The Nizam-English Camaraderie and the 1857 War of Independence

Suraj Palavalsa , Postgraduate Student , Pondicherry University

( Article excerpts from A. Claude Campbell’s `Glimpses of the Nizam Dominion’)

 Setting the Context

As nationalistic forces gather momentum in North-West and Central India. Territory after territory, state after state, the East India company was facing the dire consequence of their actions, their ground was slipping. The last resort happened to be the Deccan capital. In the wake of the uncertainty of events, the Hyderabad Resident, Colonel Davidson, received a telegraph from the Governor of Bombay, “If the Nizam goes, all is lost.” (Campbell 37)


The Nizams of Hyderabad have a tale to narrate about their supreme loyalty to British colonialists rather than serving the people of the land.  The princely states of colonial India have become vassals of the British East India Company and relied on them for economic and military support. Hyderabad state being the first princely Islamic state to become an official British protectorate to having close contacts and publicly proclaimed loyalty to the crown. The British Empire’s strong influence gradually undermined Hyderabad’s sovereignty, resulting in a loss of its independent status. This companionship helped the British immensely in containing the 1857 war of independence and successfully converting the occupied territories of British East India into permanent colonies of the British Empire. The history beyond 1857 would unravel the dynamics of this partnership. From the guarded production by A. Claude Campbell titled, “Glimpses of the Nizam Dominion,” the comradery of the Nizams and the Crown can be positioned in the context of the 1857 Great Indian War of Independence.

The situation mandates a brief outlay of the text in citation. Asaf Jahi VI, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan Siddiqi Bayafandi  and his court urged on the need of documenting history, and forwarded funds for the cause. This work was commissioned and published under the direct patronage of Nizam’s government.

The Nawab Sir Salar Jung

The Nizams of Hyderabad, the Sunni sect of Mahomedans, were of Tartar origin belonging to present-day Uzbekistan. The rulers were limited to seven Asaf Jahis, with a span of about 220 years.  The founder of Asaf Jahi dynasty was an army commander in Aurangzeb’s military platoon that invaded the Golkonda Fort. Due to his loyalty to the Mughal empire, he was appointed as Deccan subadar. Later taking advantage of his master’s decline in Delhi, he declared himself as King thus marking the start of Asaf Jahi dynasty in the southern region.  The Asaf Jahi dynasty inherited the economically rich diamond city Hyderabad as their capital with vast fertile land in the Deccan region.

The grandfather of Asif Jahi was an army commander. To uphold his newly occupied territory, he started finding friends to avoid possible attacks from Marathas and rebellion from locals.  Initially, they partnered with the French, and shifted their loyalties to the British East India Company. In order to save his supremacy, the Nizam chose to sign treaties with the British, who were already in bitter terms with other Indian princely states.

Salar Jung-I had a pivotal role to play in changing the course of the future of Hyderabad, which was closely interlinked with the fate of the British glory in India. The Nawab Sir Salar Jung was the Prime Minister appointed by Nazi-ud-Dowla Asaf Jah IV, who assisted the king in distorting the existing social structure of the society and imposed  British advised revenue, civil and judicial administration. Under his Prime Ministership, which spanned from 1853 to 1883, Hyderabad also bore witness to the groundbreaking mass revolt, one that had the potential to uproot all trade and non-trade connections with the East India Company in the Indian mainland. It could have proven brutal much like the Battle of Colachel did to the Dutch, except the British had Nizams on their side.

In the eyes of the British, Salar Jung was a diplomat and statesman. The British were in praise of Salar Jung’s loyalty to the Empire to sustain the sovereignty of the dynasty he served, his polymath capabilities as a scholar, writer and a politician and his aversion to dishonesty (Campbell 40, 43). Undoubtedly one can claim that Salar Jung had what it takes to rewrite the history of India, he chose to uphold his loyalty, albeit the defeat of the mutiny cost India another century of subserviency.

The 1857 Great War of Independence

All was well and in high spirits until the fate-churning year of 1857. The war was gathering momentum in North-West and Central India. During the uprising, territory after territory, state after state, the British were facing dire consequences of their actions, their ground was slipping. The last resort happened to be the Deccan capital. In the wake of uncertainty of events, the Resident, Colonel Davidson received a telegraph from the Governor of Bombay, “If the Nizam goes, all is lost.” The Resident and Salar Jung held the reins to the future of India. (Campbell 37)

Salar Jung had enough reasons to pair with the British Resident, ranging from political to personal and emotional. Amidst this critical juncture, Asaf Jah IV was ridden to his deathbed and pleaded with Salar Jung to bring his heir, and expounded his last wish to be the desire for his son to be as loyal as he was to the English (Campbell 37). Hyderabad continued as the last straw for the British and the Nizam pulled as many strings as it could to remain in favour of the British. The Nawab had the Aurangabad mutineers, who took refuge in Hyderabad, arrested and presented in front of the Resident (Campbell 38). And so, the once-majestic Hyderabad stood not as a symbol of resilience but as a cautionary tale—a reminder of the devastating consequences of subjugation, of a city betrayed by its own leaders, and of a people whose cries for freedom were drowned in the deafening silence of oppression.

Accounts of Nizam’s Faithfulness to the English

Some years past the rebellion, Major-General Hill, the chief military command in His Highness’ Dominions, would write: “These energetic measures saved Southern India, for had the people of Hyderabad risen against us, the Mahomedan population of Madras would, it was well-known at the Residency, have followed their example, and it is but just to this distinguished man that the people of England should be informed how entirely the stability of British rule in Southern India was owing to the wise and energetic measures adopted at this crisis by Salar Jung.” (Campbell 38)

In 1884, Lord Ripon became the first Indian Viceroy to visit Hyderabad. The official visit was marked with two important events at Nizam courts. One, Viceroy Ripon would install Asaf Jah VI as the Nizam of Hyderabad, giving him complete administrative powers. Two, the Viceroy in his speech would note:

 “I saw proof of your Highness’ attachment to the British Government, and of your confidence in the strength and sincerity of its friendship… My presence on this occasion is a mark, not only of the close and intimate ties which unite the ruler of this great State to the Government of the Queen Empress, but also of Her Majesty’s deep interest in the welfare of the Nizam.”  (Campbell 17)

This speech is key evidence to establish the bridge that both the parties have finessed for mutual benefit and allied interests. Viceroy Ripon did guide the Nizams on restructuring finances, and practising governance which he opined will help in retaining cordial relations with the Crown (Campbell 17,18). This association that the state and the Empire maintained would take them both a long way, in a symbiotic sense.

In 1798, the Nizam Ali Khan of Hyderabad, the second Asaf Jah entered into a subsidiary alliance with the British, making Hyderabad the first princely state to officially become a British protectorate. Since then, the Nizams have aggregated riches and credits in their names. In 1947, when the British government gave the 565 princely states of the subcontinent the choice of joining either India or Pakistan, it is hardly a wonder that Hyderabad wanted to remain an independent third dominion, an independent monarchy under the British common-wealth.


The Indian Independence Act 1947 revoked all amenities and treaties the British Crown had with all princely states, recognised only India as an independent state and signalled that any relation whatsoever that internal dominions would have would be through joining the Indian union. Nizams lost their head and tail with their most trusted ally British singlehandedly abandoning any kind of alliance. While most dominions chose to accede with the nation, Hyderabad’s last resort was to sigh at their legacy and their wayward promises to the wrong rulers. The strenuous task in the hand of the Indian diplomats was to dissuade the Nizams from continuing as an independent state, and Sardar Vallabhai Patel was in the forefront of the mission. Following communal disturbances, communist rebellion, diplomatic negotiations and an unrelenting military preparation in the Hyderabad state, “Operation Polo” of the Indian Army took centre stage of the Nizam’s fate.

To avoid the humiliating defeat and to protect his wealth and property, Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII, the last Nizam declared ceasefire, signed an accession to join India, ending the dark Islamic rule in the region.


Campbell, Claude A. Glimpses of the Nizam’s Dominions – Being an Exhaustive Photographic History of the Hyderabad State Deccan India. The Historical Publishing Co., 1898.

Chaudhuri, Nani Gopal. “THE REBELLION IN HYDERABAD IN 1857.” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, vol. 20, 1957, pp. 286–92. JSTOR.

“Operation Polo.” Historical India, Discussion. Historical India,

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