|Opening||2010 (as a hotel)
1893 (as a palace)
3 March 1884 (palace groundbreaking)
|Owner||Nawab Sir Vikar ul Umra, Amir e Paigah (1884 to 1897) and later, The Nizam of Hyderabad|
|Number of rooms||60|
Falaknuma Palace is one of the finest palaces in Hyderabad, India. It is located in the common capital area shared between the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. It belonged to Paigah Hyderabad State, and it was later owned by the Nizams. It is on a 32-acre (13 ha) area in Falaknuma, 5 km from Charminar. It was built by Nawab Vikar-ul-Umra, prime minister of Hyderabad and the uncle and brother-in-law of the Nizam VI, Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan Bahadur. Falak-numa means "Like the Sky" or "Mirror of the Sky" in Urdu.
An English architect designed this palace. The foundation for the construction was laid by Sir Vicar on March 3, 1884. He was the great grandson of Khuddus, a scientist who was a friend of Sir Charles Darwin. It took nine years to complete the construction and furnish 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. It is made completely with Italian marble and covers an area of 93,971 square meters.
The palace was built in the shape of a scorpion with two stings spread out as wings in 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 was an avid traveler, and his influences show in the architecture.
The Falaknuma palace is a rare blend of Italian and Tudor architecture. Its stained glass windows throw a spectrum of colour into the rooms.
Sir Vicar (prime minister of Hyderabad and Berar) used the palace as his private residence until it changed owners and the palace was handed over to the 6th Nizam of Hyderabad around 1897-1898. Sir Vicar, besides being the prime minister of Hyderabad, was also the Amir of Paigah and was the maternal grandson of the Nizam III Nawab Sikandar Jah Bahadur. He was married to Nizam VI Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan's older sister Princess Jahandarunnisa Begam Sahiba, also known as Lady Viqar ul Umra. (The monogramme VO for Viqar ul Omra is seen on every part and the furniture of the palace.)
The Falaknuma Palace was so costly to build that even Sir Viqar Ul Umra had to borrow money to complete it and realized that he had gone beyond his means. His very intelligent wife, Lady Viqar ul Umra, thought up a solution and advised her husband to invite Mehboob Ali Pasha Nizam VI to the palace. As anticipated, the Nizam liked the palace so much that he extended his stay and this prompted Sir Viqar to offer that if his sovereign liked the palace he would be honoured to give it to him. The Nizam liked the gesture but, being the grand man he was, he had his treasurer send the entire amount spent on the palace to Sir Viqar, thus easing his paigah noble from a financial crunch. The Nizam VI in 1897 used the palace as a royal guest house as it had a commanding view of the entire city.
The Falaknuma fell silent after the 1950s when the Nizam moved out. The last guest was the first president of India, Rajendra Prasad, in 1951. The palace was mostly kept closed since then and underwent a huge restoration after it was given on a 30 year lease deal to the Taj Hotels by the Nizam Prince Mukkaram Jah Bahadur in 2000, which entitled the Nizam to 50% of the profits or a minimum of 25 lakhs Rs per month. The responsibility of the restoration to its original grandeur was led by Princess Esra Jah, the first wife of the VII Nizam, who also built a small palace for her personal use, which was completed in 2012 near the old building.
Piecing together Falaknuma’s past glory was perhaps the biggest challenge of the restoration. These came with other challenges like retaining the eclectic blend of Renaissance architecture, Baroque style, French charm, art deco sensibilities and other inspirations that were woven into the décor of the palace — yet retaining its true-blue Nizam flavour. The restoration was extensive — sourcing the perfect upholstery to redo the sofas and chairs, choosing fresh drapes to match the taste of the Nizams, polishing the marble, repairing damaged pieces, recreating broken structures, and blending in new wings and spaces for more rooms, extra landscape, and additional restaurants.
One of the highlights of the palace is the state reception room, whose ceiling is decorated with frescoes and gilded reliefs. The ballroom contains a two-ton manually operated organ said to be the only one of its kind in the world.
The palace has 220 lavishly decorated rooms and 22 spacious halls. It has some of the finest treasure 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 could seat 100 guests at its table. 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 length of the table is 108 feet, and breadth is 5.7 feet and height is 2.7 feet.
On the walls of the landing are many oil paintings and photographs of notable personages.
The Falaknuma Palace also has the largest collection of Venetian chandeliers, with 40 138-arm Osler chandeliers in the halls.
The palace was the private property of the Nizam family, and not normally open to the public, until 2000.
Renovation into a luxury hotel
In 2000 Taj Hotels started renovating and restoring the palace. The renovated hotel was opened in November 2010. The rooms and halls were decorated with ornate furniture, handcrafted tapestries and brocade from France. The interiors have Venetian chandeliers and intricate frescos, and have outdoor terraces with rare artefacts, including paintings, statues, furniture, manuscripts and books. The palace has a 101-seat dining hall, considered the largest in the world, and the Durbar Hall, embellished with intricately carved wooden ceilings, parquet flooring, walnut furniture and handcrafted mirrors.
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