Falaknuma Palace: Finding The Bricks Of The Architectural Maven

Like a mirror of the sky, it stands majestically as a scorpion with two stings spread out like the wings of a humongous bird. Ceilings decorated with frescoes and Venetian chandeliers, a dining table that has the capacity of accommodating 101 guests, a billiard table made by Burroughs and Watts from England, and a library like that of Windsor Castle, Falaknuma awaits us to explore its richness and exclusivity through thousand different ways.
Falaknuma Palace: Mirror of the Sky; Image Source: Trip Advisor

Falaknuma Palace: Mirror of the Sky; Image Source: Trip Advisor

When His Exalted Highness enters the room, the room lights up with awe and subtle discussions on how grand he looked. He was a piece of royalty only meant to be admired from afar with a royal robe covering his torso, a royal crown adorning his head and precious jewels hanging from his neckpiece. Whatever he touched turned into gold. Such was his opulence, such was his grace, and such was his power. He was the Nizam of Hyderabad. It sounds pretty royal. But wait till you've heard of the "Mirror of the Sky". Its sheer beauty and luxury will make you forget every expensive thing that you've ever seen in your life.

Taj Falaknuma Palace, set like a gem in the sky, welcomes you to explore the rich lifestyle of the Nizams via the most captivating of experiences. Filled with grandeur and some of the most exquisite artifacts, the Palace stands under the sky, replicating its unending area and unmatched aura.

The sheer opulence of the Nizams was an absolute match for the magnificent architecture and intricate craftsmanship of the Falaknuma Palace. known as the "Mirror of the Sky", Falaknuma Palace was said to be the personal residence of the Nizams since 1897. Most of us think that the Nizams themselves built the Palace. But this was not the case. The Palace was like a precious jewel in their already expensive crown.

The history of this majestic palace may be traced back to the 1800s, when the Prime Minister of the Nizams, Viqar-ul-Umra, commissioned its construction as his own house. Viqar placed second in the order, behind the Nizams of Hyderabad, as a member of the Paigah dynasty. His relationship with the Nizams was mostly through matrimonial alliances between both families.

The Palace soon became a central spot of attraction for royalties like King George, Queen Mary, Edward VIII and Tsar Nicholas II. While the Palace represented a wealthy part of the European culture, the poor reality of India could not sustain such regal existence. When Hyderabad was integrated into the Indian subcontinent, the royal life of Falaknuma Palace came to an abrupt end. The palace door was closed, and wax seals affixed on the legal paper slowly began eating the beauty of the Palace. The Palace slept like Snow White for more than thirty years, waiting for her prince charming.

Finally, the prince arrived. The Turkish-born former wife of the current Nizam, Princess Esra, stepped in to save the day. She brought in a deal that not only saved the Falaknuma Palace but all the other properties in Hyderabad. She approached the Taj Group and asked them to take over the Palace and convert it into a hotel.

"Look around the world. One rarely finds a city such as Hyderabad that effortlessly fuses the old with the new and tradition with modernity. The legendary rulers of this city embellished it with architectural marvels, of which Falaknuma Palace is an original and magnificent landmark," said Raymond N. Bickson, Managing Director & CEO of Taj Hotels. "We are proud to have added another splendid historical palace to our grand portfolio. We're especially delighted that we were able to restore every aspect of the Palace painstakingly, retaining its architectural and historical magnificence while also creating a state-of-the-art luxury hotel."

The quiet is the first thing that interests you as the frontrunner takes the lead up the long bent stairway. Inside, there's a vestibule with paintings, Greek vases, and alabaster nymphs on the walls and ceilings. There's no front desk, no concierge, and none of the other accoutrements of a hotel. Instead, you have the impression that you are a visitor in the Nizam's residence. There's nothing for miles, and solitude is a symbol of prosperity in India.

Stepping into the main section of the castle transports you to a world that vanished half a century ago. The beautiful ringing of a Louis XIV watch can be heard in the distance, and a row of badged hirelings stands to attention, awaiting orders. The Falaknuma's 60 guestrooms are lavish but subtle, exuding the aura of elegance only true riches can provide. The magnificent Venetian chandeliers, gilded ceiling, teak and walnut furnishings, and kilometres and yards of silk adorn the ballroom.

The path to the landing is lit by Carrera marble lanterns and ornamented with pictures of the Nizams towering down in massive rococo frames. The Jade Room is right next door. It's decorated in Haute Chinoiserie style, with other beautiful chandeliers and a geometric parquet floor. The Hukka Lounge was outfitted with a multi-stemmed water pipe, reclining lounges, and embroidered leather walls.

However, it was much more than just acquiring a palace for transforming it into a hotel. "For ten years, we have worked on preserving priceless art and artifacts. Today, we are very proud to welcome our guests to the Taj Falaknuma Palace - restored, renewed, and reinstated to its former glory. Guests can experience beautiful moments of luxury while reliving chapters from the lives of the Nizams," said Ranjit Phillipose, General Manager, Taj Falaknuma Palace.

The Taj Group took on the responsibility of refurbishing the entire Palace. The jaw-dropping bill for renovations bore by the Taj Group is the most significant proof of the majestic transformation. Princess Esra herself took care of the entire transformation process, which took more than ten years to complete. Esra invited experts from all over the world and gave the duty of restoring every part of the Palace, determined to return the apple of the Nizam's eye to its best state.

The relationship between the Paigahs and the Nizams was unique. When Asaf Jahan went to Hyderabad from the Mughal Court, the Paigahs too accompanied them. With time, the Paigahs became staunch loyalists of the Nizams and were also responsible for their security. Long back, Viqar-ul-Umra invited the sixth Nizam Mahbub Ali Khan to stay with him at the Falaknuma Palace. Amazed by the beauty and royalty of the palace, the Nizam extended his stay from a week to a month. Later on, Viqar offered the palace to the Nizam and let him and his family stay in the Palace forever.

It is said that the Nizam gladly accepted the offer as it was Nazar (gift) to him from Viqar, but at the same time, the Nizam also paid a heavy amount of Rs. 2 million to Viqar as an obligatory sum. Since then, the Falaknuma palace has become the residence of the Nizams of Hyderabad and their entire family.

Spread over 32 acres of lush green land, the Falaknuma Palace has been designed by the English architect, William Ward Marret. Located on a hillock with enchanting views of Hyderabad surrounding its vicinity, the palace resembles a scorpion with its two stings spread on either side, like that of a bird's wings. Designed in the classical style, the entire palace is made of Italian marble with a dash of art nouveau. This forces us to imagine the price of a European masterpiece in the land of Central India.

And, by sliding through a bit of hallway towards the left, one may enter the vast dining area. One of the world's most extended eating tables runs along the centre. It is 33 metres long, built of teak and rosewood, and can seat 101 people. It was formerly set with the Nizam's gold silverware and plates.

He may have possessed the Palace, yet it bears the monogram of Viqar ul Omra. Everything carries his initials from the dining seats to the stained glass: "VO."

The chamber, modelled after the one at Windsor Castle, has 6,000 rare books, including a series of enormous leather-bound tomes titled Glimpses of the Nizam's Dominions. Even the roof of the library is monogrammed. When you flip through them, you feel the Nizams' boundless power and riches.

A library that holds the key to all the mysteries; Image Source: Architexturez

A library that holds the key to all the mysteries; Image Source: Architexturez

Viqar-ul-Umra: The man behind the magnificent palace; Image Source: Paigah Palace Function Hall

Viqar-ul-Umra: The man behind the magnificent palace; Image Source: Paigah Palace Function Hall

A dining table so grand; Image Source: Architectural Digest India

A dining table so grand; Image Source: Architectural Digest India

What weddings look like in the royal palace; Image Source: Wedding Wire

What weddings look like in the royal palace; Image Source: Wedding Wire

Princess Esra: The woman behind the consistent glory of Falaknuma; Image Source: Vogue

Princess Esra: The woman behind the consistent glory of Falaknuma; Image Source: Vogue

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