Raymond’s Tomb: Hyderabad’s last French connection gets facelift

Hyderabad: After years of neglect, the tomb of Monsieur Raymond, who was the last French commander in the city, is finally getting a much needed facelift. While the structure has largely been in good shape, its environs were in a bad shape until a few years ago when beautification works began.

Due to the ongoing works, which have been nearly completed, the place has also been closed for the general public. The ongoing pandemic also delayed the beautification works as well. The tomb premises now will welcome visitors with a scenic garden with benches. The tomb, which is on a higher level, is also surrounded by greenery. A much needed facelift given that it was unkempt until some years ago.

An official, who did not want to be quoted, said that work had begun long ago but that it was delayed due to the pandemic. “There are small works pending, and the place is still not yet open for the public. Once it is fully done, it will be reopened for visitors. The main issue here has been that anti-social elements come in, drink and desecrate the place,” he told Siasat.com, and added that a new gate and railings have bee added to Raymond’s tomb.

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Raymond’s tomb before restoration and landscaping. As one can see, the premises was in an unkempt situation to say the least. (Photo: Meghana Reddy Tandra).

So who was Monsieur Raymond?

Monsieur Michel Joachim Marie Raymond is a name that most Hyderabadis are not familiar with today, but in the late 18th century, during the period of Hyderabad’s second Nizam, he was believed to be a local hero of sorts.

Raymond, who live here during the reign of Nizam Ali Khan (second Nizam) of the Asaf Jahi dynasty (1724-1948), was essentially sent to Hyderabad around the 1780s by the French from Madras to take over the French troops her long before the Nizams and the British formally sealed an exclusive agreement in 1798.

A french man from Gascony, he landed in the French port at Pondicherry first in 1775, after which he went to Mysore where he worked under Hyder Ali (Tipu Sultan’s father). He later began working under another French commander named De Bussy, following which Raymond arrived in Hyderabad around 1786.

Nizam Ali Khan was the 2nd monarch of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, which ruled the Hyderabad state from 1724 to 1948. Raymond’s life in Hyderabad was spent at a time when both the British and the French were trying to gain influence, and this particular gentleman’s fame rose. He spent his life trying to stop the growing British influence, but to no avail.

While the French eventually lost their hold in the Hyderabad state under the Nizams, Raymond did manage to become the favourite of the second Nizam, so much so that the latter bestowed him with some elegant titles like ‘Dragon of War’, ‘Bravest in the State’, among others. The area where Raymond was buried after his death in 1798 came to known as Moosarambagh.

The French, which had an army of 15,000 troops roughly in Hyderabad, were made to leave after Nizam Ali Khan signed the Treaty Subsidiary Alliance with the British in 1798 here (under the then Resident James Achilles Kirkpatrick). Under the treaty, the British agreed to extend their protection to the Nizam against any power in India with whom he happened to be at war.

The Treaty concluded in 1800, and it essentially reduced the Nizams to the position of a subservient ally of the British. The rulers of Hyderabad not only lost their sovereignty, but also their internal suzerainty, which was impaired to a great extent.

Raymond, who was the commander of a French army, could not stop the growing colonisation by the British, and it is said that he was at the same time disillusioned by the state of affairs in France, which was witnessing a revolution while he was in Hyderabad. According to legend, in March 1798, he shot and buried his two dogs and horse, then killed himself. His grave was marked with an obelisk, behind which there is a beautiful pavilion.

The obelisk of the French commander at Moosarambagh. (Photo: Yunus Y. Lasania)

Extinction of French and Nizams help in defeating Tipu Sultan

While those who are familiar with history are aware of Tipu Sultan and his father Haider Ali’s opposition with the British, many perhaps don’t know that the second monarch Nizam Ali Khan did not also get along well with the Mysore rulers after a point. Mainly due to territorial issues. The Mysore rulers were more or less supposed to be under the Nizams, but their political assertion was not welcome.

The second Nizam, who was caught up in regional politics between the Marathas, British, French and Mysore rulers. He in fact finally decided to aide the British in the final Anglo-Maratha war between the British and Tipu Sultan in 1799, in which Sultan was killed during a siege. Under the Treaty of Subsidiary alliance, the Nizams also had to pay the British annually to maintain their troops.

Those troops were eventually shifted outside the city of Hyderabad to a cantonment, the area which eventually came to be known as Secunderabad (after the third Nizam Sikander Jah).

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