Chowmahalla Palace

Filed under Attractions

If something has the distinction of being the center of a rich, historically established city, then chances are high that that something is breathtaking and grand. Such is the case of the magnificent Chowmahalla Palace, the former seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty and where the Nizams used to entertain their royal visitors and high-ranking guests. Built more than 200 years ago, in the 18th century, the Chowmahalla Palace has long been known for its unique style and elegance. “Chow” means four in Urdu and “Mahalat”, the plural of “Mahalel” means palaces. Literally, the name means “Four Palaces”. It has now been meticulously restored by the government so it has gotten back much of its former glory.

The palace’s construction was mainly credited to Nizam Salabat Jang in 1790. However, it wasn’t until the rule of the fifth Nizam, Afzar-ud-Daulah, Asaf Jav V, that the complex was finally finished, the Nizam having ensured its completion between 1857 to 1869. It originally covered 45 acres, extending from the Laad Bazaar on the north to the Aspan Chowk Road on the south. However, today, only 12 acres remain.

The palace is said to be a replica of the Shah of Iran’s palace in Tehran. It has two courtyards: the northern courtyard and the southern courtyard. Of the two, the southern courtyard is the oldest and is comprised of four palaces, namely Afzal Mahal, Tahniyat Mahal, Mahtab Mahal, and Aftab Mahal. Of the four, the grandest is Aftab Mahal — a two storied building sporting a European facade of Corinthian columns.

The northern courtyard, on the other hand, has Mughal Domes and arches. One can also see the many Persian elements it has such as the ornate stucco work that can be seen at Khilwat Mubarak. The highlights of the northern courtyard include the Bara Imam, a long corridor of rooms at the east side that once housed the administrative wing. Opposite it is the Shise-Alat, which was once used as a guestroom for the visiting officials.

The Clock Tower is also another impressive edifice found in the northern courtyard. It houses what is affectionately called as the Khilwat Clock and has been ticking away since the Palace’s construction. Every week, it is maintained by an expert family of clock repairers.

The Council Hall was the repository of the Nizam’s rare collection of manuscripts and priceless books. It was also where the Nizam met important officials. Now, temporary exhibitions from the Chowhamalla Palace collection takes place there.

The heart of Chowmahalla Palace is, however, undoubtedly the Khilwat Mubarak. People of Hyderabad hold it in high esteem as it was the seat of Asaf Jahi dynasty. The Durbar Hall has a pure marble platform in which the royal seat, the Takht-e-Nishan was laid. The lost splendor of the old era is being restored somewhat by the 19 grand chandeliers made of spectacular Belgian crystals.

The northern courtyard has been painstakingly restored and is now open to the public. The southern courtyard is still undergoing renovation and, once done, will surely bring back the full grandeur of this great building.


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