The 4th of January, 2016 is the 100th birth anniversary of Princess Niloufer. An exhibition of her materials will be inaugurated at 5:30 PM at the ITC Kakatiya in Begumpet, Hyderabad.
A very unusual circumstance brought Princess Niloufer to Hyderabad. When she was married in 1931,she was only 15 years old. Her husband, Prince Moazzam Jah, was the younger son of the Nizam of Hyderabad.
Earlier in the year, there was a proposal for the marriage of Princess Durru Shehvar with the elder son of the Nizam of Hyderabad, Prince Azam Jah. This proposal was brought by Moulana Shoukat Ali, one of the famous Ali brothers, who were spearheading the Khilafat movement to restore the Khalifa of Turkey, Abdul Majid, to the throne.
Princess Durru Shehvar was Abdul Majid’s daughter. During the marriage negotiations, the Khalifa’s side asked for a dowry, mehr-i-muajjal of 40,000 pounds sterling. Taken aback by this staggering demand, the Nizam of Hyderabad felt that the amount was so large that two brides could be covered in the dowry. The Nizam was already paying the Khalifa a maintenance allowance of 300 pounds a month.
When the Khalifa’s side heard of the Nizam’s astonishment at the size of the dowry, they quickly came in with a proposal that Princess Niloufer, a descendant of Sultan Murad V, would be offered in marriage to Prince Moazzam Jah. The Nizam agreed to this proposal and the two marriages were held on 12 November 1931, in Nice, France.
After the marriage, the brides with their grooms arrived in Hyderabad. A welcome arch was erected at the Public Gardens. A public holiday was declared in Hyderabad. Coincidentally, the same day was also the Nizam’s birthday.
During the next few years, Princess Durru Shehvar delivered two sons: Prince Mukarram Jah, and Prince Muffakham Jah. Although Princess Niloufer had brought a midwife from France to assist her in her anticipated pregnancy, she failed to conceive. Over time, this created an unusual amount of stress in her marriage.
Princess Niloufer’s public persona was that of a beautiful and charming woman. She performed many public duties, and even received training to be a nurse during the Second World War. Her husband, Prince Moazzam Jah, was president of the City Improvement Board. He was also a poet of repute in Urdu. Every evening, he would collect poets and singers who performed at his residence at the Hill Fort.
Around the time of India’s independence, Princess Niloufer’s maid Rafath Unnisa begum, conceived. A son was born to her, but the mother died in the process of delivery. Pained by this, Princess Niloufer is reputed to have said “No More Rafaths Will Die”, and proceeded to help to plan, and eventually build the hospital. To this day, the hospital stands in Red Hills and is now a testimony to her efforts.
After Police Action, Princess Niloufer briefly travelled abroad. When she returned, she met the Nizam in King Kothi. He kept saying “Hyderabad is finished”. The Nizam understood her peculiar situation and set up a trust to give her an allowance.
About a year later, Princess Niloufer left for Paris. She never returned to Hyderabad again.
From 1953 onwards, Princess Niloufer was repeatedly offered roles in films. She kept turning them down. When she visited New York in 1961, she was the Guest of Honour at the Imperial Ball at the Hotel Plaza in New York city.