The ruling family belongs to the Afghan Salarzai Pathan tribe, from Buner. The progenitor of their family, Taleh Khan, migrated to India during the reign of Muhammad Shah and first settled at Surai Turina. Amir Khan, his grandson joined the Pathan tribal formations, similar to the Pindaris with whom they are often confused, who roamed Northern India during the latter half of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century as free-booters and mercenaries. He rose to be one of the strongest and most influential of these leaders, who hired out his services and his army to the highest bidder, with the further right to loot and the 'spoils of war'. He allied himself most closely with the Maratha rulers, Scindia and Holkar, on whose behalf he would set out to attack their enemies each November, after the monsoon rains. While the Pindaris tended to concentrate on the east and south central Hindustan, Amir Khan and his Pathans concentrated on the north and Rajasthan. At the height of his power, he is said to have controlled a personal following of 12,000 cavalry, 10,000 infantry and up to 200 guns. The largest contingent amongst the Pindari chiefs, by far.

In return for their services, the Maratha rulers of Gwalior, Indore and Berar often conferred land grants on the Pindaris. By the early years of the nineteenth century, these yielded additional revenues of between Rs 800,000 and Rs 2 million per annum. Sometimes, they would 'refrain from plunder' on the payment of large financial indemnities from their intended prey.

In 1817 the Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief, The Marquess of Hastings, resolved to extinguish the Pindari menace. The Treaty of Gwalior severed the link between them and Scindia. Moreover, the treaty required the latter to join forces with the British to eliminate the Pindaris and Pathans. Bowing to the inevitable, Amir Khan assiduously came to terms with the British, agreeing to disband his men in return for a large stipend and recognition as a hereditary ruler. He had acquired the town and pargana of Tonk from Holkar in 1798, and this area together with some other scattered parganas that he held, was combined with the pargana of Rampura (Aligarh) and erected into a new principality. Amir Khan was recognised as hereditary nawab, disbanded his forces and quietly settled down to consolidating his little state. He became a faithful friend to the British, earning high praise and consideration from successive pro-consuls.

Amir Khan died full of years in 1834, leaving his new state to his eldest son Wazir Khan. The new nawab supported the British during the Indian Mutiny and received further territories to augment his domains. However, his court also became a refuge for those writers, artists and musicians who fled Delhi after the revolt and no longer enjoyed the patronage of the Mughals. Several members of the former Imperial Family, together with their retainers and connections, took service with or received refuge from the nawab. In the years that followed, the court at Tonk emerged as an important cultural and artistic centre, preserving the best of the old Mughal world.

By the early years of the twentieth century, all vestiges of the warlike past had disappeared. In 1925 the army consisted of just 50 old men armed with decrepit rifles, more a danger to their possessors than any imagined enemy. While the library boasted one of the best collections of Muslim learning in India, with ancient Korans and texts, and a centre of Urdu, this attracted scholars from around the empire. Virtually every ruler, and many of the princes of the house, were learned men entitled to the epithet of 'hafiz'.

Nawab Wazir Khan died in 1864, to be succeeded by his eldest surviving son. Sporting some of the traits of his ancestors, Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan soon fell into evil ways. A dispute with one of the principle nobles of Rajasthan, the Thakur of Lawa, escalated beyond all proportion. Various armed contests ensued, until the Nawab decided to end it all by eliminating his opponent and many of his relatives. An enquiry conducted by the Government of India in 1867 found him complicit, and he was deposed and banished from the Tonk by order of the Viceroy. He was sent to live out his days at Benares, where he died in 1895.

The Government of India proclaimed Muhammad Ibrahim 'Ali Khan, minor son and heir of Muhammad Ali, as nawab under the regency of his able uncle. A number of modernising reforms were introduced during this period, including schools and hospital, government departments of state, and a modern administration. The Nawab reached his majority and assumed full ruling powers in 1870. He continued with the modernisation schemes of his uncle, but his chief interests lay in propagating and preserving the Muslim cultural heritage. He supported many charitable and learned institutions, both within and outside Tonk, expanded and embellished the famous library, and added to the architectural heritage of the town. He reigned for sixty-three years and was one of the very few people who attended all three of the Delhi Durbars, in 1877, 1903 and 1911.

Nawab Muhammad Sa'adat 'Ali Khan succeeded his father in 1930. He resembled his father in many ways, but did not enjoy good health. Nevertheless, he managed to introduce a number of reforms. Not least of these, the extension of participatory institutions at state, district and town level. In this, he was far ahead of most rulers in Rajasthan. He died in May 1947, just a few short months before India gained its independence.

Nawab Muhammad Faruq Ali Khan followed his brother but did not enjoy his position very long. It fell to him to decide whether to opt for Pakistan or India. He chose the latter, but died within a few months. After a short enquiry by the new government of independent India, his younger brother succeeded in February 1948.

The new nawab, Hafiz Muhammad Ismail Ali Khan, was faced with two immediate problems. The future of his state and the subsequent maintenance of the large family he had to provide for as head of the family. The first problem was relatively easily resolved by joining the Union of Rajasthan, followed shortly afterwards by Greater Rajasthan in 1949. The second problem proved more intractable, and dogged for the rest of his days. The decision of Mrs Gandhi's government to abolish privy-purse payments came as a heavy blow, forcing him to struggle to meet his commitments. He died in 1974, being succeeded by his father's nineteenth son, Nawab Hafiz Muhammad Masum 'Ali Khan. The latter died in 1994.



The ruling prince: (principal personal titles), Wazir ul-Mulk, Nawab (personal name) Khan Sahib Bahadur, (further personal titles) Jang, Nawab of Tonk, with the style of His Highness.
The principal consort of the ruling prince: Nawab Mulka (personal name) Begum Sahiba, with the style of Her Highness.
The Heir Apparent: (principal personal titles), Sahibzada (personal name) Khan Bahadur, Wali Ahad Sahib.
The younger sons of the ruling prince: (principal personal titles) Sahibzada (personal name) Khan Sahib Bahadur, (further personal titles) Jang*.
The daughters and other female descendants of the ruling prince, in the male line: Sahibzadi (personal name) Begum Sahiba.
The more distant male descendants of the ruling prince, in the male line: Sahibzada (personal name) Khan

* Other important members of the ruling family, their connections and high ranking state servants, also received similar titles.

None known.

Male primogeniture, amongst the legitimate Muslim descendants of Nawab Amir Khan.

Annual report on the administration of Tonk State. State Printing Press, Tonk. 1909/10-1912/13, 1914/15-1919/20, 1921/22-1932/33, 1934/35-1944/45. IOR/V/10. Oriental & India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Sir C.S. Bailey (compiler). Chiefs and Leading Families in Rajputana (The Ruling Princes, Chiefs and Leading Personages in Rajputana and Ajmer). Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta, 1894, 1903, 1912, 1916 and 1935.
Future Succession in the Tonk State. IOR/R/1/1/4341, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Thomas Holbein Hendley, CIE, VD. The Rulers of India and the Chiefs of Rajputana 1550 to 1897. W. Griggs, London, 1897.
Basavan Lal, called Shadan (comp.). Memoirs of the Puthan soldier of fortune the Nuwab Ameer-Ood-Doulah Mohummud Ameer Khan, chief of Seronj, Tonk, Rampoora, Neemahera, and other places in Hindoostan. G.H. Huttmann, Military Orphan Press, Calcutta, 1832.
Iltudus Thomas Prichard. Facts Connected With the Dethronement of the Nawab of Tonk. Agra, 1867.
(Sahibzada) Shaukat Ali Khan (ed.). Historical Heritage: A Bibliographical Survey of the Rare Manuscripts in the Arabic and Persian Research Institute Rajasthan, Tonk. Arabic and Persian Research Institute Rajasthan, Tonk, 1980.

Father Lawrence Ober, SJ.
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
I would be grateful to hear from anyone who may have changes, corrections or additions to contribute. If you do, please be kind enough to send me an e-mail using the contact details at: Copyright© Christopher Buyers

Copyright©Christopher Buyers, February 2007 - October 2011