Nawab Sadat Ali Khan

(Detailed Notes : This may not be very good in terms of language, but gives enough sketch for the purpose of research. This text may be using some vernacular terms too, which may be otherwise hard to understand in context but we will be happy to assist in this regard)

The sixth Nawab sat on the masnad of Oudh (seat) on 20th January, 1798 after the fifth Nawab Wazir Ali was declared unfit for the Nawabi by the English Governor General, a decision, which was questionable at that time and open today also. Sadat Ali Khan was a younger stepbrother of late Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula. He was intelligent and had proven ability. Shuja-ud-Daula therefore appointed him as a deputy minister to the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam during his stay at Allahabad. Later he was assigned the charge of newly conquered Rohilkhand where he displayed his tact and firmness in dealing with tough Ruhelas. He was recalled from Bareilly and soon involved himself in a conspiracy to overthrow Asaf-ud-Daula. To save his life, he was forced to take shelter at Agra. He was granted pardon, allowed to live at Benares and given a pension of Rs 1.5 lakhs. Since the wavelength of Sadat Ali Khan varied greatly from his brother, he continued to live under the umbrella of East India Company at Benares and frequently visiting Calcutta. He cultivated good relations with most of the English men working there. He marveled at the efficiency of working of English men and admired their ways. Not only the English men liked the ways of Sadat Ali Khan but Bahu Begum also expressed herself in favor of her stepson. After resigning to his fate, Sadat was at Benares when the news of death of Asaf-ud-Daula and seating of Wazir Ali on the masnad reached him. Suddenly one day, an English Officer presented himself before Sadat, disarmingly kept on smiling, and addressed thus, “Nawab Sahib, If you were given to rule Oudh, what you will offer to East India Company”. Sadat was taken aback and suddenly rose from his seat and replied, that half of Oudh will belong to the Company Bahadur. The English Officer replied, ” Sir, then order for the celebrations now. You have been chosen to rule Oudh”. Sadat was too happy to reply but was for once felt dismayed at his earlier reply to the English Officer. The Governor General recalled Sadat from Benares at once to Lucknow. There he was received by the Governor General Sir John Shore, taken to Bibiapur Kothi and lead to the masnad kept there. Guns boomed to proclaim the change of order. In the company of Governor General, the new Nawab lead the procession in the city, distributing silver and coins to the people on the way, who came out in large number to have a view of their new Nawab.

On assumption of the Oudh masnad, the new Nawab Sadat Ali Khan had to enter in to a new treaty with the English Company. The Company people were all the time on the lookout for sources of new revenues flowing in their coffers. The installation of new Ruler offered them one more such occasion. The treaty of 1798 raised the existing subsidy amount of Rs. 55.5 lakhs to Rs. 76 lakhs by one stroke of the pen. The subsidiary amount was raised to station and support 10,000 company troops in Oudh. The treaty weakened the political and military powers of Nawab of Oudh considerably but there was no escape from it. Oudh no longer remained an independent state and served more as a subservient or protected state of the East India Company.

Sharar in his book has mentioned about some popular bazaar gossips and references of older people who observed some peculiar uneasiness and mystery behind all the acts of Nawab Sadat Ali Khan, which pointed out to some greater objective, he was working or aiming at. Sadat could save about Rs 22 or 23 crores (1 crore is 10 million) in 16 years of reign and was able to convince the British Govt after a long correspondence that the administration of Hindoostan would be handed over to him in place of English East India Company but it remained a dream project only after his brother in law silenced him forever. There was no doubt about his well thought, and efficiently run administration, which produced results in a short period. He curtailed in the large retinue of servants and kept only those who were needed and honest in their work. Similarly, the Nawabi army was also screened and reduced. Those who werc exempted from remission of any revenue charges and jagirdars who were evaluated for paying less were scrutinized strictly. Wasteful expenditure of any kind, and even of smaller amounts, was all plugged. He managed the province of Oudh similar to a modern manager running a company. Mookherji summed up correctly, “His subjects were happy; the middleclass had ample employment; and the nobility, necessary comfort and luxury,-not extravagance. New palaces and markets were erected on all sides”. Nawab highly valued his Officers like Meer Ulmas Ali Khan and Hakim Mehdi. Even the English Officers also held them in high esteem. Meer Ulmas Ali Khan was the Deputy Governor of Doab and western Oudh. By his articulate management of the territories under him, he contributed annually Rs. 80 lakhs to the Oudh treasury. His people were secure, prosperous and felt happy. Oudh territories under him were called garden of Oudh. The Nawab loved to spend at least a month at his beautiful, magnificent, well appointed and founding city of Meergunj. Hakim Mehdi was the Nazim of Gonda and Bahraich and provided another role model of an Oudh Officer.

However as it happens with every good intentioned act, there were certain groups of people who were not happy with these reforms. These disgruntled people included the supporters of disposed Wazir Ali, axed service personnel, land barons who were asked to pay the due revenue and the corrupt officials who were meted out the severe punishment. The English Resident therefore took the unprecedented step of appointing English Body Guards for the Nawab, who accompanied him whenever and wherever, he moved

More of English Shadow on Oudh

The reign of Nawab Sadat Ali Khan will be long remembered for his astute handling of increasing English pressure. Perhaps the English Rulers at Fort Williams, Calcutta believed that firstly, the nawabi of Oudh could come to Sadat Ali because of the English interference and secondly, Nawab Sadat Ali enjoyed closer proximity with English that would rather make him easily vulnerable to the whims of those ruled. Thus began unnecessary a tug of war competition between the two. Nawab Sadat Ali Khan was going ahead with full steam in pursuance of his reforms when the new Governor General Marquis of Wellesley stepped in Fort Williams, Calcutta. Immediately upon assuming the charge, the Governor General stationed two divisions of the English army in Oudh and thus apportioned half of the Company’s military expenses to the Oudh treasury of Nawab. Remonstrations of Nawab were of no avail. Similar posting of English troops was done in Benares amidst strong protest lodged by Raja Chait Singh but its result was well recorded in history for a lesson to all. As they say, to rub salt to the wound, the English Governor General in his zeal, ordered for disbandment of Nawabi troops and ceding of two third of Oudh province to the Company Bahadur. All these happened bypassing the treaty concluded when Nawab came to power and people thought that no more English interference would now be there. It was all illusion when the English Master was holding the last trump card. However after being forewarned and warned again and again, the Nawab did not give in. The English Resident Colonel Scott then took the matters in his hand. He called for the English troops, and appointed his own men to take the charge of administration of the Rohilkhand, Doab, Chunar and Gorakhpur districts. These territories were yielding annually, total revenue of Rs. 135.5 lakhs to Oudh treasury and with this new arrangement all of a sudden there was a great downward surge in the provincial revenue. The downcast, humiliated Nawab was constrained to sign a new treaty on 10 of November 1801 agreeing to what was already usurped by the Resident. A signe, postdated cheque, the amount of which was already filled by the receiver himself, was required only to be signed by the Oudh ally. The new treaty left the poor Nawab still poorer as the territories left to poor Nawab were only worth, Rs One crore.

The general nature of a human being is to remember God in times of distress. So Nawab Sadat was also not an exception and went to his patronized shrine of Hazrat Abbas where he prayed and prayed for the recall of the Governor General Wellesley and sending of a new one who might prove a true friend of Oudh. In the opening months of 1802, the Governor General appeared in person at Lucknow, not the new one but the old one whom the Nawab despised, Marquis of Wellesley and gave a sermon to his obedient folks on the rights and duties of a ruler like him under the protection of East India Company. The sermon went straight to the hearts and the Nawab built the Mandiaon cantonment and banqueting hall of the Residency. A Gate for presentation of guard of honor was also added to the establishment of Resident Colonel Bailey and thence the name “Bailey Guarad” had its origin in the native’s pronunciation.

Once again, after the visit of the Governor General was over, the Nawab embarked upon his pet project of land reforms. He demarcated his lands into Chucklas & Illakas and introduced contract system of realizing land revenue with a double check mechanism. The system worked well, better than the Company held lands in the province of Oudh but the Resident brought his own officials called Collectors from NWF province and tried to replace the contractors. The result was utter confusion and chaos. People refused to pay and there were wide spread skirmishes between the people and the Company officials at many places. By now the Nawab was too familiar with the game of chess, played by the English Officers of the East India Company on the home turf of Oudh kingdom. He used his money to checkmate these officials in their own game. He hired an English intelligence company lead by one Major Ouseley, kept tab on the working of these English Collectors and made good contacts in Fort Williams, Calcutta and in London. These sustained efforts of the Nawab helped him in not only weeding out some corrupt and oppressive officials but the crowning achievement was the recall of Marquis himself.

Development of Lucknow under Sadat Ali Khan

In spite of his compulsive habit of saving of money, miserliness to the extent of not indulging in any extravagance, Nawab Sadat Ali was also fond of buildings. He is credited with development of Lucknow city towards the eastern side. During his reign, the construction of buildings assumed a new character. Sadat Ali came under European influence early in life. He appreciated the functional part of the European buildings better than the traditional Lucknow Nawabi style buildings, which were strongly built to last longer. He purchased the Farhat Baksh Palace from General Claude Martin at a cost of Rs 50,000 and made it as his personal residence. Then he built several other buildings nearby. He built Tberi Kothi as a residence for the English Resident and whose ruins are still lying in the Residency. He built Lal Barahdari then known as Kasr-ul-Sultan. This building is now a part of the Lucknow University and besides a canteen, it houses staff club. Lal Barahdari is also linked with famous case of Munna Jaan whose unsuccessful coronation took place here. Dil Aaram was yet another pleasure house or Kothi built across the river. He built another beautiful building on a raised ground in the cantonment area providing a panoramic view of the river and city landscape and gave it the name Dilkusha. Another Kothi by the name of Hyat Baksh was built but it remained unoccupied after the death of Nawab Sadat Ali. Major Banks, an English officer was living in Hyat Baksh before the uprising of 1857. Thereafter it was more or less as a rule that who so ever came as Chief Commissioner of Lucknow, took his residence in Hyat Baksh. He built the cantonment of Marion across the river Gomti, Munnawar Baksh, Khurseed Manzil, Moti Mahal, Chaupar stables or Lawrence Terrace as these were known later and many other structures that stand even today. In Moti Mahal complex, the original and oldest building is still located in the northern part. The dome of this building was simply beautiful and shone like a pearl and therefore the name Moti Mahal was assigned. Moti Mahal beckons the visitor to listen its tales of 1857 uprising when the royal forces under Begum Hazrat Mahal the secondary wife of Wazid Ali Shah, mowed down the two English Officers Dr. Warton and Brigadier Cooper. The incident happened on September 27, 1857 when the engagement of forces under General Havelock and Hazrat Mahal took place. Another stone inscription put up here informs the visitor that this was the place where the armies of Sir James Outram and Sir Henry Havlock joined with the English force posted at Residency. This historic date recorded was November 17,1857. Nawab and his courtiers saw the animals fight on the bank across the river from the roof of Shah Manzil, another Nawabi period building located on the right of Moti Mahal. After Independence in 1947, a hostel was opened in this building for research scholars and a part of Shah Manzil served as Library. Moti Lal Trust and Bharat Sewa Sansthan, the two social service organizations started functioning from the main Hall of Moti Mahal. These Trusts also looked after the maintenance of Moti Mahal and Shah Manzil. The earlier extensive lawns of Moti Mahal and Shah Manzil are now used for marriage parties and other social gatherings, which provide some revenue for upkeep budget.

Nawab developed Sadat Gunj in the western part of Lucknow, which soon became famous and many traders and businessman came here and started their businesses. The traders liked the Sadat Gunj and businessmen for the special concessions offered to them and provided enough land area for the transport and storage of goods brought here from various parts of Hindoostan and foreign countries. Alam Nagar station prospered because of Sadat Gunj. Besides Sadatgunj, there were other markets developed during Nawab Sadat Ali. Amongst these, the most famous ones were: Rakabgunj, Jangligunj, Maqboolgunj; Maulvigunj, Golagunj and Rastogi mohalla. Rakabgunj became famous for iron & steel and food grains. Nawab was a believer of superstitions and these lead him not to do certain things, which might bring bad luck to him, One such act was not carrying out the repairs of old stone bridge over River Gomti and the other remaining work of non- commissioning of iron bridge ordered from England in 1810 and lying unpacked for nearly 40 years.

Personal Sketch

Sadat Ali Khan was a tall person with a stocky build. His clean-shaven face with a prominent aquiline nose, large ears, suspicious looking hazel eyes, is further mystified with short awesome looking pair of moustaches. He used to wear a mundasa like turban as if some cloth was tied, tightly, round and round to form a hat like shape. His headdress resembled one, which Nana Sahib of Bithoor (rebel leader of Kanpur troops in 1857), used to wear. Two strands of pearl necklace adorned his neck. He wore a long flowing, gold thread embroidered robe with silken trousers falling over richly embroidered pair of Naagra shoes with upwards-pointed tips. This is the portrait of Nawab, which now hangs in the Hussainabad Picture Gallery of Lucknow.

It has already been said that Sadat Ali Khan was not in the good books of Asaf-ud-Daula and therefore, he spent most of his time under the patronage of English men either at Benares or Calcutta. During his stay at Benares, Sadat Ali Khan involved himself in a case related to the business dispute between the Delhi merchants’ duo named Amar Dass and Chitamal and their uncle’s servant Bihari Lall. Sadat Ali Khan favored the guilty person Bihari Lall, got the merchandise  in his custody, and rebuked the Delhi merchants that resulted in their filing a petition to the Governor General in Calcutta. Sadat Ali Khan even did not allow Raja of Benares Mahip Narain Singh to live peacefully by his highhandedness shown in at least two well-known cases. The first one related to non-vacation of the Mansa Ram premises that were offered to him for short term residence and for the same Raja Benares had to write to Governor General Hastings. When Hastings wrote him to leave the premises, Sadat Ali Khan did not listen to annul the unfair practice of keeping a lower chungi (tax on commodity trading) rate to lure the grain merchants to his mandi (wholesale grain market) that resulted in financial losses to Raja of Benares, as merchants did not visit the mandis operated by the Raja. These two incidents show that Sadat Ali Khan had a sound business sense of making money even at the expense of his benefactor.

He learnt English ways of doing things. Some say that he even studied English language also. Of course, it may be fair to say that he was not so much Anglicized as the latter Nawab Nasir-ud-Din Haider had become. Although, he was pushed too far by his English Masters but it was to his credit that he remained faithful to the English East India Company till his death. No doubt that there was a strong reason for him to be so as he was the Chosen one by the English Masters. At the same time it is interesting to note that he checkmated the English men in their own game.

Sidney Hay has written interesting account of dining habits of Nawab Sadat Ali Khan based on the record of one English lady who visited Lucknow in 1805. Each course of the menu had three separate dishes prepared in English, Hindoostani and French style. The top end (extreme left of the Nawab) of the huge dining table was allotted, English dish cooked by an English chef, the center one was reserved for the Indian one and the lower end (right hand side of Nawab) was meant for French style dish prepared by one French Chef. Nawab had ordered a set of famous Worcestershire china for refurbishing his dining room, bathroom and bedroom. Sometimes these articles had a mix up so much so that bath room or bed room article appeared on the dining table and the hapless Nawab would not know why his guests did not touch their favorite beverages. He was in the habit of giving lavish banquets in the honor of visiting English dignitaries and European visitors of repute. Lord Hastings paid a state visit to Lucknow in 1814. This was his farewell visit as he was laying down the office of Governor General.

The Nawab made every effort to make Lord Hastings comfortable during his visit and stay. Lavish breakfast parties, and dinners were arranged in the honor of his English Guest. As was customary in those days, these parties had the entertainment part filled up by the famous courtesans of Lucknow who tried their best to impress by their art of dance and music. Wine and dine were generally bracketed in such regal parties. Although Nawab himself did not indulge in the hard drinks but he served these happily to his English Guest. Nawab was very particular about his guests and took great care to see that they are well attended all the times. People mention one occasion when he severely reprimanded his own son for falling asleep and not paying attention to receive the guest. His son was a little boy when appointed to the post of chamberlain. As he was young and did not understand the nuances, the Nawab took upon himself the responsibility of escorting, and introducing the son to welcome the visitors on such occasions. The lady visitor kept the young Prince waiting for the whole day. Those readers who are well acquainted with the conditions prevailing during summer months of Oudh can well understand the plight of the young boy.

Though the Nawab was fond of hosting lavish banquets in honor of visiting dignitaries, otherwise, he led a simple life himself. In fact for his simple living, he was also labeled a ‘Miser’. The Nawab was concerned with the depleted treasury as his deceased brother and the earlier Nawab spent lavishly. Moreover the Nawab was aware about the continuous demands of money by the East India Company and there was no way-out except to save in the Govt. expenditure and plug the wasteful expenditure. He organized his land administration and revenue well and the result was that with depleted land area, the revenue went up. Land was divided in to Chucklas and Illakas. Collection of land revenue work was entrusted to the contractors with system of check and double check thus safeguarding the interest of Government. For these reforms, sometimes, historians call hìm, Akbar of that age. As early as 1801, he developed the concept of reserve-treasury and by the time he died, the reserve stood Rs 14 crore, the amount, which some estimated as Rs 22 crores. In his financial administration, his second son Shams-ud-Daula, a minister and his third son, finance minister, who later on became the third King of Oudh, ably assisted him.

It appears rather strange that with the reputation of a miser man, Sadat Ali was able to attract learned and capable people from all over Hindoostan. Usually such people flocked only at those places where the ruler enjoyed the reputation of being a man for liberal distribution of riches to such deserving people. There was something in him, his inherent goodness, that he could not resist the temptation of inviting and offering descent living to such people in Lucknow. Soon Oudh subedari and the city of Lucknow became famous for collection of such galaxy of learned people that were hard to find elsewhere.

Easily, he was the most outstanding administrator amongst all the Nawabs of Oudh and he would have taken the province of Oudh to greater heights had he lived longer. It is said that people jealous of him poisoned Nawab Sadat Ali and on July 11, 1814, the end came unexpectedly. Nawab was in his sixties only. There are two conspicuously looking domed Mausoleums in sprawling lawns overlooking Aminabad and situated in the area enclosed by Kaiser bagh. Nawab Sadat Ali rests in the larger one of the two and the other shared by his wife Khursheed Zadi. As the story goes, the son Gazi-ud-Din Haider, was so much overwhelmed by the death of his father and told his men that since he had taken the place of his father, it was but appropriate for him to give his place of residence for eternal rest of his father. The palace of the Prince was dismantled and the two mausoleums of his father and mother were built in its place. At the time of death, Nawab left his nine sons but one followed his father in same year of his death but at least five of them survived according to an Oudh Paper of 1837. It seems however that two of these must have succumbed to the cruelties of a later King Nasir-ud-Din Haider who came to the throne in 1827.

Wives of Sadat Ali Khan

The Chief Consort Afzal Mahal Begum died early and therefore left the vacancy that was filled by one of the secondary wife Begum Taj Mahal who had a lotus sign in her foot and considered auspicious by the astrologers. She was assigned the Nawabganj area that yielded revenue of Rs 1, 20,000. She was the mother of Nawab Jalal-ud-Daula Mirza Mehndi Ali Khan, the youngest son of Sadat Ali Khan and was forced to live in Bawali Wali Kothi after the death of Sadat Ali Khan. The names of Sangin Khanum and Khursheed Zadi also come up. The last named was a favorite of the Nawab and she was the mother of Ghazi-ud-Din Haider and Khair-un-Nisa Begum.