entering the land of the gods

a study abroad journey

Chowmahalla Palace

Chowmahalla Palace is exquisite in its intrinsic grandeur, replicating the Shah’s Palace in Theran, Iran. Nizam Salabhat Jung is credited for building the palace in 1750, but it wasn’t completed until 1857 by Nizam Afzar-ud-Dawla Bahadur. Ruling within the Asaf Jah dynasty, the Nizam family was the former monarchy of Hyderabad state before breaking into its currents states (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra). Seven Nizams ruled Hyderabad for two centuries until Indian Independence Day in 1947. The Asaf Jahi rulers were great patrons of literature, art, architecture, jewelry, and rich food—all of which is reflected in the Chowmahalla Palace.

Originally the palace covered 45 acres, however, only 12 remain to this day.  The grounds are split into the Northern and Southern Courtyards. The Southern Courtyard is the oldest part of the complex that contains the four palaces—Chow-Mahalla literally means “four palaces.” Unfortunately, this area is under restoration. However, the Northern courtyard has been restored an is open for the public! The main attraction is the Khilwat Mubarak, the heart of the Chowmahalla Palace. Upon entering, one arrives within the Durbar Hall. It’s high ceilings, white marble floors, and crystal chandeliers take your breath away. At center is a pure marble platform on which the royal seat was laid. The 19 chandeliers are made with Belgian crystals and hang lower than you would expect. Here the Nizams held religious ceremonies as well as popular banquets.

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Continuing up the stairs to different rooms, each room has windows that look down upon the Durbar Hall. These rooms now contain exhibits, showing off its grandeur. The Nizam family was great collectors of Asian art. Most of their furniture, for example, is beautifully carved wooden pieces from China and Japan. They even had tiny pieces for the children to use. One of my favorite rooms contained all of the dishes and serving pieces used by the family. Since the Nizams were such patrons of art, they considered food to be an art as well. They took pride in serving exquisite meals on the finest dishware from around the world! There was even a picnic basket that contained a teapot and chutney canisters, in addition to the normal fare. (I would be giving pictures but photography was prohibited.) There were also two rooms filled with weaponry of all shapes and sizes. The hilts were most fascinating; some painted, covered in gems, or made of pure ivory. Oh, and the royal clothing! Men, women, and children’s clothing were displayed in deep magenta, turquoise, and black, all trimmed in gold with detailed embroidery. I was amazed at what good condition the pieces were in. They literally looked brand new!

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Right outside the Khilwat is a mighty clock tower. It is said that the people of the city match their watches to its time. Outside each courtyard is a grand pool and fountain surrounded by trees and flowers. It was a peaceful place and I was overcome by its majesty. I would like to return one day when the 4 palaces are renovated to again bask its glory.

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