Second in the series on the Palaces of Hyderabad is the Basheer Bagh Palace or Bashir Bagh Palace is a palace located in Hyderabad, India. It was constructed by Sir Asman Jah, a Paigah noble and Prime Minister of Hyderabad state(1887-1894).

FOR NIZAMIAN Hyderabad, the 20th century began on a disastrous note. First there were the “Great Musi Floods” in September 1908 that wreaked havoc claiming hundreds of lives and rendering thousands of people homeless. Just when the citizens were recovering from the shock of losing their near and dear and picking up the threads of life, tragedy struck again in the form of a deadly plague in 1911. The scale of the catastrophe was such that there was a dramatic decrease in the city’s population in the following census.

The benevolent Seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, who had just occupied the masnad (throne), was not oblivious to the suffering of his subjects. The Nizam consulted with his ministers, high officials and city planners. They all thought something drastic needed to be done to develop the city, with special emphasis on improving sanitation and hygiene.

The Gandhi Medical College building with its striking Regional Mughal Variation was built in 1890 for the supervision and maintenance of the Basheer Bagh Palace and later housed the City Improvement Board.

With the agenda in place, a search was on for a centrally located building to house the CIB headquarters. The search ended at this beautiful building in the rare Regional Mughal Variation (RMV) style of architecture at Basheer Bagh. Owned by Paigahs and built in 1890, for supervision and maintenance of the Basheer Bagh Palace (unfortunately neither the palace nor the bagh exists anymore though the name is still in use) and later to administer royal palaces, the CIB building became the hub of urban development of Hyderabad, for well over four decades.

Basheer Bagh Palace, circa 1880 by Lala Deen Dayal

It was once a palace with great architecture and magnificent interiors. The palace was dismantled by the state government after Indian independence, but the area is still known as Basheerbagh.

The interior of Basheer Bagh Palace

The CIB building that was later allotted to the newly set up Gandhi Medical College in 1954 stands testimony to the varied architectural tastes of the Nawabs. It was not always European, though it formed a dominant theme. Breaking the monotony they often came up with mixed styles borrowing Mughal and Rajasthani features. Cusped arches, five in a row, standing symmetrically on short ornamented pillars, intricate brackets supporting the chajja form the impressive Mughal facade.

The staircase leads to a corridor and into a high ceiling hall, which in its heyday was full of stucco. Two special features of the building are the rectangular kiosks with domical cupolas that decorate the corners of the parapet and the perforated screens exquisitely rendered in lime-mortar on the back, almost resembling the marble one, the hallmark of Mughal architecture.

It was from this building that the CIB set about changing the face of Hyderabad, making it a city not just of fairy tale palaces, devdis and havelis, but also of elaborate gardens, planned housing colonies, filtered piped drinking water supply, underground drainage with separate storm water drain, wide roads, bus and train services, much before many of the major cities of the country. Amazing as it may sound, Hyderabad had top class facilities, several decades before N. Chandrababu Naidu came up with his dream offers for the city.

The CIB and the Town Improvement Trust were later merged to form the Andhra Pradesh Housing Board and the building was handed over to the Gandhi Medical College. With the College now being shifted to the new building at the erstwhile Mushirabad Jail campus, it is now with the Tourism department, which, as usual has grandiose plans, putting a question mark on the survival of the building.

This place has the distinction of playing host to the Hindustani classical maestro, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, who stayed here in his final years of his life, patronized by Nawab Zahir Yar Jung. He died at this palace on 25 April 1968.

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