Thursday, October 14, 2010

Durre Shehwar & The Royal Ring

Qamar-ud-din Khan Siddiqi (Asif Jah - I), later known simply as "Nizam-ul-Mulk", was the founder of the Asif Jahi dynasty which ruled the Hyderabad state of India from 1720 to 1948. There is an old myth about Asif Jah that on one of his hunting trips he was offered some kulchas by a holy man and was asked to eat as many as he could. The Nizam could eat seven kulchas and the holy man then predicted that seven generations of his family would rule the state.

By the middle of 18th century the Nizams of Asif Jahi dynasty had quickly surpassed the Mughals ruling a vast dominion in South India. They were among the wealthiest people in the world and history acknowledges the fact that seven Nizams ruled the Hyderabad estate for nearly two centuries.

The Asif Jahi rulers were great patrons of literature, art, architecture, culture, jewelry collection and rich food. The Nizams ruled the state until its integration into the Indian Union in September 1948 after independence from the British.

Nawab Bahadur Usman Ali (Asif Jah VII) was the last Nizam of the princely state of Hyderabad. Though during his days as Nizam he was reputed to be the richest man in the world but he & his wife Dulhan Pasha Begum were worried about their elder son Azzam Jah since they were aware of the family myth of seven generations. Both were wanted to arrange marriage of their son to a princess; but she would have to be a real princess.

They inquired all over the world to find one, but nowhere could they get what they wanted. There were princesses enough, but it was difficult to find out whether they were real ones. There was always something about them that was not as it should be. So they were sad, for they would have liked very much to have a real princess so that the Asif Jahi dynasty will prosper further and stretch to further future generations.

One evening a terrible storm came on; there was thunder and lightning, and the rain poured down in torrents. Indeed it was a fearful night. Suddenly a knocking was heard at the main gate of Chowmahalla Palace - The Royal residence of Nizams, and the darbans went to open it. It was a princess who stood outside, but what a sight the rain and the wind had made her look. She was in a terrible state. The water streamed out of her hair and her clothes; it ran down into the toes of her shoes and out again at the heels. And yet she said that she was a real princess Durre Shehwar, a daughter of his imperial majesty Sultan Efendi of Ottoman Empire.

Well, we'll soon find that out, thought the Pasha Begum standing besides the Nizam, she was listening to the whole conversation. But she said nothing, went into the bed-room, took all the bedding off the bedstead, and laid a royal ring at the bottom; then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on the royal ring. On this the princess had to lie all night. Then she showed the girl to her room.

The rain beat down all night and lightning streaked the sky. In the morning she was asked how she had slept. The girl politely replied: "lt was a lovely soft bed, so soft that I could feel something hard under the mattress so that I am black and blue all over my body. It kept me awake all night!"

Now they knew that she was a real princess because she had felt the ring right through the twenty mattresses. Nobody but a real princess could be as sensitive as that. The Pasha Begum offered her apologies for laying a ring under her bed, before rushing off to her son. With this assessment she had actually selected a real princess Durre Shehwar for her son.

After the wedding, the royal ring was placed inside a gold and crystal box and exhibited in the Chowmahalla Palace Museum, where it may still be seen, if no one has stolen it.

(Adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea)

P.S. PKR 6000/- is the realized price of my 25 years old bed sold today.