Skip to main content

The Hyderabad Political System and its Participants

  • Karen Leonard

Differing both in structure and operation from its parent Mughal model, the political system which came to be known as Hyderabad State developed in the Deccan in the second half of the eighteenth century. The major structural difference lay in the great power of two hereditary daftardars, the keepers of the central revenue records—these men could usurp the Diwan's (Chief Minister's) traditional control of government finances. Without overemphasizing contrasts with the Mughal model, for few behavioral studies have been made of Mughal administration, other apparent differences lay in Hyderabad's complete reliance on private contractors for revenue collection, the customary treatment of jagirs (land grants) as inheritable, and clear functional distinctions within the mansabdari system. Loosely structured patron-client relationships and the use of vakils or intermediaries characterized the operation of the system. The participants—nobles, local rulers, military men, bankers, record-keepers—were of diverse origins. The recruitment and composition of the Hyderabad nobility reflected the flexibility of the political system, as illustrated by an examination of the career patterns of the acknowledged “ten leading families” of the Hyderabad nobility.

Hide All

1 Khan, The First Nizam, 118, 175. Nizam ul-Mulk was called to fight the Marathas further north in 1719; to be vazir of the empire in 1722; and to fight the Marathas and serve as vakil-i mutlaq (vazir) again in 1737.

2 Khan, The First Nizam, 94–96 (in 1719) and 129–132 (in 1723). In 1740 he left at his own request, which was sanctioned later (p. 200).

3 Khan, The First Nizam, 111 (in 1719) and 137 (in 1724).

4 Khan, The First Nizam, 115, 146–148.

5 See the footnote in Khan, The First Nizam, 132.

6 L'al, Makhan, Tarikh-i Yadgar-i Makhan L'al (Hyderabad, n.d.), 143144. The original Persian manuscript of this work was written in the 1820's.

7 Briggs, Henry George, The Nizam. His History and Relations with the British Government (London, 2 vols., 1861), I, 141. The Padshahi Diwan is not mentioned after 1759 in the Persian diary kept by one of the state record offices (the Daftar-i Diwani) and published in translation by the Central Records Office Hyderabad Government: The Chronology of Modern Hyderabad, 1720–1890 (Hyderabad, 1954).

8 This statement is based on a comparison of the entries to 1780 in Chronology of Modern Hyderabad (about the first 60 pages) with the entries for the later period.

9 Briggs, The Nizam, I, 36–37. See Regani, Nizam-British Relations, 52, 55, for instances of local choice of a successor and eventual Mughal confirmation. This was so in the case of Salabat Jung's succession to the subahdar position, for example.

10 There has been no definitive work on eighteenth century political theory in India. But looking at the functional rather than the symbolic relationship, I have called Hyderabad independent.

11 The Circars were ceded to the French by Salabat Jung in 1753, and to the English by the Mughal emperor in 1765 and by Nizam Ali Khan in 1766. Regani, Nizam-British Relations, 71–72 and 130–131.

12 From the time of Nizam ul-Mulk, the Nizam's right to appoint the Nawab of the Carnatic was challenged by others. The challengers included the Marathas, the French, the English, various Pathan Nawabs, and factions within Hyderabad, the Carnatic, and Delhi. The Nawab of Arcot was proclaimed independent of the Nizam in a treaty between the Nizam and the English in 1768. Regani, Nizam-British Relations, 2–3, 18–62, 135.

13 Ali, B. Sheik, British Relations with Haidar Ali (1760–1782) (Mysore, 1963), 2.

14 Rao, Eighteenth Century Deccan, x.

15 Moreland characterized the Mughal nobility as a consuming class marked by “profitless expenditure” and “extravagance and waste.” See chapter III, “The Consuming Classes” in Moreland, W. H., India at the Death of Akbar (Delhi, 1962), particularly pages 87–88.

16 L'al, Makhan, Tarikh-i Yadgar-i Makhan L'al (Hyderabad, n.d.), 6171 contains numerous examples of such shifting in these brief biographies.

17 This conclusion is based primarily on the numerous examples of patron-client relationships throughout L'al, Yadgar; and throughout The Chronology of Modern Hyderabad, 1720–1890 (Hyderabad, 1954).

18 The vakils of the Nawab of Arcot employed local men to supervise the Nawab's jagirs outside the city and his nearby gardens and to attend to the tombs of his relatives and associates in the city. Details of these jobs appear in letters in the private collection of Dr. Muhammad Ghaus of Madras, in a file tentatively numbered 32: Persian Correspondence on behalf of the Nawabs of Arcot to their Vakils in Hyderabad, 1802–1857.

19 These grants are listed in Jagirdaran o In'amdaren Subajat-i Dakan, 1198 H. [1784], Persian manuscript number 1015.4 in the India Office Library in London.

20 L'al, Yadgar, 61–71. This section gives brief biographies of the Hindu nobles of Hyderabad, several of whom were originally vakils of outside powers.

21 This generalization is based on the incidence of entries in L'al, Yadgar; Jagirdaran o In'amdaran (1784); and The Chronology of Modern Hyderabad.

22 In 1807 a farman or order from the Mughal emperor to the Nizam was presented to him by the British resident. The Chronology of Modern Hyderabad, 110.

23 The term is commonly used in South India both for the residence of a person of rank and for a noble family or royal family as well. H. H. Wilson, A Glossary of Judicial and Revenue Terms and of Useful Words Occurring in official Documents Relating to the Administration of the Government of British India (London, 1855), 458.

24 Only the rulers of Paloncha and Sholapur were Brahmins. The rulers of Amarchinta, Gadwal, and Wanparty were Reddis; the ruler of Anagondi was a Razu; the ruler of Jatprole was a Telaga Balaja.

25 The historical background of the samasthans can be found in Mudiraj, K. Krishaswamy, Pictorial Hyderabad (Hyderabad, 2 vols., 1929 and 1934), II, 618645.

26 Details such as the year of confirmation and its terms can be found in L'al, yadgar, 143; Bilgrami, Syed Hussain and Willmott, C., Historical and Descriptive Sketch of the Nizam's Dominions (Bombay, 2 vols., 1883), I, 128; and Government of India, Imperial Gazetteer of India Provincial Series Hyderabad State (Calcutta, 1909), 296 on.

27 For information about the financial communities, see Khan, Ghulam Husain, Gulzar-i Asafiyah (Hyderabad, 1308 H. [1890–91]), 622632 (about the bankers of Begum Bazar and Karwan) and Mudiraj, Pictorial Hyderabad, II, 433–440, 474–508.

28 For information about these and other military units see L'al, Yadgar, 171–174, and Khan, Gulzar-i Asafiyah, 478–492.

29 The best source for Raymond is Sir J. Sarkar, “General Raymond of the Nizam's Army,” Islamic Culture (Hyderabad), VII (1933), no. 1, 95–113.

30 Brief biographies of some of these (Finglas, Piron, Boyd, and Raymond too) are included in the appendix of Herbert Compton, A Particular Account of the European Military Adventurers of Hindustan from 1784–1803 (London, 1892).

31 A good basic discussion of the Mughal system appears in Jadunath Sarkar, Mughal Administration, 5th ed. (Calcutta, 1963). Most of the administrative terms used in Hyderabad and the functions they denoted were identical to those in the Mughal system.

32 The Daftar-i Diwani was connected with the Rae Rayan family, traditionally from 1750: Ghulam Samdani Khan, Tuzuk-i Mahbubiyah (Hyderabad, 2 vols., 1319 H. [1902]), II (Nobles), 17. The family's first jagir grant recorded was in 1168 P. [1758–59] in the jagir register: Rejister Asnad-i jagir, vol. I no. 12 serial number 101/12. This register is in section R2 of the Andhra Pradesh State Archives. The Daftar-i Mal was connected with a Kayasth family. Its founder is listed as sardaftar (head of the office) in a 1760–61 entry in the above Rejister Asnad-i Jagir, vol. I no. 11 serial number 113/12. For this family also see Daftar-i Mal Jagir Rejister, “naqul-i asnad-i Shiv Raj,” file no. 66 of 1342 F. [1932–33] which is also in section R2 of the Andhra Pradesh State Archives.

33 Ra'o, Manik Ra'o Vithal, Bustan-i Asafiyah (Hyderabad, 7 vols., 1327 H to 1350 H [1909–32]), I, 148149.

34 Ra'o, Bustan-i Asafiyah, I, 149–152. A list of the taluqdars and their assignments in the early nineteenth century appears in L'al, Yadgar, 84–90.

35 Such intermediaries held a variety of rights in the recording and collection of land revenue. Such men were recognized by the current ruler, in this case the Nizam, and they worked with officials appointed from above. They could move up into the central administration through these contacts. See Habib, Irfan, The Agrarian System of MughalIndia (New York, 1963), 288292 and Hasan, S. N., “Zamindars in the Mughal Empire,” Indian Economic and Social History Review (Delhi), I and IV.

36 This generalization is based on tracings of families in the volumes of Rejister Asnad-i Jagir and in Jagirdaran o In'amdaran [1784]; also on collected Kayasth family histories and histories printed in biographical collections such as Ghulam Samdani Khan, Tuzuk-i Mahbubiyah, II.

37 Ali, N. Athar, The Mughal Nobility Under Aurangzeb (New York, 1966), 2629, 173–174.

38 The nobility of the Mughal Empire has generally been defined by mansab rank alone. Sarkar considered holders of zat mansabs of 500 and above to be nobles, while holders of zat mansabs of 3000 and above were the highest nobles or umra-i 'azzam: Sarkar, Jadunath, Short History of Aurangzib, 3rd ed. (Calcutta, 1967), 453. Athar Ali considers holders of zat mansabs of 1000 and above to be nobles, while holders of zat mansabs of 5000 and above were the highest nobles: M. Athar Ali, Mughal Nobility, 27; and also his article, “Foundation of Akbar's Organization of the Nobility—An Interpretation,” Medieval India Quarterly (Aligarh), III (1958), nos. 3 and 4, 290.

39 Athar Ali, Medieval India Quarterly, III, nos. 3 and 4, 298.

40 See the way mansabdars are listed in L'al, Yadgar, from 118 and particularly after 155 for those on the lowest level. The generalization about military and civil officials is based on collected biographies and on the ten umra-i azzam or high est noble families of Hyderabad which will be discussed later.

41 A good example of this is the career of the Bansi Raja Saksena Kayasth family. This family gradually acquired posts and mansabs and finally reached noble status with the award of a high zat rank and a savar rank and titles and other distinctions. The process took five generations, from 1760 to 1884.

42 For example, the successive heads of the two daftars or record offices inherited the same jobs and salaries as their predecessors, but their mansab ranks varied according to each individual's standing with the current Nizam.

43 In L'al, Yadgar, mansab ranks are indeed listed under the heading “titles and awards …” (page 118). This list includes privileges like the right to a kettle drum escort, a band escort, a palenquin, and titles and mansab ranks.

44 These ten families are those of Raja Rao Rumbha, Shauket Jung Hissam ud-daula, Salar Jung, Rukn ud-daula Khan-i Dauran, the Paigahs, Raja Rae Rayan, the Malwalas, Shar Yar ul-Mulk, Fakhr ul-Mulk Hisam ul-Mulk, and Maharaja Chandu Lal.

45 These were the Malwala family, the family of Chandu Lal, and, in the nineteenth century the family of Shaukat Jung.

46 Often the families in civil administration with relatively low mansabs did compensate by having large jagirs. The best example here is the Malwala Kayasth family, which held substantial jagirs from 1760—yet no family member ever held a zat mansab over 4500.

47 The transition was often indirect. Many moved from the sultanates of Golconda and Bijapur to the Maratha, Mughal, or even Mysore services before joining the Nizam's service. Some moved from the Marathas to the Mughals to the Nizam, or from the Mughals to the Nawab of Arcot to the Nizam.

48 This generalization is based on the references throughout Khan, Yusuf Husain, The First Nizam (Bombay, 1963).

49 See the family history by Rshvant Ra'o, Tarikh-i Khandan-i Rajah Ra'o Rumbha Jivant Bahadur Nimbhallfer (Hyderabad, 1311 H. [1893–94]).

50 See the account in Ghulam Samdani Khan, Tuzuk-i Mahbubiyah, II (Nobles), 235–242.

51 A good example of this development is the family of Raja Gopal Singh Gaur, a Rajput appointed as qilahdar, or commander of the fort, of Qandhar. This Rajput noble family was prominent in the eighteenth century but resided at Qandhar and was not influential in the nineteenth century. Khan, Samsam-ud-daula Shah Nawaz and Abdul-Haqq, , trsl. Beveridge, H., The Masthir-ul-umara, 2nd ed. (Calcutta, 1941), I, 593594; Jagirdaran o In'amdaran [1784], folios 70 and 71; The Chronology of Modern Hyderabad, entries covering 1774–1790, 48, 59, 60, 63, 64, 66, 89; L'al, Yadgar, entries on 101, 160, 164, 165, 78, 86, 90–92; Muhammad Sayyid Ahmed, Umra-i Hinud (Aligarh, 1910), 312.

52 This was true of the two Daftardar families and of Maharaja Chandu Lal. Chandu Lal's family held the post of peshkar of customs until he assumed the post of acting Diwan in the early nineteenth century, and then titles, increased mansab ranks, and finally jagirs were granted to family members. Chandu Lal, 'Ishratkudah-i Afaq (Hyderabad, 1325 H. [1907]). His family was the last of the ten to attain nobility.

53 The best family history is by Muhammad Nadir 'Ali Bartar, Khandan-i Rajah Ra'o Rayan Amanatvant (Hyderabad, n.d.).

54 The best account of this family is in Shiv Narayan Saksenah, Kayasth Sajjan Contra (Jaipur, 3 vols., 1912–1913), II, 1–32.

55 Malik, Zahiruddin, “Nizam-u'1-Mulk at the Court of Muhammed Shah (1721–1724,” Medieval India Quarterly, V (1963), 120132; Irvine, W., Later Mughals (Calcutta, 2 vols., 1922), chapter XI.

56 Khan, Tuzuk-i Mahbubiyah, II (Nobles), 1–6. See the family history by Tej Ra'o, Sahifah-i Asman Jahi (Hyderabad, 1321 H. [1904–05]).

57 The origin of the Hyderabad Shias has been disputed. One author states that they served with the Golconda sultanate: Siddiqui, A. M., History of Golcunda (Hyderabad, 1956), 345. Another states that earlier Deccani Shia families did not survive: Briggs, Henry GeorgeThe Nizam (London, 2 vols., 1861), I, 118. This apparent contradiction is perhaps due to Briggs failure to notice that Shia families coming directly from the Mughal, Mysore, and other services had previously been connected with the Bijapur of Golconda sultanates. But the families I have traced were all connected with Bijapur and not Golconda; Khan, Tuzuk-i Mah-bubiyah, II (Nobles), 179–181 for Shah Yar ul-Mulk; 305–306 and 429–430 for Fakr ul-Mulk; and 235–242 for the Mir Alam branch of Salar Jung's family.

58 See footnote 44.

59 The families of Chandu Lal and Salar Jung, whom the English took to be long-established premier nobles, actually achieved and reestablished (respectively) noble status chiefly through their success in dealing with the British Resident. In the early nineteenth century the influence of the Resident was a serious threat to Hyderabad, and their effectiveness as intermediaries elevated them within the Nizam's Court.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-9118
  • EISSN: 1752-0401
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-asian-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed