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Hyderabad’s Nizamate comes to an end, the mystery shrouding a chequered saga continues

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On Wednesday, the body of the last Nizam of Hyderabad will be laid to rest here along with many unanswered questions about his life, inherited riches, and his life away from India.

Described by some as the ‘story of the decline of the grandest hereditary princedom’, the recorded life story of Nawab Mir Barket Ali Khan Walashan Mukarram Jah Bahadur, the titular eighth Nizam of Hyderabad, who passed away in Turkey on Saturday, is sketchy at best.

Mukarram Jah, the Prince was proclaimed as the successor designate in 1954 by his grandfather and the Seventh Nizam of the erstwhile Princely State of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan. Since then he has been identified as the eighth and the last Nizam of Hyderabad.

‘Eccentric ruler’

MA Faiz Khan, trustee of the H.E.H. The Nizam’s Mukarram Jah Trust, with others, inspects the arrangements where the mortal remains of Prince Mukarram Jah will be kept for the public, at Chowmahalla Palace, in Hyderabad, Monday, January 16, (PTI Photo)

“For years I had read stories of the eccentric ruler of a Muslim state who counted his diamonds by the Kilogram, his pearls by the acre, and his gold bars by the tonne, yet who was so frugal he would save on laundry bill by bathing in his clothes,” wrote John Zubrzycki, the author of The Last Nizam: The Rise and Fall of India’s Greatest Princely State, while describing Mukarram Jah.

Mukarram Jah was born in 1933 in France. His mother Princess Durru Shewar was the daughter of the last Sultan of Turkey (Ottoman Empire) Sultan Abdul Mejid II.

Prince Mukarram Jah was officially called the Prince of Hyderabad until 1971 when the titles and privy purses were abolished by the government, says senior journalist and a keen observer of Hyderabad’s culture and its heritage, Mir Ayoob Ali Khan.

Khan pointed out that Seventh Nizam made his grandson the successor to the gaddi instead of his first son Prince Azam Jah Bahadur. Therefore, Mukarram Jah succeeded as the eighth Nizam on the passing away of the last former reigning ruler of Hyderabad in 1967.

After moving to Australia initially, for a good part of Prince Mukarram’s latter half of his life, he had been residing in Turkey.

“I had listened to improbably tales of a Darbar in the desert of Australia where an Indian Prince preferred driving diesel-belching bulldozers than riding in the howdah of an elegantly caparisoned, elephant. And I had heard rumours of a recluse living in Turkey who had arrived carrying two suitcases and a load of shattered dreams,” the author John Zubrzycki wrote about the prince about their meeting at the latter’s two-bedroom flat in Turkey.

Workers make a grave where Prince Mukarram Jah will be laid to rest at Mecca Masjid, in Hyderabad, Monday, January 16, 2023. (PTI Photo)

Workers make a grave where Prince Mukarram Jah will be laid to rest at Mecca Masjid, in Hyderabad, Monday, January 16, 2023. (PTI Photo)

Unjust image

There is a paucity of a record of the details of the modern-day decline of the riches inherited by the Prince or even his grandfather. But, in his time, Mukarram Jah is never known to have taken kindly to anyone who recorded their lives in an undignified manner.

According to Zubrzycki, when The Times ran a 1,000-word obituary portraying the Seventh Nizam as a ‘miser’ and touched up on certain personal matters of his, “Jah shot back an equally long letter to the Editor. It was unjust to conjure up the image of a shabby man shuffling through his dream world, asserted Jah,” writes Zubrzycki.

President Dr. Zakir Husain received Mir Barakat Ali Khan, the Nizam of Hyderabad, at Rashtrapati Nilayam, Hyderabad on August 28, 1967. (PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES)

President Dr. Zakir Husain received Mir Barakat Ali Khan, the Nizam of Hyderabad, at Rashtrapati Nilayam, Hyderabad on August 28, 1967. (PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES)

Journalist Ayoob Ali Khan said people of Hyderabad had expected Prince Mukarram Jah would do a lot of things, particularly for the poor, because he had inherited immense wealth from his grandfather who was the richest man in the world at one time.

“However, it did not happen,” he said.

Mukarram Jah first married Princess Esra of Turkey in 1959.

Heavy tax

In an interview as told to Huma Bilgrami Latif published in Youandi.com, Princess Esra talks about her early married life in Hyderabad and how restoring inherited properties and palaces of the family later became her passion.

“I always wanted to do something for the city, but it was a bit difficult when I got married because my husband’s grandfather was alive, and my life was very restricted back then. There was a certain way one had to behave, places one could go, and who one could see. After his death, however, we had the possibility to do things our way, but then we had enormous problems: the death duty, the tax was 98 per cent, etc.”

“Then our privileges were taken, and the land was taken; it was impossible to keep up one’s dreams,” Princess Esra is quoted as saying.

“Later, I got divorced, and after 20 years, Mukarram Jah asked me to come back and help out in Hyderabad because everything was in a mess and there were big problems. When I came back, the whole place looked as if it was the loot of Delhi by Nader Shah. There was nothing left; everything was taken. It was terribly sad, and I thought to myself that I have to give something of the family back to Hyderabad.”

Mir Barkat Ali Khan, grandson of Nizam the Seventh, the last of the Asaf Jahi Kings who ruled the Deccan, new Nizam of Hyderabad, and his wife Princess Esrah photographed shortly after his installation in Hyderabad. (PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES)

Mir Barkat Ali Khan, grandson of Nizam the Seventh, the last of the Asaf Jahi Kings who ruled the Deccan, new Nizam of Hyderabad, and his wife Princess Esrah photographed shortly after his installation in Hyderabad. (PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES)

“It was our duty,” the Princess is quoted as saying while describing her efforts to renovate and restore the Chowmahalla Palace and Falaknuma Palace.

Decades after this interview was published, today, it is the same Chowmahalla Palace where Mukarram Jah’s mortal remains will first be taken to after arriving here on a chartered flight. Jah’s body would be kept at the Khilwat Palace from 8 AM to 1 PM on January 18 to enable people to pay their last respects.

Prince Mukarram Jah Mir Barkath Ali Khan, who was crowned as the 8th Nizam of Hyderabad, steps out from the historic Mecca Masjid in the old city of Hyderabad after prayers on November 12, 2010. (Photo: Nagara Gopal)

Prince Mukarram Jah Mir Barkath Ali Khan, who was crowned as the 8th Nizam of Hyderabad, steps out from the historic Mecca Masjid in the old city of Hyderabad after prayers on November 12, 2010. (Photo: Nagara Gopal)

The burial would take place at the Asaf Jahi family tombs here, a statement issued by an office of Prince Mukarram Jah had said. As per his desire of being laid to rest in India, his children are scheduled to travel to Hyderabad with the mortal remains of the late Nizam on January 17, the statement added.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, who condoled the death of Prince Mukarram Jah, directed officials to conduct his last rites with the highest State honours in recognition of his social services in the fields of education and medicine for the poor as the successor of the Nizam.



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