Falaknuma Palace turns into luxury hotel

All those lesser mortals who always dreamt of experiencing the luxury of Hyderabad's legendary Falaknuma Palace, “the last word on eastern opulence,” where the Nizams and their royal guests, King George V and Russian Czar Nicholas II, once stayed and feasted, now is the chance to fulfil it.

After 10 long years of painstaking restoration to the last detail, the palace that majestically rises into the sky, as its Urdu legend suggests, from a hillock south of this bustling 419-year-old city and now metamorphosed into the Taj Falaknuma Palace, is being thrown open to guests on October 1. Bookings have just commenced.

Built in 1893 by the then Prime Minister of Hyderabad, Vicar-ul Umra, the palace was later presented to Hyderabad's sixth Nizam Mir Mehboob Ali Khan.

A rare blend of Italian and Tudor architecture made entirely of Italian marble, the palace is famous as much for its shape — a scorpion with two stings spreading to the north as wings — as for its opulent interiors.

Ornate inlaid furniture, rich handcrafted tapestries and brocades from France, intricate frescoes, 40 138-arm Osler Belgian crystal glass chandeliers, carved balustrades supporting exquisite marble figurines on the stairway and a large dining table made the palace, something of a fairytale castle full of legends.

The palace reflected the tastes of Nawab Vicar, a widely travelled connoisseur of art and architecture who made the Falaknuma Palace a repository of everything he saw and experienced.

All of these have been sensitively restored by the Taj group to their original glory under the supervision of Princess Esra, wife of Prince Mukkaram Jah, the grandson of the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan.

Old world charm

For instance, the Jade Room, where reception was accorded to visiting royal dignitaries, retains its old world charm with its Victorian style hand painted ceiling, gilded reliefs and chandeliers, though now rejigged for hosting afternoon tea, believed to be the Nizam's favourite daily ritual.

The Durbar Hall, embellished with intricately carved wooden ceiling, parquet flooring, regal walnut wood furniture, handcrafted mirrors, has been converted for sit down lunches, dinners and board room conferences.

The dining hall flaunts a dining table, claimed to be the world's largest, that can seat 101 guests at a time. It is known for its famous acoustic system for hearing even whispers, and this has been retained.

The Library, with a walnut carved roof, replica of the one at the Windsor Castle, and the Billiard Room, with a table made especially for the Nizam by the famed Burroughes and Watts of London and the embossed camel leather chairs, too has been kept intact.

The hotel, joining others like Taj's Umaid Bhavan and Rambagh in Rajasthan, offers a choice of 60 luxurious rooms, including seven royal suites and the grand presidential suite (once the private chambers of the Nizam, with a private pool and a personal butler), two restaurants, an outdoor pool and the Jiva Grand spa, all spread over verdant 32 acres. Tariff for a day starts from Rs. 19,500 —nothing perhaps to satiate one's appetite for a sumptuous royal stay.