Nizam of Hyderabad, is Fifth on Forbes ‘All Time Wealthiest’ list of 2008 with Net Worth: 210.8 Billion USD. Bill Gates is twentieth, Net Worth: 101.0 Billion USD. This is a list of historical figures who lived during the Industrial age, Information Age, Middle Ages, Ancient world and is solely based on net worth accumulated by inheritance or personal earnings. The estimated net worth of these people is calculated into inflation-adjusted 2007 dollars, from when historical figures were at the peak of their net worth
Last Nizam of Princely State of Hyderabad and Berar, Fath Jang Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan Asaf Jah VII, was The Richest Man in the 1940s, having a fortune estimated at $2 billion. He ruled Hyderabad between 1911 and 1948 until it was made part of India as a result of Operation Polo launched by the Indian Government.
Nizam of Hyderabad even featured on the cover of TIME magazine. While rulers of other big states like Kashmir, Jodhpur Bikaner, Indore, and Bhopal were given the title of “His Excellency” (H.E.), the Nizam of Hyderabad alone had the title of “His Exalted Highness” (H.E.H.)
During the rule of Aurangzeb’s great grandson Muhammad Shah (1719-1748), the governor of Deccan was one Nizam-ul-Mulk. In 1723 he decided to carve himself a kingdom. Another Mughal functionary, Mubariz Khan had created a near independent state in Hyderabad, which was attacked by the Nizam in 1724. After forsaking his capital in Aurangabad, the Nizam moved to Hyderabad and founded the strongest independent Muslim state of the South.
Later Nizams played puppet pawns in the hands of the British and the French of Pondicherry. After French were defeated by the British, the Nizam of Hyderabad switched his allegiance to the British and ruled till Independence of India under British protection.
When India attained her Independence, and Sardar Patel was in the process of integrating India’s princely states, Jammu and Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad decided to sought accession with Pakistan or declare independence. Hyderabad was the largest of the princely states, and included parts of present-day Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra states. Its ruler, the Nizam Osman Ali Khan was a Muslim, although over 80% of its people were Hindu. The Nizam of Hyderabad kept on changing his position and Patel could take no more.
Patel ordered the Indian Army to integrate Hyderabad (in his capacity as Acting Prime Minister) when Nehru was touring Europe.The action was termed Operation Polo, in which thousands of Razakar forces had been killed, but Hyderabad was comfortably secured into the Indian Union.
Post Operation Polo, Nizam of Hyderabad had lost all its powers, and was merely a ceremonial chief of the state.
Hyderabad, over the course of seven generations of Nizams, had become the richest state of the world. However, the world related most to its seventh ruler, Mir Osaman Ali Khan who is famous for his idiosyncrasies and wealth. He negotiated with the Portuguese in the 1940s to buy Goa from them. He owned world’s grandiose treasures but lived like a pauper, smoke cheap bidhis, and wear tattered clothes.
His collection of pearls alone could fill up an Olympic size swimming pool. He gained the famous Jacob Diamond – the 400 carat diamond, double the size of the Kohinoor and world’s fifth largest, through a famous ‘Diamond Suit’ in 1892. The Jacob Diamond was later purchased by the Government of India in 1995 after a battle of 24 years with the Nizam’s trust for an estimated $13 million along with other Jewels of The Nizams, and is held at the Reserve Bank of India, Mumbai. The value of Jacob Diamond alone is 100 million pounds. The seventh and last Nizam found the duck-egg-sized diamond hidden in his father’s slippers and used it as a paperweight.
Times reported on Feb 22, 1937 – Most news stories hung on the Richest Man are chiefly chatter about how careful His Exalted Highness is with his pennies — whereas $5,000 is his approximate daily income, his jewels have an estimated value of $150,000,000, he reputedly has salted down $250,000,000 in gold bars and his capital totals some $1,400,000,000, not to mention the fabled “Mines of Golconda…
…The cash Silver Jubilee gifts to the Nizam of Hyderabad, by his subjects were expected this week to total at least $1,000,000.
Nizam’s Jewels, valued at $ 250- $ 350 million by the Sotheby’s and Christie’s, date back to early 18th century to early 20 century. Crafted in gold and silver and embellished with enameling, the jewels are set with Colombian emeralds, diamonds from the Golconda mines, Burmese rubies and spinels, and pearls from Basra and Gulf of Mannar.
While India thought they had settled all deals with the Nizams and their 200 heirs, they are back in the news.
Osman Ali Khan nominated not his son, but grandson Mukarram Jah (born in France and had Turkish mother), to be the next (and last) titled Nizam of Hyderabad. Mukarram Jah could not take the battles over his grandfather’s wealth and escaped to Australia where in spite of having the best possible education money could buy (Harrow, Cambridge, LSE, Sandhurst), he run bulldozers, married and divorced five times, one of them being former Miss Turkey. He now lives in a two room apartment in Istanbul, Turkey.
Nizam of Hyderabad is reported to have impregnated 86 of his mistresses, siring more than 100 illegitimate children and a sea of rival claimants.
However, Jah has not been able to escape it all. He has four sons and a daughter from his five wives. The eldest of them, Azmet Jah , a cameraman in Hollywood who has worked with Steven Spielberg, Richard Attenborough, Nicolas Roeg , hopes to come back to Hyderabad.
“I am determined to maintain what has been saved. We’ll not make the same mistakes again.”
India is now on its way to make a final deal with the Nizams. Today, Government of India agreed for an out-of-court settlement with Pakistan and descendants of Nizam of Hyderabad. Mir Osaman Ali Khan had on September 20, 1948 transfered one million pounds maintained in the account of the Nizam of Hyderabad’s government in National Westminster Bank to an account of Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola, the then Pakistani High Commissioner to Britain, as the Nizam dithered over which of the two new nations to join. He then cabled the bank to freeze the transaction when pressured by the government of India.
In 1957, after several rounds of litigation between the Nizam and the Pakistani government, the case reached Britain’s House of Lords, which ruled that the account could only be unfrozen with the agreement of all the parties. (Click on Picture on Right for the document).
The amount has grown to about 30 million pound sterling and New Delhi intends to broker a compromise with the two heirs of the Nizam of Hyderabad and Pakistan. Will it be easy?
Mr Muhammad Safiullah, cultural adviser to the Nizam’s Trust, said,”Mir Osman Ali Khan’s grandsons Shahmat Jah, Mufakham Jah and Mukarram Jah, granddaughter Fatima Fouzia and other family members have all staked claim to part of the funds. Since there’s no Nizam government now, the Nizam’s trust and his legal heirs will also get a part of the money. The ruler wanted to help the nascent Pakistani government in 1948 as it had no money to pay even the salaries of its employees.”
Nizam’s heirs do not wish to share the money with either India or Pakistan. “The money is ours and we alone are the legal heirs. Once the matters become clear, we will lay claim,” they say.
Almost sixty years after Independence, and 37 years after Indira Gandhi abolished the Privy Purses, our fascination with the fortunes of India’s maharajahs and nizams has not abated it seems!
Click on the picture to see some recent pictures of the royal family’s visit to Hyderabad.