Sardar Mahal: The neglected palace set to regain its pristine glory

Hyderabad: In its 122 years of existence, things are finally looking up for Sardar Mahal, the Nizam era palace. This neglected palace, which the TRS government now plans to turn into a cultural hub, has a history not many know. It is one of the three impressive mansions which fell from the royal grace.

Every man has his own quirks and twists. Royalty is no exception. The only difference is that royal foibles are inscrutable and incredible. Hyderabad is full of such shahi eccentricities. Imagine palaces built at astronomical cost and then left unoccupied.

Hyderabad boasts of at least three such stately mansions which were built but not lived in. Take the case of Sardar Mahal which was built by the 6th Nizam, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, for his consort, Sardar Begum, in 1900. But it did not measure up to the expectations of her highness. Soon after the palace was ready, Sardar Begum visited it. One cursory glance and the royal displeasure was clear. Somehow she did not like the palace built in European style. Situated a stone’s throw from Charminar, Sardar Mahal remained abandoned for years.

Saifabad Palace

Same was the case with the Saifabad palace built again by the sixth Nizam. Once a monitor lizard considered to be a bad omen, was sighted in its premises. The royal family decided not to occupy the palace itself. A criminal waste of money one would think. But for the Nizam with deep pockets it made no difference.

The 7th Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, too has his share of idiosyncrasies. He constructed the Osman Mahal in the King Kothi complex. But for some strange reason he did not like it. He chose not to occupy it.

Though the Nizam abandoned the Saifabad palace it later formed part of the ‘G’ Block of the now demolished Secretariat, the nerve centre of the State administration. The Sardar Mahal too is now home to government offices. The then Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad took possession of this palace in 1965 in lieu of the huge property tax arrears. Since then its circle offices are functioning from this lofty premises.

Over the years the civic body conceived many plans for it but all of them remained just on paper. It was proposed to set up a city museum here as part of strengthening the tourism infrastructure in the Old City of Hyderabad. But this Grade II heritage structure was found to be infested with vegetal growth and fissures. The Ministry of Tourism sanctioned a substantial amount for taking up conservatory works for adaptive reuse of Sardar Mahal and to set up a Tourism Interpretation Centre to tell the story of Hyderabad through maps, pictures, artefacts and memorabilia. Object d’art from different sources, including private collections, were also proposed to be displayed here.

Sardar Mahal is unique

Now the government plans to set up an art gallery, cafe and heritage accommodation in association with the Quli Qutb Shah Urban Development Authority (QQSUDA). If the plans materialise, visitors can soon get the story of the historic city through art exhibitions, heritage walks, cultural events and workshops.

Sardar Mahal is unique in that it combines both indigenous and European architectural characteristics. Semi circular arches on the front facade and interior porches with a sloping tiled roof present a picture of harmony. The balcony and roof incorporate both wooden and cast iron decorative elements.

Hope this abandoned palace regains its lost glory and tourists get a new monument on their itinerary.

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