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Chin Qalich Khan, the warrior and the statesman.

2024 marks the 300th anniversary of Shakerkhera (Fateh Khera) and the formal establishment of the Asaf Jahi state by Mir Qamar-ud-din, Chin Qilich Khan Bahadur Fateh Jang Asaf Jah I

A portrait of Nizam Ul Mulk Asaf Jah I, Deen Dayal Collections.

In January 1719 (16th Safar 1131 AH), Mughal Emperor Farukhsiyar (1713-1719) unexpectedly stripped Nizam-ul-Mulk Fateh Jung of his Chakla of Moradabad, which fell under the subah of Delhi, and conferred it upon Itimad Khan. This dispossession was a direct attack on the prestige of any noble, and Nizam-ul-Mulk, a man of unparalleled stature in the top echelons, was deeply affected.

The infamous Syed brothers, Syed Hasan Ali Khan Barah and Syed Hussain Ali Khan, known for their notorious disposition, were behind the scenes. On February 7, 1719, the Nizam was transferred to Malwa without his consent and against his will, further escalating tensions. The old nobility, who stood up against the Syed brothers' conduct, saw this as a mischievously calibrated policy meant to antagonize, provoke, implicate, and seize dissenting nobles by surprise.

Nizam-ul-Mulk, officiating his gubernatorial powers from Malwa, had his eyes set on Dekhan. On April 28, 1720, he took possession of the fort of Asirgarh, gathering evidence to punish Dilawar Ali Khan, deputy of Syed Alam Ali Khan, nephew of Amir-ul-Umara Syed Hussain Ali Khan, his bitter enemy. The tensions culminated in a fierce battle on June 9, 1720, in Hasanpur village of Handiya sarkar, resulting in Nizam-ul-Mulk's victory and his return to Burhanpur. In the aftermath of the conflict, an enraged Alam Ali Khan, deputy of Subahdar Amir-ul-Umara, rushed to Burhanpur, only to meet his demise in another intense battle fought on July 31, 1720, at Balapur Village.

Meanwhile, Nizam-ul-Mulk subtly began to exert his influence over the government

of Dekhan. As fate would have it, Mohammed Shah Rangeela (1719-1748) ascended to the throne, and with Nizam-ul-Mulk's help, the emperor was able to rid himself of the Syed brothers' menace. In gratitude, the office of grand Wazir was conferred upon Nizam-ul-Mulk. The new Wazir, driven by his passion for Dekhan and a desire for revenge against the appointees of the Syeds, took bitter interest in scrutinizing the administration of Dekhan. His efforts uncovered significant lapses and exposed the manipulation of accounts by Mubariz and his associates, who had long been acting as Na’zim of Haidarabad. Nizam-ul-Mulk ensured that all fresh Inam Sifaresh (grant pleadings) related to the subah of Dekhan were rejected by the emperor, frustrating Mubariz and his

associates, and renewing hostilities.

However, as Nizam-ul-Mulk's power grew, jealous nobles at Delhi began to intrigue against him, drawing parallels with the Syeds' era. In 1723, Nizam-ul-Mulk was abruptly transferred to Awadh, and in 1724, the entire Dekhan region was placed under Mubariz Khan's control. In protest, Nizam-ul-Mulk rebelled and feigned a move towards Moradabad, but instead, he marched towards Dekhan, marking the beginning of a new chapter in his campaign.

The Event:

Khwaja Muhammad, in the course of his career became Mubariz Khan Shahamat Jung Imad-ul-Mulk. 1713 marked the inception of his distinguished career in Haidarabad. As Na’zim, Nawab Mubariz Khan wielded absolute authority over the subah of Haidarabad, his iron-fisted rule culminating in his appointment as deputy to Mughal Prince Shahriyar Shah in Dekhan. However, the sudden transfer in 1723 and the ensuing defiance sparked a bold move by Nizam-ul-Mulk, who marched into Dekhan through Burhanpur, his sight resolutely set on the beloved city of Haidarabad, a testament to his unyielding determination and unwavering resolve.

On February 14, 1724, Emperor Muhammed Shah issued a special decree, ordering Mubariz to thwart Nizam-ul-Mulk's ambitions in Haidarabad. However, Nizam-ul-Mulk settled in Aurangabad in August, leveraging his old connections forged under Aurangzeb to assemble a formidable force and provisions, readying himself for combat. Mubariz attempted to confront Nizam-ul-Mulk but halted 60 kos away(1 kos is a little over 3kms)., citing heavy rains as an excuse. Aware of Nizam's military prowess, Mubariz's father-in-law, intervened with emperor Mohammed Shah issuing a Farman directing Mubariz to proceed to Azimabad Patna, his new posting while simultaneously instructed Nizam-ul-Mulk to comply. Mubariz retreated northwards towards Burhanpur, a move perceived as a

defeat. Poets captured the moment in a chronogram, "Dar Gaya Mubariz Khan," meaning "Mubariz was frightened," corresponding to the year 1724. However, the copy of Nizam-ul-Mulk’s Farman arrived late, and Mubariz had already been intercepted, leading to a fierce battle at Shaker Khera, 80 miles from Aurangabad. The battle saw Baji Rao lead 7,000-8,000 Maratha troops in support of Nizam-ul-Mulk, while Amin Khan Dekhani, the Qiledar of Elgandal by the side of Mubariz, fought against his son, Nawab Muqarrab Khan, who stood by Nizam-ul-Mulk.

23 Muharram 1137 Hijri, the brave commanders, including Mubariz, laid down their lives, and their souls departed. The martyrs were laid to rest on the battlefield, and Nizam-ul-Mulk, in a gesture of triumph, renamed Shaker Khera as Fateh Khera, or "Victory Ground." He then returned to Aurangabad, where he celebrated his hard-won victory with grandeur and pomp, bestowing honors and ranks upon his loyal companions.

As Nizam-ul-Mulk's authority grew, most dependencies of Haidarabad voluntarily submitted to his rule. Without delay, he marched towards Haidarabad, arriving on January 14, 1725. Khwaja Ahmed Khan, son of Mubarriz Khan, surrendered the fort of Golconda, and Nizam-ul-Mulk, in a display of clemency, pardoned him and restored his titles.

Having secured all strategic regions around his territory, Nizam-ul-Mulk took a moment to pen a detailed letter to Emperor Mohammed Shah. In this forceful submission, he defended his actions and reaffirmed his unwavering loyalty to the throne of Delhi. With astute diplomacy, he emboldened the blame for the recent tumultuous events onto the sinister influences of malevolent advisors who had surrounded the successive emperors, thereby absolving himself of any culpability.

The throne room in Naukhanda where Nizam ul Mulk was coronated. PC: Sibghat Khan

Summoned to Delhi, he was heard and pardoned on June 25, 1725. The government of Haidarabad and six governorates were confirmed under his rule, although he relinquished control of Gujarat, Ahmadabad, and Malwa which was transferred to Sarbuland khan Mubariz ul Mulk. Since Aurangzeb's conquest of Dekhan, Aurangabad had served as the Mughal capital of the region, assuming a position of superiority and convenience over Haidarabad. As the headquarters, Aurangabad offered a strategic location from which the administration could function uninterrupted, Naukhanda palace emerged as the epicenter of power, solidifying its status as the seat of authority.

The Naubatkhana of the Naukhanda Palace, Aurangabad.

Nizam-ul-Mulk wielded absolute sovereignty, bestowing offices, titles, and ranks with impunity. However, he refrained from deploying a personal livery umbrella, reciting his name in Friday sermons, and striking coins, mindful of the Mughal emperor's authority. In 1737, the Mughal emperor honoured him with the title Asaf Jah, a testament to his unwavering loyalty and dedication.

The tomb of Nizam ul Mulk Asaf Jah I in Rauza (Khuldabad). PC: Sibghat Khan

The journey that began in 1723 - or perhaps earlier, in 1712, when Nizam-ul-Mulk was appointed Subahdar of Dekhan, or in 1720, with his resounding victory, or even in 1724, with the subjugation of Mubariz and the declaration of independence - came full circle on January 15, 2023. On this day, the last official title holder recognized by the Government of India, His Exalted Highness Mukarram Jah, was laid to rest in Hyderabad, marking the end of an era. Over the past three centuries, the soil of Haiderabad, now Hyderabad, had witnessed eight generations of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, interspersed with three pretenders to the throne & towards the end it even absorbed the Turkish Caliphate into its fold. With the passing of Mukarram Jah, a storied chapter in Indian history came to a close, leaving behind a legacy that would be remembered for generations to come.

By Syed Mohammed Aun Mehdi.

Research and views expressed are the author's own.

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