By: Vijayshree Kurumilla
The name of ‘Chowmahalla palace’ comes from two words, ‘Chow’ means four and ‘Mahalla’ stands for Mahals or palaces. Aftab Mahal, Afzal Mahal, Mahtab Mahal and Tahniyat Mahal are the names of the four palaces and most of them are under the process of restoration and closed to the visitors. But the others, which have been kept open, are enough, to take your breath away. There is a long corridor of rooms, that once housed the administrative staff and there is a council hall, where in those days, the Nizam met important officials and now offers, exhibits from that era.
Looking at the photos gives you, a quick glimpse, into that royal past but what really caught my eye, were photos of the inauguration of the first railway station by the Nizam, the Begumpet airport, the Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar dam, the Assembly, the High court, Osmania Hospital and Osmania Arts College. When no one could even imagine having this kind of infrastructure, we were already having it, in Hyderabad.
I spent a lot of time, looking at them and there was some poetry scribbled, by one of the Nizams, while studying at London. You can read it, and feel their loneliness, and their longing for something beyond their overflowing riches.
There were also some haunting photographs of Nizam’s queens and the royal women of the Zenana. They had such, a grim expression and a stern look, that I could not help feeling, intimidated by their stony faces. In contrast, the later queens, like Princess Niloufer, who was considered to be one of the most beautiful women of her times, looked absolutely, angelic and stunning.
There is crockery, which was used in those days and also the armoury- daggers, swords, bows and arrows besides shields, and a whole armoury suit on display in one hall. The saris worn by the royal women, in those days were also amongst the exhibits and some were made of Deccani silk, looking elegant and intricate at the same time. The unquestionable superiority of the skills of our weavers can be seen, from the splendour of those saris.
The grand durbar hall or the Khilwat is the centre piece, and has a pure marble platform, where the seat of the Asaf Jahis lies. ‘This is where the King sat,’ I told my niece who was otherwise finding the trip, quite boring. ‘Where did the King go?’ she asked, and then followed up with a deluge of questions about why the King was not there and where were the princesses or the queens and when would they come back. I could only say, ‘I said, I will show you the King’s home and not the King’ and asked her to be satisfied with the photos. There were plenty of little princes and princesses photos to keep her interested and there were some furniture and crockery made for the use of the little ones, besides their clothes.
The Kilwat clock or the clock tower is still ticking away, giving the precise time, to this day. The two things which I loved the best were: First, the display of vintage cars, where you could see the Rolls Royce occupying a separate enclosure, with sedans, fiats, ford models and a host of others, along with the buggies or the carriages, making for, delightful viewing.
The second thing was the fountain which had ducks in them and immaculately maintained gardens around them. The fountain sprays you with a sprinkling of water, as you walk by and another water pond has marble statues of swans, around them.
The place gave me an indelible impression, of the riches in which the Nizam wallowed, while in his region, people were burdened under the weight of a feudal system. It also gives you a peep into the place, where all the palace intrigues took place and also, how their downfall was being written, by their getting cut off from the ground reality. People who were cunning like Qasim Razvi, filled their ears with what they wanted to hear, which was so far way from truth that when truth finally dawned, it must have been too late.
Whether it is the Warangal Fort of the Kakatiya rulers or the Chowmahalla palace of the Nizam rulers, they all in the end came to fall, with only their magnificence being put on display for eternity. But only what they did for the people, like the irrigation system of the Kakatiyas and the entire infrastructure of the Hyderabad state, proves that old saying, ‘Handsome is, as Handsome does’. It is your deeds which will shape how you will be remembered as; all the palaces and forts will only remain, just that; places which will be worn out by time, with people like us coming and gazing at them in awe, for the past gone by.
I am glad, I went, thanks to Rajesh, who wrote about this place in one of his comments on MissionTelangana.com, and I think this was the right time too; when we are in search of our identity and when people all around are hell bent on proving that we had no identity, before they came; That there are photos over there, in this palace which do not lie. Nizam would not have been the richest man on earth, had it not been for the treasure handed down from generations who ruled the Telangana region and this is Telangana’s, own riches, coming from our sweat and blood.
I felt like shouting to the many foreign visitors who had come to look and admire the place, that, ‘This is ours, Telangana’s’, but the sad story is that somewhere our people were never allowed to fully enjoy those riches and they had always been in the mode of rebellion and had to sacrifice their lives in their fight against the rulers, for even some of their basic rights.
You must go looking at the Chowmahalla palace, as something which is one of the connections to our fading past and you will find, yourself transported to another world. A world of buggies and Rolls Royce’s, a world of banquets hosted for the British Royals, a world of unspeakable riches, a world of the softly woven Daccani silk saris, a world of walks along gardened paths and spraying fountains and a world which is a world within itself. That is Chowmahalla Palace for you.
Information you could use:
– The timings are 10 a.m to 5 p.m.
– It is closed on Fridays.
– Go in leisure, if you want to examine closely the photographs. For me, they were the most interesting part.
– There is a studio, where you can try on the royal costumes and get photographed, in them.
– Don’t miss looking at the vintage car, display area.
– If you are taking small kids with you, you should be ready to answer a whole lot of questions, about the missing King, and their inevitable link with the chota bheem cartoon characters.