Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Jewels of the Nizam of Hyderabad

The Asaf Jahs of Hyderabad led extravagant lives that can only be found in fairy tales. It was a decadent lifestyle maintained by 14,000 staff members, including 3,000 Arab body guards, 40 chandelier dusters, 30 water fetchers and several servants whose sole privilege was to crack the Nizam’s walnuts.

Nizam, shortened from Nizam-ul-Mulk, meaning Administrator of the Realm, was the title of the sovereigns of Hyderabad State, since 1724, belonging to the Asaf Jah dynasty.
Hyderabad was the largest and most prosperous of all princely states in India. It covered 82,698 square miles (214,190 km2) of territory and had a population of roughly 16 million people of which a majority (85%) was Hindu. Hyderabad State had its own army, airline, telecommunication system, railway network, postal system, currency and radio broadcasting service.
Seven Nizams ruled Hyderabad for two centuries until 1947. The leaders of the new Indian Union did not want an independent - and possibly hostile - state in the heart of their new country, and were determined to assimilate Hyderabad into the Indian Union, by force if necessary. In September 1948, in Operation Polo, the Indian Army marched into Hyderabad, deposed the Nizam, and annexed the state into the Indian Union.

On 22 February 1937 a cover story by TIME called Osman Ali Khan, Asif Jah VII the wealthiest man in the world
The last Nizam was the ruler of India's largest princely state - the size of Scotland and England combined - and was the richest man in the world until he died, aged 80 in 1967.

India has finally agreed to begin negotiating a settlement between the Nizam's 470 bickering descendants over cash he left in a London bank 66 years ago. The Nizam had deposited £1 million in a high street bank account in 1948 just before his kingdom was taken over by India while he pondered letting his southern state become part of Pakistan.

The Nizam's 173-piece jewellery collection, which was guarded by eunuchs during his lifetime, had an estimated worth of £2billion - but it was bought by the Indian government in 1995 for the bargain basement price of £33m. The most famous jewel in it is the Jacob diamond, the size of an ostrich egg that weighs 184.79 carats. The Nizam wrapped it in newspaper and used it as a paperweight.