Osman Ali

Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII

Asaf Jah VII (Osman Ali Khan Bahadur; born April 6, 1886 – died February 24, 1967), was the last Nizam (or ruler) of the Princely State of Hyderabad and of Berar, a state with majority of Hindu population. He ruled Hyderabad between 1911 and 1948, until it was invaded and annexed by India. He was styled His Exalted Highness The Nizam of Hyderabad.

During his days as Nizam, he was reputed to be the richest man in the world, having a fortune estimated at $2 billion in the early 1940s. He was featured on the cover of TIME magazine, portrayed as such. It should be noted that in 1950, the newly independent Union government of India's treasury reported annual revenue of merely $1 billion. The Nizam is widely believed to have remained as the richest man in south Asia until his death in the late 1960s though his fortunes fell to $1 billion by then and became a subject of multiple legal disputes between bitterly fighting rival descendants. Adjusting for inflation, however, he today ranks as the 5th richest person in the history of the world, the wealthiest-ever Asian, the wealthiest-ever Indian and the second-wealthiest monarch in world history, with a fortune that at its high point was $210 billion (in 2008 US dollars).

He built the magnificent Hyderabad House in Delhi, now used for diplomatic meetings by the Government of India.

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.


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 United Kingdom. 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, due to his 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. His 37-year rule witnessed the introduction of 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, the 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, the Hyderabadi rupee, which was different from the rest of India. Banknotes of Hyderabad gives a good reference of the banking of that period.

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 known as State Museum, Nizamia Observatory 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. The Nizam (as well as his predecessors) have been criticised for largely ignoring the native languages in favor of Urdu.

Osman Ali donated to many institutions in India and abroad: recipients 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 issue currency notes. A 100 rupee note was introduced in 1918.

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

Osman Ali lived at King Kothi Palace—bought from a nobleman— during his entire life, after age 13. He never moved to Chowmahalla Palace not even after his accession to the throne.


After Indian independence in 1947, the country was partitioned on communal lines and Pakistan was established 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 more than 16 million people and 82,698 square miles of territory when the British withdrew from the sub-continent in 1947. The Nizam 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 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. The Nizam cited the Razakars as evidence that the people of the state were opposed to any agreement with India.

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 (zamindars), and distributing their land to the landless. Nizam was able to suppress the armed struggle.

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 in 1948. The violence resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands.

The Nizam then acceded to the Dominion of India, and 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 along linguistic lines.

Later life

Osman Ali Khan was elected to the Indian Parliament twice from Kurnool and AnantapurLok Sabha constituencies in 1957 and 1962 respectively and was member of various parliamentary committees.

Osman Ali 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. He had willed that he be buried in the Judi Mosque that faced King Kothi Palace.

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

Official name and titles

His Exalted Highness Rustam-i-Dauran, Arustu-i-Zaman, Wal Mamalik, Asaf Jah VII, Muzaffar-ul-Mulk-Wal-Mamalik, Nizam ul-Mulk, Nizam ud-Daula Nawab Mir Sir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur, Sipah Saula, Fateh Jung, Nizam of Hyderabad and of Berar, Knight Grand Commander of The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Honorable 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 24 January, 1918, the title Faithful Ally of the British Government was conferred on him.

The titles during his life were:




Further reading

  • The Splendour of Hyderabad : The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture (1591-1948 A.D.) By M.A. Nayeem ISBN 81-85492-20-4
  • The Nocturnal Court: The Life of a Prince of Hyderabad By Sidq Jaisi
  • Developments in Administration Under H.E.H. the Nizam VII By Shamim Aleem, M. A. Aleem
  • Jewels of the Nizams (Hardcover) by Usha R. Krishnan (Author) ISBN 81-85832-15-3
  • Fabulous Mogul: Nizam VII of Hyderabad By Dosoo Framjee Karaka Published 1955 D. Verschoyle, Original from the University of Michigan
  • The Seventh Nizam: The Fallen Empire By Zubaida Yazdani, Mary Chrystal ISBN 095108190X
  • The Last Nizam: The Life and Times of Mir Osman Ali Khan By V.K. Bawa, Basant K. Bawa ISBN 0670839973
  • The Seventh Nizam of Hyderabad: An Archival Appraisal By Sayyid Dā'ūd Ashraf
  • Misrule of the Nizam By Raghavendra Rao
  • Photographs of Lord Willingdon's visit to Hyderabad in the early 1930s By Raja Deen Dayal & Sons
  • Shahryār-i Dakkan by Muḥammad ʻAbdulhādī Ṣiddīqī

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