The historic Chowmahalla Palace was awarded the award designating it one of the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage sites in the year 2010, but even before that, it was already receiving a great deal of attention for its cultural value. The grand structure was built by the Nizams of Hyderabad, and its construction spans a duration of over a century, which may well indicate to the eager tourist how large this majestic edifice is. This was only fitting, for the Nizams were the primary occupants of the palace.
Two of the Nizams are notable in their efforts towards construction and completion of the palace. The first, Nizam Salabhat Jung, is often listed as the ruler who initiated the construction of the complex. The second, Nizam Afzar-ud-Dawla Bahadur (also commonly transliterated as Afzal ad-Dawlah), is the man credited with the final accomplishment over a hundred years later, due to his strong support of the efforts to finally finish the long-running construction.
The length of time it took to build the palace complex has had a fascinating consequence on its style: given that stylistic and architectural influences do tend to shift and change as the years go by, such a long span of time would certainly have seen Indian tastes and trends changing even as the building remained incomplete. As a result, the Chowmahalla is actually evocative of not a few decades’ worth of architectural influences but a century’s worth of them. There are also accounts that allege that its original or primary design was drawn heavily from that of the mahal (“mahal” means “palace”) of the Shah in Teheran.
Something many people do not realise immediately is that this truly is a palace complex. Its name means “four palaces”, as a matter of fact—which may well be fitting for the city that also holds the “four spires”, or the Charminar—and all four palaces are still intact, especially after having been spruced up by the restoration that took place prior to the 2005 reopening. The reason that many who have never been to the site fail to realise just how many palaces are there is probably that when they search for Chowmahalla Palace online, they are often returned a set of images that all look like each other. There are in fact four distinct palaces in the complex, true to its name: the Afzab Mahal, Aftab Mahal, Mahtab Mahal, and Tahniyat Mahal. This means that the name “Chowmahalla Palace” is actually a bit redundant, but has since been accepted as the official way of referring to the entire complex.
There are many things to look forward to when you visit Chowmahalla Palace, from a peek at the Khilwat Clock to one of the Shishe-Alat. But arguably the most intriguing place in the entire complex is the Durbar Hall, where the Nizam used to hold court. Marbled and adorned with some spectacular chandeliers, this is truly one of the highlights of any visit to this magnificent monument of human engineering and architecture.