Chowmahalla Palace — The Nizam’s Sanctuary
Built over 200 years ago, the magnificent Chowmahalla Palace is renowned for its opulence and elegance. A synthesis of many architectural styles and influences, the Palace has been scrupulously restored.
Today, almost as good as new, the Chowmahalla Palace is a museum that gives us a glimpse into the grandeur of a bygone era. It remains the property of Barkat Ali Khan Mukkarram Jah, heir of the Nizams and houses some of the Nizam’s collection and information of their family.
However before 2005, the Chowmahalla Palace was an extremely bleak sight. Crumbling roofs, decaying structures, overgrown grounds- the palace was in a state of despair and was closed to visitors until Princess Esra decided to intervene. The Chowmahalla Palace was made accessible to the public in 2005 after restoration and is among the most popular palace museums in India, today.
During its heyday, the Chowmahalla Palace was the seat of the Asaf Jahi Dynasty and the official residence of the Nizams. While its construction was initiated in 1750, it was completed in between 1857 and 1869. As you walk through it is evident that the architecture style has been inspired by Persian, Indo-Saracenic, Rajasthani and European elements during the century long construction.
True to its name, the Chowmahalla (chow is four, mahalat is palace) palace is a network of four palaces with a central pond. Intrinsic to the design are two courtyards as well as the grand Khilwat (the Darbar Hall), fountains and gardens.
The palace originally covered 45 acres, but only 14 acres remain today.
A must visit on your visit to Hyderabad, the museum is home to a collection of photographs, paintings, clothing, furniture, chandeliers, weaponry, scriptures and collectibles among others.
As you step into the first mahal, the tour starts with a self explanatory history of the Nizams until the pre independence India, a mini version of the palace and some of their coin and stamp collection. Passing through the Khilwat Mubarak, a white marble hall (where the durbar used to be held back in the day), you’ll enter the second hall with a collection of photographs of their families across generations. Up the stairway is a collection of furniture, chinaware and wardrobe of the royal family, all of which is a sight to see and picture what life was back in the day.
Stepping out from the palace halls, you’ll land at a wide open courtyard where the famous Rolls Royce Silver Ghost of 1911 is on display along with a dozen other cars and chariots of the Nizams.
As you step back into the other halls, you will be amazed at the war chest the Nizams carried. Guns, swords and daggers of every form and fashion and huge storage chests to host them, all on display here. Beyond this though is the silent room where all the religious scriptures are placed, from an extremely large Qoran to a pocket friendly one needing to be read through a magnifying glass.
The clock above the main gate of the Palace, called the Khilwat Clock is a spring wound clock and has been ticking away for around 250 years. As you’re headed out, you can also stop in at the in house photographer to dress up like the nizams and get an instant colour or black and white photograph.
Chowmahalla is a location that is transcendent, and offers an experience tourists will never forget. The usual museum timings are from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and is closed on fridays. However it is open now to individuals for hosting their dinners, functions and ceremonies.
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