GRAND PICTORIAL HISTORY
The recently released book, Treasures of the Deccan – Jewels of the Nizam, is written jointly by Usha R. Balakrishnan and Deepthi Sasidharan, and published by Graf Media. The book is a visual documentation of the photographic materials at Chowmahalla Palace undertaken under the patronage of Princess Esra Jah and supervised by cultural czar Shri Martand Singh, and fabulous jewels from the Nizam’s treasury that are now scattered in collections around the world. Usha R. Balakrishnan, India’s leading jewellery historian, says in her prologue: “In 2003, as the documentation team opened box after box of photographs, the jewels came to life. Prior to this undertaking, few images from the most important dynasty and the premier Indian princely state, the Nizams of Hyderabad, were available in the public domain. The subsequent transformation of the Chowmahalla Palace into a museum complex and the creation of the Chowmahalla Palace Archives brought to the world for the first time significant and comprehensive visual imagery from the lives of the Asaf Jah Nizams of Hyderabad.”
“IN 2003, AS THE DOCUMENTATION TEAM OPENED BOX AFTER BOX OF PHOTOGRAPHS, THE JEWELS CAME TO LIFE.”
RAJA DEEN DAYAL AND SONS MIR OSMAN ALI KHAN
on his coronation day Secunderabad, 1911 Silver gelatin print Chowmahalla Palace Collection, Hyderabad
MIR MAHBOOB ALI KHAN
Hyderabad, c. 1874 Albumen silver print Chowmahalla Palace Collection, Hyderabad
Documenting history through the medium of Nizams’ jewels was one way of restoring national pride. In 1995, the Government of India acquired the Jewels of the Nizams, and they were displayed twice – in 2001 and 2006 in important and popular exhibitions: the National Museum, New Delhi, and the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad.
It was at this time that the government appointed Usha Balakrishnan to document each and every jewel. Taking up the challenge, the historian presented the jewels to the world through the book, Jewels of the Nizams (2001).
TORA PAON (Anklets), Deccan,
19th century, Gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds Courtesy Ministry of Culture, Government of India (NJ 95.94/1–2)
PAIZEB (Anklets), Deccan,
19th century, Gold, rubies, diamonds, emeralds Courtesy Ministry of Culture, Government of India (NJ 95.96/1–2)
MIR MAHBOOB ALI KHAN,
Hyderabad, 19th century, Oil on canvas, Chowmahalla Palace Collection, Hyderabad
CHAMPAKALI (Necklace) Deccan,
early 18th century Gold, diamonds, emeralds, enamel Private collection
TORA PAON (Anklets) Deccan,
early 19th century Gold, diamonds Private collection
PAIZEB (Anklets) Deccan,
early 19th century Gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls Private collection
Around that time, however, access to the Chowmahalla Palace Archives and images were restricted. In 2005, Chowmahalla Palace opened its doors to the public with stunning exhibitions, including an installation of vintage photographs drawn from the archives and co-curated by Deepthi Sasidharan, who also co-curated the second public exhibition of the jewels, in 2006. “These occasions afforded the opportunity and the privilege of studying these treasures up close and led to our collaboration on the present volume,” Usha notes. She believes that it was important that the story of jewels worn by the Nizams and their families, including the begums, needed to be re-visited. So here is the tome that gives the world its first glimpse of the Asaf Jahs’ royal splendour! Feast your eyes on the jewels and lifestyle of yore.
USHA BALAKRISHNAN BELIEVES THAT IT WAS IMPORTANT THAT THE STORY OF JEWELS WORN BY THE NIZAMS AND THEIR FAMILIES, INCLUDING THE BEGUMS, BE REVISITED.
SARPECH (Turban ornament),
Deccan, 19th century, Gold, diamonds, spinels, enamel Private collection
Deccan, early 18th century, Gold, diamonds, pearls, emeralds, enamel Private collection