Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sir Mirza Mohammad Ismail, K.C.I.E., O.B.E.

Sir Mirza Ismail, Diwan of Mysore visiting Railway Staion Service Centre, Mysore circa 1930s-
Photo from personal collection of Murali
Sir Mirza Mohammed Ismail (1883-1959) belonged to the rare class of great administrators who served various princely states under British India with great distinction. The quality of administration of the princely states had been greatly contributed by men of exceptional caliber like him. Sardar K.M. Panikkar, who was the Diwan of Patiala and Bikaner, was the first Indian ever to get a scholarship to Christchurch and only the second after Romesh Chandra Dutt to get an Oxford first. In the Viceroy’s journal of Lord Wavell, Sir C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer, Diwan of Travancore was mentioned as “one of the cleverest men in India”. In 1945, the American Ambassador wrote to the Secretary of State about Sir Syed Mirza Ismail that he “had not met anyone else in India, either Indian or European, who was in his class”.
Born in 1883, Sir Mirza’s remarkable career had its origins in his association with Maharajah Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV of Mysore. Ali Asker, Mirza’s grandfather, had fled the court of the last Shah of Iran and taken refuge under the wings of the Maharaja of Mysore .He trained the royal cavalry and supplied horses to the stable. Sir Mirza's father was Agha Ali Asker, who too continued the family tradition of trading in horses and carpets.
Maharajah Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV of Mysore

After his graduation from Bangalore he started off as an Asst Superintendent of Police with the government in 1905. Mirza became the private secretary to the Maharajah, who had great faith in the administrative acumen of the young man and supplemented it by elevating him to the coveted position of the Diwan of Mysore in 1926. Sir Mirza served the state in that capacity for fourteen years till 1941. Later he became the Diwan of Jaipur (1941-45) and went on to assume the Diwanship of Hyderabad state during the difficult years of 1946-48.

As Diwan of Mysore, he followed the great Sir M. Visvesvarayya’s dream of industrialization. He developed the Brindavan gardens, initiated the first rural electrification programme of India and established the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, besides founding a retinue of other industries. He also established the first medical college of Mysore. He provided irrigation facility to Mandya, Malavalli and T.Narsipura (Irwin Canal) areas. The Jog and Shimsha power station was also established during his premiership.

His contributions to the Indian Science Academy in Bangalore also are worth mentioning. It was his initiatives which helped to get twelve acres of land from the Maharajah for the Academy in which the Raman Institute also is established. The Nobel laureate Sir CV Raman paid eloquent tributes to Sir Mirza in the following words:” For many years, in fair weather as well as in foul, Sir Mirza Ismail remained the truest of friends to me, ever ready to give support and advice. He leaves behind him a memory which will be treasured and cherished by all who have known him.”
Sir Mirza was knighted by the British Government in 1930 for his services to India.

“Sir Mirza’s accessibility and personal charm coupled with his breadth of knowledge and his keen sense of human and cultural values made him a great and highly successful administrator”, so said CV Raman.
The administration of Mysore under Maharajah Krishnaraja Wodeyar and Sir Mirza Ismail was known as the golden age of Mysore, prompting Mahatma Gandhi to call it “Ramarajya”.

The great Maharajah passed away in 1940 and Sir Mirza continued as the Diwan under the Maharajah Jayachamaraja Wodeyar . In 1941, he resigned from his job on personal differences with the government.
Maharajah Sawai Man Singh of Jaipur

Proceeding to Jaipur, he contributed greatly to the State as Diwan winning accolades from all including the British government and the locals alike for his great administrative skills. Soon after his arrival in Jaipur, in 1942, he constituted a committee on Constitutional Reforms. Fondly remembered as the architect of modern Jaipur, his efforts considerably enhanced Maharajah Sawai Man Singh’s reputation and his Durbar in the Congress circles. The main road of Jaipur was aptly named after him and bears the name Mirza Ismail Road, till today. G.D.Birla was a close friend of Sir Mirza who used to fund the grand projects Mirza had for Jaipur. When banks were permitted to open branches in Jaipur, United Commercial Bank, under chairmanship of GD, was the first to be permitted to open a branch there in 1945. The Birla institute at Pilani was upgraded to grant degrees and the National Ball- bearing company was established under guidance from Sir Mirza.The chamber of commerce in Jaipur duly recorded that the regime of Sir Mirza Ismail was “the beginning of the industrial era of Jaipur.”
Lt.General His Exalted Highness Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar, Mir Osman Ali Khan
as appeared on Time dated 22 February 1937

In 1946, he became Diwan of Hyderabad , also called Sadar-i-Azam (Prime Minister). He served under the last Nizam of the Princely State of Hyderabad and Berar, Lt.General His Exalted Highness Mir Osman Ali Khan (r.1911-48), who was reportedly the richest man in the world then. Hyderabad became part of the Indian Union in 1948 as a result of the police action, Operation Polo launched by the Indian Government.

He put forth his best skills on the issue of accession of Hyderabad to the Indian government but the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi made the Nizam think against acceding to India. On this issue, Sir Mirza Ismail had quit the government.

Sir Mirza was a Shia Muslim by birth but he encouraged Sanskrit learning, and helped the Hindu and Christian institutions too and attended to the needs of the society with an impartial outlook holding the interest of the state above that of the individual.

There is a Travancore connection too to Sir Mirza. As Diwan of Mysore, Sir Mirza represented Mysore and Travancore and Cochin in the Indian States Delegation to the Round-Table Conference in London during the winter of 1930.

After his Hyderabad stint, Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir had offered him the prime ministership of his state which he declined politely. Sir Mirza retired to his beautiful house in Bangalore. Pundit Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Rajagopalachari and Sarveppalli Radhakrishan were among those who visited Sir Mirza Ismail and often sought his counsel. However, he was quite his own man and never joined the Congress or the government. He was also equidistant from Mohammed Ali Jinnah. He thought that the Partition of the subcontinent was a mistake and had expressed this view to his relatives.

Sir Mirza Ismail has penned his memoirs under the title “My Public Life” published in 1954 before his death on 5th January 1959 at his house Windsor lodge in Bangalore.

It was sad to read about his granddaughter Shakereh Namazie's death under mysterious circumstances in Bangalore in 1991.Her first husband was Akbar Mirza Khaleeli an IFS officer and the Indian Ambassador to Iran, Italy and High Commissioner to Australia. Her second husband Swami Shraddananda was reportedly behind her murder and is serving a life term imprisonment ordered by the Supreme Court of India in 2008.

We need to remember the great contributions made by men like Sir Mirza in giving a strong foundation to India as we were approaching the dawn of independence. Their efforts have helped the nation building process in a considerable way as our forefathers built a great nation out of much chaos and commotion.
Dubai, 12th February 2009.

Ref: The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire, 1917-1947 by Ian Copland, The cat and the lion by Robert W. Stern, Wikipedia, CV Raman’s obituary on Mirza, Raza Rumi’s post, other notes by author.


Nebu said...

You are absolutely correct in your observation that the quality of administration of the princely states had been great with the contributions of men of exceptional calibre like Sir Syed Mirza Ismail and Sir C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer.

India and more particular Kerala suffer from lack of such able administrators. In my opinion Kerala is in this present state of morass may be because Sir. C.P. cursed this state for having bludgeoned him.

In the photograph, is Maharajah Sawai Man Singh of Jaipur wearing the Garter robes? Was he a member of the Order of Garter? So it seems is Lt.General His Exalted Highness Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar, Mir Osman Ali Khan. Were all the Indian Maharajas members of the Order of Garter? What about Travancore in particular?

I recollect having read about Shakereh Namazie's death under mysterious circumstances in Bangalore in 1991 and also about her first and second marriages, but never realised that she had such illustrious ancestry.

Through Sardar K.M. Panikkar, Diwan of Patiala, Mr. Jose A. Kallivayalil (Abraham Tharakan’s / AT sir’s Maternal uncle) had cultivated a very close friendship with the Maharajah of Patiala. He used to regale about the welcome he used to receive at Patiala and their exploits together.

Murali RamaVarma said...

Thanks, Nebu for the observations and notings.

The robes of Sawai Man Singh appears to be that of the Knight Grand Commander of the order of the star of India. Sri Chithira Tirunal too belonged to this order. The Most Noble Order of the Garter was much restricted to the British and Commonwealth monarchies, families and selected Lords.No Indian Maharajah seems to be admitted to this order.

Yes,Shakereh Namazie's death was most tragic indeed.The second husband,the so called Shraddananda was a fake Sanyasin.

I am glad to note of your reference to the Sardar and his great hospitality to Jose Kallivayalil at Patiala. Panikkar was known for his great camaraderie.His sister was married to Kerala Varma, of Malikayil Kovilakam in Cherthala adjacent to my ancestral Kovilakam, and I have been privileged to hear many stories of this multifaceted personality from the elders there.
His letters to Vallathol are published by DC Books and make very interesting reading.These bring to focus the warm friendship between two great sons of Kerala.

Maddy said...

Some of the many people who shaped our land. Strange isnt it - by people who were not sons of the soil. And the people of the very same states he built fight to get the sons of other soils thrown out, these days...

Just a quick observation. Walchand Hirachand established Hindustan Aircraft in 1940, Mirza actively supported it and the later government sponsor after nationalization to HAL was Krishna Menon.

Ashvin said...

Ghastly as it might sound, Shakereh Namazie was buried alive after being drugged.... what an end.

Ashvin said...

Colonel His Highness Maharaja Sri Sir Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV Bahadur, Maharaja of Mysore, GCSI, GBE
Delhi Durbar Gold Medal-1903
Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India (GCSI)-1907
Delhi Durbar Gold Medal-1911
Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order of St John (GCStJ)-1911
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE)-1917
King George V Silver Jubilee Medal-1935
King George VI Coronation Medal-1937

Ashvin said...

General His Exalted Highness Rustam-i-Dauran, Arustu-i-Zaman, Wal Mamaluk, Asaf Jah VII, Muzaffar ul-Mamaluk, Nizam ul-Mulk, Nizam ud-Daula, Nawab Mir Sir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur, Sipah Salar, Fateh Jang, Faithful Ally of the British Government, Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar, GCSI, GBE

Delhi Durbar Gold Medal-1911
Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India (GCSI)-1911
Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order of St John (GCStJ)-1911
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE)-1917
King George V Silver Jubilee Medal-1935
King George VI Coronation Medal-1937
Royal Victorian Chain (RVC)-1946

Ashvin said...

Lt. General His Highness Saramad-i-Rajaha-i-Hindustan Raj Rajendra Shri Maharajadhiraj Sir Sawai Man Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur
Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India (GCSI)
Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE)

Ashvin said...

The Most Noble Order of the Garter is the highest honour in the United Kingdom and is limited to the Sovereign, the Prince of Wales and no more than 24 Companions at a time, apart from certain other members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs. I think I am correct in saying that the Emperor of Japan is the only non-European monarch to be a member.

The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India ranked fifth in precedence in the days of the Empire. Indian rulers were not considered 'high' enough to be admitted to the Order of the Garter.

Murali RamaVarma said...

Thanks, Maddy for your keen observations. Indeed, some of the great contributions to our culture and civilization have been from people who came from outside. Starting from the Aryan influx to the arrival of the Europeans, many telling examples could be quoted.

Murali RamaVarma said...

Dear Ashvin, Thanks for the comments and for all information. I think, the Nizam was the only ruler under the British with the rank of a 4 star General . Am I correct? Good of you for giving the details about the order of the Garter. Regards,

Ashvin said...

Dear Muraliettan, I assume you mean a full General rather than a Lt. General. For example HH Sree Chithira Thirunal was a Major General. No it was not just the Nizam - for example Sir Ganga Singh of Bikaner was also a full General - his list of titles and decorations are even more impressive.

General His Highness Sri Raj Rajeshwar Maharajadhiraj Narendra Maharaja Shiromani Sir Ganga Singh Bahadur, Maharaja of Bikaner, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, GBE, KCB, Kaiser-i-Hind

Kaiser-i-Hind, 1st Class-1900
Mentioned in Despatches-1901
China War Medal (1900)-1901
King Edward VII Coronation Medal-1902
Delhi Durbar Medal (gold)-1903
Grand Cross of the Order of Philip the Magnanimous of Hesse-1903
Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE)-1907 (KCIE-1901)
Honorary LL.D (Cantab.)-1911
King George V Coronation Medal-1911
Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India (GCSI)-1911 (KCSI-1904)
1914 Star-1914
Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order of St John (GCStJ)-1914
Mentioned in Despatches-1914
Honorary LL.D (Edinburgh)-1917
Mentioned in Despatches-1918
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB)-1918
British War Medal-1918
Victory Medal-1918
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Nile of Egypt-1918
Honorary DCL (Oxon.)-1919
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO)-1919
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) - New Year Honours 1921, for war service
Honorary LL.D (Benares Hindu University)-1927
Honorary LL.D (Osmania University)-1927
King George V Silver Jubilee Medal-1935
King George VI Coronation Medal-1937
Africa Star-1942
War Medal 1939-1945-1945 (posthumous)
1939-1945 Star-1945 (posthumous)
India Service Medal-1945 (posthumous)
(courtesy wikipedia)

When you get around to visiting me I will show you a photograph of Maharaja Ganga Singh and Sree Chithira Thirunal travelling by horse carriage in Trivandrum in 1937.

(This is from the London Gazette)

St. James's Palace, S.W. 1,
1st January, 1921.
The KING has been graciously pleased to give orders for the following appointment to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, for valuable services rendered during the War: —
To be a Knight Grand Cross of the Military Division of the said Most Excellent Order:
Honorary Major-General His Highness
Maharaja Raj Rajeshawar Siromani Sri Sir Ganga Singh Bahadur, G.C.S.I., G.C.I.B., G.C.V.O., K.C.B., A.D.C., Maharaja of

I am sure there were other rulers as well who were Generals, will let you know.

Murali RamaVarma said...

Dear Ashvin,

Thanks for all the information which I have carefully noted.Of course, I meant a full General when I used that term. Lt.General, Major General or Brigadier are not reckoned for this purpose.

Also, I would love to see that photograph of Maharajah Ganga Singh with Sri Chithira Tirunal.

It can be noted that long serving rulers of larger princely states had better chances of getting high ranks.

Nebu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nebu said...

While waiting at the dentist I happened to read in the ‘SAVVY’ magazine of September 2008 the full story of Shakereh Namazie's life and death told by her 3rd daughter Rehane, an internationally famous fashion designer.

In her words “He didn’t have the courage to kill her so he drugged and buried her” (in a 100 feet deep trench!).

Her second husband Swami Shraddananda, found guilty by the Karnataka High court was sentenced to be hanged until dead, but the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Supreme court because he didn’t kill her as she was alive albeit unconscious while he buried her and he could not have dug up such a deep pit all by himself, he had accomplices some of them her household staff so the guilty could not be identified... What a travesty of justice!

Murali RamaVarma said...

Thank you, Nebu for sharing the information. As you felt, it indeed seems like travesty of justice!Very shocking and tragic end to a descendant of such an illustrious lineage!

. said...

"After his Hyderabad stint, Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir had offered him the prime ministership of his state which he declined politely."

this shows that, the position "prime minister" was actually a job not a power

Murali RamaVarma said...

Dear Sojan,

Thanks for the comment.No surprise that Maharajah Hari Singh (As you know , he is Karan Singh's father
)invited Sir Mirza to be his PM . He was such a brilliant administrator.

Of course, under the princely states, the post of Diwan(PM) was by selection. It was a job unlike the present day election of a PM under the democracy.

Kind regards,

Raja said...

The Order of the Bath is the fourth-most senior of the British Orders of Chivalry, after The Most Noble Order of the Garter.

Late Maharaja of Mysore HH Jaya Chamaraja Wadiyar ( nephew of HH KRW IV) received this honour (GCB) in 1946. ( He was also recipient of GCSI in 1945).

Who are all the other Indian Rulers who received this title ?

Murali RamaVarma said...

Dear Raja,

Thanks for the comments and the observations. Being a top honour, membership to the Order of the Bath was restricted to the rulers of some principal Princely states. I know that the Scindia, Jayaji Rao and the Nizam Mehboob Ali Khan were honoured with it.

Manu said...

There is actually one more Travancore connection, although not very important perhaps. In 1949 when Princess Lalithamba Bayi moved to Bangalore she purchased her house at No 9 Richmond Road from a daughter of Sir Mirza Ismail. Years before, in 1930, her mother Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi had received him as a state guest in Trivandrum.
Just thought I'd mention.

Murali RamaVarma said...

Manu, Thank you very much for these additional information which are quite informative and which I did not know earlier. Sir Mirza was a most colourful personality of his period and any additional information on such persons is always interesting. Kind regards,

Abhed Kiran Ravikumar-Pillai Kandamath said...

@ Ashvin, Raja and others

To say that Indian rulers weren't high to be admitted to Garter would be a fallacy.

As far as India is concerned, the highest order of chivalry is The Most Exalted Order of The Star of India and just as the Garter, the top-most Maharajahs were appointed to it,automatically, per aetatis i.e. as per seniority.

The hierarchy only mattered outside the borders of the Indian Empire especially with British statesmen themselves who were also appointed to the order who would have to mind those above him in stately functions and courts held in London.

*Knights of the Garter need attend the Garter Service and Ceremony every year on St George's Day in the chapel. The idea of starting an Order for India was envisaged by Queen Victoria with that particular context of religious sentiment, in consideration.

The Princes were not themselves British subjects legally unless they held British passports(which in the small print involves allegiance to the HM the King) and having spent their youth in England, returned in the summer to escape the sun of their own country(!)

Emperor Akihito, being Japanese follows the tradition of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of the Meijis.
But he is only a stranger (Hon.) knight and his heraldic banner represents Japan and not himself.

And those appointed to lower orders such as the Ranji. the Wodeyar and Scindias spent a lot of time in England entertaining people and spent public funds taxed from the poor peasants on their vulgar opulence. The Gaekwar was an exception and Baroda was well-administered.

*As Varmaji has carefully noted, as with Military Honors,they were power in hand and only carefully vested. The Nizam made immense contribution to the war effort(money wise) and as you probably know had the special courtesy title of ''exalted highness''.Many princes were appointed to Military Divisions of chivalric orders.

Travancore Rulers on the other hand kept themselves to themselves and to their subjects. Padmanabhadasa Sree Mulam Thirunal famously took a bath each time after having met any British/Foreign Officials before partaking food. He showed great disavowal at the suggestion of recruiting soldiers from Travancore for the war effort(WWI)and a bargaining attempt failed miserably.

Ironically, the Nizam received no response from the British when he decided not to accede to Congress India whereas Travancore did get an initial prospect of support and goodwill though the ulterior circumstances changed shortly afterwards.

Ananda Krishnan said...


Narayanswamy S said...

Mirza in the fag end of his life was suffering from ulcer.He visited abroad and got medical prescriptions which did not cure,at last he visited Lalbaugh of Bangalore and met Dr Marigowda,who advised him to eat ripe papayas, mirza did it and was relieved of ulcer.He appreciated Gowda for the so called Horticultural Therapy.

Basant Poddar said...






During my recent visit I read an aricle about s British officer's contribution to the language of Coorg . Then I did a bit research about the history of Karnataka and I was surprised to learn about Sir Mirza Ismail and a Muslim working in the highest office of Hindu ruler. The text books I read in Kannada never highlighted such a hormony in realtion of interfaith and great success of states with such governance without politics of religion because the Kings need not play the dirty politics of religion what today we see.
The day partition was agreed a great nation was destroyed . Also there is a significant contribution of people who came from outside including British because they had pure love to humanity not like selfish as we see today .

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