A Talented Minister and a Poet Par Excellence - Maharaja Peshkar Sir Kishen Pershad Bahadur [1864-1940]

“Mai hoon Hindu; Mai hoon Musalmaan; Har mazhab hai mera imaan; Shaad ka mazhab Shaad hi jaane; Azaadi sirf azaad hi jaane.” (“I am a Hindu, I am a Muslim, and all religions are mine; Only Shaad knows his religion, just as only the free souls know freedom”.)

These were the words spoken by Maharaja Peshkar Sir Kishen Pershad Bahadur who was known by the title of `Yamin-as-Sultanat’ and also wrote his poems with the nom-de-plume of `Shaad’. He was born on New Year’s Day in 1864 and grew up to be a Maharaja as well as a courtier during the rule of the Asaf Jahi Nizams. He served in the capacity of a Prime Minister of Hyderabad State, twice during his illustrious career; once from 1902-1912 and again from 1926-1937. He was knighted and conferred the rank of GCIE (Grand Commander of the Indian Empire) in 1910.

Maharaja’s Lineage

Maharaja Kishen Pershad Bahadur descended from the line of Raja Todar Mal, who was the acclaimed finance minister of the great Moghal Emperor, Jalaluddin Akbar. One of his ancestors was the famous Rai Mulchand, who was the fifth descendant from the line of Todar Mal. Mulchand had been a companion of Asaf Jahi kings during their invasion of the Deccan Kingdom.

Kishen Pershad’s father was Hari Kishen. He became son-in-law of Raja Narender Bahadur, who was a grandson of Maharaja Chandulal – he served as Deputy Prime Minister between 1832 and 1842. Originally, Kishen Pershad was named Purshottam Dass. This was a chronogram drawn up for him and he went on to be known as was Farzand-e-Farkhunda (the fortunate son) when he was born in 1864.

Kishen Pershad was young when his father passed away. He was brought up by Raja Narender Bahadur. He received training in various languages from a very young age. He learnt Farsi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Hindi, Gurumukhi and English. He also became skilled in the field of martial arts.  His younger days were spent mainly in the company of Mahboob Ali Khan Pasha, Asaf Jah VI, Laiq Ali and Yusuf Ali Khan, Salar Jung II. They studied together at Purani Haveli in the Old City of Hyderabad.

Offices held by the Peshkar Maharaja

In 1892, Kishen Pershad Bahadur was appointed as the Peshkar or the Deputy Minister to Asaf Jah VI. A decade later, he was made the Prime Minister of the Hyderabad State and he governed till 1912. Again, in 1926, he succeeded Nawab Wali-ud-Dowla to become the Prime Minister and the President of the Executive Council from 1926 to 1937. He resigned on account of poor health. During the period of his governance, Maharaja Kishen Pershad also happened to serve as a Chancellor of the Osmania University.

A Multi-Faceted Noble

He was a multi-faceted noble and an accomplished poet, a calligraphist and a reputed scholar of Farsi, Urdu and Arabic languages. He will always be popularly remembered as a fine poet. He used a nom-de-plume of `Shaad’ – a word that means `blissful’ in the Farsi language. The frontline nobility in Hyderabad those days considered him to be the finest writer of that time and hailed him as a great assimilator of the Ganga-Jamuni culture. His beliefs and his cosmopolitan ideas brought about his stamp on the society as a champion of communal integration.

As a powerful and a just noble and statesman of Hyderabad, his life spanned almost two centuries. He saw through the golden period of Hyderabad in terms of administration and governance in this State. He travelled extensively throughout the country. He developed fondness for painting later on in life and added fine arts to his distinguished list of hobbies that he pursued in his life. Once during his visit to Lahore, He became friends with the famous poet, Dr. Mohammad Iqbal.

Maharaja’s Palace in the Old City became well known for holding Mushairas (gathering of Urdu poets). During these Mushairas, many poems were recited, some of them were written by the Maharaja himself with the title of `Shaad’ along with some notable poems by Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII who had become Nizam of Hyderabad in 1911. His palace, `Shaad Mansion’, saw days of real glory in its heydays. There were two huge lion statues kept at the main gate of his palace.

Maharaja Kishen Pershad also wrote travelogues, prose and authored more than sixty pamphlets and books. Nawab Mehdi Nawaz Jung served as Kishen Pershad’s secretary and later acknowledged in his memoirs that one of the outstanding virtues possessed by the Maharaja was his passion for charity. It has been noted that he gave away almost three hundred rupees every day towards charity.  Whenever he went out in his car, he had bagfuls of coins which he threw out to poor people after making sure that he asked his driver to take him to selected poor communities and localities.

His Secular Outlook

Kishen Pershad was highly secular in his views. He had seven wives – three of them were Hindus and four were Muslims. He had, in all, thirty children with them. The children who were born of Muslim women were given proper Muslim names and were brought up as Muslims and those children who were out of the Hindu marriages were given training in proper Hindu rituals. In the whole of Hyderabad State, you would rarely come across an example of a personage like the Maharaja who allowed his children to follow the faiths of their mothers and not of the father. He was not too fond of the monogamous concept in life. It looks like he was following the tradition of the Moghal emperors before him and of King Solomon of the Hebrews.

He was held in high acclaim among all communities. Maharaja Kishen Pershad Bahadur died in 1940. He was seventy six years of age, then. In Mehboobnagar District, a town was named after the Maharaja. It is still known as `Shaadnagar’.