Sixth in the series about the grand palaces of the great city of Hyderabad……..

Falaknuma Palace is one of the finest palaces in Hyderabad, India belonging to the Paigahs but later owned by the Nizams.It is located on a 32 acre, 19400 sqaure meters area. It is located in Falaknuma, 5 km. from Charminar was built by Nawab Vikar-ul-Umra, the then Prime Minister of Hyderabad ( He was also Uncle and Brother in law of H.H. The Nizam VI,Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan Bahadur). Falak-numa literally means “Like the Sky” or “Mirror of the Sky” in Urdu.

An English architect designed this palace and the foundation for the construction was laid by H.E. Sir Vicar Ul Umra Bahadur on 3 March 1884. It took 9 years to complete the construction and furnishing the Palace(Sir Vicar moved into the Gol Bangla and Zanana Mahel of The Falaknuma Palace in December 1889 and closely monitored the finishing work at the Mardana Portion of Falaknuma). It was totally made with Italian marble and it covers a total area of 9,39,712-sq-metre.

The palace is laid out in the shape of a scorpion with two stings spread out as wings on the north. The middle part is occupied by the main building and the kitchen Gol Bangla,Zenana mehal and harem quarters stretch to the south. The Nawab being an avid traveller, various influences show on the palace architecture. The Falaknuma palace is a rare blend of Italian and Tudor architecture. Its glass stained windows throw a spectrum of colors into the rooms.

The Nizam VI in 1897 used the palace as a royal guest house as it had a commanding view of the entire city. As the Nizam liked the Palace, the Falaknuma was gifted to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mehboob Ali Khan by the generous Nawab Sir Vicar Ul Umra. Amir e Paigah Sir Vicar Ul Umra(Prime minister of Hyderabad and Berar) used this Palace as his private residence till it changed owners and the palace was handed over to H.H.The 6th Nizam of Hyderabad in 1897-1898. Sir Vicar ul Umra or Sir Vikar UL Oomra apart from being the Prime Minister of Hyderabad was also the Amir of Paigah and was the meternal grandson of H.H. The Nizam III Nawab Sikandar Jah Bahadur. He was married to H.H Nizam VI Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan’s older sister Princess Jahandarunnisa Begam Sahiba also known as Lady Vicar ul Umra.( The monograme VO, short form of Vikar ul Omra is seen on every part and the furniture of the palace.

One of the highlight’s of the palace is the state reception room, whose ceiling is decorated with frescoes and gilded relief’s. The ballroom contains a two-ton manually operated organ said to be the only one of its kind in the world. The palace has as many as 220 lavishly decorated rooms and 22 spacious halls. It has some of the finest treasures 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 in the world.

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 made of gold and crystal to which fluted music was added.

The palace has a library with a walnut carved roof, a replica of the one at Windsor Castle. The library had one of 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. It has carved balustrades, which supports marble figurines with candelabra at intervals.

On the walls of the landing are excellent oil paintings of (1) H.H The Nizam VI, Nawab Mir Mahaboob Ali Khan Bahadur (2) H.E The Shams ul Umra II, Amir e Kabir I, Amir e Paigah II, Prime Minister of Hyderabad(Grand Father of Sir Vicar ul Umra)(3) Nawab Shams ul Umra IV, Amir e Kabir III, Amir e Paigah,Nawab Rahiduddin Khan Bahadur (Father of Sir Vicar ul Umra)(4) H.E Nawab Mohammed Fazaluddin Khan,Iqbal ud Dowla, Sir Vicar ul Umra Bahadur (Vikar Ul Oomra,”VO”), Amir e Paigah(1881- 1902) Prime Minister of Hyderanad (1893-1901) (5) Nawab Sultan ul Mulk Bahadur, Amir e Paigah 1902-1949(Eldest son of Sir Vicar ul Umra Bahadur)(6) H.E Nawab Sir Salar Jung I Prime minister of Hyderabad 1853-1883 (7) Maharaja Narain Pershad Narainder Bahadur Raja e Rajayan, Peshkar and photographs of notable personages forming a very interesting historical picture gallery which adds greatly to the imposing effect of the staircase.

The Falaknuma palace 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 by Osler and the palace has one of the largest electrical switchboards in India. Since the palace was the private property of the Nizam family until recently, visitors weren’t allowed. Occasionally, however, the venue is opened for public.

In 2000 Taj Hotels started renovating and restoring it. The new renovated hotel was opened in November, 2010. The rooms and halls were decorated with ornate furniture, rich handcrafted tapestries and brocade from France. The interiors are a splendid interplay of Venetian chandeliers and intricate frescos, and have charming outdoor terraces, and a treasure of rare artefacts,including paintings, statues, furniture, manuscripts and books. The palace also has a 101-seat dining hall, considered the largest in the world, and the Durbar Hall, embellished with intricately carved wooden ceilings, parquet flooring, regal walnut wood furniture and handcrafted mirrors.It took 10 years of painstaking restoration efforts to convert the 19th century palace into an exclusive luxury hotel by Taj Group of hotels.

At Rs 5 lakh a night, it is the most expensive hotel in the country, an ultimate destination for self-indulgence. If you want to experience the slice of regal splendour and feel the luxury that was once the exclusive preserve of Hyderabad rulers, you need to head for Taj Falaknuma Palace, a 117-year-old palace of Nizams converted into a 7-star hotel. The grand presidential suite at the hotel will cost Rs 5 lakh per night, making it the most expensive palace hotel in the country. The suite will take you back in time and make you feel like relaxing in the private chambers of the Nizam, sitting in the splendid Durbar Hall that once hosted guests like King George V and Czar Nicholas II. The other rooms come with a price tag of Rs 33,000 per day, plus taxes.

Some really nice photographs of the palace and its interiors…..

There are three historical suites, all decorated with exquisite artwork and fringed and tasseled fabrics along with antique furniture, Orientalist/Edwardian in style.

Eight ultra-private royal suites have beautiful architecture and opulent décor are part of the Zenana section of the palace. One of the grand royal suites named ‘Begum’ situated in the Zenana Wing (the private women’s realm) retain its original character and architecture. The stately duplex suite with a private pool and an exclusive access to Jiva Spa overlooks private gardens. Each has a personal butler.

From replicating the chatoyant tapestries made of metallic copper yarn to refurbishing the Venetian chandeliers, each detail has been carefully restored under the personal supervision of Her Highness Princess Esra, the first wife of the last Nizam of Hyderabad.

Once can only rejoice at their kaleidoscopic extravagance at the Falaknuma Palace, and admire the Nizams’ legacy of beauty, craftsmanship and finesse.

Updated after an amazing observation by one of the readers on a mix-up of the photographs!!!