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Last To Bear the 'Nizam' Title: The Final Journey of Mukarram Jah of Hyderabad

Thousands lined up at Chowmahalla Palace, where the 8th Nizam's mortal remains were placed for public viewing.

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Video Editor: Pawan Kumar

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The lanes and bylanes surrounding Hyderabad's Chowmahalla Palace, generally bustling with activity, were particularly sombre on Wednesday, 18 January – with most shops and businesses staying shut since morning.

Thousands, meanwhile, lined up outside the palace – the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty – waiting to get one last look at the mortal remains of the titular eighth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Barkat Ali Khan Siddiqi Mukarram Jah, who passed away on 14 January in Istanbul, Turkey.

"It was his (Mukarram Jah's) last wish to be laid to rest in Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid, where his ancestors are also buried," the titular Nizam's cousin, Mohammed Shujauddin Khan, told The Quint.

"He lived most of his life away from Hyderabad, but he truly loved the city. And now, the Chowmahalla Palace doors are fully open to Hyderabadis; he would have wanted them all to say goodbye to him," he added.

Thousands lined up at Chowmahalla Palace, where the 8th Nizam's mortal remains were placed for public viewing.

Titular eighth Nizam's mortal remains were placed at Chowmahalla Palace for public viewing.

(Photo: Meenakshy Sasikumar/The Quint)

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A Final Goodbye

Barricades were set up across the sprawling mahal, so the public could easily walk toward Khilawat Mubarak, where Jah's mortal remains were placed.

Lit by 19 Belgian crystal chandeliers, Khilwat Mubarak was the throne room of the Nizams and is located at the heart of the Chowmahalla Palace. In fact, this was where Jah was crowned as the eighth Nizam of Hyderabad in 1967.

Thousands lined up at Chowmahalla Palace, where the 8th Nizam's mortal remains were placed for public viewing.

Shops in Old City were closed in mourning.

(Photo: Meenakshy Sasikumar/The Quint)

From 8 am to nearly 3 pm on Wednesday, men, women, and children walked in and out of the palace diligently – some were in tears, and others holding up their phones to document each and every second of their walk.

A group of women were also spotted sitting by the entry gates in prayer – as though someone from their own family had passed.

Hours later, after public entry into the palace was halted, hundreds gathered outside to march alongside the bier of Mukarram Jah, which was carried to the historic 17th-century Mecca Masjid, a few metres away from the palace, for burial.

In addition to his grandsons and other family members, many from the general public, too, took turns to carry the bier, showing their love and respect for the baadshah.

Thousands lined up at Chowmahalla Palace, where the 8th Nizam's mortal remains were placed for public viewing.

Mukarram Jah's mortal remains being carried to Mecca Masjid for burial.

(Photo: Meenakshy Sasikumar/The Quint)

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The Nizam Who Never Really Was

Jah was born to one of the richest families the country has ever seen. After his coronation, he inherited one of the largest fortunes in the world.

But he had nothing to rule over – in 1948, the seventh Nizam and Jah's grandfather, Mir Osman Ali Khan, was ousted by Indian Army's Operation Polo, which resulted in the annexation of the Hyderabad Princely State into the Indian Union.

And in 1971, the Indian government ended the Nizams' ruling rights, making Jah a Nizam by title or a mere name.

But according to John Zubrzycki, the author of 'The Last Nizam: The Rise and Fall of India's Greatest Princely State', Jah was quite the spender.

"Jah smuggled much of the jewellery he inherited to Geneva, where it was kept in a massive Swiss bank vault, with pieces being auctioned off for a fraction of their value to meet his constant need for cash… By 1990, Jah was unable to pay his bills," he wrote in The Wire.

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A 'Larger-Than-Life Figure'

For the people of Hyderabad, however, Jah was a "larger-than-life figure."

"I have never seen him in person. But I have always thought of him and his family as kind people," said Salma Begum, who has been working for nearly 30 years at one of the hospitals run by the Nizam's family in Hyderabad.

Khuda Hajra, a young startup employee, was also at Chowmahalla Palace to pay her last respects, but she admitted that as a Hyderabadi, she's never really felt any emotional connection with the Nizams.

"When I hear of the Nizam, he feels like a larger-than-life figure. I've also heard that he was the kindest Nizam of them all. I just wanted to pay my respects to the person whose ancestors had built this beautiful city," Hajra added.

Thousands lined up at Chowmahalla Palace, where the 8th Nizam's mortal remains were placed for public viewing.

Hyderabadis line up to bid goodbye to Mukarram Jah.

(Photo: Meenakshy Sasikumar/The Quint)

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The End of the Nizamate

With the passing of Mukarram Jah, the Nizamate of Hyderabad has officially come to an end. His funeral, therefore, saw many recalling the work of the Asaf Jahi dynasty – despite its many imperfections.

"The Nizams were the ones who developed Hyderabad in the true sense of the word. When the Princely States were merged with India after Independence, Hyderabad was the most advanced of them all," local Congress leader Feroz Khan said, addressing the media at Chowmahalla Palace.

"The Nizams built many railway stations, schools, public infrastructure, and hospitals… They had a vision."

This "vision" of the Nizams, strongly challenged by the Hindutva outfits and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today, was something that needed to be remembered, according to him.

Thousands lined up at Chowmahalla Palace, where the 8th Nizam's mortal remains were placed for public viewing.

Many gather at Mecca Masjid to witness the eighth Nizam's funeral.

(Photo: Meenakshy Sasikumar/The Quint)

The debate is especially relevant, as last September, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (then Telangana Rashtra Samithi) and the BJP locked horns over the commemoration of Hyderabad State's merger with India on 17 September 1948.

Though the Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao-led government has never observed 17 September during its rule, it changed tack after the BJP-led central government announced it would celebrate the day as Hyderabad State Liberation Day.

After Jah's death, KCR also announced he would accord state honours to the late Nizam at his funeral.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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