Aug 3, 2010

The Chowmahalla Palace

The magnificent Chowmahalla Palace, was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, and the official residence of the Nizams. This was where the Nizams entertained their official guests and royal visitors.
Chow means four, and mahal means palace. The Chowmahalla palace is a complex of four palaces with a central pond. It is supposed to be an exact copy of the palace of the Shah of Iran, in Tehran.

Nizam Salabat Jung started the construction of the palace in 1750. But it was completed only between 1857 and 1869 under Nizam Afzar-ud-Daula Bahadur.

If you had visited the Chowmahalla Palace before 2005, an extremely desolate sight would have greeted you. Decaying buildings that were threatening to fall to pieces, overgrown grounds, crumbling roofs, walls weakened by dampness and neglect – the palace complex was a picture of despair and dilapidation.

Princess Esra, the first wife of the present Nizam, anxious to preserve what remained of the Nizams' legacy for her children, took it upon herself to restore the palace to some semblance of its former glory. What followed was probably India's biggest restoration and conservation project.

Today, almost as good as new, during the day, the Chowmahalla Palace is a museum that gives us a glimpse into the splendour of a bygone era. At night, it is gorgeously lit up as it turns into a venue for cultural programmes, concerts, and sometimes private functions and conferences.

I went to photograph the palace a few months ago. Since we were having guests for lunch, I had to get back home in time, and got to spend only 2-3 hours in Chowmahalla. That just isn't enough time to do justice to the stunning architecture and the exquisite artifacts on display. I'll need to go back quite a few times to get all the photos I want.

In the courtyard:
Inside the palace - the opulent Khilwat mubarak where the Nizams held their durbar and various ceremonies.
A room with a view:
And sometimes, the room IS the view. Artifacts on display in the rooms of the palace:
And finally, the fountain in the central pond:

Like I said, these are just the tip of the iceberg. The palace complex is huge, and I'll need to go back several times, before I am happy with the images I have :)


  1. so much grandeur..sure it does take a couple of visits to take it all :)

  2. wow. Was there last year and wanted to visit it in the night when its lit up. But didn't manage that. A lot of concerts take place there, rt? Been lurking around your blog for a long time now. Love it!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I remember tagging along with some relative (on their visit to the city) you was nothign close to what it is now...great that they restored the place :)...would love to see more pics...felt like i was back in hyd for a while :)

  5. Hey Sharanya - yeah it does :)

    The Ketchup Girl - thank you :) Yes a lot of concerts happen in the evening. The lighting, mood and ambiance is gorgeous. I went to a ghazal concert by Hariharan - it was awesome :) I checked out your blog - it's LOVELY - you write so well :)

    Thank you Sudha. The palace is beautiful now. Slowly but surely, people are waking up to the fact that unless we actively protect our heritage structures, they'll soon be gone.

  6. My sister was married at Chowmahalla a few years ago. It was quite a 'royal' affair and the groom's side had gone all out to recreate the splendour of the past. We had a sit down dinner served on chowkis, listened to a ghazal program from a famous artist and generally reveled in the glory and beauty of the palace. I can send you some pictures if you like...

  7. Wooow Zainab - that sounds like a fairytale wedding :) I would LOVE to see pictures of it - my email id is you so much!