The 150-year-old Amir Mahal Darbar Hall, the residence of the Prince of Arcot, was opened on Sunday after undergoing a Rs.3-crore repair and renovation exercise.

Reliving its long hospitality tradition, the lit-up foyer of the Amir Mahal was once again teeming with dignitaries as Governor Surjit Singh Barnala cut the ribbon to formally launch the renovated premises.

Earlier, there was a short recital of verse from the Quran by the Chief Kazi to the Tamil Nadu government, Mufti Kazi Salahuddin Mohammed Ayub.

In his address, the Governor said the Amir Mahal in Indo-Saracenic architectural style traced its lineage from the second Caliph of Islam, Hazareth Omar Bin Khattab. Noting that the most celebrated of Nawabs was Muhammed Ali Wallajah of the Carnatic who built the Chepauk Palace, the Governor said history revealed the cordial relationship between the Nawabs of Arcot and the Hindus of the State.

This bond of brotherhood has strengthened the relationship and unity among the people, paving the way for communal and religious harmony, he said.

The Governor called for passing on the tradition of harmonious coexistence, which was the strength of the nation, to the next generation.

N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, said the restoration of the Amir Mahal, which had as its three components the reception, durbar and banqueting hall, was a major challenge. Though well preserved, the structure needed radical repair and restoration, he said.

Noting that “history speaks to us in many ways” in every part of the Amir Mahal, Mr. Ram said the secret behind the institution's survival was that it was guided by a succession of people who were deeply committed to the idea of India. Central to this idea of India was the dual principle of equality and non-discrimination and upholding communal amity and secularism by keeping religion and politics apart, Mr. Ram said.

Outlining the origins of the Amir Mahal, the Prince of Arcot, Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali — who is the eighth Prince — said the monument had undergone its first major renovation in its 150-year-old history.

The work of restoring the historic monument was a delicate task undertaken by the Central Public Works Department, especially as the premises had nearly 600 residents, he said.

N. Ravi, Additional Director-General, CPWD (Southern Region), said the work took over four years to complete, partly due to the delay in securing various administrative sanctions.

Great care was taken throughout the project to retain the heritage of the building, he said.

CPWD officials said the renovation work started with soil stabilisation measures with lime injections and also involved erecting six additional columns to support the structure, providing RCC panels and complete reconstruction of the portico.