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Chowmahalla Palace, Palace in Andhra Pradesh

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Chow Mahalla Palace (Hyderabad)

The Chowmahalla palace can be called the first Asaf Jahi palace in Hyderabad. The Asaf Jahis deserted the former Qutb Shahi palace quarter lying north west of the Charminar and decided to construct a new palace complex for themselves to the south west of the Charminar.Different portions of the Chowmahalla were built during different phases of the Asaf Jahi rule. The durbar was held in the hall or pavilion called the Khilwat. This was built around 1780 during the reign of Nawab Nizam Ali Khan, Asaf Jahi II, but extensively renovated later in 1911. It is an over decorated building with huge proportions and a curious Asaf Jahi Baroque. Jilu Khana, facing Lad Bazaar and the Daulat Khana-e-Ali, was built during the reign of Asaf Jahi I (1724 -1748).

South of Khilwat one enters the next courtyard around which the main four palaces are located, lending the Chowmahalla name. It is believed that this complex was built during the reign of Nawab Afzal-ud-Doula Bahadur, the Nizam or Asaf Jah V (1857-1869).The palaces are named Afzal Mahal, Mahtab Mahal, Tahniyat Mahal and Aftab Mahal. Of these, Afzal Mahal, a two storeyed building, is the most imposing. Chowmahalla was used by subsequent Nizams and state banquets were held here. Well known among those is the banquet held in honor of T R H the Prince and the Princes of Wales on 10th February 1906. For several decades now, the sprawling Chowmahalla Complex has been lying vacant.

Among two intervening rulers, Salabat Jung spent a greater part of his time in Hyderabad (Salabat Jung, the officially un-crowned Nizam ruled for a short period during the power struggle between the British and the French, compounded by the interference of the Marathas). By some accounts, he is credited with the building of the first Asaf Jahi Palace in Hyderabad i.e. the Chow Mahalla palace. The Asaf Jahis deserted the former Qutb Shahi palace quarter lying north west of Charminar and decided to construct a new palace complex for themselves to the south west of Charminar. In ‘The Unpublished Diary of a French Officer of Bussy’s Army’, the Officer describes Salabat Jung’s palace with its approach from Chowk (later known as Mahboob Chowk) as follows: " the other or second building is the mansion of the Nawab, which is made up of three blocks of residences....... We here see a reservoir, the garden and the reservoir lead up to a large courtyard.... in the midst of this court is the first apartment, which is a large carpeted hall, one storeyed; its ceiling is supported by a number of small wooden pillars .....the second block of houses is also a great hall of which the ceiling is supported by a number of wooden pillars, each of a single piece, it is carpeted and one-storied. In the centre of the hall is the Nawab’s throne between four pillars, where he receives the ambassadors.....as for the third block of houses, it lies to the left as you enter the preceding hall. Here are two houses facing each other, between which is a fruit garden with a square medium sized reservoir and a small fountain. In the house on the right is a large screen, and it is here that the Nawab dines and sleeps with his concubines. ....such is the apartment of Nawab Salabat Jung ."

The above account is vague and does not clearly correspond to the buildings in Chow Mahalla as they stand now. This however confirms that Salabat Jung selected the site and created the nucleus of perhaps modest structures laid along a series of inter-linked courtyards, the old structures being later replaced by grander ones. The Chow Mahalla Palace complex in fact extends from the Lad Bazaar on the north to the Aspan Chowk road on the south. During different phases of Asaf Jahi rule, portions of Chow Mahalla were built. The durbar was held in the hall or pavilion called the Khilwat. This was built around 1780 during the reign of Nawab Nizam Ali Khan, Asaf Jah II but later extensively renovated in 1911. Khilwat has a composite architectural style with Mughal as well as Qutb Shahi arches, topped by twin octagonal pavilions on the parapet. It is an over decorated building with huge proportions with a curious Asaf Jahi Baroque.

Jilu Khana facing the Lad Bazaar and Daulat Khana e Ali was built during the reign of Asaf Jah I (1724-1748). South of Khilwat one enters the next courtyard around which the main four palaces are located lending the Chow Mahalla name. It is believed that this complex was built during the reign of Nawab Afzal -ud Doula Bahadur, the Nizam or Asaf Jah V (1857-1869). The palaces are named Afzal Mahal, Mahtab Mahal, Tahniyat Mahal and Aftab Mahal. Of these, Afzal Mahal is the most imposing and a two storied building with a European facade of Corinthian columns and a parapet without pediment. Other three buildings are single storied structures with relatively modest scale and facades of Corinthian columns. All the four buildings are laid around a large courtyard garden with a marble cistern at the centre.

There are later additions to the complex in late Mughal style with facades of cusped arches, made between 1912 and 1926 when the older buildings were also renovated.

Chow Mahalla was used even by subsequent Nizams and state banquets were held here. Well known among those is the banquet held in honour of T.R.H the Prince and the Princes of Wales on 10th February 1906. For several decades, the sprawling Chow Mahalla Complex has been lying vacant.

How to reach Chow Mahalla Palace

Bus: City buses available from Koti and Secunderabad bus stands.

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