By Harnath Sithamraju
Photo caption: Falaknuma Palace
On a recent visit to Hyderabad, India I had the opportunity of visiting the Falaknuma Palace (“Mirror of the Sky” as known in Urdu) built during the time of Nawab Mir Mehboob Ali Khan Bahadur the VI Nizam of Hyderabad. It is one of the most interesting Palaces in India with a chequered history. It is situated around 5 kms from Charminar in Hyderabad India. And is built on a 32 acre area.
The foundation for the construction of the Palace was laid on March 3 1884 by Nawab Vikar-ul-Umra, Prime Minister of Hyderabad and Berarwho was also the brother-in-law of Nizam VI. He moved in to the Palace in December 1889. He was married to the older sister of Nizam VI, Princess Jahandar Unnissa Begum Sahiba also known as Lady Vikarul Umra. The construction of the Palace took an enormous toll on the resources of Vikar and ultimately he had to give it away to Nizam VI when he visited the Palace and liked it.
Also known as Sir Vikar, he was the maternal grandson of Nawab Sikandar Jah Bahadur the III Nizam of Hyderabad.
Falaknuma Palace covers an area of 93,971 Sq Metres and built completely with Italian marble. The Palace is built in the shape of a scorpion with two stings spread out as wings in the North.
The Palace is now leased out for 30 years from the year 2000 by Nizam Prince Mukkaram Jah Bahadur to Taj Hotels to run their hotel business. The palace was renovated by Princess Esra Jah, first wife of VII Nizam who had also built a small private Palace on the compound. Even though it is a hotel it also is a place of interest for tourists. There are regular tours to the Palace.
Upon entering the palace compound you are frisked by security and then taken by a separate vehicle to the courtyard of the Palace at the top of a hill. The view of city of Hyderabad from there is breathtaking and the atmosphere is one of serene beauty. You do not feel like leaving the place. The lawns are well maintained. I was told that Actor Salman Khan’s sister was married here before rains played spoilsport and they had to rush indoors.
Once inside the Palace you are transported to a different era and in to history. The heavy carpets and thick wooden staircases belong to the days when craftsmanship was exquisite and built with passion. All along the staircase there are portraits of all Governors General from the start of British rule in India till Independence.There is a portrait of a British lady in a room and whichever part of the room you are in she is looking at you! The ceilings are exquisitely designed and ornate and it seems as though the craftsmen had put their heart in to them. The bathrooms in the palace can give modern day bathrooms a run for their money. The dining room is the highlight of the Palace and is well known Internationally. At any given time it can seat 100 guests. Awesome mirrors and furniture and the long dining table are a sight to behold.
The clock in the hall is a very rare piece and only one of 2 existing in the world. It has stopped working and repair work was never attempted. There is a library with a rare collection of books for hotel guests to read as a reference but not to take to their rooms. There is a rare billiard and snooker table and adjacent to them is a list of players who chanced their arm on the tables. The tables were designed by Burroughs and Watts from England. There are only two of its kind existing in the world and the other one is in Buckingham Palace. The Ballroom contains a 2 ton manually operated organ said to be the only one of its kind in the World. It is not working now and takes an enormous amount to repair and was never attempted. The Palace boasts one of the largest electrical switchboards in India.
It takes around 2 hours to take the tour and the history of the Palace to sink in. You are transported to a bygone era and leave with nostalgic memories.
Falaknuma Police Station
On a visit to Falaknuma Palace I also had an opportunity to visit the Falaknuma Police Station. There I met the dynamic and courteous Circle Inspector Puli Yadagiri the Station House Officer (Law & Order). A meeting with the CI gives you a feeling of a man born for the job. His passion and interest for maintaining law and order in a sensitive area of the City of Hyderabad is commendable.
During my discussions with him he informed that during his previous stint as CI in Abids city centre Police Station, police officers from the Police Department in Sydney NSW visited the station and were all praise for the way the Police Station was maintained. During his stint in Abids the police station moved in to new premises and was chosen as a model police station.
Asked on how he was able to keep tab on the law and order in his area, he pointed to the monitors on the wall in front of him and the computers on his table. There you could see live movement of traffic in various parts of the area surrounding the Police Station and you could pick the incidents as they occur and rush police force immediatelyto the scene of action. He also said that at any given time he knew where his police vehicles were and could contact them to rush to any scene of incident. He looked like a man in total control of his area.
The Police Station was undergoing changes and renovations and he informed me that the Police force in Telengana is becoming more and more mobile and tech savvy and all thanks to the Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who is showing a keen interest to develop a formidable and efficient police force.
I could sense Yadagiri’s dynamism and passion was rubbing on to his staff as well. They were all very alert, friendly and happy doing their jobs. He is truly an inspiring leader. I left with a feeling that the Law and Order in the area was in very good and capable hands.