Hyderabad: A downpour of a few minutes is all that it took to bring down the west-facing lime-plaster eave of the Chowmohalla Palace, which in 1967, hosted the coronation of the titular VIII Nizam of Hyderabad, Mukarram Jah.
It was on June 27 that the eave on the Khilwat Clock Tower on Motigalli, into a puddle on the road. The sheer quantity of the debris strewn across made it seem like a miracle that no passerby got injured. The debris was swiftly removed.
The Khilwat Maidan-facing facade has not been restored in a long time. Parts of it are patina covered. It comes as no surprise that the emaciated eave collapsed. But, according to reports, the particular part of the palace was slated for restoration earlier this year but was put off due to the COVID – 19 pandemic.
Once a sprawling complex spread over nearly 60 acres, the Chowmohalla Palace has considerably shrunk and had fallen into a state of disrepair in the 1970s.
Owned by Mir Barkat Ali Khan, the successor to the Seventh Nizam, it was in 2000, that his former wife Princess Esra, intervened. Flushed with funds, she began the painstaking work of the palace’s restoration. She also undertook restoration of Falaknuma Palace, which is now the Taj Falaknuma. It has been taken on a long lease by the Taj Group in 1994. It is now a hotel which hosts the privileged elite of the city, the country and the word.
Back to the Chowmohalla Palace. It was the architect Rahul Mehrotra and his team who were brought on board. For about seven years they were involved in conservation and restoration of the palace which comprises four mahals or smaller palaces–Aftab Mahal, Mahtab Mahal, Tahniyat Mahal and Afzal Mahal. Scores of artisans and consultants were brought in to compare the existing contents of the palace and structure, and to take measures for restoration.
Earlier, the entry of the public in was barred. Only the erstwhile royal family was permitted. This changed later, as the palace administration decided to throw it open. But all that came to a grinding halt. The COVID–19 pandemic has put all tourist activity to a grinding halt. This was confirmed by a staff working at the palace. Incidentally, according to reports, restoration work too has been postponed.
Though the palace is in the custody of Princess Esra, the collapse of the eave symbolises the state of affairs of heritage structures across the state. It is clear that the previous and present governments have deliberately undermined the restoration of historic buildings in Hyderabad and elsewhere in Telangana. In the recent past, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi tried to do away with Regulation 13 of the Hyderabad Metropolitan Urban Development Authority – which provided safeguards to these structures.
In fact, the under-construction Command Control Centre of the Telangana State Police, popularly known as the Twin Towers, an eye sore, is constructed in the Singada Valley, which is listed as a heritage precinct. The Telangana Bhavan too is constructed in the very same heritage precinct.