He is best remembered as the architect of modern Hyderabad. Not many know that the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, was a great poet as well. While decking up the city with breathtaking edifices and giving it an infrastructural head start, he also enriched the Urdu poetry with his contributions. But, he is often dubbed a communal bigot, and a miser, and held responsible for the atrocities committed by the Razakars.
However, a look at the rich collection of his poetry belies this image. It brings out the real persona of the last of Asaf Jahi rulers. It shows that he had a heart which bled for the poor and worked tirelessly for the welfare of the state. Surely, truth speaks for itself as Osman Ali Khan himself says aptly in a verse:
Jahan mein dekh tu Osman zara ye ghour se nukta
Haqeeqat khud ko manwaleti hai mani nahin jati
The 7th Nizam was very fond of learning and Osmania University is a testimony to his passion. He had a good grounding in English, Arabic, Persian and Urdu languages. He also acquired training in warfare and equestrian skills. He had a natural affinity towards poetry and could write both prose and poetry with ease.
What kind of a poet was he? This is best answered by Osman Ali Khan himself:
Alag hai sab se mera range mashrab aye Osman
Mureed shaikh ka hun main na baad-khwaron ka
Yes, he was a different kind of poet. He tried his hand in all genres of Urdu shayeri and gave vent to a whole range of human experiences. Basically a poet of love, he also used the verse to mirror the conditions of his times. A sad plaintive note can be detected in his ghazals. Osman Ali Khan had the unique talent of expressing profound truths of life in simple words. He used traditional imagery to strike a chord in hearts. Sample these verses:
Hamari jaan gaiee teri dil-lagi theri
Sikhaya kis ne ada ko teri qaza hona
Naaz-o-ada se aap ka aana to dekhiye
Tazeem ko khadi hai qiyamat bhi rah mein
The Nizam also penned poetry with mystical overtones. This hamd brings out his deep religiosity like nothing else:
Dil ko Khuda ne apni muhabbat se bhar diya
Tasbeeh ko zaban di, sajde ko sar diya
Osman ye iska fazl hai tujh par ke be-sawal
Nemat se apni damane maqsood bhar diya
A collection of his poetry titled Kalame Asif Jah was published by the Nizam Urdu Trust Library. The 300-page book has his Urdu and Persian poetry. Osman Ali Khan availed the services of master poet, Jaleel Manikpuri and, later, conferred on him the title of ‘Fasahat Jung’. Interestingly, the latter was also the mentor to his father, the sixth Nizam, Mir Mahbub Ali Khan.
The Persian poem written by the deposed ruler on January 26, 1950, hailing India becoming a Republic sheds light on yet another side of the Nizam. Having refused to merge his princely Hyderabad State into the Indian Union, hailing its transition into a republic took many by surprise. The 16-line Persian nazm composed by him hurriedly shows his expertise and also his political sagacity. The Nizam did not bemoan his lost glory but wholeheartedly embraced the political changes without qualms.
As a Raj Pramukh, he attended the first Republic Day festivities at Public Garden and then drove to his King Kothi palace to put down the thoughts uppermost in his mind in the form of a poem. He did not remain content just composing the poem but got it translated into English by well-known educationist, Sir Nizamat Jung. Later, he forwarded it to the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, with a request to get it published in prominent English newspapers in the country. Pandit Nehru is stated to have suggested the publication of both the Persian poem along with its English translation. Here is the well-known Persian nazm and its English version:
What splendour for our eyes – suspicious, fair!
What fragrance wafted on the morning air!
The tidings that from Delhi’s wails rang wide
Brought solace to all hearts, and joy and pride
To hearts released from bonds of caste and race –
Yeah, hearts that only bend before God’s Grace.
How wondrous is the bond of Love! No heart
Disowns the spell it works by mystic art.
“Karbalas’ martyrdom” – love’s glorious meed –
proclaims what blessings crown the pure heart’s creed
’Tis not the throned seat, the waving plume;
The heart’s the throne that golden deeds illume.
The feast’s prepared, the sparkling bowl o’erflows!
What joyous strains towards thee the Zephyr blows!
The new Dawn’s greetings, “OSMAN”, rich and strange,
And the four quarters hail the promised change!
A ruler with lyrical prowess, Osman Ali Khan was proud of the progress made by the Hyderabad State under his 37-year rule. In just two lines, he beautifully sums up the rich legacy and the prominence gained by Deccan under the Asif Jahs thus:
Ye dunya kehti hai sadaqat ki qasm khakar
Urooj o shaan o shoukat mein zara mulk Deccan dekho