Chowmahalla Palace

Have You Been to The Last Century’s Richest Man’s Residence – Chowmahalla Palace?

Chowmahalla Palace was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, rulers of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad, India. It is now converted into a private museum and venue for parties by the royal family.

Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad
Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad

This magnificent palace complex was once the residence of the Nizams of Hyderabad, one of the premier kingdoms in India. Nizams up-to the sixth Nizam, lived at  Chowmahalla Palace.

Osman Ali Khan (Last and VII th Nizam or Asaf Jah VII) lived here till the age of 11. He then moved outside of the Chowmahalla  palace complex to the newly constructed King Kothi Palace or Nazri Bagh Palace, at a distance of around 5 kilometers away. Even though he lived outside of Chowmahalla palace, his royal court meeting were held at Chowmahalla  Palace. He breathed his last here at the King Kothi Palace, on the 24th February 1967.

Chowmahalla PalaceRoyal Court Room (Royal seat can be seen on the left side) at Khilwat Mubarak, at Hyderabad, India.

Structures inside Chowmahalla Palace Complex

Khilwat Mubarak is the main building in the complex, where the king used  to hold his Durbar (the court of a ruler). There are 19 Belgian crystal chandeliers in the durbar hall. You are allowed to view the hall and not allowed to roam around, especially near Takht-e-Nishan, the royal seat.

Council Hall was used to store rare manuscripts and books. It was also used for meeting dignitaries and high ranking officials. It now showcases the treasures of the Palace Collection.

Roshan Bangla is the palace where the sixth Nizam lived, which is named after his mother, Roshan Begum.

There are four palaces in the Chowmahalla Palace complex. (‘Chow’ or ‘Char’ means four,  ‘Mahal’ means palace.) Mehtab Mahal, Tahniyat Mahal, Afzal Mahal and Aftab Mahal are the Four palaces in the complex.

There is a Clock Tower in the complex.

There are two main courtyards; one on the southern side and one on the northern side. There is a beautiful pool and fountain the front of the palce. There are other buildings which were used as administrative office.

There is a Gallery for the Vintage royal cars and bikes.

Weddings, meetings, etc, are allowed to be hosted in the palace. Chowmahalla palace wedding costs Rs. 1,75,000 as rental charges, without catering. Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian foods are allowed. Both in-house as well as outside catering is allowed inside the palace. Alcoholic beverages can also be supplied.

Nizam of Hyderabad & The Erstwhile Princely  State of Hyderabad

The first Nizam of Hyderabad was a  viceroy of the Deccan region under the Mughal Dynasty, from 1713 to 1721.  He was the ruler of the Deccan area for a short period in 1707, upon  the demise of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. In 1724, when the Mughals became week, he declared Hyderabad an independent state and became the first ruler of the newly formed state.

Princely  state of Hyderabad was the most prosperous state among the princely states in India. Golconda, where priceless Kohinoor Diamonds were mined, belonged to this princely state. It was the largest state among the princely states in India, spread over an area of 214,190 square kilometers or 2,6980 square miles.  The State had its own currency, army, railway network, airline, postal system,  telecommunication system  and radio broadcasting service.

Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last and seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, refused to accede to India, when India got Independence in 1947. Hence the Indian Army forced its way into Hyderabad and dethroned the Nizam in September 1948. The  operation is known as  Operation Polo. Nizams of Hyderabd reigned from 31 July 1724 to 17 September 1954.

Nizam of Hyderabad was awarded the maximum privy purse amount of 43 lacks rupees per year (approximately 8.5 per cent of his state’s annual revenue), by the Indian government, upon acceding his state to India. Privy Purse was abolished in 1971 by 26th Indian Constitutional Amendment Act. Some of the Rulers challenged this law in various courts. A few royals were able to get this pension resorted to them. There were a total of 555 rulers. 398 rulers were getting less than Rs. 50 K per  year.

Nizam of Hyderabad was  The Wealthiest Man in the World, until he died, aged 80, in 1967.

This eccentric Indian ruler was the world’s richest man. He had 86 mistresses, 100 illegitimate sons and employed 38 staff to dust palace chandeliers..

He disciplined himself to live on the equivalent of £1 a day and smoked the cheapest brand of cigarettes, relighting and smoking the discarded butts – he once took a cigarette from an adviser, cut it in half and offered the man half back.

In one of his many palaces he had a wardrobe half a mile long, bulging with exquisite silks, brocades, damasks and fine muslins.

Another palace had a mile-long banqueting hall.

How Do I Go to Chowmahalla Palace?

Chowmahalla Palace is situated at the heart of the Hyderabad city. It is located at around 850 meters from Charminar, one of the most recognized structures in India.

Hyderabad  is well connected by roads to the rest of the country. Hyderabad railway station  is a main railway station in the city Secunderabad railway station is another major railway station, at around 11 kilometers from this magnificent palace complex. There is an international airport on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

Chowmahalla Palace Timings

Chow mahalla  Palace is open from 10 am to 5 pm and is closed on Fridays. The entry fee for Indians are Rs 50 and Rs 10, for adults and children respectively. Foreigners are charged Indian Rupees 200. There is a separate fee for Camera and Video recording devices.

Hotels near Chowmahalla Palace

There are many Hyderabad Hotels near the palace.

Have you been to the Last Century’s Richest Man’s Palace? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Battle of Plassey or Plassey War and Murshidabad Hazarduari Palace

Battle of Plassey or Plasi war, was fought at Plassey, near to the historic city of Murshidabad.  Murshidabad  is situated on the southern banks of Bhagirathi-Hooghly river, a tributary of the holy river Ganges, in West Bengal state, India. Murshidabad is the district headquarters of Murshidabad district.

Battle of Plassey near Hazarduari Palace
Hazarduari Palace, Murshidabad.  Photo Source  – Wikimedia Commons.

Bhagirathi river divides Murshidabad district into two almost equal portions. The Eastern tract of land is very fertile and is part of alluvial plains of East Bengal. The Western tract is mostly reddish soil areas, with nodular lime stones.

‘Battle of Plassey’, is closely linked with the history of Bengal state during period of Mughal dynasty and how Murshidabad became its capital.

Murshidabad

In 1704, during the rule of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (reigned 1658–1707), the Diwan of Bengal, Murshid Quli Khan, transferred the capital of Bengal from Dhakka (the current capital of Bangladesh) to Murshidabad and named the city after him. Later on, in 1716, Murshid Quli Khan became the ruler (Nawab) of Murshidabad.

Battle of Plassey

By the middle of 18th century, The British East India Company has established its presence in Chennai (Madras), Mumbai (Bombay ), Kolkota (Calcutta) and also at some of the other states and at major port cities. To establish their presence further, The British forces under Robert Clive fought with the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-Ud-Daulah in 1757.

Nawab’s military chief, Mir Jafar, betrayed Nawab and fought along with the British in defeating the Nawab. Mir Jafar bribed and forced many of Nawab’s soldiers to turn against the Nawab. Nawab Siraj-Ud-Daulah fled the battlefield and was brutally killed by Mir Jafar’s son Miran, near to the Bihar state border, Mir Jafarthen is considered as a great force in establishing the eventual British domination of the Indian subcontinent.

After the Great Battle of Plassey in 1757 (on the banks of Bhagirathi River, south of Murshidabad), Bengal came under British control, with Mir Jafarthen as Nawab. After a few years, the British shifted the capital of Bengal presidency to Calcutta (Kolkota).

Hazarduari Palace, Murshidabad

Hazarduari Palace is the most famous landmark building in the district of Murshidabad. Hazarduari Palace was built in 1837. The palace gets its name from the number of doors it has. “Hazarduari means ‘Thousand Doors“. (The palace has 1000 doors, out of which 900 Doors are false doors, interconnecting the rooms.) The Palace was built where the old fort (Kila Nizamat) once situated. Hazarduari Palace is also known to tourists as “Nizamat Kila” or the “Kila Nizamat”, which consists of the Palace and the surrounding buildings.

Hazarduari Palace with 8 galleries and 114 rooms, is spread over 41 acres of Land and is built in Italian style. Murshidabad’s Hazarduari Palace was designed by Bengal Engineers (by General Duncan McLeod) for Murshidabad’s Nawab Najim Humayun Jah.

The building opposite to the palace is “Nizamat Imambara”, on the banks of the river Bhagirathi (River Hoogly), which is (the biggest Imambara in India with its basement filled with soil brought from Mecca). Other building include Murshidabad clock tower, Madiana mosques (old Madiana Mosque on old Imambara site and new Madina Mosque on the new Imambara complex), Chawk Masjid, Shia Complex, etc.

Hazarduari Palace Museum, Murshidabad

Much of the Palace has now been converted to a Museum. The first floor of the three storied Palace has memorabilia collection, while the second second floor has a large collection of books and manuscripts, numbering around 12000 and 3000, respectively.

You will come across very very rare manuscripts, including a copy of Holy Quran penned by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. There is another copy of Holy Koran from Haroon-al-Rashid/ Harun-al-Rashid, the Caliph of Baghdad, under whom Baghdad flourished as the most famous center of trade, learning, and culture. (Caliph is normally the head of a sovereign state and are considered as decedents of Prophet Muhammad.) There are other original manuscripts written by the Great Emperor Akbar’s court historian, Abul Fazal.

Emperor Aurangzeb and the Mughal Kingdom

Aurangzeb became the emperor in 1659 after defeating and executing his eldest brother, Dara Shikoh, who became regent in 1658 after his father emperor Shah Jahan fell ill. Even though Arrangazeb (reigned 1658–1707) was ruling most of India (including Murshidabad) and was the richest man in India (after his hard-earned victory over the Diamond-rich Golconda king), he used to write Quran and make caps, to earn personal money. He believed that the treasury funds are not meant for personal use and it should be used for his citizens.

It is another story that he had to nearly empty his treasury as a result of the constant warfare with some of the Great Maratha Emperors, (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his sons and successors Chhatrapati Sambhaji and Chhatrapati Rajaram)  and also due to rebellion in his own Mughal areas. (Details about Maratha Kingdom is given under next sub-heading, below)

Unlike his father Shah Jahan, who built Taj Mahal and numerous other Mughal architectural buildings, Aurangzeb made very few extravagant buildings. The Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, which is currently the world’s fifth largest mosque and is believed to be the World’s largest mosque at time of its construction and for the next 313 years, is one exception to this rule. He also constructed a small marble mosque inside the Red fort at Delhi, which is known as Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque.

The largest building built by Aurangzeb is The “Bibi Ka Maqbara” in Aurangabad, a memorial for his first wife. He also constructed Mosques at Varanasi (Benares) and also at Srinagar. The mosque at Srinagar is the largest mosque in the state of Jammu and Kashmir even now.

The British East India Company was allowed to set up its factory in India by the Emperor Jahangir (Grand father of emperor Aurangzeb and son of Emperor Akbar) in 1612. The rule of India by the East India Company (effectively) started after the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and lasted till 1858, when the British crown took over the power following the Great Indian Rebellion of 1857 and deposed the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II in 1857, who exiled to Burma.

After emperor Aurangzeb’s death, many revolts or power struggle with the family, resulted in the weakness of Mughal dynasty. In 1719 alone, four rulers ascended the Mughal emperor throne.

Chhattrapti Shivaji and the Maratha Kingdom

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj reigned  from 1630 to 1680. He was formally crowned as the Chhatrapati or Monarch in 1674 and is credited with establishing the Maratha Empire. His son and successor Chhatrapati Sambhaji reigned from 1680 to1689. Chhatrapati Rajaram reigned from 1689 to 1700 and is the half-brother of Chhatrapati Sambhaji.

Chhattrapati Shahu acceded to the throne in 1708 after he was released by the Mughals in 1707 and is credited with expanding the Maratha Kingdom from present day Tamilnadu in south India to Peshwar in Pakistan, Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar islands. Chhattrapati Shahu is the grandson of Chhatrapati Shivaji and son of Chhatrapati Sambhaji who was killed by Moghals in 1689. Chhattrapati Shahu was imprisoned for 27 years by Moghal Emperor Aurangzeb when he captured the Raigad fort, the Maratha capital in 1689 and fought war with the Maratha Kings for the next 27 years. Shahu was released in 1707 after Emperor Aurangzeb’s death by his son Emperor Azam Shah.

Mughal emperors in order of their accession to throne

The list of Mughal emperors in order of their accession to throne is as follows; Babur -> Humayun.> Akbar-> Jahangir – Shahryar Mirza (reigned for less than 3 months) -> Shah Jahan -> Alamgir (Aurangzeb) -> Azam Shah (reigned for less than 3 months) -> Bahadur Shah I -> Jahandar Shah-> Farrukhsiyar -> Rafi ud-Darajat-> Shah Jahan II-> Muhammad Shah ->Ahmad Shah Bahadur -> Alamgir II -> Shah Jahan III-> Shah Alam II -> Akbar Shah II -> Bahadur Shah II. The above list of emperors is exclusive of the Regents.

Political Pension and Privy Purse to Princes of Princely States

Nawab of Murshidabad along with some other ex-rulers of India (Princes or their heirs), are still getting the political pension from the Government of India. The political pension is different from Privy Purse, which was  abolished by 26th Indian Constitutional Amendment Act, in 1971. Privy Purse, an annual payment from the consolidated funds of India, to the royal families of the erstwhile princely states of India, was a compensation to, first integrate their states with India in 1947 and later to merge their states in 1949 (which meant the rulers loosing their right to rule the kingdom).

Privy Purse amount was fixed based on several factors like the tax amount collected by the states, the number of gun salutes they were eligible, the area of the state, the age of the kingdom / dynasty, etc. The Privy Purse amount varied from around 43 lacks rupees to the Nizam of Hyderabad to 192 rupees to ruler of Katodia.

On the other hand, the political pensions were first granted by the British Queen / Kings to some ex-rulers of Indian princely states, which the Government of India still pays.

Names of some of the other princely states receiving political pension includes Khudadad (legal heirs to Tippu Sultan), Coorg and Kolar in Karnataka, Arcot and Tanjore (in Tamilnadu), Kurnool and Masulipatam which is currently known as Machilipatnam (in Andhra Pradesh), Nagpur, Qudh (Utter Pradesh), Punjab, Assam, Angre, Satara, Surat, etc.

How Do I Go to Murshidabad, Near the “Battle of Plassey” site ?

“Battle of Plassey” site (Plassey) and Murshidabad city are on the opposite banks of Bhagirathi river, at around 47 kilometers distance from each other. Murshidabad city is well connected by roads to Kolkota and other parts of India.

Berhampore at around 12 kilometers distance, is the nearest railway station to Murshidabad. “Khagraghat” station is also near to Murshidabad; it lies on the opposite side of the river Bhagirathi-Hooghly. “New Farakka Junction” railway station is another nearby railway station at around 100 kilometers distance which has connecting trains to Delhi, Guwahati, Darjeeling, etc.

There is barrage called “Farakka Barrage“, across River Ganges at Farakka in Nawabganj District of West Bengal. Its situated  very close to the India-Bangladesh border, at around 16.5 kilometers from the border. Farakka Barrage was  constructed by India in 1975.

Kolkata is the nearest city with air connectivity at around 200 kilometers distance.

Accommodation at Murshidabad

There are quite a few decent budget hotels and youth hostels available at Lalbagh area of Murshidabad city. Another option is to head to Berhampore city, at 12 around kilometers distance.