Mirroring the past glory

Mirroring the past glory

Historic palace converted into a hotel

Mirroring the  past glory

The entrance hall of Falaknuma Palace

Nearly 120 years ago, the palace whose name translates to ‘a mirror in the sky’ hosted  royal guests such as King Edward VIII and last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II. But, the awesome-looking palace, nestling amid manicured gardens, became out of bounds and remained in disuse from 1911. Nearly a century later, after 10 years of restoration work involving 800 workers, the Falaknuma has opened its doors to the public, in its new avatar as a luxury hotel in Hyderabad.

For a cool Rs five lakh, the guests can stay a night in the Nizam suite of the plush hotel in the Old City which has 15 exquisite suites, each with a different
décor, as per the tastes of its original occupant, the Seventh Nizam. Perched atop a 2000 feet high hillock, some five km from famed structure of Charminar in Hyderabad, the palace is laid out in the shape of a scorpion with two stings spread out as wings on northern side. A rare blend of Italian and Tudor architecture, the palace, spread over 9,39,712 sq m, is paved with Italian marble.

An English-architect designed palace took nine years for completion way back in 1880s. Records show that Sir Vicar Ul Umra Bahadur, who was the Prime Minister of Hyderabad and Amir of Pigah, laid the foundation-stone on March 3, 1884. He later moved into Gol Bangla and Zanana Mahal of the palace to closely monitor the finishing work at the Mardana Portion.

The Nawab was a frequent traveller and his taste for good and expensive articles and designs is reflected in the construction of the palace. A major highlight of the palace is the reception room, with its ceiling decorated with frescoes and gilded reliefs. The ballroom contains a two-ton, manually operated organ, said to be the only one of its kind in the world.

The original palace had 220 lavishly-decorated rooms and 22 spacious halls. It has some of the finest treasure collections of the Nizam. Falaknuma houses a large collection of rare treasures including paintings, statues, furniture, manuscripts and books. The jade collection of the palace is considered to be unique.

Table for 100 guests

Dining table The famed dining hall of the palace could seat 100 guests on its dining table. The furniture was very aesthetic. The chairs were made of carved rosewood with green leather upholstery. The tableware was gold and crystal. The library at the palace, with its
walnut carved roof, a replica of the one at Windsor Castle, had among the finest collections of the Quran in India.

The ground floor of the palace housed the living quarters. A marbled staircase leads to the upper floor. Carved balustrades supports marble figurines with candelabra at intervals.

The Falaknuma has other unique things to its credit. It includes the largest collection of Venetian chandeliers. It is said that it took six months to clean a
138-arm Osler chandelier and the palace has 40 such chandeliers adorning the halls. The telephone and electrical system was introduced in 1883 and the palace has one of the largest electrical switchboards in India.

In 2000, the Taj group started developing the palace on the 32-acre land. Original material, such as limestone was used in the renovation. The carpets that would pave the rooms were dyed (by Intach and Shroff Carpets) 300 times to get the desired
texture and colour. Artefacts such as the 101-seat royal dining table, the writing table used by the Nizam and a custom-designed musical orchesterone, said to be among the only four such in the world, are on display. The guests can also witness the palace’s many firsts - India’s first petrol pump, its first GE refrigerator and the first attached bathroom. Another attraction would be the Billiards room with a cue signed by the Nizam.

Princess Esra, the Turkish first wife of the eighth Nizam, Prince Mukarram Jah Bahadur, took an active interest in making the Chowmohalla complex in the Old City the hub of cultural and literary activities and restoration work of Falaknuma. Esra, who is legally divorced from Mukkaram Jah but manages his properties, lives in London. She is known to nurse the ambition of restoring to the city its famed ambience of art and culture.
But the luxury is not cheap. A royal suite in the hotel will cost Rs five lakh a day. For commoners, lesser suits are available at daily tariffs upwards of Rs 30,000.

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