Wednesday 18 May 2022

Durru Shehvar: The Beguiling Princess of Hyderabad: Heir of Ottoman Dynasty: Married to Indian Prince Azam Jah-A Sad End Story

Hatice Hairie Ayse Durru shehvar Sultan(1914–2006)  was born in Istanbul. In November 1922, her father, Abdul Mejid II, became the last caliph of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire.

Earlier, Turkey's Grand National Assembly in Ankara decided to split the sultanate and caliphate. The first was abolished, but the representative of the Turkish Sultanate was given the title of spiritual leader of all Muslims in the country.

Princess Durru Shehvar and prince Azam Jah

Durru shehvar is Abdul-Mejid's only daughter. The girl grew up in the Dolmabahce Palace and received a decent education.


Sultana is fluent in English and French, and subsequently studied Urdu. Although her father had four wives, Durru shehvar had only one half-brother, shehzade Omer Faruk.


On October 29, 1923, the Ottoman empire ceased to exist and the young republic no longer needed a caliph.


On March 3, 1924, a law was enacted, according to which all members of the Sultanate were required to leave the country within two days and could not return under the threat of trial.

Princess Niloufer and Princess Durru Shehvar with their husbands 

And the former caliph, his wife and children were immediately loaded into a car and sent to the Bulgarian border. There, they boarded the Orient Express to Nice. In France, the former sultan continued her studies.


The princess was ten years old when her family was banished from Turkey under the Ataturk reforms, following which they settled in Nice, France.


As Abdul Mejid had friendly relations with the British branch of the Red Cross, they began to worry about the fate of the former caliph.

Princess Durru Shehvar

In particular, an appeal to all Muslim monarchs for help was issued.

Persuaded by Maulana Shaukath Ali and his brother, Maulana Mohammad Ali, Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan decided to send a life-time monthly pension of 300 pounds to the deposed Caliph, and allowances to several individuals in the family.

Obviously, this fact affected Durru shehvar's future marriage.

When Durru Shehvar, came of age, she was sought in marriage by several Muslim Royals including the Shah of Persia and the King of Egypt for their heirs.Her distant relative Mohammad Abid, son of Sultan Abdul Hamid, also wanted to marry her.


When the crown prince of Hyderabad, Azam Jah, came of age, the Nizam started looking for a suitable bride for his heir. Princess Durru Shehvar was the prime candidate.


But her father married her to the eldest son Azam Jah, the son of Nizam of Hyderabad. By the way, his youngest son married his cousin Durru shehvar Niloufer.


Durru Shehvar had the striking looks and bearing of someone born to be queen. Her ancestry was impeccable and, most importantly, through her bloodline.

Princess Durru Shehvar and her husband Prince Azam Jah with her Son Mukarram Jah

Shaukat Ali prevailed on the Nizam to send a proposal to the Caliph asking for Durru Shever’s hand for his elder son, Prince Azam Jah. The deposed Caliph could hardly reject the offer from his benefactor.


But it was not that easy; the Mehr (the bride money) of 50,000 pounds that the Caliph demanded for his daughter was “too big”, the Nizam felt.


But with the intervention of Shaukat Ali, the Caliph proposed to offer for the same Mehr, the hand of his brother’s daughter Niloufer, for the Nizam’s younger son, Prince Mauzam Jah. The Nizam readily agreed and sent his two sons to France.

The marriage of Princess Durru Shehvar with Prince Azam Jah, along with that of Prince Mauzam and Niloufer took place in Nice, in France, on 12 November, 1931, in a simple ceremony attended by only a simple affair with only the members of Sultan’s family at Nice, a few Turkish nobles and friends.

Princess Durru Shehvar at age of 9 Year

According to the marriage contract, Durru shehvar received $200,000 in compensation in the event of a divorce or death of his spouse


She held the titles of Princess of Berar through marriage, and Imperial Princess of the Ottoman Empire by birth before the monarchy's abolition in 1922.


Princess Durru Shehvar and Princess Niloufer with father last Ottoman Caliph --wedding 1932

Durru Shehvar was 18 at the time, and significantly taller than her husband of 25, Azam Jah. Her father-in-law, the Nizam loved pointing out how much taller she was than his son, at their parties.


The Princess became the first woman to inaugurate an airport when she inaugurated the airport in Hyderabad in the 1940s.


She is also credited with inaugurating the Osmania General Hospital. She set up the Durru Shehvar Children's & General Hospital for women and children in the old city of Hyderabad.

Princess Durru Shehvar with his Father Abdul Majeed Last Ottoman Caliph

She was subject to immense attention and adulation in the 1930s. “Jab woh paan khaati thi, toh halak se jaata hua dikhta tha (When she swallowed a paan, you could see it going down her throat!).


Following the birth of her sons Prince Mukarram Jah in 1934 and Prince Muffakham Jah in 1939, she took charge of their upbringing, the two princes being educated in Britain but got them married to Turkish ladies.

Mukarram studied in Eton, where India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru had earlier studied.


The last Nizam- (Mir Osman Ali Khan) later bypassed his own son Azam Jah and nominated her first son Mukarram Jah his grandson, as his successor.


She was of impeccable lineage but her family had very little money, and it was a typical rags-to-riches story. She knew of her husband’s 50 concubines but carried herself regally.”


The Nizam called her his precious Jewel (Nagina) and encouraged her to participate actively in Hyderabad’s social life.


In Hyderabad, Durru Shehvar soon identified herself with the people. With a great passion for providing health care and education for common people, she set up a general and children’s hospital in Purani Haveli, which still runs in her name.


A Junior College for girls in Yakutpura, Bagh-e-Jahanara, is also run on the funds she provided. Durru Shehvar also laid the foundation stone of the Begum pet Airport building in 1936. Until then a small strip at Hakimpet served as the airport for Hyderabad.

She inaugurated (1939) the Ajmal Khan Tibbiya College Hospital in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).


Durru Shehvar was fluent in French, English, Turkish and Urdu and even contributed articles to French magazines. She believed that women should earn their own living and worked hard to remove the practice of purdah.


Her marriage was not exactly a fairytale ending. Marriage "mismatched" in every sense, “She was 5’10", her husband was 5 ‘3". She brought with her a completely cosmopolitan life, while most of Hyderabad was still under purdah.


Perhaps this excerpt of a 1931 article in Time magazine, reporting on their wedding, can offer a hint. The Crown Prince Azam Jah stated his views on marriage thus:


‘I like horses. They are more dependable than women. If a horse throws you it will stand by until you get on your feet.’ Nevertheless Crown Prince Azam Jah obeyed his father’s orders to marry.”


It was very difficult for Durru Shehvar to adjust the very conservative Muslim culture that permeated Hyderabad at the time.


But she never went into purdah. There were also rumors at the time that the Nizam’s senior wife Dulhan Pasha wanted to poison her.


Relations between Azam Jah (her husband) and his brother Moazzam Jah were also strained. She always thought Hyderabad could never equal the Ottoman culture, and many Hyderabadis thought she looked down on them.”

Durru Shehvar knew of her husband’s 50 concubines but carried herself regally. However, there was a great gulf between the Princess and the Prince, Azam Jah and their marriage fell apart within few years.


Prince Azam Jah had a tendency for and gambling but carried herself regally.” Enough said.

Gorgeous Princess Durru Shehvar in London in 1999

It is an irony that when she was born, her father, the Caliph was the head of all the Muslims in the world; but was overthrown and sent away in exile.


After the divorce, Durru Shehvar stayed in Hyderabad for some years, and then moved to London, where she died in 2006, aged 93, with her two sons by her side.


(Her ex-husband Azam Jah, had passed away in 1970, aged 63.). After her husband’s death, she divided her time between Hyderabad and London. With her death, ended a glorious chapter of Hyderabad.

Gorgeous Princess Durru Shehvar in 1999 in London

Each time she returned to Hyderabad for a visit, she attracted big crowds. She always remained a superstar, fondly remembered and frequently written about in the Indian press.


We read historical events to learn from it, main learning point for Muslims of the Subcontinent is the role played by our ancestors that shaped the history and the world.


Our religious leaders were armed with both religious and modern education. This was the reason they influenced the masses and an individual.


As in this case, Maulana Shaukat Ali had influence on both the last Caliph and the richest man on earth, the Nizam of Hyderabad.

The End

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1 comment:

kenize said...

I am the cousin of Nilufer .
The first , fourth and 2 photos before last are not at all Durushevar but Photos of Nilufer who was a great beauty