Falaknuma Palace: A Star of Heaven
Places to See – Hyderabad
I have been living in Hyderabad for over a year and a half now and there’s not one person belonging to Hyderabad who hasn’t raved about the palace. I couldn’t really understand the fixation till I decided to visit the palace myself and when I did, I was beyond fascinated.
The Falaknuma Palace is definitely one of the finest palaces exhibiting the elite and luxurious lifestyle of the Nizams.
“Falak” In Urdu, refers to sky and “numa” means like, hence Falaknuma in literal sense stands for “It’s Like the Sky” and poetically connotes to “Star of Heaven”.
The palace is a perfect blend of Renaissance architecture, Baroque style, French charm, art deco sensibilities and other inspirations that were woven into the decor of the palace.
The Palace was the residence of the Sixth Nizam after he purchased it from Sir Vikar-ul-Umra, the Prime Minister of the Nizam who built it (Sir Viqar-Ul-Umra, served as the Prime Minister of the Hyderabad state from 1894 to 1901). The construction stone was laid on 3rd March 1884 and it took 9 years for it to complete, covering a total area of 939,712-sq-metre. It was partially made with marble imported from Italy and limestone.
The Palace is laid out in the shape of a scorpion, as the Architect William Mariet’s zodiac sign was Scorpio. As per the original structure of the Palace, the middle part resembles the body of the scorpion comprises of the Zenana Mahal on one side and the Mess Khana i.e. kitchen and the Telephone Exchange on the other while the two stings spread out as wings on the north. The Gol Bungalow that forms the tail is a dome structure with an iron protrusion which looks like the sting of the scorpion.
It cost Sir Viqar all of Rs. 4,000,000 in his day, and almost bankrupted him in the process. There is a small story about how the palace got in the hands of the Nizam.
In 1897, the sixth Nizam, Mehboob Ali Pasha, also the brother-in-law of the Prime Minister was invited as a guest to the Palace who eventually ended up staying there for a month. It was then that Sir Viqar gracefully gifted the Palace to the Nizam saying “It was made just for you, My Lord!”. But since it was too gracious a gift to be accepted by the Nizam, he bought the palace, thus also relieving Sir Viqar of the financial crisis.
Since the death of the Nizam VI in March 1911, the Palace has mainly been used as a royal guest-house and even visiting the Palace was considered as a status symbol by the European guests. In 2000 Taj Hotels began the huge process of renovating and restoring the palace and it opened up as a luxury hotel in 2010. Taj Hotels and Resorts have taken up this Palace on lease from Princess Esra, wife of HEH The Nizam VIII (the present Nizam) Mukarram Jah currently.
Let me take you to the palace through my words and pictures now, but I must tell you, no photo and words can do justice to the beauty and charm of the palace, you have to visit the palace yourself to live it, feel it.
When you move towards the main Foyer, first thing you’d notice is the various Tudor faces painted with hand-made colours at the center of the glasses fitted in the doors. Then there’s this beautiful marble vestibule fitted with marble seats surrounding the exquisite fountain having beautifully figures of cherubim (winged celestial angel) and dolphins.
The entire corridor is a “faux marble” fresco artwork. Further, the paintings have a three dimensional effect, one of the major highlights being the painting on the ceiling of an eagle that has its eye revolving to every corner of the room. It was a master piece painted by Jean Gaudier, a French painter.
On the right side is Nizam Study Room, still having the personal stationery used by the Last Nizam, his telephone and the first ever in Hyderabad and the phone directory with direct numbers for the President and other dignitaries. The room also has an antique clock manufactured by East India Co., Calcutta with unique feature that it creates music every half an hour and man strikes the dong every hour. Just behind this room is Nizam’s bedroom, a part of which is now the hotel’s reception.
On the left is Waiting Room or later called as Children Room and behind this room is known as Children room/Kings bed room, they have the portraits of Azam Jah and Moazzam Jah.
Next, on the way to the library is a two-ton manually operated music organ said to be the only one of its kind in the world made by Reed and Company (UK) which could play 36 different sounds when it was working.
The Library is one of the lavish rooms in the Palace with a ceiling of ornate teak and rosewood coffers (ornamental sunken panel), each with superbly carved panels, the walnut carved roof is a replica of the one at Windsor Castle.
On the right of the library is a Ladies sitting room/Gossip room made for the women of that times to socialize and I think is the room with most number of mirrors and why not, women love mirrors !
Close to it is Begum’s Bedroom along with washroom having a bath tub.
On the left of the Library is the conference room where once Nizam used to have breakfast and the room behind that was used as pantry.
Before the library, there’s a grand suspended marble staircase with four ornamental pillar supporting the ground. There are statues of Muses from Greek Mythology, photographs of British viceroys who worked as the Governor General of India and seven oil paintings of Mahaboob Ali Khan Nizam VI, Sir Vikar-ul-Umra and other relatives of Sir Vikar.
Jade Room is a treat for all those who love symmetry and balance in their lives. From the floor design to the ceiling and the parapet design to the wardrobe structure in the room, everything follows a definite pattern. Venetian Chandeliers (of Belgian make and custom made by Osler) adorns the ceiling of different rooms
Afternoon tea is served to the guests here from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and its veranda, with a stunning view of the city and frolicking peacocks on the main lawns, is used for breakfast.
Durbar Hall is an imperial space used for large gatherings and is also referred as the ‘Ballroom in Paradise’. This opulent hall is fitted with heavy velvet drapes, timber floors, stucco dado, Belgian chandeliers and Rocco furniture. Today, as Taj Falaknuma Palace Hotel hosts a lot of destination weddings, the Durbar Hall is used for the events and gatherings besides the dining room.
101 Dining Room is called so as it can seat 101 people at a time . It has the world’s longest dining table (100 feet/ 31 meter long) and 101 chairs with leather covers. The Dining Hall has an amazing acoustic system such that one can hear a conversation at either end of the table. Besides the five big Belgian chandeliers, it also has the biggest chandelier consisting of 42 branches.
Card & Chess Room has the chairs and sofas embodied with camel leather with embroidery on it.
Billiards Room, the Billiards Table is of Burroughs and Watts make. Burroughs and Watts is one of the oldest and most respected names in the billiards and snooker world, originally founded in 1835 and granted a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria. The cue sticks in this room are also the original ones used by Nizam himself with his initials carved in the ivory cue sticks.
Hookah Room has artifacts such as a silver “hookah” which has four smoking pipes enabling four persons to smoke at a time. Now, one can enjoy the classic cigar and hookah from the menu at Jade terrace.
Now as we walk down the staircase and move towards the library, heading out, there’s a Rajasthani Garden, inspired by Rajputana architecture
Gol Bunglow is the entrance to Zenana Mahal and has the Presidential (Nizam) and Begum Suite. There’s a replicated marble fountain replicated of the original fountain as in the foyer for symmetry.
Another major restoration effort was the reconstruction of the dome in Gol Bungalow. More than 60% of the glass in the dome was missing. Mr. Manikandan recreated the complete design on paper by laying out the remaining 40% of glasses and using portions of the broken glasses that lay on the floor.
Now the Gol Bunglow has two restaurants, Celeste (Italian) and Adaa (Indian) of which I’ll be talking about in the next segment/blogpost.
There’s a lot more to talk about the palace and I can probably just go on writing but at the same time, I don’t want to take that away from you, the beauty of this palace is best experienced firsthand. There are lot many stories and minute details about each of these exquisite artefacts kept in the palace best encountered personally.
I’d surely recommend all my readers to visit Taj Falaknuma Palace, for you haven’t seen Hyderabad if you haven’t visited Taj Falaknuma Palace.
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More posts on the restaurants, stay and spa coming up soon on the blog 🙂
Much Love !