As one of the finest residences of the world, the Falaknuma Palace has a rather curious twist to its beginnings. Construction was initiated by Nawab Viqar ul Omra, the Prime Minister of the princely state of Hyderabad in 1893, but the Palace’s ostentatious plans soon dwindled his wealth. His wife saved them from certain bankruptcy by inviting the then Nizam, Mir Mehboob Ali Khan, to the palace and offering it as a gift. Even as the Nizam accepted this gift, he had his treasurers promptly reimburse the Nawab.
Perched on a rocky hill, the Falaknuma Palace offers sweeping views of the city of Hyderabad. Designed by English architect William Ward Marrett, the Palace’s wings spread out in the shape of a scorpion. Heavily influenced by classical European architectural styles, the exteriors of the Palace are finished in soft hues of blue and white. The interiors boast of a series of grand reception rooms and luxurious living spaces.
A white marble fountain stands in the midst of the entrance foyer, which is decorated with European motifs including cherubs, angels and idyllic landscapes. Immediately ahead is the Nizam’s study and the original home of one of the largest diamonds of the world – the Jacob diamond. Though instead of setting it upon a crown, the Nizam preferred to use the diamond as a paper-weight!
A grand central staircase with marble balustrades and portraits of the former Nizams leads one to the upper floor of the main palace wing. Here a succession of stately rooms begin with the Jade Room that was used to host visiting dignitaries; the Billiards Room and Smoking Room with their panelled walls and darkened interiors; and the 101 Dining Hall which boasts of a 108 feet long dining table that can seat 101 people at the same time.
Text and photos by Kunal Bhatia