The Nizam of Hyderabad’s Munificence

— Dr Ausaf Sayeed *

The Seventh Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan was
acknowledged as the world's richest man whose estimated fortune was
more than US$ 2 billion. In addition, he was said to have US$ 5 billion
worth of gold in bricks and coins in his Treasury and an unspecified
number of gems. The Wall Street Journal had reported in March 1931 that
two Englishmen spent more than two years just to classify his family
jewellery1. The Nizam was one of the five rulers from amongst the 565
Princely States in the British India who was given the rank of 21-gun salute
apart from the Maharajas of Gwalior, Kashmir and Mysore and the
Gaekwad of Baroda2.

The initial decade of Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan's reign was
memorable for rallying the resources of Hyderabad to the services of the
Empire during the World War when he made generous contributions to the
Great Britain's War Fund. During World War I, the Nizam donated Rs 4
crores (US$ 15 million) to the Fund, including US$ 400,000 grant for anti-
submarine warfare. He repeated his largesse during World War II by
contributing US$ 400,000 to the British Air Ministry, and another US$45,000
towards supporting the Hyderabad cavalry kept as a standby at the

1 INDIAN POTENTATE PREMIER PLUTOCRAT. (1931, Mar 17). Wall Street Journal (1923 - Current File)
Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/130875364?accountid=141252

2 'Cultural Sociology of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa: An Encyclopedia' by Andrea L. StantonSAGE,
Jan 5, 2012, p.132.
2

disposal of the Imperial forces3, besides his donation of Rs. 5 lakhs to the
French Government from his personal funds or "Sarf-e-Khas"4.

Justifying the title of "Faithful Ally of the British Government" as the
British often used to refer to the Nizam, his overzealous donations could be
interpreted as the demonstration of his faithfulness to the Imperial Crown,
or a political expediency as he was ruling the Deccan under the guaranteed
protection of the British Residency.

However, the Nizam of Hyderabad was known for his philanthropy and
support to several charitable causes. There were numerous instances when
the Nizam not only took the initiative in supporting social and educational
causes, within and outside his Kingdom but also encouraged his Nobles to
do so.

Donations to religious places

The Nizam's generosity transcended religion, region or geographic
boundaries of States. The Seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan was known
to have showered his generosity for Hindus and Muslims alike. He was
generous in giving donations to temples, churches, mosques and
Gurudwaras. The Yadgarpally temple at Bhongir received a grant of Rs.
82,825. Sitarambagh temple got Rs. 50,000, Bhadrachalam temple Rs. 29,999
and Balaji temple in Tirupati Rs. 8,0005.

The Nizam extended financial assistance for the English translation of
the Holy Quran by Mohamed Marmaduke Pickthall, the well-known
3 'Foreign News: Eastern Friends', Time Magazine, Monday, Nov. 06, 1939 Retrieved from
http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,762731,00.html

4 Hyderabad state's response. (1940, Jul 16). The Times of India (1861-Current) Retrieved from
http://search.proquest.com/docview/613860664?accountid=141252
3

English Muslim journalist and Islamic scholar, and compilation of 'Sirat-un-
Nabi' (Life of the Prophet) by Allama Shibli Nomani and his disciple
Maulana Syed Suleman Nadvi. At the same time, the Nizam supported the
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune with an annual grant of Rs.
1000 for ten years for the publication of the Hindu epic, ‘Mahabharata', and
a lump sum grant of Rs. 25,000 towards the construction of a guest house in
1932, besides supporting the Telugu Academy6 for bringing out a book on
Ancient Hindu buildings of Hyderabad. The Nizam also granted Rs. 1 lakh
each to the Andhra and the Benaras Hindu Universities.

The Nizam accorded great importance to honouring Islamic scholars
and clerics. In fact, Hyderabad's reputation for generosity supposedly
spread so rapidly and widely that, according to one contemporary source,
ulema arrived from Hejaz, Central Asia, Iran, Iraq and northern-eastern Iran
(Khurasan) expecting recognition and financial security7.

Nizam's munificence was not only restricted to religious scholars and
publications but was extended to education, scientific research, art &
music, welfare of citizens and soldiers as well as financial aid for relief from
natural disasters. A donation of Rs. 10,000 made to the Indian Music

5 'A ‘miser' who donated generously', The Hindu, February 19, 2010 accessed from
the URL: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/a-
miser-who-donated-generously/article713485.ece

6 'Nizam's love for books and his generous side' by J.S.Ifthekhar, The Hindu,
HYDERABAD, February 13, 2012 Retrieved from http://www.thehindu.com/todays-
paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/nizams-love-for-books-and-his-generous-
side/article2887047.ece

7 'At Empire's End: The Nizam, Hyderabad and Eighteenth-Century India' by Munis
D.Fauqui, Modern Asian Studies 43, 1 (2009) p.39 Cambrige University Press.
4

Conference at Lahore in July 1927 reflects Nizam's active patronage to art
and music.

Upon the recommendation of Surgeon Major Edward Lawrie,
Superintendent of Afzalgunj Hospital, the Nizam paid for a scientific
investigation into the controversy regarding the safety of the use of
Chloroform. Further, the Nizam gave a grant of £1,000 to meet the travel
expenses of an expert from `Lancet’, the renowned journal of the British
Medical Association, to participate as a member in a special Commission
set up for this purpose8.

The Nizam's contribution of £500 to the Sheriff of Bombay's Earthquake
Relief Fund9 in the aftermath of the Messina earthquake of December 1908
in Sicily and Calabria was an expression of profound sympathy to the
people of Italy even as Hyderabad suffered huge loss of life and property
owing to plague two months earlier.

Silver Jubilee Fund used for development

During February 1937, the Hyderabad State celebrated the Silver Jubilee
of the rule of the last Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, who had ascended the
throne on 29 August 1911. A Jubilee Working Committee was set up whose
task inter alia was to mobilize contributions to a special 'Silver Jubilee Fund'.

8 'Chloroform, Malaria And The Nizam', Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad : 23,
March 1, 1997 Retrieved from
http://narendralutherarchives.blogspot.com/2006/12/chloroform-malaria-and-
nizam.html

9 The earthquake relief fund. (1909, Jan 07). The Times of India (1861-
Current)Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/234759205?
accountid=141252
5

The Nizam issued a Firman (decree) that a large part of the funds
collected be spent on works of public welfare. Some of the schemes
identified included constructing a tuberculosis sanatorium and an
ophthalmic hospital, a police hospital, four poor houses, three child welfare
centers, a public playground under Hussain Sagar Tank Bund, a public
park in the bed of the Mirjumala Tank, three child welfare centres, three
reading rooms, a model village and a centre for rural reconstruction work
at an estimated cost of Rs. 27,75,000, half of which was proposed to be met
from the Government funds10.

The Nizam of Hyderabad, during whose reign Osmania University,
India’s first vernacular university was set up on 17th August, 1917, was an
ardent supporter of education. He was instrumental in setting up many
schools, libraries and welfare hostels for the poor.

Aligarh Muslim University

Successive Nizams have given generous grants-in-aid for the
maintenance of the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, which was later
christened as the Aligarh Muslim University. The Nizam also served as the
Chancellor of the University for a long time.

In January 1918, during his visit to the University, the Nizam announced
an annual grant of Rs. 1000 for Arabic education and a donation of Rs.
50,000 for the reconstruction of barracks11. During his first visit to the
Aligarh Muslim University as its Chancellor on the occasion of its
10 OUR, O. C. (1935, Oct 05). SILVER JUBILEE WELFARE WORK. The Times of India
(1861-Current) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/325315907?
accountid=141252

11 NIZAM AT ALIGARH. (1918, Jan 31). The Times of India (1861-Current) Retrieved
from http://search.proquest.com/docview/608385919?accountid=141252
6

convocation in March 1936, the Nizam announced a donation of Rs. 10,000
for the construction of a pavillion12. He followed it up with another
donation of Rs. 1 lakh in February 1938 for the construction of the
University Technical Institute.

Hyderabad’s Connection to Shantiniketan

July 1927, the Nizam gifted Rs. 100,000 to Visvabharati University or
Shantiniketan13 following an appeal from Rabindranath Tagore, and this
turned out to be the largest of all donations received by the University.

Scholarship to Sarojini Naidu

Sarojini Naidu, the 'Nightingale of India', had a remarkable flair for
English poetry. Even at a tender age of thirteen she composed a long poem
of 1300 lines in six days and even wrote a drama of 3000 lines and another
Persian Play in English called 'Meher Muneer'. The Nizam was so impressed
after receiving a copy of the play that he granted her annual scholarship of
£300 to pursue her higher education in England14.

Financial Assistance to the last Ottoman Caliph

12 DEGREE CONFERRED ON VICEROY BY ALIGARH 'VARSITY. (1936, Mar 23). The
Times of India (1861-Current) Retrieved from
http://search.proquest.com/docview/325423909?accountid=141252

13 OUR, O. C. (1927, Jul 05). GIFT TO SANTINIKETAN. The Times of India (1861-
Current) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/310853236?
accountid=141252

14 INDIA'S POETESS-POLITICIAN. (1949, Mar 03). The Times of India (1861-Current)
Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/502033845?accountid=141252
7

In June 1924, the Nizam issued a Farman granting a monthly allowance
of £300 to Caliph Abdülmecid II, the 29th and last of the Ottoman
Caliphate, whose brief rule got curtailed following the abolition of the
Caliphate leading to his eventual exile to France. Incidentally, Caliph
Abdülmecid II was the father of Princess Durre Shehvar who was married
to Azam Jah, the eldest son of the Nizam.

Makkah & Madinah

The Nizam of Hyderabad and other members of his family and the
nobility constructed at least eleven Rubats or hospices in the two holy cities
of Makkah and Madinah for the benefit of the Hajj and Umrah pilgrims
from Hyderabad. The prominent among such rubats were the Rubat
Hussain Bi, Rubat Afzal-ud-Daula, Bagh-e-Shamsia and Rubat of Princess Durre
Shehvar in Madinah and Rubats of Dilawarunnissa and Afzal-ud-Daula in
the Misfalah and Shamiya areas of Makkah.

In 1924, the Nizam deputed an engineer to undertake the repairs to the
Prophet's mosque in Madinah while another engineer was sent to Makkah
in 1926 to estimate the cost of repairs for several buildings that got
damaged in the wake of the Wahhabi movement 15. In 1936, the Nizam of
Hyderabad donated Rs. 50,000 to contribute towards installation of
electricity in the Prophet's Mosque in Medina following an appeal made by
Sir Nizamat Jung Bahadur, an ex-Minister who had accompanied Dulan
Pasha, the Nizam's consort on Hajj a year earlier16.

15 OUR, O. C. (1926, May 29). SECUNDERABAD NOTES. The Times of India (1861-
Current) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/324803807?
accountid=141252
8

Hyderabad was the headquarters of the Hejaz Railway Central
Committee formed to raise funds for the construction of Great Hijaz
Railways project. The Nizam donated Turkish Liras 20,000 to the project on
the condition that the railway reaches Medina17.

Palestine & Al-Aqsa

The Nizam donated over Rs 100,000 for the upkeep of the 'Zawiyat al-
Hindiyyah' or "Takiya Fariyidiyah" in Jerusalem following its damage during
the 1927 earthquake. The main building in the hospice was named as
'Osman Manzil' after the Nizam's name. The Nizam also contributed £7543
for establishing an Islamic University in Palestine as resolved during the
first Islamic Conference held in Jerusalem in 193118.

Donation of five tonnes of gold to the National Development Fund

In the midst of the Indo-Pak War of August 1965 when the Indian
stockpile of arms and ammunition was getting diminished, the then Prime
Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri made a fervent nation-wide appeal to
general public, business persons, wealthy families and erstwhile kings of
the princely states to donate to the National Defence Fund.

When Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri personally visited the last
Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan on September 11, 1965, the

16 Electrification of medina mosque. (1935, Nov 07). The Times of India (1861-
Current)Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/741136310?
accountid=141252

17 'The Hejaz Railway and the Ottoman Empire: Modernity, Industrialisation and
Ottoman Decline' by Murat Ozyuksel, I.B.Tauris, Nov 30, 2014, pp 71-74.

18 “Indian Muslims and Palestinian Awqaf,” by Omar Khalidi, Jerusalem Quarterly
10.40 (2009): 52–58;
9

Nizam pledged to donate 5000 kg of gold to the National Defence Fund
with any second thoughts.

In monetary terms, the Nizam’s contribution was about Rs 75 lakh, or
about three quarters of the annual Privy Purse he received from the Centre.
The current value of the gold would be in the range of Rs 1500 to 1600
crores19. This was the biggest ever contribution by any individual or
organisation in India to the Defence Fund and remains unsurpassed till
today20.

It is ironical that many of Nizam's princely contemporaries from other
states regarded him a miser who was inordinately stingy but history would
testify that the Nizam was an efficient and progressive potentate who had
given Hyderabad a model rule for a quarter of the Century.

***

* Dr Ausaf Sayeed is a senior diplomat of India

Copy Right 2017-2019, All Rights Reserved © Dr Ausaf Sayeed. No part of
this article should be reproduced in any form, written or electronic, without
acknowledging the author.

19 '50 years of Indo-Pak War: Remembering Nizam Hyderabad as a different kind of
hero', The Siasat Daily, August 6, 2015

20 'The rich legacy of Nizams', Deccan Chronical, June 1, 2014 accessed from the URL:
http://www.deccanchronicle.com/140601/lifestyle-offbeat/article/rich-legacy-nizams