Nawab (Balochi, Pashto: نواب; Arabic: نواب; Bengali: নবাব/নওয়াব; Hindi: नवाब; Punjabi (Gurmukhi): ਨਵਾਬ; Persian, Punjabi (Shahmukhi), Sindhi, Urdu: نواب), also spelled Nawaab, Navaab, Navab, Nowab, Nabob, Nawaabshah, Nawabshah or Nobab, is a Royal title indicating a sovereign ruler, often of a South Asian state, in many ways comparable to the western title of Prince. The relationship of a Nawab to the Emperor of India has been compared to that of the Kings of Saxony to the German Emperor.[1] In earlier times the title was ratified and bestowed by the reigning Mughal emperor to semi-autonomous Muslim rulers of subdivisions or princely states in the Indian subcontinent loyal to the Mughal Empire, for example the Nawabs of Bengal. The title is common among Muslim rulers of South Asia as equivalent to the title Maharaja.

"Nawab" usually refers to males and literally means Viceroy; the female equivalent is "Begum" or "Nawab Begum". The primary duty of a Nawab was to uphold the sovereignty of the Mughal emperor along with the administration of a certain province.

The title of "nawabi" was also awarded as a personal distinction by the paramount power, similar to a British peerage, to persons and families who ruled a princely state for various services to the Government of India. In some cases, the titles were also accompanied by jagir grants, either in cash revenues and allowances or land-holdings. During the British Raj, some of the chiefs, or sardars, of large or important tribes were also given the title, in addition to traditional titles already held by virtue of chieftainship.

The term "Zamindari" was originally used for the subahdar (provincial governor) or viceroy of a subah (province) or regions of the Mughal empire.


Robert Clive, meeting with Nawab Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey, by Francis Hayman

Nawab is a Hindustani term, used in Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, Pashto and many other North-Indian languages, borrowed via Persian from the Arabic honorific plural of naib, or "deputy." In some areas, especially Bengal, the term is pronounced nobab. This later variation has also entered English and other foreign languages as nabob.

The winter diwan of a Mughal nawab

The term "Nawaab" 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, nawabs continued to rule various princely states of Amb, Bahawalpur, Balasinor, Baoni, Banganapalle, Bhopal, Cambay, Jaora, Junagadh, Kurnool (the main city of Deccan), Kurwai, Mamdot, Multan, Palanpur, Pataudi, Radhanpur, Rampur, Malerkotla, Sachin, and Tonk. Other former rulers bearing the title, such as the nawabs of Bengal and Awadh, had been deprived by the British or others by the time the Mughal dynasty finally ended in 1857.

Some princes became Nawab by promotion, e.g. the ruler of Palanpur was "diwan" until 1910, then "nawab sahib". Other nawabs were promoted are restyled to another princely style, or to and back, e.g. in Rajgarh a single rawat (rajah) went by nawab.

The style for a nawab's queen is begum. Most of the nawab dynasties were male primogenitures, although several ruling Begums of Bhopal 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 suzerainty and assume the imperial style of Badshah), Bengal, Arcot and Bhopal.

Ruling nawab familiesEdit

The Procession of Yusef Ali Khan, a painting depicting Yusef Khan on his way to an encampment for the durbar held at Fatehgarh in 1859

Families ruling when acceding to IndiaEdit

Former dynasties of princely states in India abolished before independenceEdit

Families ruling when acceding to PakistanEdit

Families ruling when acceding to BangladeshEdit

Former dynasties which became political pensionersEdit

also imperial Wazir of all Mughal India, both hereditary

Rohilla Confederation[2]Edit

All of these states were at some point under the authority of the Nawab of Rohilkhand, later made the Nawab of Rampur. Most of these states were annexed at the close of the First Rohilla War.

Miscellaneous nawabsEdit

Personal nawabsEdit

The title nawab was also awarded as a personal distinction by the paramount power, similarly to a British peerage, to persons and families who never ruled a princely state. For the Muslim elite various Mughal-type titles were introduced, including nawab. Among the noted British creations of this type were Nawab Hashim Ali Khan (1858–1940), Nawab Khwaja Abdul Ghani (1813–1896), Nawab Abdul Latif (1828–1893), Nawab Faizunnesa Choudhurani (1834–1904), Nawab Ali Chowdhury (1863–1929), Nawaab Syed Shamsul Huda (1862–1922), Nawab Sirajul Islam (1848–1923), Nawab Alam yar jung Bahadur, M.A, Madras, B.A., B.C.L., Barr-At-Law (1890–1974). There also were the Nawabs of Dhanbari, Nawabs of Ratanpur, Nawabs of Baroda and such others.

Nawab as a court rankEdit

A picture of whom is believed to be the first ever "Nawab" of Mughal Empire, "Saadat Ali Khan I" of Awadh.

Nawab was also the rank title—again not an office—of a much lower class of Muslim nobles—in fact retainers—at the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar State, ranking only above Khan Bahadur and Khan, but under (in ascending order) Jang, Daula, Mulk, Umara and Jah; the equivalent for Hindu courtiers was Raja Bahadur.

Derived titlesEdit


This style, adding the Persian suffix -zada which means son (or other male descendants; see other cases in prince), etymologically fits a nawab’s sons, but in actual practice various dynasties established other customs.

For example, in Bahawalpur only the nawbab's heir apparent used nawabzada before his personal name, then Khan Abassi, finally Wali Ahad Bahadur (an enhancement of Wali Ehed), while the other sons of the ruling nawab used the style sahibzada before the personal name and only Khan Abassi behind. "Nawabzadi" implies daughters of the reigning nawbab.

Elsewhere, there were rulers who were not styled nawbab yet awarded a title nawabzada to others.

Naib (Ottoman, Iranian, Arabic title)Edit

The word naib (Arabic: نائب) has been historically used to refer to any suzerain leader, feudatory, or regent in some parts of the Ottoman Empire, successive early modern Persianate kingdoms (Safavids, etc.), and in the eastern Caucasus (e.g. during Caucasian Imamate). In the Sultanate of Morocco, the Naib was the Sultan's emissary to the foreign legations in Tangier between 1848 and 1923, when the creation of the Tangier International Zone led to its replacement by the office of the Mendoub.

Today, the word is used to refer to directly elected legislators in lower houses of parliament in many Arabic-speaking areas to contrast them against officers of upper houses (or Shura). The term Majlis al-Nuwwab (Arabic: مجلس النواب, literally council of deputies) has been adopted as the name of several legislative lower houses and unicameral legislatures.

"Naib" has also been used in the Malay language (especially of the Malaysian variant) to translate the component of "deputy" or "vice" in certain titles (e.g "Vice President" - Naib Presiden)[3] aside from timbalan and wakil (latter predominant in the Indonesian variant).

"Nabob", derived colloquial termEdit

In colloquial usage in English (since 1612),[4] adopted in other Western languages, the transliteration "nabob" refers to commoners: a merchant-leader of high social status and wealth. "Nabob" derives from the Bengali pronunciation of "nawab": Bengali: নবাব nôbab.

During the 18th century in particular, it was widely used as a disparaging term for British merchants or administrators who, having made a fortune in India, returned to Britain and aspired to be recognised as having the higher social status that their new wealth would enable them to maintain. Jos Sedley in Thackeray's Vanity Fair is probably the best known example in fiction.

From this specific usage it came to be sometimes used for ostentatiously rich businesspeople in general.

"Nabob" can also be used metaphorically for people who have a grandiose sense of their own importance, as in the famous alliterative dismissal of the news media as "nattering nabobs of negativism" in a speech that was delivered by Nixon's vice president Spiro Agnew and written by William Safire.[5]


Indian states formerly ruled by NawabsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sir Robert, Lethbridge (1893). The Golden Handbook of India. p. x.
  2. ^ Hamilton, Charles. An Historical Relation of the origin, progress and final dissolution of the Rohilla Afghans in the northern provinces of Hindostan. pp. 90–92.
  3. ^ "vice - Kamus Bahasa Inggeris". Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Archived from the original on 25 October 2021. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  4. ^ Origin of NABOB Archived 3 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  5. ^ "nattering nabobs of negativism" Archived 10 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 7 April 2015.

Further readingEdit