Falaknuma Palace is one of the finest palaces in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. It belonged to Paigah Hyderabad State, and it was later owned by the Nizams. It is on a 32-acre, 19400 square meter area in Falaknuma, 5 km from Charminar. It was built by Nawab Vikar-ul-Umra, the then-prime minister of Hyderabad and the uncle and brother-in-law of H.H. The Nizam VI, Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan Bahadur. Falak-numa means "Like the Sky" or "Mirror of the Sky" in Urdu.
An English architect designed this palace. The foundation for the construction was laid by H.E. Sir Vicar Ul Umra Bahadur on March 3, 1884. He was the great grandson of Khuddus, a famous scientist who was a best friend of Sir Charles Darwin. It took nine years to complete the construction and furnish the palace. Sir Vicar moved into the Gol Bangla and Zanana Mahel of the Falaknuma Palace in December 1889 and closely monitored the finishing work at the Mardana portion. It is made completely with Italian marble and covers an area of 93,971 square meters.
The palace was built in the shape of a scorpion with two stings spread out as wings in the north. The middle part is occupied by the main building and the kitchen, Gol Bangla, Zenana Mehal, and harem quarters stretch to the south. The Nawab was an avid traveler, and his influences show in the architecture.
The Falaknuma palace is a rare blend of Italian and Tudor architecture. Its stained glass windows throw a spectrum of colour into the rooms.
The Falaknuma Palace was so costly to build that even Sir Viqar Ul Umra had to borrow money to complete it and realized that he had gone beyond his means. His very intelligent wife, Lady Viqar ul Umra, thought up a solution and advised her husband to invite Mehboob Ali Pasha Nizam VI to the palace. As anticipated, the Nizam liked the palace so much that he extended his stay and this prompted Sir Viqar to offer that if his sovereign liked the palace he would be honoured to give it to him.
The Nizam liked the gesture but, being the grand man he was, he had his treasurer send the entire amount spent on the palace to Sir Viqar, thus easing his paigah noble from a financial crunch The Nizam VI in 1897 used the palace as a royal guest house as it had a commanding view of the entire city.
After being a celebration of royal living and playing host to royalty and dignitaries from all over the globe, the Falaknuma fell silent after the 1950s when the Nizam moved to his next abode. The last guest was the first president of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad in 1951.
Piecing together Falaknuma past glory was perhaps the biggest challenge of the restoration. These came with other challenges like retaining the eclectic blend of Renaissance architecture, Baroque style, French charm, art deco sensibilities and other inspirations that were woven into the décor of the palace — yet retaining its true-blue Nizam flavour.
The restoration was extensive — sourcing the perfect upholstery to redo the sofas and chairs, choosing fresh drapes to match the taste of the Nizams, polishing the marble, repairing damaged pieces, recreating broken structures, and blending in new wings and spaces for more rooms, extra landscape, and additional restaurants.
One of the highlights of the palace is the state reception room, whose ceiling is decorated with frescoes and gilded reliefs. The ballroom contains a two-ton manually operated organ said to be the only one of its kind in the world.
The palace has as many as 220 lavishly decorated rooms and 22 spacious halls. It has some of the finest treasures collections of the Nizam. Falaknuma houses a large collection of rare treasures including paintings, statues, furniture, manuscripts and books.
The jade collection of the palace is considered to be unique in the world.
The famed dining hall could seat 100 guests at its table. The chairs were made of carved rosewood with green leather upholstery. The tableware was made of gold and crystal to which fluted music was added.
The palace has a library with a walnut carved roof: a replica of the one at Windsor Castle. The library had one of the finest collections of the Quran in India.
The ground floor of the palace housed the living quarters. A marbled staircase leads to the upper floor. It has carved balustrades, which supports marble figurines with candelabra at intervals.
There is a billiards room. Burroughs and Watts from England designed two identical tables. One found its way to the Buckingham Palace and the other is here.
On the walls of the landing are excellent oil paintings of H.H. The Nizam VI, Nawab Mir Mahaboob Ali Khan Bahadur; H.E The Shams ul Umra II, Amir e Kabir I, Amir e Paigah II, Prime Minister of Hyderabad (grandfather of Vicar ul Umra); Nawab Shams ul Umra IV, Amir e Kabir III, Amir e Paigah,Nawab Rahiduddin Khan Bahadur (father of Vicar ul Umra); H.E Nawab Mohammed Fazaluddin Khan, Iqbal ud Dowla, Sir Vicar ul Umra Bahadur (Vikar Ul Oomra), Amir e Paigah (1881-1902) prime minister of Hyderanad (1893-1901); Nawab Sultan ul Mulk Bahadur, Amir e Paigah 1902-1949 (eldest son of Vicar ul Umra Bahadur); H.E Nawab Sir Salar Jung I, prime minister of Hyderabad 1853-1883; Maharaja Narain Pershad Narainder Bahadur Raja e Rajayan, Peshkar; and photographs of notable personages forming a very interesting historical picture gallery which adds greatly to the imposing effect of the staircase.
The Falaknuma Palace has other unique things to its credit. It includes the largest collection of Venetian chandeliers. It is said that it took six months to clean a 138-arm Osler chandelier and the palace has 40 such chandeliers adorning the halls.
The telephone and electrical system was introduced in 1883 by Osler and the palace has one of the largest electrical switchboards in India.
Since the palace was the private property of the Nizam family.
The palace at present is a part of the Taj Group and has been converted into a plush 5 star hotel. To get inside the Falaknuma Palace, you need to take prior permission. October to March is the ideal time to visit this palace.