Fourth in the series and definitely one the best in the list ……….

Chowmahalla Palace or Chowmahallat (4 Palaces), was a palace belonging to the Nizams of Hyderabad state. It was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty and was the official residence of the Nizam.In Urdu, Chow means four and Mahalat (plural of Mahel) means palaces, hence the name Chowmahallat/four palaces. All ceremonial functions including the accession of the Nizams and receptions for the Governor-General were held at this palace.

While Salabat Jung initiated its construction in 1750, it was completed by the period of Afzal ad-Dawlah, Asaf Jah V, the V Nizam ensured its completion between 1857 and 1869. It is believed to be modelled on Shah of Iran’s palace in Tehran. The palace is unique for its style and elegance. Building of the palace began in the late 18th century and over the decades a synthesis of many architectural styles and influences emerged. This palace consists of two courtyards, southern courtyard and northern courtyard. They have elegant palaces, the grand Khilwat (the Durbar Hall), fountains and gardens. The palace originally covered 45 acres (180,000 m2), but only 14 acres (57,000 m2) remain today.

Southern courtyard

This is the oldest part of the palace, and has four palaces Afzal Mahal, Mahtab Mahal, Tahniyat Mahal and Aftab Mahal. It was built in the neo-classical style.

Northern courtyard

This part has Bara Imam, A long corridor of rooms on the east side face the central fountain and pool that, once housed the administrative wing. and Shishe-Alat meaning mirror image. It has Mughal domes and arches and many Persian elements like the ornate stucco work that adorn the Khilwat Mubarak. These were characteristic of buildings built in Hyderabad at the time. As you enter it you will see historic buildings around the central pool. Opposite to the Bara Imam is a building that is its shishe or mirror image. The rooms were once the used as guest rooms for officials accompanying visiting dignitaries.

Khilwat Mubarak

This is heart of Chowmahalla Palace. It is held in high esteem by the people of Hyderabad, as it was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty. The grand pillared Durbar Hall has a pure marble platform on which the Takht-e-Nishan or the royal seat was laid. Here the Nizams held their durbar and other religious and symbolic ceremonies. The 19 spectacular Chandeliers of Belgian crystal recently reinstalled to recreate the lost splendor of this regal hall.

Clock Tower

The clock above the main gate to Chowmahalla Palace is affectionately called as Khilwat Clock. It has been ticking away for around 250 years. An expert family of clock repairers winds the mechanical clock every week. The name of the clock repairer is Mohammed Khasim and his shop is located in Lad Bazaar. Now his son, Mohammed Hussain, is the proprietor and the people of the locality wait for its chime.

Council Hall

This building housed a rare collection of manuscripts and priceless books.The Nizam often met important officials and dignitaries here.Today it is venue for temporary exhibitions from the treasures of the Chowmahalla Palace Collection that of a bygone era.

Roshan Bangla

The sixth Nizam is believed to have lived here and the building was named after his mother Roshan Begum. The present Nizam (Barkat Ali Khan Mukarram Jah, Pretender) and his family decided to restore the Chowmahalla Palace and open it to the public in January 2005. It took over 5 years to document and restore the palaces of the first courtyard to its former glory.

In 2001, the first wife of the present Nizam, Princess Esra, had unexpectedly appeared in the city after an absence of three decades. With her, she had brought the celebrated Indian lawyer Vijay Shankardass. Esra, it seemed, had recently met her ex-husband at the wedding of their son, Azmet, in London. She was shocked to hear of the state of Jah’s affairs: he had been forced to sell his beloved sheep farm and flee his creditors. A partial reconciliation followed, and Esra was given the authority by Jah to try to save something for their son and daughter before what little remained in Hyderabad disappeared, too. It was her intention to settle the many outstanding law cases, open the palaces and lease Falaknuma to a hotel chain. She planned to turn Chowmahalla into a museum.

It looked an impossible task even to begin to sort out the mess and dilapidation. Yet remarkably, six years later, the Chowmahalla was made open to the public and more than 1,000 visitors a day are streaming through. A massive conservation project, unique in India, has restored and catalogued the best of what remains. The result is little short of incredible.

For more pictures of the elegant palace, its environs, the exhibits, please follow the link – http://www.hyderabadplanet.com/chowmahalla-palace-photos.html. The images are copy righted.

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