Celebrating 100 years: The tale of Delhi's iconic Hyderabad House

Exactly a century ago, the Nizam initiated land purchase to build his royal residence in New Delhi

Updated - August 12, 2019 08:25 am IST

Published - August 12, 2019 12:55 am IST - HYDERABAD

A worker carrying the tricolour along a corridor of the Hyderabad House in New Delhi ahead of a high-profile event. The building, designed by Edwin Lutyens for the last Nizam of Hyderabad, is now used by the Central government to host diplomatic events and meetings.

A worker carrying the tricolour along a corridor of the Hyderabad House in New Delhi ahead of a high-profile event. The building, designed by Edwin Lutyens for the last Nizam of Hyderabad, is now used by the Central government to host diplomatic events and meetings.

This year marks a landmark for the Hyderabad House, being used by the Central government to host diplomatic banquets and meetings of visiting foreign dignitaries, in New Delhi.

The first step for the construction of the majestic building, the purchase of 8.2-acre land, was initiated by the Seventh Nizam of princely State of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan, exactly a century ago. Construction of the building was necessitated after the British inducted the traditional rulers of princely states into a Chamber of Princes. These rulers needed accommodation in Delhi whenever they were supposed to attend the Chambers’ meetings convened by the British.

The Nizam spent huge sums in the design and furnishing of the palace, the largest and grandest building in Delhi. The building has been designed on the lines of the Viceroy’s building, the present day Rashtrapati Bhavan, differing just in the size of its dome. The majestic building, constructed on close to nine acres in the heart of the national capital, involved an estimated cost of ₹50 lakh, by no means a small amount those days.

European-Moghul style

Designed in the shape of a butterfly by Edwin Lutyens, the architect of most of Delhi’s monumental structures, the Hyderabad House had 36 rooms, including four for the zanana . It is a blend of European architectural features with Moghul motifs. Some of the reputed companies of those days like Hampton & Sons Limited and Waring & Gillow Limited were roped in by the Nizam government for decorating the building which was to serve as a royal residence for the Nizam in the national capital.

The extravagance in spending can be seen from the fact that the teak used in the building was procured entirely from Burma and the furnishings were all modelled on the lines of a hotel in London while electrical fitting were imported from New York. Although ₹26 lakh was initially sanctioned for the structure and its furnishings, a farman issued by the Nizam’s State subsequently allowed the principal architect to spend up to ₹50 lakh.

Lavish furnishing

And, adequate care was taken to insure the palace as well as its furniture. The building was insured for ₹12 lakh and its furniture for ₹6 lakh with Gillanders Arbuthnot and Co. This apart, a plot measuring 3.73 acres abutting the Hyderabad House was purchased at ₹5,000 an acre totalling ₹18,650; an adjacent building was purchased at ₹40,000 along with furniture. This building too was insured along with the Hyderabad House for ₹60,000 inclusive of furniture.

In a farman issued in 1921, the Nizam ordered import of over a dozen hand paintings of renowned personalities each costing between ₹10,000 and ₹20,000 for decorating the palace. A total of 17 paintings, one painting screen and a painting table were ordered for use of decorative items in the royal palace. This was in addition to 30 hand paintings bought for ₹12,000 from a famous painter of the time, Abdul Rahman Chuqtai from Lahore, for the Hyderabad House.

The royal palace has a collection of carpets that were imported from Asia Minor, Iraq, Persia, Turkestan and Afghanistan while no less than ₹50,000 was spent on the silver plate for the dining room, with a capacity of accommodating over 500 people. The order for the silver plate says it includes all decorations, serving plates and cutlery and the plates on which guests to the palace would dine will be of best porcelain.

Nizams’ disappointment

The lavish expenditure incurred on furnishing the palace notwithstanding, the Nizam and his sons were, however, said to have disliked the palace for its totally Westernised outlook.

The Nizam visited the national capital in 1936 and going by the records preserved in the archives here, the public works department had spent ₹19,117 in connection with the arrangements for the Nizam’s camp at the palace in March 1936.

The Nizam finally visited the palace, 10 years after its construction and was said to have disliked the manner in which the construction and decoration was made. An anecdote says that the Nizam described the Hyderabad House as “horses’ stable”, not a royal palace, and the visit was said to be his last.

The majestic building, now under the control of the Ministry of External Affairs, has been taken over by the Government of India in 1954 on lease.

The Centre stopped paying the lease amount to the State in the mid 1970s and it was only after former Chief Minister K. Vijayabhaskar Reddy assumed office in the early 1990s, the Centre and State agreed on a land for land trade off.

Consequently, the erstwhile united AP was given 6.26 acres and subsequently 1.3 acres surrounding AP Bhavan in New Delhi.

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