Chowmahalla Palace or Chowmahallat (4 Palaces), is a palace of the Nizams of Hyderabad state. It was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty and was the official residence of the Nizams of Hyderabad while they ruled their state. The palace remains the property of Barkat Ali Khan Mukarram Jah, heir of the Nizams. In Persian, Chahar means four and in Arabic Mahalat (plural of Mahal) means palaces, hence the name Chowmahallat/four palaces, or four
All ceremonial functions including the accession of the Nizams and receptions for the Governor-General were held at this palace. The prestigious UNESCO Asia Pacific Merit award for cultural heritage conservation was presented to Chowmahalla Palace on March 15, 2010. UNESCO representative Takahiko Makino formally handed over the plaque and certificate to Princess Esra, former wife and GPA holder of Prince Mukarram Jah Bahadur.
While Salabat Jung initiated its construction in 1750,it was completed by the period of Afzal ad-Dawlah, Asaf Jah V, the V Nizam ensured its completion between 1857 and 1869. It is believed to be modelled on Shah of Iran’s palace in Tehran.
The palace is unique for its style and elegance. Building of the palace began in the late 18th century and over the decades a synthesis of many architectural styles and influences emerged. This palace consists of two courtyards, southern courtyard and northern courtyard. They have elegant palaces, the grand Khilwat (the Dharbar Hall), fountains and gardens. The palace originally covered 45 acres (180,000 m2), but only 12 acres (49,000 m2) remain today.
The oldest part of the complex currently under restoration, comprises of the four palaces Afzal Mahal, Mahtab Mahal, Tahniyat Mahal and Aftab Mahal.
Of these the Aftab Mahal is the grandest of them all and is a two storied building with a European façade of Corinthian columns and a parapet without pediment.
The northern courtyard has been painstakingly restored and is now open to the public.
The highlights of this area are the Bara Imam – a long corridor of rooms on the east side that once housed the administrative wing. And the Shishe-Alat or quite literally, the shishe or mirror image which was once used as guest rooms for officials accompanying visiting dignitaries.
The Clock Tower is another impressive construction. It houses what is affectionately called the Khilwat Clock which has been ticking away ever since the Palace was built. The Council Hall which housed a rare collection of manuscripts and priceless books is where the Nizam often met important officials. Today it is the venue for temporary exhibitions from the treasures of the Chowmahalla Palace Collection that offer you a glimpse of a bygone era.
Named after the sixth Nizam’s mother, Roshan Bangla is another exquisite part of this courtyard.
The grand pillared Durbar Hall has a pure marble platform on which the Takht-e-Nishan or the royal seat was laid. The 19 recently reinstalled chandeliers made of spectacular Belgian crystal recreate the lost splendor of this regal hall. Chowmahalla, which in its heydays had more than 7000 attendants, has been compared to the ‘Enchanted Gardens of the Arabian Nights’.Chowmahalla, where the Nizams held their durbar and other religious and symbolic ceremonies also hosted popular banquets in honour of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales in February 1906.
The centerpiece, indeed the pièce de résistance, is the Khilwat, the grand Durbar Hall. With its Mughal domes and arches and a distinct Persian influence reflected in the ornate stucco work, this is the heart of the Chowmahalla Palace.It is held in high esteem by the people of Hyderabad as it was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty.