Tuesday, April 1, 1997

Nimam'z shooting Match with The Archduke

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad : 24

Nimam'z shooting Match with The Archduke
by Narendra Luther

No Nizam ever went out of India. Only the last two Nizams ventured out of Hyderabad to - Calcutta and - to Delhi. The prime minister of Hyderabad had to take special permission of the Nizam even to go out of the walled city of Hyderabad.
Prince Albert Victor visited Hyderabad in 1889. King George V while he was still Prince of Wales visited the State with his wife Mary in 1905. A special shikar trip was arranged for him and he was carried across a stream by an attender on his back.
Another important visitor was the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1893. He was heir-apparent to the throne of Austria and his murder in 1914 in Sarajevo triggered the First World War. The Archduke kept a diary of his travels and that diary was published in Vienna in 1895. It has been translated by Elizabeth-Al-Himrani.
According to his diary,the Archduke came from Bombay and went to the hunting camp in Tandur for a tiger hunt which, however remained unsuccessful. He says: "The Nizam is a tributary prince supervised by an English Resident and a British garrison under the pretense of protecting him". Anti-British feelings are thus kept under control. He rules over 214,000 square kilometers and eleven and a half million inhabitants.
"The Nizam, ranks first amongst the tributary princes of India. He bears the title of Nizam-ul-Mulk (Regulator of the State) which Aurangazeb, the Mughal King of Delhi (1658-1707) conferred on one of the ancestors of the Nizam. The Nizam and the nobles of his kingdom are of Mohammedan religion, whereas the rural population is mostly Hindu."
After the hunt, the journey continued by train to Hyderabad where Franz Ferdinand was received at the station by the Nizam and the English Resident, Sir Trevor Plouden.
The Archduke continues :
"The Nizam is 28 years old, of small, lean stature, has a black sparse beard and long hair reaching down to his shoulders; his face is yellowish, the small eyes are intelligent. Towards Europeans, he is reserved, even shy and very reticent. But vis-a-vis his subjects he is said to be able to behave very firmly. He is always dressed is European attire, usually in a black coat. The only thing he has retained of his indigenous costume is a turban-like cap of yellow cloth with a golden tassel (dastar). He never goes without this headgear. The Nizam seems to like the European dress and customs, modified in his own way, although in general he is not too fond of the Europeans which is understandable after the experiences he had with them."
At the Nizam's palace the visiting dignitary's staff was presented to the Nizam.
"After the Nizam and I had entered the palace, we sat down on two throne-like chairs which were placed adjacent to each-other. To the right of the Nizam, his staff took seats, and my retinue sat to the left of me, making a semicircle. I and Kinsky did most of the talking by recounting to the Nizam the pleasant stay in Tandur and by talking about Hyderabad and his army - unfortunately without being able to incite the ruler out of his unshakeable reticence, since he limited himself to a saying "Yes" occasionally.
Since both the Archduke and the Nizam were keen marksmen, the latter challenged the Archduke to a shooting competition a day after the tour of important sites.
"The Nizam who took pleasure in accompanying us everywhere had also climbed the (Golconda) fort with us and suddenly proposed a rifle match : to shoot bottles tossed into the air and clay balls. I agreed reluctantly because the Nizam is known as the best marksman in the whole of India. My staff persuaded me to accept the offer. First of all, several bottles were placed at a distance of 30 steps and clay balls the size of small apples were placed on their necks. We had to shoot the clay balls without hitting the bottle. The Nizam shot first and missed four clay balls; I followed, and hit three out of four, whereupon the Nizam and his retinue burst into a loud applause. Next to the bottles meant for the match, there were another 16 bottles. With boosted confidence I undertook to shoot at all of them, one after the other, and I succeeded to hit 15 while the Nizam looked on in growing amazement. Then we had four shots each hitting one bottle with each shot. Similarly, it went with tossed clay balls.
Now came the most difficult part, that is the shooting of rupees thrown into the air which have approximately the same size as our silver guilders. Each marksman had eight shots. The Nizam hit one, but I was lucky to hit three, though I had no experience of that earlier. The Nizam was very sporting and showed his appreciation although it was the first time that he had been beaten at this game. I must admit that deep inside I felt as proud as a lion."
The Archduke then visited the favourite summer resort of Asman Jah (Prime Minister 1884-94). In the courtyard there were 5 chained tiger cubs approximately one year old. Asman Jah had shot the mother-tiger the year before and brought home the cubs. By now they were pretty big, but very cute and lovely. They played like little kittens. They were tame so that one could fondle them. To my delight, the prime minister presented two of them to me, which I hope will reach Vienna alive and safely".
Incidentally, the translator of the travelogue, Ms. Al-Himrani checked the records of the Vienna Zoo and the keeper confirmed that two cubs had been donated to the zoo by the Archduke in 1893.
(I am grateful to Ms. Elizabeth-Al-Himrani for the notes and the diary and to Mrs. Frauke Quader for the translation from the original).

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