Of grandeur and old-world charm in modern India

April 1st, 2008 - 10:29 am ICT by admin  

By Azera Rahman
It is the setting for India’s grand state banquets, the imposing address where India meets visiting world leaders. Once the palace of a prince, Hyderabad House has seen it all over the last seven decades. Representing the best of Indian culture and craft, it is one more magnificent creation from British architect Edwin Lutyens
in the Indian capital New Delhi.

The cream coloured dome towering over the gates makes for a splendid view. Situated in the heart of the city, Hyderabad House, with its imposing concave portico in cream and red sandstone, is a former princely residence of the Nizam (or ruler) of Hyderabad that is now used by the government of India for banquets and meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries.

Designed by Lutyens, the principal architect of New Delhi, Hyderabad House is the largest and the grandest of all the palaces built during the period of 1921-1931 to house various state rulers.

The Nizam of Hyderabad, Fath Jang Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan Asif Jah VII, who was the last ruler of the princely state of Hyderabad in southern India, appointed Lutyens to build his palace in New Delhi.

With a mixture of Mughal and European style of architecture, Hyderabad House was built and completed in two years in 1928. Considering what a fabulously rich man the Nizam was and what an expensive taste he had, the palace was obviously very fanciful.

Situated just north of India Gate, the majestic memorial which salutes the Indian soldiers who gave up their lives during the wars, Hyderabad House exemplifies the richness of the Nizam’s taste in art, architecture and craftsmanship.

Although it was Lutyens, along with Abdullah Peermohamed, who had designed and completed Hyderabad House, the Nizam was no less engaged in its formation.

Since he was familiar with the Nizam’s preference for large and rather opulent palaces, the architect took care that the edifice he had planned should in no way dwarf the showpiece of the Raj in the new capital, the Viceroy’s Palace or Rashtrapati Bhavan, as it is known today.

The size of the Nizam’s palace was therefore restricted, though he still ended up spending a good 200,000 pounds on it. This was nearly a fifth of the amount spent on Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Lutyens’ inspiration for Hyderabad House came from the classic ‘butterfly plan’ which gives the building two almost identical wings, each branching out at an angle from a circular entrance hallway.

Tall iron gates guard the front of the sandstone, behind which lies a large oval shaped lawn with colourful flowerbeds.

Hyderabad house has 36 rooms in all, four of which have been converted into dining rooms by the government of India.

The front part of the building has a concave portico, which leads to a circular foyer and a floor in grey and white marble, set in bold rhombic patterns. The rhombic patterns are, in fact, the striking features of the entrance foyer and the circular hallway on the first floor.

Two ornamental fireplaces, each beneath mirrors and Mughal miniature paintings, adorn the foyer. Past the foyer on either side are two identical loggias of quadrangular gardens, opening into a number of rooms, many of which are named after former princely states.

The gardens and verandahs are identical in the two wings.

As one enters, the wing on the left houses the Conference Hall and several smaller, equally elegant meeting rooms.

The grey marble-tiled verandah skirts a square shaped garden. The garden is imposing, with colonnades of six columns on four sides and red and white sandstone slabs standing out in contrast with the emerald hue of the carefully scalloped shrubbery and flaming flowerbeds.

The billiards room is used for signing of agreements with foreign countries and for press interactions.

The wing on the right has several meeting rooms and salons named after former princely states - for instance, the Travancore room, the Rajputana room, the Carnatic Suite, the Deccan Suite and the Mughal room.

What catches the eye in the Mughal room, often used for official entertainment as well as for signing of agreements, is a huge ornamental antique door and the number of old Indian armoury items, such as daggers and swords mounted on the walls.

The Deccan Suite has a spacious sitting room ornately furnished in beige and gold. These furniture pieces are replicas of a classical era and,
together with exquisitely framed paintings of peacocks above the fireplace, lend an ambience of the opulence of the days gone by.

Elaborate Tanjore paintings now adorn the walls of the sitting room, which is used for restricted delegation meetings. An intricately worked carpet also adorns all the rooms.

The Rajputana room, with its ornate ceiling, cream with a golden tinge ambience, fancy candle stands and paintings on the walls and potted plants at the corners, is used for discussions with foreign dignitaries.

From the central foyer, a short flight of steps with a crimson runner leads to a circular stairway covered with exquisite carpets, said to be part of the original furnishings.

It opens in two directions, past a structure that looks like an alcove in deep grey and white marble. In fact, it is a simple water fountain illuminated by natural light filtering through a translucent dome above.

There is another hallway above the central foyer, on either side of which lie the banquet hall and the ballroom, each about 100 ft long and 30 ft wide.

The ballroom is lined with elegant sofa sets and has two ornate chairs at the head for a t

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