Falaknuma dining table - longest in the world?
As befitted a wealthy, cultivated royal family, the Nizams aspired to be important patrons of the arts. Their stunning and indecently expensive architecture, pearls, diamonds, furniture, art works, jade, carriages and cars came from various cultural traditions - often European, blended with Hindu and Islamic tastes. Of their ten palaces, one was more beautiful than the next.
Nawab Vikar-ul-Umra, the Prime Minister of Hyderabad, started building Falaknuma Palace in 1884, choosing to use an English architect. He completed the giant task within 9 years. Alas he couldn’t pay all the costs, so by 1898 the palace had to became the home of his nephew, the 6th Nizam Nawab Mahboob Ali Khan. His family used and loved the palace until after the end of WW2.
Falaknuma Palace was, since the beginning, filled with Italian marble, stained glass windows and Venetian chandeliers in its 220 rooms and 22 halls. When an important hotel chain started renovating and restoring the palace in 2000, they wanted to preserve the taste of the Nizams wherever possible in the new hotel. The rooms and halls were decorated, as of old, with ornate furniture, rich handcrafted tapestries and brocades. They retained 40 huge Venetian chandeliers and intricate frescos, paintings and statues.
Falaknuma Durbar Hall
The old palace opened as a hotel in November 2010. As the Taj Hotel’s history page reports, the palace library is home to the rarest of manuscripts and books, selected and brought back by the Nizam himself. Its walnut carved roof was designed to imitate the one at Windsor Castle. A marbled staircase still takes guests to the upper floor, complete with balustrades, marble figurines holding candelabras and an historical picture gallery along the staircase walls.
Although spouse and I always stay in university digs or cheap bed-and-breakfasts when overseas, the new hotel has two significant rooms that I would like to cast my historian’s eyes over. Firstly the 101-seat dining hall, considered the largest in the world, where the Nizam ensured that his banqueting guests ate from solid gold plates. Secondly the Durbar Hall, complete with its carved wooden ceilings, long line of chandeliers and parquet flooring. The Durbar Hall, typically the ruler’s formal meeting space, once hosted royal guests like King George V and Czar Nicholas II.