Since its construction in 1884, India’s Falaknuma Palace has rarely opened its doors to visitors, save for a few special guests of the Nizam of Hyderabad – the ruling sovereign of the state which remained independent until 1948. Regular folk, that is, like the King and Queen of England. But all that’s going to change when Taj Falaknuma Palace opens this spring under the auspices of Taj Hotels, one of Asia’s largest hotel groups
Construction of Falaknuma began in 1884, the same year Sir Vicar-Ul-Umra became Prime Minister of the state of Hyderabad. Completed in 1893, this magnificent palace – built in the shape of a scorpion with its two stingers spread out as wings – became the last word in eastern opulence and luxury. Sir Vicar made Falaknuma his home and played gracious host to lavish dinners, hunt breakfasts and visiting European royalty. All the furniture, paintings and other articles were made to order, including a legendary dining table that seated 101 and where – thanks to exquisite acoustics – one could hear a conversation at either end. Sir Vicar wanted to create an ambiance of heaven – the name Falaknuma means ‘heavenly abode’ in Urdu – however, all that opulence led the Prime Minister into financial hell. Since then, Falaknuma Palace has had many masters, from Nizam Mahboob Ali Pasha to Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur. But most importantly, it remained in the hands of one family.
The promise of Taj Falaknuma Palace reflects that significant detail. The hotel retains the priceless collections of Belgian Osler chandeliers, English furniture, stained glass windows, leather upholstered rosewood chairs, gold and crystal tables, ivory figurines and the Italian white marble fountain at the entrance, for starters. The library still has boasts the famous carved walnut ceiling (a replica of one found at Windsor Castle) and houses one of the finest collections of the Quran in India. The ballroom contains a two-ton manually operated organ said to be the only one of its kind in the world.
Set on a hillock overlooking the city, the Falaknuma’s rare blend of Italian and Tudor architecture is considered one of the most remarkable sights of Hyderabad. Slumdog Millionaire it ain’t.