Prince Moazzam Jah and his nocturnal court

The prince’s love for poetry saw him hold poetry sessions every night at the Hill Fort palace

December 25, 2017 12:00 pm | Updated 12:01 pm IST

 Prince Moazzam Jah, with Niloufer

Prince Moazzam Jah, with Niloufer

The Nizams of Hyderabad were not the only ones known for their lavish lifestyle, even the princes in the Nizam’s family lived in great luxury surrounded by friends and sycophants. One such extravagant prince was Moazzam Jah, the second son of Mir Osman Ali Khan (1911-1948) the last Nizam of Hyderabad.

Prince Moazzam, known familiarly as Junior Prince, was born in 1907. Being his father’s favourite in the early days, Moazzam grew up with unbridled freedom and a liberal annual grant. He soon became known for indulging in all kinds of excesses. On his many frequent trips to Europe, (Paris being his favourite city)he carried at least a hundred expensive suits to flaunt; no wonder he earned the distinction of being the “Best Dressed man in Europe!”

Prince Moazzam Jah also had a great liking for poetry. With a pseudonym, Shahji he wrote ghazals and Urdu poetry, and set up a court of his own with about 30 Urdu poets drawn from various regions like Lucknow and Delhi. The uniqueness of this court was that it was conducted only at night. Every evening a posse of luxury cars sent by the prince brought members of the court, all in their best traditional attires to assemble in the Prince’s palace. The Prince occupied a central seat overlooking all courtiers. After obsequious salaams and pleasantries exchanged in hushed tones, as glasses of choicest drinks were handed over by orderlies. The Prince would then formally escort them to the dining hall where a lavish multi-course Hyderabadi meal was spread out. Dinner would end at midnight with Paan wrapped in golden foil. The courtiers are moved to the Durbar Hall where comfortable cushioned sofas awaited them. This, when even in the Nizam’s court, members would stand the entire day; the Diwan alone had the privilege of sitting in the presence of the Nizam.

The prince would set the mood by reciting a poem that he has penned, to courtiers’ loud ‘Wah Wah!’ . Gratified, the Prince would invite them to render their compositions. The ‘poets’ would vie with each other to excel in their poetic skills. The session would go on all night till the first azaan from the nearby mosque was heard early in the morning.

The beautiful Hill Fort palace, perched on the eastern slope of Naubat Pahad, opposite the Assembly Hall, was the residence of Moazzam Jah where the Junior Prince held his nocturnal court. Built in 1915 by Sir Nizamath Jung, the Chief Justice, on the model of Windsor castle in London, Hill Fort palace was sold to the Nizam in 1929. This palace was subsequently leased to run as Ritz Hotel. Another magnificent palace, facing the Hussain Sagar waters on the Begumet side, Bella Vista (that now houses Administrative Staff College of India), was the residence of his elder brother, Prince Azam Jah.

In 1931, Prince Moazzam married Princess Niloufer, the daughter of late Abdul Hamid, younger brother of the Caliph, Abdul Majjid II, the last Turkish Sultan. The Sultan, after being deposed by Mustafa Kemal Pasha in March 1924, was living in exile in France. Abdul Majjid’s own daughter Princess Durru Shehvar, on the same occasion, was married to Prince Azam Jah, the elder brother of Moazzam. Niloufer and Durru Shehvar brought much modernity to the Nizam’s household. Well educated, sophisticated and westernised, they encouraged women in Hyderabad to come out of veils. The proud Nizam, Osman Ali Khan used to accompany them to public events. Niloufer known as ‘Kohinoor of Hyderabad’, was the only person who addressed the Nizam as ‘Dad’; while his own daughters also addressed him only as ‘Sarkar’. Niloufer for a long time was the President of the Hyderabad Chapter of Indian Women Conference (IWC) a national body founded by Margaret E. Cousins. Padmaja Naidu, daughter of Sarojini Naidu was a great friend of Niloufer in Hyderabad.

An interesting anecdote reflects the contrast in the spending habits of prince Prince Moazzam and his father, Mir Osman Ali Khan, the Nizam. It was the practice of the Nizam to send his sons a new dress on their birthdays. Once when such a gift was sent, Moazzam felt the quality of cloth was inferior and the angry prince sent the suit back with the same messenger. The father todl him that he himself had a suit made of the same cloth- if it was good for the ruler, should it not be good for him? To this the prince replied, “Father, you can have the cheapest suit for you are an orphan. But remember I have still a father and he is the richest man in the world.” Highly amused, the Nizam then sent Moazzam Jah, a better suit.

Prince Moazzam’s love for poetry and his devotion to the nocturnal court life took a toll on his marital life. Niloufer complained about him to her father in law, but to no avail. Niloufer finally left Hyderabad in 1952 never to return. After divorcing Moazzam, she married an American International business executive, Edward Julius Pope and lived with him in Paris till she died in 1989. The Niloufer Hospital for Women and Children, that she helped set up is named after her.

After the merger of Hyderabad with Indian Union in 1948, the prince faced financial woes. His allowances from the Nizam were drastically cut down. In 1949, he left for Bombay where he lived till 1954 when he returned and stayed in Fern Villa, a modest house in Red Hills area.He had remarried and had six children by then. The nocturnal court virtually came to an end when he left the Hill Fort palace.

On 15 September, 1987 Moazzam passed away at 80. Only his close family was in attendance at his funeral. The Moazzam Jahi fruit market in Hyderabad built in 1936, is named after him.

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