Staying in the luxury of the Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad did not only entail feeling like a guest of the Nizam but also staying in a living breathing museum. We were really excited at the prospect of not only getting a chance to touch and feel history, but to enjoy the privileges that came with it. One of these privileges was a champagne walk with the palace historian, to understand the story of the place, through every nook and cranny.
Prabhakar Mahindrikar cut an old worldly figure, almost reaching up to the towering height of the old Louis XV clock where we had arranged to meet. He smiled, gracefully floating past in his crisp black sherwani suit leading us out to the terrace that overlooked the city. From the moment he began speaking, we could sense undertones of nostalgia, reverence and passion.
With sounds of the muslim call to prayer echoing through the city below us, we listened with rapt attention to the history of the palace where we were staying. Built to resemble the heavens, the entire Tudor-Italian-NeoClassical structure was peppered with custom made motifs of celestial bodies. He took us through the time Vicar Ul Umrah invited the Nizam of Hyderabad for dinner, and ended up selling him the palace that had made him broke, complete with Urdu dialogues from that time. He reminisced about an opulent era, of the 224 year rule of Hyderabad by 7 generations of Nizams, the last of which was proclaimed the richest man in the world. He spoke of a time the owner of the palace had over 50 Rolls Royce among his 400 cars, as he walked us around the English gardens, with the melodious hooves of the horse drawn carriages ringing in the background.
He sashayed through the foyer, pointing out the stunning ceilings from where goddesses looked down on the marble fountain. We walked through the study and the office where imposing portraits of the Nizam and his family purveyed the ancient clocks, desks and custom made chaise longues. Sitting at the Nizam’s desk, I quite enjoyed pretending to be writing some royal orders with my peacock quill, just wishing his large diamond paperweight was still sitting here.
We walked beyond the foyer towards the royal library, where the largest private collection of rare and precious books sat behind gleaming glass. He ran a hand over one of the several volumes of “Dominions of the Nizams”, and we could almost hear his heart sighing in the memory of a time that would never return.
Past the gorgeous hand-cranked organ, we floated up a magnificent staircase lined with portraits of dignitaries that had been guests of the palace over the years. Here we found the 3 most stunning rooms in the palace.
The Jade room had served as a state reception in the past, it’s oriental artefacts, scalloped curtains, bohemian chandeliers and mint walls had an unmistakable reflection of the Palace of Versailles about it.
The ballroom was once a durbar hall where coronations would take place. Made for celebrations, we could almost imagine the lavish dances, of guests watching infinite reflections of themselves in the mirrors as they swayed to music and revelry.
Beyond the ballroom, was the largest dining table in the world. Made to seat 101, the acoustics had been crafted in a way that allowed the Nizam sitting at the head of the table to listen to any conversation across the room. Menus of feast-like dishes were painted on the walls, to evoke both awe and appetite.
The next room, stunned us. And it wasn’t just the opulence, but the indulgence of this room that really did it. The games room was made for the macho pursuits of those times. Deep wood floors, leather seats, walls lined with camel skin, this was clearly a particular favourite of the nizam. A customised billiards table, customised cue sticks with HH’s initials, card tables, hookahs, a bar, hunting portraits of the Nizam, oh I could just imagine the post dinner aperitifs and cigars and conversation that went on here.
Back downstairs, we entered the Begum’s world. The very unique Gossip and Powder room was where she received other ladies, with chairs designed for applying make up and whispering the scandalous goings on of the palace. As an aside, he also let us know she had about sixty or seventy women employed for the very important task of collecting gossip and reporting it to her.
Her chambers were beautifully appointed, with a gorgeous four poster bed, stunning wardrobe with oriental designs in ivory, lined with silk lest she hurt herself on a wood splinter. Her bathroom had an ingenious bathtub with a separate shower outlets for perfume.
We thanked Mr. Prabhakar for sharing with us all the stories that he clearly held so close to his heart, bringing alive a time when the Taj Falaknuma saw more opulence and grandeur than we could ever imagine, and making us truly feel like guests of the Nizam back in the early 1900s.The Champagne walk with the Historian is a complimentary inclusion with every stay at the Taj Falaknuma Palace. Taj Falaknuma Palace, Engine Bowli, Falaknuma, Hyderabad – 500053, India Telephone: +91 40 6629 8585 Fax: +91 40 6629 8586 http://www.tajhotels.com/Luxury/Grand-Palaces-And-Iconic-Hotels/Taj-Falaknuma-Palace-Hyderabad/Overview.html Doubles from Rs. 19,125/- The information is true as of March 2014 when we visited Hyderabad.