Sunday, February 1, 1998

Manik Prabhu and the Sixth Nizam

Legends & Anecdotes of Hyderabad : 30

Manik Prabhu and the Sixth Nizam
By Narendra Luther

Mir Mehboob Ali Khan was the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad. He was born in 1866 and became a ruler when he was not yet three years old. He was therefore led to the masnad by the then Prime Minister Salar Jung and the Paigah noble, Rafi-ud-Din who were, together, appointed the co-regents. He ruled for 41 years and died at the comparatively young age of 43.

He became a very popular ruler with the masses. His appeal transcended religious boundaries and both his Muslims and his Hindu subjects revered him equally. That was largely because he adopted many of the practices of the medieval rulers. He used to go about in the city incognito at night and appear at unexpected places. Sometimes he would play pranks with his unsuspecting subjects. He would thus get feedback about himself and his rule from them. In case he found some people in dire want, he would make an act of impulsive generosity. The stories about his large-heartedness spread all over the State and legends about him are still popular.

During the floods of 1908, on a suggestion by some people, he willingly performed an ‘arti’ to placate the goddess Bhavani who was believed to be responsible for the devastating floods in the river Musi. Having performed the pooja, he opened his palaces to all refugees and organized free kitchen for them.

He also acquired a reputation for curing snakebites. It was said that if anybody anywhere had been bitten by a snake, he or she could approach the ruler at any time of day and night. If the victim could not reach him in time, he could recite the name of Mehboob Ali Pasha and say ‘Mehboob Ali Pasha ki duhai’ and the snake poison would be dissipated. I have myself seen people some 90 years after his death at his grave in the compound of the Mecca Masjid to offer thanks for the snake bite which they claimed was cured merely by invoking his name.

The Muslims don’t believe in re-birth but his Hindu subjects believed that he was a reincarnation of Manik Prabhu (1817-1865) a saint from Humnabad in Bidar, a district of the former Hyderabad state, now in Karnatka. .

According to an incident recorded in the biography of the saint by Nagesh D. Sonde, Nizam V of Hyderabad, Afzal-ud-dowla (1857-1869) was childless. He was aware of Shri Manik Prabhu’s divine powers. His noblemen advised him that he should seek his blessings for getting a child. The Nizam sent one of his noblemen, Apparao Arab to Maniknagar with a gift of a jagir for Shri Manik Prabhu worth sixty thousand rupees for getting the ‘prasad’ (blessings) for a child. When Apparao Arab presented the papers of the Jagir to Shri Prabhu and requested for the prasad for the Nizam, Shri Prabhu smiled and said, “ I am a fakir. What will I do with this jagir? Why should I crave for such small gifts from mortal men. Tell your master that I am not interested in accepting this jagir. However, I shall give him prasad for progeny. He will be blessed with a son. Ask him to name the boy ‘Mehboob’”.

According to another interesting incident mentioned by Begum Bilkees Latif in her book: “Her India”, once the Nizam, Mehboob Ali Pasha had a terrible carbuncle on his back, just below his neck. It grew and grew and became very painful. He went to Maniknagar near Humnabad where he met a well-known and evolved sadhu called Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj. Pandit Motiramji Sangeetkar who went with him, told me that this sadhu had earlier pointed to an area there and had said that a light coloured granite stone would be found there. When they started digging, they found the stone as he had said they would. Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj, then built a temple there, of this stone. When the Nizam met him, they found themselves very much in harmony and discussed many things together amicably. The Nizam mentioned his carbuncle which was not healing. The sadhu said that his own soul would go into the Nizam’s body for a while and the Nizam’s soul would enter into his body. This they said took place somehow and the carbuncle just disappeared! When the Nizam returned to Hyderabad, he wore a gold chain across his chest like the sacred thread of the Brahmins and gave prasad to the sadhu’s followers as they said that after his temporary exchange of souls he had acquired special powers of healing. Often after this he was asked to heal those who had been bitten by snakes or were in great pain and was able to do so.

Shri Dnyanraj Prabhu, the present secretary of the Manik Prabhu Samasthan has reservation about the story. According to him, “Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj had attained ‘jiwant samadhi’ (burying oneself alive in a pit to die) at Maniknagar on 29th November 1865, whereas Mehboob Ali Pasha was born in 1866. Hence Mehboob Ali Pasha’s contact with Shri Manik Prabhu is out of question. Shri Martand Manik Prabhu Maharaj the successor of Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj was a contemporary of Mehboob Ali Pasha. There is every possibility that Nizam VI might have met Shri Martand Manik Prabhu who was equally qualified in spiritual wisdom as his predecessor”. He might have acquired the power from him.

Shri Samasthan Manik Prabhu is now doing research about the connections between Manik Prabhu and the Asaf Jahis and some more incidents, stories and anecdotes are likely to emerge out of that to supplement the existing lore.

Be that as it may, the legend speaks about the popularity of the sixth Nizam on the basis of his generosity and liberal outlook. It also indicates the reverence which people of the region have for the saint, Manik Prabhu.