Lesser known facts about Mukarram Jah Bahadur, 8th Nizam of Hyderabad
Rasia Nayeem Hashmi
Mukarram Jah Bahadur was the chosen the heir of his grandfather Mir Osman Ali Khan, the richest man on the planet.
Born to Prince Azam Jah and Princess Durru Shehvar (the imperial princess of the Ottoman Empire), on October 6, 1933 in France, Mukarram Jah was educated in the Doon School in Dehradun and later at Harrow and Peterhouse, Cambridge. In Harrow, his classmates included King Faisal of Iraq and his cousin King Hussein of Jordan. He also studied at the London School of Economics and at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. His Doon School teachers despaired at his lack of aptitude in Maths and English but noted, somewhat optimistically that he “was very keen on carpentry and spent a good deal of his spare time in the workshop and this can provide unlimited scope in the future”. The Wire reported.
After the death of Mir Osman Ali Khan in February 1967, he was coronated as Asif Jah the Eighth on April 6, 1967. He was chosen as heir over his father Azam Jah.
Mukarram Jah had inherited one of the largest fortunes in the world. It was said that the Nizams of Hyderabad had more jewellery than all of India’s other royal houses combined. Osman Ali Khan counted his diamonds by the kilogram, his pearls by the acre and his gold bars by the tons.
Indian Express with reference to a 2007 article in The Guardian by historian William Dalrymple, stated that “upon accession, Mukarram inherited a “ridiculously inflated” army of 14,718 staff and dependants, including people whose only job was to dust chandeliers or to ground the Nizam’s walnuts; a staggering collection of gems and jewellery; and heirlooms that included priceless paintings and furniture.”
He was the owner of some iconic buildings in the city, including Falaknuma Palace, Chowmahalla Palace, the Nazri Bagh Palace, Chiraan Palace, Purani Haveli, and Naukhanda Palace in Aurangabad.
Mukarram Jah did not show much interest in managing and preserving his vast estate. So, barely six years after he inherited it, Mukarram Jah fled to a sheep farm in Australia, leaving the management of his inheritance in the hands of people he thought he could trust. He was invited by George Hobday to visit Australia.
However, Mukarram was swindled by those he trusted. His jewellery and heirlooms were pilfered. He had to sell his sheep farm to settle his debts. Then the Nizam moved to Turkey.
In 2018, the government of India and the Nizam’s grandsons – Mukarram Jah and brother Mufakkam Jah – decided to jointly fight the case between the governments of India and Pakistan which involved a sum of £35 million. According to sources, on September 20, 1948, a day after Hyderabad’s forces had surrendered to India, the Nizam’s finance minister, Moin Nawaz Jung, transferred a sum of £1,007,490 and nine shillings to the account of Pakistan’s High Commissioner, Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola, without first taking the Nizam’s consent. The case was settled in 2019 by the UK High Court which ruled in favour of India and the Nizam’s heirs, granting them the entire £35 million.
In the 2000s the Nizam’s first wife, Princess Esra, returned to Hyderabad and restored two of the Nizam’s palaces, Chowmahalla and Falaknuma. However, family tiffs continued. He had met Esra Birgin while holidaying in Istanbul in 1958. She was the British-educated daughter of a research chemist. Much to the disappointment of grandfather Osman Ali Khan and mother Durrushehvar, the couple married secretly at the Kensington Registry Office on April 12, 1959. The relationship ended in 1974 when they had divorced.
In 2002, he received a paltry US$22 million sum in compensation from the Government of India for the ‘Jewels of the Nizams’ collection that he had tried to sell through Sotheby’s – a collection conservatively valued at half a billion dollars.
Mukarram Jah was a friend of India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Lal Nehru. He revealed in 2010 that Nehru had wanted him to become Indian ambassador to a Muslim country.
Mukarram Jah spent his last years in Istanbul. He was being looked after by a carer. He leaves behind four children. Sons Azmet, Azam and daughters Shehkar, Niloufer and Zairin Unnisa Begum.