Perched roughly between the Bombay Presidency, United Provinces, Central Provinces and the Madras Presidency, the State of Hyderabad established in the early eighteenth century, soon became a force to reckon with internationally.
After the last great Mughal emperor Aurangzeb asserted his authority over the area conquered by him in the Deccan, he made the brave-heart general, Asaf Khan, the subedar or viceroy of the Deccan and bestowed on him the title of Nizam ul Mulk signifying the Regulator of the State. Asaf Khan soon declared his independence against the weak authority at Delhi by defeating the forces of the governor of Khandesh deployed to suppress his revolt. This victory established Asaf Khan as the first ruler of the Asaf Jahs in 1724 with the capital at Aurangabad.
After Asaf Khan’s death in 1748, came the tussle for power between Nasir Jung (the second son of Asaf Khan), Muzaffar Jung (the nephew of Asaf Khan) and Salabat Jung (the third son of Asaf Khan) in which Salabat Jung succeeded to the masnad for a very brief period.
Salabat Jung was succeeded by Mir NizamAli Khan in 1761 as the second Nizam Asaf Jah II. After an eventful innings of giving away the geo-strategic Northern Circars to the British and acquiring Berar from the Raja of Berar, Nizam Ali Khan passed away and was succeeded by his son, Mir Akbar Ali KhanSikandar Jah Asaf Jah III, in 1803.
Sikandar Jah practically left the affairs of the state in the hands of his Prime Minister wazir Mir Alam and subsequently his son-in-law Munir ul Mulk. When no proper seriousness was seen in running the administration of the State of Hyderabad, the British felt duty bound to interfere and appointed Raja Chandu Lal, an administrator of high calibre as the Prime Minister. Chandu Lal soon became so popular in Hyderabad that the State even came to be known by the epithet Chandu Lal’s Hyderabad.
After Sikandar Jah’s death in 1829 the masnad was occupied by his eldest son Mir Farkhunda Ali Khan Nasir ud Daula who succeeded under the title Asaf Jah IV. From then on the legacy of referring to the Nizam as His Highness (H.H.) started. Nasir ud Daula’s unstinted support to the British in crushing whatever little uprising took place in Hyderabad in 1857 earned him deep obligation from them. The British returned to him the districts of Raichur and Naldurg and conferred him with the title of the honorary distinction―Faithful Ally or―Yar-o-Wafahdar.
The next stint of good governance that showed excellent results was seen under Sir Salar Jung I’s Prime Ministership. And the fruits of Sir Salar Jung I’s able government were reaped by the next Nizam Mir Tahniat Ali Khan Afzal ud Daula who ascended to the throne as Asaf Jah V in 1857. He too was entitled to be referred to as – H.H. It was during his time that Lord Canning, the Viceroy and Governor General of India wrote a letter to H.H. the Nizam by modifying the terms of the earlier treaty of 1853 and entering into a fresh supplementary treaty with the Nizam in 1860 granting a number of concessions to Hyderabad. Naldurg and the Raichur Doab that yielded more than 20 lakh rupees were restored to Hyderabad; a debt of 50 lakh rupees was cancelled on the Nizam, lands on the west bank of the River Godavari were transferred to H.H. and the assigned districts of Berar with a revenue of 32 lakh rupees were taken in trust by the British run Indian government for the purposes specified in the earlier treaty of 1853 (payment of any surplus revenue would go into H.H.’s treasury and the administration of the ceded districts would be vested in the Resident stationed at H.H.’s Court). Another amount of 1 lakh rupees was given by the British to the H.H. the Nizam and to Mukhtar ul Mulk Sir Salar Jung Bahadur the British Indian government gave a khillat of the value of 30000 rupees.
In 1861, the Gracious Highness Queen Victoria bestowed upon H.H. the Nizam the emblem of the Knight of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India in a durbar held on 31st August where H.H.’s large retinue waited in state and a royal salute was fired which was returned from Secunderabad and Bolarum. In return for this honour and to show how pleased he was H.H. the Nizam directed the minister to entertain the whole of the European community in the Public Rooms at Secunderabad.
When H.H. Nawab Afzal ud Daula died in 1869 and his three year old successor Mahboob Ali Khan succeeded, the Viceroy and Governor General placed the sole regency of the young prince in the hands of Sir Salar Jung assisted by a Council of Regency. The magnificent services rendered by Sir Salar Jung in his capacity as administrator to the Nizam’s Dominions are immeasurable. In 1875 Sir Salar Jung on behalf of the H.H. visited Bombay to meet the visiting Prince of Wales. A number of precious gifts were exchanged on this occasion. The following year, in 1876, Sir Salar Jung proceeded to England to discuss matters connected with Hyderabad with the officials of the India Office at London. He was honoured by being invited by the Queen to dine with her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace. Sir Salar Jung remained the sole regent and administrator of the young Nizam until his death in 1883.
It was in 1884 that Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan was invested with independent powers by His Excellency the Marquis of Ripon, K.G.,Viceroy and Governor General of India making him H.H. the Nizam Asaf Jah VI. The help offered by H.H. the Nizam Mir Mahboob Ali Khan was recognised by all the successive Viceroys – Lord Ripon, Lord Dufferin, Lord Lansdowne, Lord Elgin and Lord Curzon, some of who even visited the Nizam’s palaces at Hyderabad. His Highness also had the honour of entertaining the Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, the late Prince Albert Victor, and the Imperial Majesties the King Emperor and Queen Empress when they visited India as Prince and Princess of Wales. H.H. the Nizam Mir Mahboob Ali Khan was honoured in 1885 by being made the Knight Grand Commander of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India and he was also granted the rank of Lieutenant General in the British army. When H.H. died in 1911 after a successful reign of 27 years, condolence messages were received from the Royal House of Great Britain, the Viceroy and Governor General and the Government of India among many others.
When the highly accomplished and administratively well trained Prince Mir Osman Ali Khan succeeded in 1911, His Excellency Lord Hardinge, Viceroy and Governor General of India invested him with administrative powers. On this occasion, he recalled the great contributions of H.H. the Nizam Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, as a man of extraordinary ability, intelligence and noble character and his sincerity to be a faithful friend of the Paramount Power. Walking in the footsteps of his father, Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh in line of Nizams, was bestowed the title of His Exalted Highness (H.E.H.). He attended the Imperial Durbar at Delhi and took part in the magnificent pageantry in connection with the coronation ceremony of their Most Gracious Majesties the King Emperor and Queen Empress of India. H.E.H. the Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan was made a Knight Grand Commander of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India. From then on he was entitled to a personal 21 gun salute. The titles of the Nizam H.E.H. Asaf Jah Muzaffar ul Mulk, WaiMum Alik, Rustam-i-Dauran, Arastu-i-Zaman, Nizam ul Mulk, Nizam ud Daula, Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur, Fateh Jung G.C.S.I. (signifying the Knight Grand Commander’s honour) placed Hyderabad on the international map and showed how important the State of Hyderabad had become for the British government in their political enterprise.
Salma Ahmed Farooqui is Professor at H.K.Sherwani Centre for Deccan Studies, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad. She is also India Office Director of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies (ASPS).