By Syed Ahmed Khan
Representative Editor In Chief,
The Rahnuma-E-Deccan Daily
January 19th, 2023
HYDERABAD (RAHNUMA) Hyderabad’s erstwhile Royals the Asaf Jahs, were a rare model of material, intellectual, and cultural sophistication.
As India’s premier Royals, the Asaf Jahs were unique in representing a perfected fusion of the intellectual sophistication of the Eastern empires of past, who adapted the best from the Greeks, Egyptians and Vedic civilization, and somehow managed to merge it with the finesse of enlightened Europe.
To start, the title ‘Asaf Jah’ was used by the dynasty as a source of honor for seven generations, and it continues with the titular Nizams who followed.
Historically, ‘Asaf’ from the title Asaf Jah, refers to Asaph, a prominent minister in kings David and Solomon’s court who was referred to as the son of Berachiah of the tribe of Levi.
Asaph is described in both the Holy Quran as well as the Holy Bible as the chief Qabbalist of the Levite branch of the Israelites, appointed to minister before the Ark of the Covenant and as someone who possessed sacred knowledge of letters.
Other narrations in the Old Testament refer to Asaph in honor of whom the dynasty was named, as ‘Asaph the Jew’.
The title ‘Asaf Jah’ translated to Asaph’s equal in dignity and Asaf is referred to by title in the Holy Quran in the chapter The Ants.
Hence the Asaf Jahi dynasty not only created its own unique culture, but did so by a selected combination of perservation of Vedic, Arab, Persian, Mughal, European, Turkish and even, as their name denotes, Jewish cultures, and hence garners history’s utmost appreciation.
Asaf Jahi culture served as a rare social language capable of bridging cultures whom otherwise could be prey to the polemics of religious divide more than a meltingpot of cultural combinations like contemporary secular Western democracies.
A great example of where one can experience the finesse of Asaf Jahi fusion of world culture is the Falaknuma Palace.
Built by Nawab Vicar-ul-Umra, the then Prime Minister of Hyderabad State for H.H. The Nizam VI, Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan Bahadur, Falak-Numa means “Like the Sky” or “Mirror of the Sky” in Urdu.
Falaknuma’s architecture seems to have elements inspired by European adaptations from Palmyra, thereby itself bridging another two major world civilizations, while offering its guests some of the world’s finest (and costly) Indian cuisine.
In the 18th Century, classical buildings and art were “rediscovered” by European travellers to the Middle East and beyond, and the awe inspiring architecture of Palmyra of Syria was brought back in images of what they had seen, and incorporated into the design elements of some of the West’s most iconic buildings, including The White House in Washington, and Buckingham Palace.
In today’s era, with the tragic passing of The Eight Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Barakat Ali Khan Siddiqi, the dynasty is again in the global media’s limelight, and it seems perhaps his passing has rekindled interest in the mysterious ways of a rare erstwhile Indian dynasty from Deccan, that practised Islam transmitted by Persians, revered and protected the rich Vedic culture in Urdu, lived like Europeans and married Turkish royalty, and titled itself after an Old Testament Sage – Asaph the Jew.