Late Tudor style architecture merges with elements of Italian Gothic design, and guests are allowed an unforgettable treat for their senses as they get a chance to relive a magical period in history.Welcome to the Falaknuma Palace, now, a Taj Hotel property.
Leased to the Taj Group in 1995, the Falaknuma Palace restoration work has been sensitively overseen by the royal family members and continues to attract lovers of the good life to it.
Ten years, a coterie of specialist artisans, architects, interior decorators, landscape and restoration experts with infinite imagination, gumption and vision helped realize the lofty dream. Situated nearly 2,000 feet above Hyderabad, the rich cultural reserves and sensual symbolism of this “mirror to the sky” (built to reflect the clouds) justifies the waiting period for the best-kept royal indulgence of the Nizam of Hyderabad.
Rahul Mehrotra and Associates carried out the conservation survey of the Palace according to a succinct design brief: “Restore the main Palace, retain the opulence, and enhance the grandeur!”
So, what once was the sole preserve of royalty still maintains its opulence, revelry and dignity with its world-class collection of objets d’art, stained-glass windows, Mughal, Rajasthani and Japanese gardens. Personally conceived by the Nizam, it has now been showcased for connoisseurs by modern design consultants who demonstrate the utmost respect for the power of the past.
To recreate this ‘Palace with past glory’, the Taj Hotels got WATG – Wimberly Allison Tong and Goo on board, a design consultancy with 60 years of experience in revamping images for the hospitality and entertainment industry.
Bali-based landscape consultancy firm, P.T. Wijaya, famous for designing breathtaking courtyards and magical pools was roped in to restore the landscapes and enhance the exterior lighting design of the Palace.
Princess Esra, of the Asaf Jah Dynasty of Hyderabad state, who took a keen personal interest in the restoration project of the palace, requested cousin, Ruya Mocan, to ensure the soft and hard finishes for all the Palace Rooms and the Zenana Suites had just the right touch of royalty. Needless to say, thereafter, the entire range of new fabrics, upholstery, furniture and finishes was sourced from Turkey!
These efforts are explained best by Nick Poynton, Chief Architecture Consultant from WATG, “The new look of the palace had a basic premise – preserve as much as possible.”
With extensive experience of restoring heritage buildings, he understood that he would require to make the Palace essentially habitable and hospitable – but, not without a dollop of old world charm. Thus, he used the existing colonnade, tied in the arch founding as well as the external section facing the city, and created a resonance of the original building in the classic Palladian look.
Similarly, the rich leather upholstery (engraved or embossed) and velvet tapestry were re-done to reflect their place in history amid the re-fittings of the finest marble and Burma teak ornamentation as in the Durbar Hall.
The palace library, an exact replica of the book house at Windsor Castle, is a bibliophile’s delight with its rare collections, including the most acclaimed sets of the Holy Quran in the country, hand-picked by the Nizam during his journeys to far-off lands.
The billiards room is every bit as opulent as the fine-dining room (rightly rumoured to contain the world’s longest dining table). The marble staircases are as fascinating as the hookah lounge theme restaurant and the alfresco cocktail supper arrangements under the Gol Bungalow stained glass ambience.
The Nizam’s Bedroom, study and the office where he conducted his state affairs, card and hookah rooms boast the finest quality furniture and upholstery made of camel skin with intricate carvings of over 10,000 designs of animal figures across every square inch!
Stained glass patterns bearing English, French and Polish accents, hand – embroidered fabric patterns and textures recreated in silk, designed meticulously to change its tone to the days of yore are best reflected in the soft glow of the custom-made Osler chandeliers (Birmingham, London) that adorn the various rooms of the palace.
And just like in the movies…here’s the happy ending…soak in the visuals to help you dream of a stay at the best place for ultimate indulgences: the Falaknuma-Shaan-E-Hyderabad.
Text By Deepanjolie Sonya Figg
Photographs Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces