonging to his family, was seized away by the newly formed Indian Government. Just before his death, the Nizam's personal fortune was estimated to be roughly £110 million, including £40 million in gold and jewels (equivalent to £2,145,498,339 in 2019)[73][74][75]

The Indian government still exhibits the jewellery as the Jewels of the Nizams of Hyderabad (now in Delhi). There are 173 jewels, which include emeralds weighing nearly 2,000 carats (0.40 kg), and pearls exceeding 40 thousand chows. The collection includes gemstones, turban ornaments, necklaces and pendants, belts and buckles, earrings, armbands, bangles and bracelets, anklets, cufflinks and buttons, watch chains, and rings, toe rings, and nose rings.[76]

In 1947, the Nizam made a gift of diamond jewels, including a tiara and necklace, to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her marriage. The brooches and necklace are still worn by the Queen and the necklace is known as known as the Nizam of Hyderabad necklace.[77]

The Nizam lived at King Kothi Palace—bought from a nobleman—from age 13 until his death. He never moved to Chowmahalla Palace, even after his accession to the throne.[78] Unlike his father, he was not interested in fine clothing or hunting. Rather, his hobbies included poetry and writing Urdu ghazals.[79]

He revered his mother and visited her every day she was alive; he used to visit her grave almost every day after she died.[80]

At the age of 21, on 14 April 1906, he married Azam Unnisa Begum (Dulhan Pasha Begum) a daughter of the noble Nawab Jahangir Jung.[19][81] Nawab Mir Khudrath Nawaz Jung Bahadur was the first brother-in-law of Nizam VII.[citation needed]

The Nizam's first son, Azam Jah, married Durru Shehvar, daughter of Abdul Mejid II (heir to the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire). They had two children, Mukarram Jah and Muffakham Jah.[82]

His second son, Moazzam Jah, married Princess Niloufer, a princess of the Ottoman Empire.[4] In total, the Nizam had 149 children.[2][3][4][a]

Mir Najaf Ali Khan is another grandson of the last Nizam.[83] He is a well-known figure as he represents several trusts of the last Nizam, including the H.E.H. the Nizam's Charitable Trust and the Nizam Family Welfare Association.[84][85]

The Nizam continued to stay at the King Kothi Palace until his death. He used to issue firmans on inconsequential matters in his newspaper, the Nizam Gazette.[78]

He died on Friday, 24 February 1967. In his will, he asked to buried in Masjid-e Judi, a mosque where his mother was buried, that faced King Kothi Palace.[86][87] The government declared state mourning on 25 February 1967, the day when he was buried. State government offices remained closed as a mark of respect while the National Flag of India was flown at half-mast on all the government buildings throughout the state.[88] The Nizam Museum documents state :

"The streets and pavements of the city were littered with the pieces of broken glass bangles as an incalculable number of women broke their bangles in mourning, which Telangana women usually do as per Indian customs on the death of a close relative."[89]

"The Nizam's funeral procession was the biggest non-religious, non-political meeting of people in the history of India till that date."

Millions of people of all religions from different parts of the state entered Hyderabad in trains, buses and bullocks for a last glimpse of their king in a coffin in the King Kothi Palace Camp in Hyderabad.[90] The crowd was so uncontrollable that barricades were installed alongside the road to enable people to move in a queue.[91] D. Bhaskara Rao, chief curator, of the Nizam's Museum stated that an estimated one million (1 million) people were part of the procession.[92][failed verification]

The Nizam was the honorary Colonel of the 20 Deccan Horse. In 1918, King George V elevated Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan Siddiqi Bahadur from "His Highness" to "His Exalted Highness". In a letter dated 24 January 1918, the title "Faithful Ally of the British Government' was conferred on him.[93]

1886–1911: Nawab Bahadur Mir Osman Ali Khan Siddqi.
1911–1912: His Highness Rustam-i-Dauran, Arustu-i-Zaman, Wal Mamaluk, Asaf Jah VII, Muzaffar ul-Mamaluk, Nizam ul-Mulk, Nizam ud-Daula, Nawab Mir Sir Osman ‘Ali Khan Siddqi Bahadur, Sipah Salar, Fath Jang, Nizam of Hyderabad, GCSI
1912–1917: Colonel His Highness Rustam-i-Dauran, Arustu-i-Zaman, Wal Mamaluk, Asaf Jah VII, Muzaffar ul-Mamaluk, Nizam ul-Mulk, Nizam ud-Daula, Nawab Mir Sir Osman ‘Ali Khan Siddqi Bahadur, Sipah Salar, Fath Jang, Nizam of Hyderabad, GCSI
1917–1918: Colonel His Highness Rustam-i-Dauran, Arustu-i-Zaman, Wal Mamaluk, Asaf Jah VII, Muzaffar ul-Mamaluk, Nizam ul-Mulk, Nizam ud-Daula, Nawab Mir Sir Osman ‘Ali Khan Siddqi Bahadur, Sipah Salar, Fath Jang, Nizam of Hyderabad, GCSI, GBE
1918–1936: Lieutenant-General His Exalted Highness Rustam-i-Dauran, Arustu-i-Zaman, Wal Mamaluk, Asaf Jah VII, Muzaffar ul-Mamaluk, Nizam ul-Mulk, Nizam ud-Daula, Nawab Mir Sir Osman ‘Ali Khan Siddqi Bahadur, Sipah Salar, Fath Jang, Faithful Ally of the British Government, Nizam of Hyderabad, GCSI, GBE
1936–1941: Lieutenant-General His Exalted Highness Rustam-i-Dauran, Arustu-i-Zaman, Wal Mamaluk, Asaf Jah VII, Muzaffar ul-Mamaluk, Nizam ul-Mulk, Nizam ud-Daula, Nawab Mir Sir Osman ‘Ali Khan Siddqi Bahadur, Sipah Salar, Fath Jang, Faithful Ally of the British Government, Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar, GCSI, GBE
1941–1967: General His Exalted Highness Rustam-i-Dauran, Arustu-i-Zaman, Wal Mamaluk, Asaf Jah VII, Muzaffar ul-Mamaluk, Nizam ul-Mulk, Nizam ud-Daula, Nawab Mir Sir Osman ‘Ali Khan Siddqi Bahadur, Sipah Salar, Fath Jang, Faithful Ally of the British Government, Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar, GCSI, GBE.[93][94]