Mahbub Ali Pasha and the Viceroy - By Late Bilkees Latif

Sometime before the Viceroy’s grand Durbar was held in Delhi in 1903, one of Queen Victoria’s sons, the Duke of Connaught, visited Hyderabad. The Duke and the sixth Nizam (popularly known as Mahbub Ali Pasha) got on quite well, and on his departure, the Duke asked the Nizam what he could do for him. The Nizam replied that on his forthcoming visit to Delhi for the Durbar to which the Viceroy had invited all the rulers of the Princely States, he would like to go on elephant from the railway carriage through the station, and into the town. The Duke said that he would arrange this. Later, the Viceroy refused to allow this, as he had already ruled that no elephants were permitted inside a railway station.

When the Nizam arrived in Delhi with his retinue, he found no elephant waiting near the carriage. He was told that it could not be brought inside the station. The Nizam just relaxed and played cards in his comfortable railway saloon parked at the station. Trains with other rulers kept arriving, but could not get to the station platform as the Nizam’s train was blocking the way. Eventually, after several days during which the other rulers were fretting and fuming while they waited impatiently, an elephant was sent in for the Nizam, who then rode off into town on it!

At the Durbar, Viceroy Lord Curzon had decided to garland each royal visitor. The first ruler to be garlanded was the Nizam. He, however, held up the sword that he carried for ceremonial occasions and didn’t bend his head to receive the garland. The Viceroy said that he was supposed to put the garland over the Nizam’s head. However, Mahbub Ali Pasha had been unhappy about the British, whom he felt had used various ways to dominate him, and had also managed to annex the districts of Berar. This had been negotiated by Lord Curzon, and the Nizam resented it. He therefore replied that as he was at the Durbar to assure the ruler of his faithfulness, it was right for him to present his sword – which was always available from him and from his successor and was thus a permanent symbol of loyalty – rather than his head, which was easily dispensable. The Viceroy gave him a long look but the Nizam stood as he was without bending his head. And so the Viceroy hung the garland on his upturned and steady sword.