August in Review: Visiting A Palace
The last month was pretty busy. The posts I had scheduled in July kept the blog up and running. But they do not extend into September. As I am not ready with a review, this post will be about what I have been up to lately.
A few weeks ago, a couple of friends and I visited a cluster of palaces from the middle 1800s called the Chowmahalla (literally, four palaces.) Situated in the heart of the city, this was the official station of the Nizams of Hyderabad. Parts of the palace were unfortunately closed to the general public and some were under renovation. We went on a weekend and among the visitors were loud groups of children on what was obviously a school trip - a fact that made me all nostalgic. The grounds were fairly well maintained for a tourist attraction.
The palace basked in the afternoon light. The durbar hall, or court hall, was majestic, with its marble throne and flooring. It advertised these newly installed Belgian crystal chandeliers, though, which seemed to me a pompous modern addition that took away a little from the authenticity of the place.
The photo gallery adjacent to the durbar hall had both oil paintings and recent black-and-whites from the times of India's British rule, with pictures of the prince and princess at functions, at dinner and with a range of people from Nehru to Buzz Aldrin. You expect a palace to be old and a museum older still. The recentness of the Chowmahalla palace was intriguing, to imagine royalty living there not so long ago. Here are a painting of the court in session and a picture of who I think makes one charming princess.
My favourites were the galleries, art, craft, weaponry and vintage carts and cars. Photography was charged extra. I took along my phone camera mostly to indulge in pretty petty selfies. But the galleries were full of little curiosities that kept me clicking.
In the carved wooden furniture section stood this cool basin with four lamb heads, which went well with my fascination for animal motifs in furniture and architecture; though not embalmed animals, mind you.
My friend spotted this, tucked away among saucers and bowls on the bottommost shelf; a Chinese vase with a tiger lounging on a branch for its handle. The blue was dizzying.
The mirrors reminded me of a The Three Investigators (who solved only the coolest mysteries) book I had as a kid called The Secret of the Haunted Mirror. The book was about this huge grotesque antique mirror belonging to a dead magician, whose spooky green phantom supposedly lived within the mirror. I love the twisted lion-creature on this particular mirror, poised at the top, ready to pounce on the poor unsuspecting user.
Our last stop was the vintage cars and carts display, it's main attraction the made-to-order Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Throne Car for the Nizam. I am practically a car-virgin, having only just learned to drive, and I have no trivia on models and makes. So all I will comment on is the colour, which is wow. I might have taken a better picture if not for my baby-level camera skills and the insanely thick glass shielding the car.
The visit coincided nicely with me reading Indu Sundaresan's Mughal tale, The Twentieth Wife. Though the book is set nowhere close to Hyderabad, it was cool to come across terms from the book. At the very entrance, a layout of the palace marked the "zenana," or the women's quarters which we later saw. That is where most of Sundaresan's book is set and I enjoyed finding real life imagery to support that constructed by my mind.