Mir Osman Ali: Last Nizam of Hydrebad was the richest person of his time

History Contributor
Mir osman Ali
Photo Courtesy: Telangana Today

The Asaf Jahi dynasty, popularly known as the Nizams, of Hyderabad is stuff for legends. Nothing, however, surpasses those spun around Mir Osman Ali Khan. He was a remarkable man in many senses. Yet in a curious turn of events the glory of his dynasty ended with him. Mir Osman Ali was the last scion of a dynasty that began with Chin Qilich Kamaruddin Khan, who first became emperor Aurangzeb’s trusted governor of Deccan. Those days you can say it was roughly the whole of modern south India.

As the Mughal empire entered into its last sad chapter, Kamaruddin Khan became the first Nizam, ruler, of Hyderabad State in 1724. Thus was the Asaf Jahi Dynasty founded. At the peak of its glory this state included in it the modern Indian state of Telengana, parts of Karnataka and the Marathawada region of Maharashtra.

The true modern day ruler

Usually, empires and kingdoms head for their last rites on the shoulders of incompetent rulers. The Nizamshahi of Hyderabad was a rare exception. When Mir Osman Ali, 25, ascended the throne on August 11, 1911, Hyderabad was the largest princely state in British India. Thirty seven years later when his Nizamshahi was abruptly ended, not had the state lost nothing in terms of its expanse, roughly the size of today’s United Kingdon, but had witnessed remarkable modernization in various fields. He built the Begumpet Airport in 1930, and established British India’s first airline Deccan Airways. The Hyderabad State Bank was established by him, in 1941. He donated huge sums of money to Aligarh Muslim University and Benaras Hindu University. The last Nizam built roads, dug huge water reservoirs, established public hospitals: the list is long.

Time Magazine’s title on Mir Osman Ali

If all these were Mir Osman Ali’s public achievements, his personal glory also reached dizzying heights. In 1937 he featured on the cover of Time Magazine as the richest man in the world! I believe, Mir Osman was the only Indian to have achieved this title. And his opulence was indeed stuff for legends, best reflected in his treasury. For example, his paperweight was a 184.75-carat diamond. It was the Jacob Diamond, the fifth biggest polished diamond in the world! In 1995 the Government of India purchased it at an estimated price of $ 13 million. It is only exhibited once in a while. Many of the stories spun around Mir Osman Ali’s jewelry collection can never be verified. However, the 173 pieces of jewels that are now in the Indian government’s possession are enough to stun even richest among the rich.

It cost the government around $ 70 million to purchase these pieces. It included, for example, a 17-string Basra pearl necklace, with 465 pearls, each said to be the size of a quail’s egg! The collection includes 2000 carats of emeralds, 40 thousand chows of pearls, a necklace with 226 diamonds. They weigh about 150 carats, and had 25 thousand pieces of diamonds. It is said that Mir Osman owned more jewelry than that of all the other princely states put together. Incidentally, he had once reminisced that his paperweight, that Jacob Diamond, he had actually found studded on the toe of one his father’s shoes!


(Written by Author and Translator Nilanjan Hajra)

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