History is made here all the time

Hyderabad house

Media spotlight was back to the stately Hyderabad House in Delhi recently when newly-elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi held his maiden foreign policy initiative here.

 A string of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) leaders, staying over at different hotels in the city, came down to the prestigious edifice on the India Gate roundabout, to meet and greet the 15th Prime Minister of India.

The customary photo-op session including the handshake between the host and the guests, and the meeting around the famed round table at Hyderabad House ensued. 

For the majestic British-era structure, though, hosting the most powerful and influential personalities of the world, is history running since 1947. Since the time its original owner, the Nizam of Hyderabad, relinquished it to the State, and it was declared the official banquet hall of the Government of India, it has stood witness to many heads of states and discussions which changed the course of India’s foreign relations. It has been the venue of several Press conferences where history-altering declarations were made. 

On this occasion, Metrolife decided to revisit Hyderabad House – its history, architecture and snippets about visiting delegations which managed their way into the news.

Hyderabad House, previously known as Palace of the Nizam of Hyderabad, was the residence of Osman Ali Khan, Nizam VII. It was designed by eminent British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Eminent writer and researcher Sohail Hashmi informs, “As the layout for the new Capital of India - Delhi - was being worked out in 1920, various maharajas expressed their desire to have their palaces built here. The then viceroy was only too glad to oblige as the physical design would impress that the residences of the princes were surrounding, and looking up to, the viceroy housed in Rashtrapati Bhavan. The princes would briefly stay here during their yearly visit to Delhi to attend the ‘Chamber of Princes’ meetings.”

So Lutyens set out to design the palaces in Princes’ Park area at the end of King’s Way. Of the many princes who clamoured for a residence, only a few were obliged, namely, those from Hyderabad, Baroda, Patiala, Jaipur and Bikaner. The Nizam of Hyderabad got the most prestigious of locations, a plot spread over 8.77 acres and the grandest of palaces in keeping with his might and wealth. 

Lutyen’s borrowed a number of motifs from the Viceroy’s residence itself to appropriately reflect the significance of the State of Hyderabad.

AGK Menon, convenor, Indian National Trust for Art, Culture and Heritage, says, “The most important of these motifs was the dome. Though smaller than that of Rashtrapati Bhavan, it alluded to the power of the princely State. Just below the dome, he planned the entrance hall with symmetrical wings at 55 degree angle, the most outstanding feature of the palace. It was built in the shape of a butterfly, an amalgam of Mughal and European architecture.”

It accommodated 36 rooms including a zenana (women’s quarters). Four of these were later converted into dining rooms. Then there were wide courtyards, archways, winding stairways, large urns, obelisks and fountains. 

Yet, it did not appeal to the sensibilities of the Nizam’s sons who complained that it was too Western, and rarely used the building.

Hyderabad House has come a long way since. From the initial days of Indo-Soviet bonhomie, when this palace hosted large visiting missions from the USSR, to former US President George Bush relatively recently, Hyderabad House has served the country well. 

Sometime back, a national daily reported that the large round table and dining hall of the palace had fallen short of accommodating a huge delegation brought in by then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They were then lodged in ‘overflow rooms’.Nevertheless, Hyderabad House continues to reflect on India’s position in the comity of nations and its relations with countries across the world. 

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