Taj Falaknuma Palace – Hyderabad, India
Falak-numa meaning “Like the Sky” or “Mirror of the Sky”.
The drive to the Falaknuma Palace is an interesting one. As you move away from the modern city of Hyderabad towards the old city; the roads get narrower, people’s hearts get bigger, and as you go higher up in altitude you finally approach the magnificent Falaknuma Palace.
Sprawling over 32 acres of land, the Falaknuma Palace was built by the Prime Minister of Hyderabad – Sir Vicar ul Oomra Bahadur, and was used as his private home after its completion in 1893. It is said that the Prime Minister spent close to Rs. 40 Lakh’s and had to even borrow money from the Bank of Bengal to finish his dream project.
In 1897, the Nizam of Hyderabad – Mehboob Ali Pasha was invited to the palace. The Nizam loved the palace so much, he extended his stay to a week, then a fortnight and finally a month. Seeing his liking for the palace, Sir Vicar gave the palace to the Nizam as Nazar (offering). The Nizam was very humbled by the gesture but still paid Sir Vicar a sum of Rs. 20 Lakh’s.
Owing to its beautiful view of the city of Hyderabad, the Nizam used the Falaknuma Palace as his royal guest house. The last important guest that was received at the palace was the first President of India, Rajendra Prasad who visited the Nizam in 1951 to sign the papers that would include Hyderabad under the newly formed country – India.
With the leadership of Princess Esra Jah, today, the Falaknuma Palace has been restored by the Taj Group of Hotels and is now a heritage hotel site.
Entering the grounds of the palace is a slight hassle. All the security checks truly make you feel like you’re on the way to dine with the Queen. Once you enter the front gatehouse there are golf carts to take you to the main structure of the Falaknuma Palace. If you’re lucky you might even get to see a few Peacocks on your drive there. Keep your eyes open for tiny streams, and quaint outdoor seating areas.
The Falaknuma Palace is a wonder of English architecture with a rare blend of Italian and Tudor elements. The north of the palace is divided into two wings that are spread out like the stings of a scorpion. All meal reservations at the Taj Falaknuma Palace are accompanied by a complete tour of the palace, and guests are allowed to walk around the grounds on their own.
The tour starts at the top of the stairs and takes you into a room with a beautiful marble fountain. The picture you see of the fountain below is a shot I got before the staff told me photography was not allowed inside the building (which is why a lot of the pictures of the interiors might not be my own. However, all the sources are all credited).
The tour takes you through the inside of the main building. On the first floor, you will see the children’s study area, the Nizam’s bedroom, his bathroom (which is now the Taj office area), the bedroom and bathroom of his first wife, the library, and a lounge area for the ladies.
A few things to look out for on this floor are:
1. The organ in the main lobby
It is the only one of it’s kind in the world and has the ability to record music to play at a later time. The organ is currently kept in the main lobby but in the past was located in the ballroom or the Durbar Hall on the first floor for when the Nizam hosted parties.
2. The queen’s bathroom
The queen’s bathroom still houses one of the first bathtubs in the world and a fancy shower area. Before you wonder why her shower head is so low… It’s because she sat on a stool under the shower while her maids bathed her.
3. The ceiling of the fountain room
The ceiling is painted with an eagle in such a way that wherever in the room you stand, it appears like the bird is flying towards you.
4. The Nizam’s bedroom
This room is now set up like a study and houses the first telephone in Hyderabad as well as a painting of the Nizam whose feet point towards you no matter what side of the room you’re standing in. Look out for the Cuckoo Clock in the study. The Nizam used to own 3 of them. The other 2 are currently in the Salar Jung Museum and the Chowmahalla Palace.
5. The guest register in the library
The library still houses the guest register of the Nizam. You can flip through the pages to get a glimpse of all the important people that have visited him in the past.
6. The ceilings of the library and the lobby
The library and the lobby have exquisite woodwork on the ceilings. The different colours in the wood are actually different kinds of wood embedded together and not different polishes. Till today the ceiling has not been polished.
7. The initials VO
The initials of Sir Vicar ul Oomra Bahadur – VO can be found engraved in several places all over the palace. His initials can be found in the embossed wood ceilings of the lobby and the library, it is also found in the embossed wood of the table in the library.
8. The diwan in the children’s study area
The diwan in the children’s study area is of historic importance because that is the seat where the Nizam sat with President Rajendra Prasad to sign the papers to join the state of Hyderabad with the Republic of India.
A beautiful marble staircase with statues on the railing and paintings of the Nizam and the royalty of Hyderabad on the walls takes you up to the next floor which houses the Jade room, the dining room, a hookah lounge/bar, the ballroom, and an open balcony.
A few things to look out for on this floor are:
1. The Billiards table
The Billiards table in the bar is the same table used by the Nizam with the only change being the maintenance of the felt surface. By the billiards table, you will notice a case with a few ivory balls and cue sticks from the Nizam’s collection.
2. The huge hookah pot
The huge hookah pot in the bar is also the same hookah that was smoked by the Nizam.
3. The longest dining table in the world
The Nizam’s dining hall is known to have the longest dining table in the world and can seat 100 guests. The acoustics of the room are almost magical. You can sit at the head of the table and talk to someone sitting at the foot of the table without having to raise your voice.
PS – Don’t forget to take a look at the chandeliers over the table.
4. The chandeliers in the ballroom
The chandeliers in the ballroom are beautiful, but what makes them exceptional is the presence of the mirrors. The mirrors make the chandeliers seem infinite.
5. The Jade room
The Jade room, like the name suggests, is filled with Jade. Apart from the exquisite furniture, carpets, and chandeliers, the Jade room holds all sorts of Jade items kept in showcases. The Jade room was also, at one point the home of the Kohinoor diamond.
The restaurants at the Falaknuma are located in the next wing. The walk to the next wing takes you through beautiful courtyards with well-maintained gardens and fountains. They have 2 restaurants – Celeste, that serves Italian food; and Adaa, that serves Indian food. They also have a special high tea that is served on a balcony that overlooks the sprawling city of Hyderabad.
Don’t fill up on the mouthwatering bread and dips they serve as appetisers because Celeste serves the best Italian food I have ever tasted! The service is extremely good and the ambiance is lovely. If you’re lucky, you can sit at a table by the window with a beautiful view of the city. Order a glass of wine to go with your meal for the complete Italian dining experience.
Foods to try:
- Lobster Ravioli
- Lamb Chops
- Clam Spaghetti
- Chocolate Lava
Cost per head:
Rs. 3000 + taxes
Additionally, you can take a tour of the palace on weekends through the Telangana Tourism – NIZAM PALACES TOUR. For more information on the tour check out – http://www.hyderabadtourism.travel/falaknuma-palace-hyderabad