Thursday, February 02, 2023 | Rajab 10, 1444 H
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Oman in India

The book Oman-India ties: Across Sea and Space takes its readers on a visual journey outlining the rich historical relationship between the two great civilizations of Oman and India which goes back more than 5000 years. Published by Oman Observer in association Indian Embassy Muscat and written by Samuel Kutty (Senior Editor of the Observer) and Sandhya Rao Mehta (Associate Professor of SQU), the book is an attempt to document, archive and disseminate this relationship from its historical past to the present time where these relations have taken new wings. Extracts from the book will continue to appear on this space every Saturday.
Sultan Said bin Taimur, Sultan Qaboos bin Said and Gokaldas Khimji in Bombay.
Sultan Said bin Taimur, Sultan Qaboos bin Said and Gokaldas Khimji in Bombay.

Samuel Kutty and Sandhya Rao Mehta -

While it is common knowledge that there is a historical as well as continuing presence of Indians in Oman, the Khaliji (Gulf) presence in India is less welldocumented but not less impactful. Omanis have traditionally had familial relations with residents in Hyderabad, to the extent that Salala in this city is a destination for many Omanis who come to meet their extended family.

In Bombay, the concentration of Arabs at the Grant Road commuter station was so high that it was nicknamed ‘Arab Galli’. This was a home away from home, where Khaliji compatriots could meet one another, buy property and converse to feel a sense of belonging. Some of these merchant families owned property in Bombay and Calicut. Most of the Arabs got together under the umbrella of the Indo-Arab Cultural Association, inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru, which remained popular until the early 1970s. While Arabs populated the length of the western Indian coast, along Goa, Bombay and Calicut, the Omani royal family particularly had educational connections in Bombay, Pune and Ajmer.

The Royal Family connection to India

Oman’s Royal Family has a special connection with India. Like many other people from Oman and the Gulf who visited India either for a visit, to study or to trade, many members of the Royal Family have visited this country at different periods in history and they still do so. From Sayyid Sultan bin Ahmed’s stay at Gwadar in the 1780s, the royal family connections to South Asia have been active and create a rich layer in the historical relations of the two ancient civilizations.

Sayyid Turki’s son Faisal was born in Bombay and Sultan Taimur bin Faisal spent much time in India from the early 1920s, buying a property in the hill town of Dehradun. After a few years, he returned to India in 1932 and spent the rest of his life in Mumbai until his death in 1965.

He became a known figure in the city and was visited by Omanis, Arabs and dignitaries who visited the city. Sultan Taimur is buried in one of the mosques of Mumbai.

In 1922, Sultan Said bin Taimur came to study in Mayo College as one of the few foreigners who was admitted to this prestigious institution.

In later years, he would visit Bombay and Delhi quite often to meet British officials. According to Johan Mathew, India was the ideal meeting point of the East and West, and the preferred choice for retirement68. It also offered some of the most prestigious educational institutions, including Mayo College.Mayo College is one of the oldest and most prestigious boarding schools in India, founded by Richard Southwell Bronke, the Earl of Mayo in 1870.

The School which was known as the ‘Chiefs School’, was set up to cater to Princes and Royalty of British India. The registration paper of Sultan Said bin Taimur is still preserved in the college museum, showing the date of his admission to the College. His classmates still fondly remember him.

Years later, in the 1950s, the brother of Sultan Said, his highness Sayyid Fahr bin Taimur also came to study at Mayo College. Sayyid Fahr had maintained regular contact with his old school and in 1983 was chosen as a patron member of the General Council of Mayo College. His highness also donated for the construction of two houses in the school under the name of Oman – one for the students and another as a guesthouse. Later, Late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos was sent to Pune, where the late former president of India Shankar Dayal Sharma taught him. In fact, Late Sultan Qaboos came to personally receive the President when he visited Oman in 1994; in

honour of the close relation and respect he had for his teacher.

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