Nawab - History


The term is Urdu, borrowed via Persian from the Arabic being the honorific plural of naib i.e. 'deputy'. In some areas, especially Bengal, the term is pronounced Nobab. This later variation has entered the English and other foreign languages, see below.

The title Nawbab or Nawaab is basically derived from the Arab word Naib which means "deputy." Muslim rulers preferred this as then they could be referred to as the deputies of God on earth and hence not infringing on God's title, i.e., Lord and master of this earth. The title is specifically founded by Twelver Shia Muslim rulers from the word Naib - E - Imaam (which means Deputy or representative of the Living Imaam Muhammad al-Mahdi).

The term "nawbab" is often used to refer to any Muslim ruler in north or south India while the term "Nizam" is preferred for a senior official—it literally means "governor of region". The Nizam of Hyderabad had several Nawabs under him: Nawabs of Cuddapah, Sira, Rajahmundry, Kurnool, Chicacole, et al. "Nizam" was his personal title, awarded by the Mughal Government and based on the term "Nazim" as meaning "senior officer". "Nazim" is still used for a district collector in many parts of India. The term "nawab" is still technically imprecise, as the title was also awarded to Hindus and Sikhs, as well, and large Zamindars and not necessarily to all Muslim rulers. With the decline of that empire, the title, and the powers that went with it, became hereditary in the ruling families in the various provinces.

Under later British rule, nawbabs continued to rule various princely states of Awadh, Amb, Bahawalpur, Baoni, Banganapalle, Bhopal, Cambay, Jaora, Junagadh, Kurnool, Kurwai, Mamdot, Multan, Palanpur, Pataudi, Rampur, Malerkotla, Sachin, Rajoli and Tonk. Other former rulers bearing the title, such as the nawabs of Bengal and Oudh, had been dispossessed by the British or others by the time the Mughal dynasty finally ended in 1857. The title of the ruler of Palanpur was "Diwan" and not "Nawab".

The style for a nawbab's queen is Begum. Most of the nawbab dynasties were male primogenitures, although several ruling Begums of Bhopal and Ruchka Begum of TikaitGanj, near Lucknow were a notable exception.

Before the incorporation of the Subcontinent into the British Empire, nawabs ruled the kingdoms of Awadh (or Oudh, encouraged by the British to shed the Mughal suzereignty and assume the imperial style of Badshah), Bengal, Arcot and Bhopal.

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