The World

For today’s GeoQuiz were looking for an Indian city. It’s nicknamed the city of Nizams.

The name comes from the Nizam dynasty that ruled here for two centuries up until India’s independence in 1947.

The Last Nizam,Osman Ali KhanThe Last Nizam,Osman Ali Khan

The Nizams were among the wealthiest people in the world they lavished their money and attention on art, architecture, and jewelry.

The last Nizam had an extraordinary collection of fabulous jewelsThe last Nizam had an extraordinary collection of fabulous jewels

Some of their fortune has been tied up in a spectacular estate squabble…It’s been going on for decades.

Jacob’s Diamond is the size of an eggJacob’s Diamond is the size of an egg

India, Pakistan and the Nizam’s descendants all want to get their hands on it. Meanwhile the population has grown to 10 million and the city has become India’s modern hub of information technology.

It’s also the capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

We’ll weigh in on the dispute of over the Maharaja’s fortunes… when we reveal the name of this Indian city…

We were looking for a city in India for our Geo Quiz today. It’s the capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

The answer is Hyderabad.

The city is at the center of a long-running legal dispute over a former ruler’s fortune.

A Time Magasine cover, 1937A Time Magasine cover, 1937

It was ruled by the Nizam of Hyderabad, one Osman Ali Kahn. But India became a modern nation in 1947. So with his power slipping away, the Nizam tried to hide his fortune from India’s new government. In 1948 the Nizam ordered 1 million dollars transferred into the Pakistani High Commissioner’s bank account in London.

Hyderabad state in 1909Hyderabad state in 1909]

Omar Khalidi was born in Hyderabad and is a scholar of the city’s history. He says six decades later the bank account is worth close to 60 million dollars. But exactly who owns it is up in the air:

“The two governments decided back in 1960 to split the money at 60-40. India getting 60%, Pakistan getting 40. I think the issue then, as today: how much of the money will the two grandsons inherit?

Last month India said it would begin negotiations to unfreeze the Maharajah’s fortune. The oldest grandson Mukarram Jah believes he’s entitled to a share. And this week a younger grandson Najaf accompanied by 10 other descendents lobbied the Indian Prime Minister. The grandsons will meet with India’s Foreign Minister next week. But Khalidi says there are several stumbling blocks.

“How much of the share will the 2 governments give to the grandsons, who will bear cost of litigation, will nizam be expected to pay taxes on what they get?

One thing that’s NOT in dispute is how wealthy the Nizam of Hyderabad was. The Wall Street journal once ranked Osman Ali Kahn as one of the richest men in the world. He was rumored to have gold bars piled high in his palace… The Nizam also collected jewels:

“The amounts of money that he had both in gold pearls jewelry was quite enormous but the most important was the diamonds absolutely rare commodity.”

The largest, known as the Jacob Diamond, is the size of an egg and weighs 184 carrots. It was acquired by the government of India for a cool 13 million in 1995. But the Nizam’s 60 million dollar London bank account remains untouched…despite an agreement in principle there’s no end in sight to the litigation. And potentially no end to the number of claimants…The Nizam is said to have had 86 mistresses and fathered as many as 100 children.

If you were to ask the people of Hyderabad what to do with the money, Hyderabad native Omar Khalidi says the answer would be clear:

“I think they would want the money to be spent on the poor people of Hyderabad, not on the grandsons or the two governments, they would rather like the money to be spent for slum clearance, health care, for education of the poor people. The governments are considered corrupt so is the case with the princes, they’d rather have the money spent on public welfare instead of going into the coffers of the Nizam’s grandsons.”

For now, the city of Hyderabad remains dotted with reminders of its princely history. A local university, a high court, and a hospital, are all named after the last Nizam of Hyderabad. And his small fortune continues to collect interest in London’s Westminster Bank.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.