Dear Mamas of Hyderabad

The Nizam was originally the Viceroy of the Deccan appointed by the Mughal Emperor. It was essentially a military officer through he exercised civil functions. The diwan was the other important officer next to the Nizam. He controlled all revenue functions, was appointed by the Emperor and reported directly to him. He thus provided a check on the Viceroy.

In course of time, as the Moghal Emperor grew weaker and his Viceroy stronger, the two key appointments were no longer made by the Emperor.

By the end of the 18th century, the English Governor -General came to exercise influence in the appointment of the diwan. One reason for the English interest in this was that after the dismissal of Mir Alam as the envoy of the Nizam to the East India company, the diwan, Arastu jah, took over that function also. The office of the diwan became therefore, double important for the English. Accordingly, Mir Alam was forced on the Nizam as diwan by the English as diwan by the English. His successor Munir-ul-Mulk was accepted by the English as a dummy diwan, the real power being exercised by his peshkar, Chandu Lal, a favorite of the English, who himself became the diwan later.

Between 1842 and 1853, there was a period of comparative freedom for the Nizam in the appointment of the diwan. But the former could not make up his mind and during the period as many as six diwans were appointed, there of them for periods ranging between two to five months. Pushed again by the English, the Nizam appointed Siraj -ul- Mulk in 1851. He was a man of great learning and did not seek the office. It was during his incumbency that Berar was ceded to the English in 1853. Three days later, he died, some say because of the tension caused by the cession of Berar.

The Nizam was again called upon to undertake the onerous task of filling the vacancy. For a while he thought of becoming the diwan himself. But the English did not like it. So he looked around and many names cropped up. Umdat-ul-Mulk, the eldest son of Shams-ul-Umra, the piagah noble was in and out of the court a great deal those days but then suddenly he was banned from the court. No one knew what really happened. The English papers from Bombay and Madras speculated that Bal Mukand was the most likely choice for the diwan (primeministership). I heard a lot of gossip those days about the names of the likely diwans, and watches – amused.

In a darbar, power and influence seldom flow in the official, perscribed channels. Some persons who have no position whatsoever worm their way into the ruler’s favours. The valet, the maid-in-waiting, the barer and the like, who have regular and uninterrupted access t the source of all patronage, exercise varying degrees of power and influence. A hint thrown at the right time, a suggestion dropped at a receptive moment, an insinuation made at a week juncture can swing deals, settle appointments, fix trnasfers and promotions, and even secure dismissals. The atmosphere around a court is thick with intrigues. Equations change from day to day, people move into and fall of favour from moment to moment.

At the courts of potentates around the world things are never what they seem. The strings of power are held by people who may figure nowhere in the formal power structure. One such person was Burhanuddin, an attendant of the forth and fifth Nizam would see and when. Even the diwan had to be admitted through him. The diwan also used to obtain approvals os most of his proposals through the good offices of the flunkey. Chandu Lal, the longest serving and the most powerful diwan early in the century often complained to the Resident about his difficulties with the Nizam because of Burhanuddin.

Another person was Mama Jamila, a maid-in-waiting. Mamas were an institution by themselves. They were often wet nurses to the royal children or simply maids to the royal ladies. The princes and princesses grew up under their tutelage and could seldom outgrow their influence. In Mughal history and later with the Asaf jahs, they came to play a crucial role in palace affairs. Mama Jamila become a notable figure in the 19th century court intrigues.


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