Muhammad Habibullah

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Muhammad Habibullah

A portrait of Sir Muhammad Habibullah
Dewan of Travancore
In office
Monarch Chithira Thirunal
Preceded by T. Austin
Succeeded by Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer
Education Member of the Executive Council of the Viceroy of India
In office
December 1924 1930
Governor General E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax,
George Goschen, 2nd Viscount Goschen (acting)
Preceded by Sir Mohammed Shafi
Revenue Member of the Executive Council of the Governor of Madras
In office
17 December 1920 27 December 1924
Governor Freeman Freeman-Thomas, 1st Marquess of Willingdon,
Charles Todhunter (acting),
George Goschen, 2nd Viscount Goschen
Succeeded by T. E. Moir
Personal details
Born(1869-09-22)22 September 1869
Died16 May 1948(1948-05-16) (aged 78)

Khan Bahadur Sir Muhammad Habibullah KCSI KCIE (22 September 1869 – 16 May 1948) was an Indian politician and administrator who served as the Dewan of Travancore from 1934 to 1936.

Order of the Star of India order of chivalry of the British Empire

The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1861. The Order includes members of three classes :

  1. Knight Grand Commander (GCSI)
  2. Knight Commander (KCSI)
  3. Companion (CSI)
Order of the Indian Empire series of award in an order of chivalry of the British Empire

The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1878. The Order includes members of three classes:

  1. Knight Grand Commander (GCIE)
  2. Knight Commander (KCIE)
  3. Companion (CIE)

Dewan at various points in Islamic history and Indian history, designated a powerful government official, minister or ruler. A dewan was the head of a state institution of the same name.


Personal life

Habibullah was born in Madras (now Chennai) to Aushukh Hussain Khan Saheb on 22 September 1869. [1] He was a member of the Arcot royal family and closely related to the Nawabs of Arcot. [2] He studied law at Zila High School in Saidapet [3] and joined the bar at Vellore in July 1888. [3]

Chennai Megacity and Capital of Tamil Nadu State in India

Chennai is the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal, it is the biggest cultural, economic and educational centre of south India. According to the 2011 Indian census, it is the sixth most populous city and fourth-most populous urban agglomeration in India. The city together with the adjoining regions constitute the Chennai Metropolitan Area, which is the 36th-largest urban area by population in the world. Chennai is among the most visited Indian cities by foreign tourists. It was ranked the 43rd most visited city in the world for the year 2015. The Quality of Living Survey rated Chennai as the safest city in India. Chennai attracts 45 percent of health tourists visiting India, and 30 to 40 percent of domestic health tourists. As such, it is termed "India's health capital". As a growing metropolitan city in a developing country, Chennai confronts substantial pollution and other logistical and socio-economic problems.

Saidapet neighbourhood in Chennai District, Tamil Nadu, India

Saidapet is a neighbourhood in Chennai (Madras), India. The Saidapet Court, the only other court of judicature in Chennai city apart from the Madras High Court, and the Saidapet bus depot are located here. Prior to its incorporation in Madras city, Saidapet functioned as the administrative headquarters of Chingleput district. Saidapet is also known as Saidai. The neighbourhood is served by Saidapet railway station of the Chennai Suburban Railway Network.

Vellore City in Tamil Nadu, India

Vellore is a city and the administrative headquarters of Vellore District in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the banks of the Palar River in the north-eastern part of Tamil Nadu, the city has been ruled, at different times, by the Pallavas, Medieval Cholas, Later Cholas, Vijayanagar Empire, Rashtrakutas, Carnatic kingdom and the British. The city has four zones covering an area of 87.915 km2 and has a population of 423,425 based on the 2001 census. It is located about 135 kilometres (84 mi) west of Chennai and about 210 kilometres (130 mi) east of Bangalore. Vellore is administered by Vellore Municipal Corporation under a mayor. It is a part of Vellore and Vellore.

He was married to Sadathunissa Begum. [4]

Early political career

Habibullah was involved in local commerce politics and was elected honorary chairman of the Vellore municipality in 1895. He resigned from his legal practice upon being elected official secretary in September 1901, and served in that role until September 1905. He was then elected chairman, a position he held for 14 years (1905–1919). From July 1919 to January 1920, he was a member of the executive council of the Governor of Madras while P. Rajagopalachari was on leave.

P. Rajagopalachari Indian Diwan

Diwan Bahadur Sir Perungavur Rajagopalachari, KCSI, CIE, also spelt in contemporary records as Sir P. Rajagopala Achariyar, was an Indian administrator. He was the Diwan of Cochin State from December 1896 to August 1901 and of Travancore from 1906 to 1914.

In 1919, Habibullah was India's delegate to the first session of the League of Nations. [5] On 17 December 1920, he was appointed to the Governor's Executive Council for the Madras Presidency as the member for revenue, a post he held until 27 December 1924. [6] From 1925 to 1930, he was a member of the Executive Council of the Viceroy of India. [5] He also led India's delegation to South Africa from 1926 to 1927. [5]

League of Nations 20th-century intergovernmental organisation, predecessor to the United Nations

The League of Nations, abbreviated as LN or LoN, was an intergovernmental organisation founded on 10 January 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. Its primary goals, as stated in its Covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Other issues in this and related treaties included labour conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants, human and drug trafficking, the arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in Europe. At its greatest extent from 28 September 1934 to 23 February 1935, it had 58 members.

Madras Presidency Administrative subdivision of British India

The Madras Presidency, or the Presidency of Fort St. George, and also known as Madras Province, was an administrative subdivision (presidency) of British India. At its greatest extent, the presidency included most of southern India, including the whole of the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and parts of Odisha, Kerala, Karnataka and the union territory of Lakshadweep. The city of Madras was the winter capital of the Presidency and Ootacamund or Ooty, the summer capital. The island of Ceylon was a part of Madras Presidency from 1793 to 1798 when it was created a Crown colony. Madras Presidency was neighboured by the Kingdom of Mysore on the northwest, Kingdom of Kochi on the southwest, and the Kingdom of Hyderabad on the north. Some parts of the presidency were also flanked by Bombay Presidency.

Dewan of Travancore

Habibullah was appointed Dewan of Travancore by Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the Maharaja of Travancore, on 15 March 1934, and remained in office for two years. During that time, many reforms were implemented in Travancore, particularly in its electoral system, state forces (the Nair Brigade) and civil services.

Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma Maharajah of Travancore

Sree Padmanabhadasa Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, popularly known as Sree Chithira Thirunal, was the last ruling Maharaja of the Princely State of Travancore, in southern India until 1949 and later the Titular Maharajah of Travancore until 1991. Sree Chithira Thirunal was the eldest son of Junior Maharani of Travancore, H.H. Sree Padmanabhasevini Vanchidharmavardhini Rajarajeshwari Maharani Moolam Thirunal Sethu Parvathi Bayi, and Sri Pooram Nal Ravi Varma Koyi Thampuran of the Royal House of Kilimanoor. He was privately educated, and became the Maharajah of Travancore, at the age of 12, upon the death of his maternal great uncle, the then Maharajah of Travancore Sree Moolam Thirunal, on 7 August 1924. He reigned under the regency of his maternal aunt, Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (1924–31), until he came of age and was invested with full ruling powers on 6 November 1931.

Nair Brigade

The Nair Brigade was the army of the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore in India. Nairs were a community of the region. The personal bodyguard of the king Marthanda Varma (1706–1758) was called Thiruvithamkoor Nair Pattalam. The Travancore army was officially referred as the Travancore Nair Brigade in 1818.

Immediately after taking office, he appointed a committee to determine the appropriate electoral representation for the state's various communities. Specific numbers of legislative seats were reserved for Christians, Ezhavas and Muslims. However, because of objections by the Nairs—the military caste of Travancore—the issue was not resolved and was reopened in 1939.

The Ezhavas are a community with origins in the region of India presently known as Kerala. They are also known as Ilhava, Irava, Izhava and Erava in the south of the region; as Chovas, Chokons and Chogons in Central Travancore; and as Thiyyas, Tiyyas and Theeyas in the Malabar region. Some are also known as Thandan, which has caused administrative difficulties due to the presence of a distinct caste of Thandan in the same region. The Malabar Thiyya group have claimed a higher ranking in the Hindu caste system than do the others, although from the perspective of the colonial and subsequent administrations they were treated as being of similar rank.

In 1935, Habibullah appointed a public service commissioner. This was a new post in the civil services of Travancore, without caste or religious limitations. That same year, the Pallivasal Hydroelectric Scheme was created, allowing the production of electricity in Travancore on a large, profitable scale.

His next major activity concerned the Nair Brigade. In 1936, Travancore joined the Indian State Forces, and the Nair Brigade and the Maharaja's Bodyguard came to be known collectively as the Travancore State Forces. At first, only Nairs were allowed to join, but legislation later opened military service to other castes as well. The maharaja himself was the colonel-in-chief of the forces. [7]

Habibullah retired in 1936 and was succeeded by Sir C.P. Ramaswami Iyer. He died in Travancore on 16 May 1948.


Habibullah was awarded the title of Khan Bahadur by the Indian government in 1905. [1] He was made a Companion of the Indian Empire in 1920 and a Knight Bachelor in 1922. [8] In 1924, he was made a Knight Commander of the Star of India [8] and promoted from a Companion of the Indian Empire to a Knight Commander of the Indian Empire. [8]

Habibullah Road in T. Nagar, Chennai, is named after him.


  1. 1 2 Aḥmad Saʻīd (1997). Muslim India, 1857–1947: a biographical dictionary. Institute of Pakistan Historical Research. p. 144.
  2. More, J. B. Prashant (1997). The Political Evolution of Muslims in Tamilnadu and Madras, 1930–1947. Orient Longman. p. 34.
  3. 1 2 Nalanda Year-book & Who's who in India. 1947. p. 407.
  4. "Arcot (Princely State)". Indian princely states website. Archived from the original on 26 July 2002.
  5. 1 2 3 Nalanda Year-book & Who's who in India. 1949. p. 453.
  6. The Times of India directory and year book including who's who. Bennett & Coleman Ltd. 1922. p. 55.
  7. Travancore State Manual Volume II by TK Velu Pillai 1940
  8. 1 2 3 Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage. Burke's Peerage Limited. 1937. p. 1885.

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Preceded by
T. Austin
Diwan of Travancore
1934 to 1936
Succeeded by
C. P. Ramaswami Iyer