You will not understand the royalty, which the Nawabs enjoyed unless you visit their lavishly built palaces in the city of Hyderabad. Falaknuma Palace is one such crown in the eternal glory of the Nawabs. It is really hard to say what is most breathtaking about this perpetual palace. It was originally built by a noble from the Paigah family, Vikar-ul-Umra Bahadur. He later became the Prime Minister of Hyderabad.
Falaknuma palace is situated about 4 Kms from Charminar, in the Old City area of Hyderabad, on a hill at an altitude of about 200 feet. The palace was designed by an Italian architect with Louis XIV style decor, a lavish Mughal ambience, the spacious Harem (female followers of a man) quarters, the kitchen, Italian marble staircase and metaphorical fountains. The entire palace is designed in the shape of a scorpion with the centre part as its main body and two identical crescent-shaped (stinger-like) structures on either sides with beautiful facade and pediments. It is basically a double storied building, with a row of pillars supporting the facade above, in the veranda. The facade has ionic columns on the ground floor and slender and flamboyant columns, at the top, on the first floor. This is a classical look of the palace as seen from the front face.
At the rear end of the palace there is an impressive courtyard, about 600 feet long, which is enclosed by rooms and corridors. There is a round shaped hall, towards south, with profound verandas face by row of pillars in Ionic style called “Gol Bungla” (basically meaning a ‘Round Bungalow’). There is also an attractive glass roofed large veranda overlooking the vast expanse down below, at the same end. Parts of the side wings are older structures incorporating Islamic features. The Coronation building and a few additional structures are in late Mughal or Rajasthani style.
Once you are inside, you cannot move your eyes off from each and every bit and corner of the palace. One cannot take a chance to miss any part of the palace that is captivating and is adorned with extravagance articles that are fabulous souvenir. The palace boasts of one of the largest electrical switch boards in India. There are about 40 Venetian chandeliers in the hall that are said to be one of the largest in the country. When all of them are lit at once, it appears as if the entire palace is flooded in the ocean of illumination. They are so huge that it takes about six months to clean a 138-arm Osler chandelier. It leaves one wondering about the time taken in cleaning all the forty chandeliers and of course the entire palace!
When you enter another room, the legendary dining hall, you see a vast dining table, which can accommodate 100 guests at a time. The furniture is made of rosewood with green leather upholstery that gives it an artistic look. Even the cutlery was made of gold and crystals to which fluted music was added. There are about 220 rooms decorated lavishly and about 22 spacious halls. As you proceed, you will come across a large ball-room with two ton manually operated organ said to be one of its kind in the world.
The palace has some of the finest collection on display from the treasures of the Nizams. You just cannot blink your eyes when you are having a look at the beautiful paintings, inlaid furniture from Kashmir, the statues and artefacts of the Victorian Era, French drapery, manuscripts and the book collection of the Nizams, which are kept on the display. The Jade collection, which you see in the palace, is beyond comparison. Its captivating splendour and finery is unmatched with any such art in the world. As you walk up the stair-way that is supported by finely carved handrails and marble statues, you can see the pictures of all the guests who stayed in this palace and that of British Governors General. There are portraits of all of them hanging on the wall and you can clearly witness the royal treatment they received. Some of the fortunate guests and dignitaries include King George V and Queen Mary, Prince of Wales, and Viceroy Lord Wavell and many more.
For those who have tried to acquire this property and resided here for a longer period, this place proved them to be fatal. People say and believe that the scorpion shape structure of this palace is the reason behind it. Today, this property of Nizam, which was close to his heart, is given in the hands of Taj Group of Hotels for a major face lift and develop it into a Heritage Hotel.