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Sir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur Fateh Jung - The Hyderabad King

Sir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur Fateh Jung, GCSI, GBE, (April 6, 1886February 24, 1967) , styled His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad, also named Fath Jang Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan Asaf Jah VII, was the last Nizam (or ruler) of the Princely State of Hyderabad. He ruled Hyderabad between 1911 and 1948, until Hyderabad was invaded and annexed by India.

During his days as Nizam, he was reputed to be the richest man in the world, even featuring on the cover of TIME magazine, portrayed as such.[1] He had a fortune estimated at $2 billion. [2]

Although he was one of the richest men in the world along with his brother Nawab Sakawath Jung Bahadur, the Nizam led a very simple life. His lifestyle was frugal, bordering on the miserly, and many legends about his parsimony have become apocryphal in Hyderabad. He would , paradoxically, use the 185-carat Jacob Diamond as a paperweight.

He also built the magnificent Hyderabad House for his Delhi visits. This is now used for diplomatic meetings by the Government of India.

Official name

His Exalted Highness Rustam-i-Dauran, Arustu-i-Zaman, Wal Mamaluk, Asaf Jah VII, Muzaffar-ul-Mulk-Wal-Mumilak, Nizam-ul-Mulk, Nizam ud Daula Nawab Mir Sir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur,Sipah Saula, Fateh Jung, Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India, Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire, Honorable Lieutenant General in the Army, Faithful Ally of the British Government.

His Exalted Highness was the honorary Colonel of the 20 Deccan Horse. In 1918, Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan was elevated by King George V from His Highness to His Exalted Highness. In a letter dated 24th January, 1918, the title Faithful Ally of the British Government was conferred on him.[3]

Early life and education

Osman Ali was born on April 6, 1886 at Purani Haveli in Hyderabad state, the second son of Mir Mahboob Ali Khan,Asaf Jah VI, by his first wife Amat-uz-Zahrunnisa Begum. The death of his elder brother in 1887 rendered Osman Ali the heir apparent of Hyderabad.

Great attention was paid to his education, and eminent scholars were engaged to teach Osman Ali English, Urdu and Persian. He was also tutored in Islamic studies by Hafiz Anwarullah Faruqi of the Jami'ah Nizamiyyah of Hyderabad.

Mir Osman Ali Khan was a great scholar and wrote poetry in Urdu and Persian.


On April 14, 1906, Osman Ali married Dulhan Pasha Begum, daughter of Nawab Jahangir Jung, at Eden Bagh at the age 21. She was the first of his seven wives and 42 concubines, and the mother of two eldest of his sons Azam Jah and Moazzam Jah.

Their eldest son, Azam Jah, was married to Durru Shehvar, daughter of Abdul Mejid II (the last Ottoman Caliph and cousin and heir of the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire). Moazzam Jah married Princess Niloufer, a princess of the Ottoman empire.

It has been suggested that through this dynastic marriage Osman Ali hoped to acquire the Caliphate for his descendants.


A cover story by TIME
A cover story by Anil

On February 22, 1937, Time magazine called the Nizam the Richest man in the world. Osman Ali acceded as 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 present-day France. Its ruler, 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 was created "His Exalted Highness" and "Faithful Ally of the British Crown" after World War One, in gratitude for his enormous financial contribution to the British Empire's war effort.

Osman Ali was the absolute ruler of this principality. In some accounts, he is held to have been a benevolent ruler who patronized education, science and development. Indeed, compared to his predecessors, Osman Ali's 37-year rule witnessed progress: electricity, railways, roads and airways were developed, the Nizamsagar lake in Hyderabad city was excavated and some irrigation projects on the Tungabhadra river were undertaken.

In 1941, Mir Osman Ali Khan started his own bank called as Hyderabad State Bank(now State Bank of Hyderabad) as the state's central bank, which managed the Osmania sikka, the currency of the Hyderabad state. It was the only state which had its own currency during the British rule.

Nearly all the major public buildings in Hyderabad city, such as the Osmania General Hospital, Andhra Pradesh High Court, Asafiya Library now called as State Central Library, Town Hall now called as Assembly Hall, Jubilee Hall, Hyderabad Museum now called as State Museum and many other monuments were built during his reign. Up to 11% of the Nizam's budget was spent on education, Osmania University was founded, schools and colleges and even a "Department for Translation were set up. Primary education was made compulsory and provided free for the poor. However, the Nizam (as also his predecessors) have been criticised for largely ignoring the native languages of the land ruled by them, and according primacy to Urdu, a language popularly associated with Muslim culture in India, as well as a language of prestige.

Osman Ali donated generously to many worthy institutions in India and abroad: recipients of his largesse included educational institutions such as the Jamia Nizamia, the Darul Uloom Deoband and the Banaras Hindu University.

Hyderabad was the only state in British India where the ruler was allowed to print the currency notes. A 100 rupee note was introduced in 1918.

He also paid for an Royal Australian Navy vessel, N-class destroyer, HMAS Nizam (G38) in 1940.

Osman Ali lived at King Kothi Palace all his life, since the age of 13, this palace was bought from a nobleman. He did not move to Chowmahalla Palace even after accession.


After Indian independence in 1947, the country was partitioned on communal lines and Pakistan was carved out as a Muslim nation. The princely states were left free to make whatever arrangement they wished with either India or Pakistan. The Nizam ruled over a cosmopolitan population of over 16 million people, and over lands extending to 82,698 sq.miles of homogeneous territory. These advantages persuaded the Nizam to attempt an independent existence, when the British withdrew from the sub-continent in 1947. He refused to join either India or Pakistan, preferring to form a separate kingdom within the British Commonwealth of nations.

The proposal for independent state was rejected unambiguously by the British government. The Nizam then resolved upon exploring the possibility of independence. 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 on a similar vein. He also concurrently encouraged the activities of the Razakars, a militant Muslim organization under the leadership of Qasim Razvi that vehemently opposed any union with the Government of India. The Razakars were active in violently intimidating the local Hindu population and pledged to maintain the Muslim supremacy in Deccan and Hyderabad State. At the same time, thousands of Muslims flooded into Hyderabad, refugees of Hindu violence[citation needed]. An attempt by some Hindu nationalists to assassinate the Nizam did not help either[citation needed]. The Nizam repeatedly cited the Razakars as evidence that the people of the state were opposed to any agreement with India. This was held by the Government of India to be untenable and disingenuous, and in any case were most eager for Hyderabad to effect a merger with India.

Meanwhile, many peasants of the Hyderabad state revolted against the Nizam under the leadership of Communist Party of India. The Telangana peasant armed struggle was successful in driving out local landlords called Zamindars, and distributing their land to the landless. However, Nizam was able to suppress the armed struggle. It was a dark period in Hyderabad history.

However, majority of his subjects were Hindus and his territory was surrounded on all sides by Indian territory. The resulting violence and exodus of people outside of Hyderabad state prompted the new Indian government to invade and annex Hyderabad by police action in 1948. The violence fomented by Indian police action greatly exceeded that of the Razakars, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands. Although the Nizam then acceded to the Dominion of India, power simply slipped from his grasp. He received the ceremonial post of Rajpramukh in 1950, but resigned from this office when the states were re-organised in 1956. Hyderabad was then split and dismembered along linguistic lines.

Later life

Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam, died on Friday, February 24, 1967. It was the end of a princely era. His funeral procession was one of the largest in Indian history, a testimony to his popularity. His Exalted Highness had willed that he be buried in the Judi Mosque that faced his fabulous residence, that is, the King Kothi Palace is his final resting place.

Iris Portal, sister of the British politician Rab Butler, described him as " mad as a coot and his chief wife was raving," who "spent money like water."


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