Noor Mahal – The Magical Tale of Bahawalpur’s Nawab:
When it comes to the historical and cultural display of heritage through buildings, Pakistan is not behind in the race. The country filled with diverse cultures and traditions lets its history speak for itself. A city in South Punjab of Pakistan has many historical tales to narrate. Staring from the Victoria Hospital to Sadiq Public School, travelling through the museum, Sadiq Egerton College, and ending up near Mahals, each corner of the city has its beautiful display of history.
Constructed in 1877 by the Nawab of a Princely state of Bahawalpur, the fifth ruler at the British Raj, Noor Mahal is a glorious hidden gem of the city. Nawab had the title of Shahjahan of Bahawalpur attached to his name to honour his love for impressive buildings. His attachment with architectural buildings gave Bahawalpur many historical places to exhibit.
The Construction of Noor Mahal:
The work on the palace started in 1872, and it took the English engineer, Mr Heennan, three years to complete the grand palace. Some people say the Nawab ordered a map and few coins of that time to be buried under the soil while laying the foundation for the sake of good luck.
Surprisingly, the structure of the palace did not involve any cement or iron rods. The building stands on a mixture of pulses and rice. The palace consists of 32 rooms with 6 verandas and a basement. The mahal used cut and dressed blocks at the outer side.
The construction of the palace took place at a time when there was no such thing as electricity. The style of the palace’s structure lets in the moonlight to help the palace shine while darkness covered the surrounding places in darkness.
The place stayed calm in the scorching weather of Bahawalpur by filling the tunnels with water underground to keep the palace filled with cold air.
The Building was made for the Wife of Nawab:
Legends say the Nawab built the Noor Mahal for his wife, Noor. After the completion of the palace, the Queen shifted there but stayed for only one night. On her first morning in the Mahal, the graveyard near the place in Basti Malook Shah frightened her, which is why she left the palace and never came back again.
The palace turned into a guest house for the foreign guests of the Nawab and was occasionally used to hold cabinet meetings in his Darbar.
The Exterior and Interior of the Building:
With glimpses of Sub-Continental style, the palace’s design keeps the Islamic features one of its strategies. The five tombs represent the traditional Islamic style, while the western look inspired the vast ceilings.
Widely known as the Palace of Lights, the place has massive stunning chandeliers that make the person looking at it go ‘wow.’
The surrounding of the palace has gigantic grounds with lavishing grass. It makes the entire view mesmerising and peaceful. The gardens have fountains and water tanks that attract visitors from around.
The main hall instantly catches the eyes of the viewer. As people come in from the big door of the entrance, the giant ceiling with carvings and various designs gives a splendid look to the area. The enormous windows made of wood and glass look mesmerising. As people go further, they encounter old furniture of the palace dating decades ago: including a piano isolated from the rest of the hall. The Nawab brought the piano from Germany as a form of gift for one of his wives.
The Current Situation:
The Pakistan Army took over the palace and declared it a “Protected Monument” in 2001. It took them two years to bring the place back to its original shape. After that, the public was allowed to visit with few areas still restricted.
The palace is now home to historical information and objects that speak the chronicle of Noor Mahal and its owners.
The walls have portraits of all the Nawabs of Bahawalpur who ruled the princely state, with bits of their history written below the pictures. The Palace has old swords, and other arms displayed on the walls to remind people of the true essence of the palace.
The glass frames have maps of the city and other palaces stored in them. The maps show the evolution Bahawalpur city went through over the years. Framed old coins and notes used in those times display the information regarding the origins of the town.
The dressing tables, primarily unused, are present in the halls and bedrooms of the Nawabs. The ancient furniture, including tables, sofas, beds, and lamps, is still there for the public.
There are photo frames present on the side tables with black and white photographs of the Nawab on different occasions. The decorative items from ages ago are still placed on the tables in their rightful condition.
To further enhance the palace’s beauty, the Pakistan Army has made small bridges that link the gardens to the Mahal. There is a cart present near the ticket place that offers refreshments for the visitors.
Noor Mahal – The Unbroken Magic:
The Pakistan Army has set a museum on the palace premises. Jewellery items, dresses, and other things from that era are displayed there. The walls have the history of Bahawalpur and other significant historical places of the city written on them. A stall at the palace’s exit is selling wooden and handmade things, along with souvenirs for the guests.
Noor Mahal – The Magical Tale of Bahawalpur’s Nawab: The Hajj van of the Nawab Muhammad Sadiq–V is present at one corner of the garden. The other corner has the Shahi Buggy used by the Nawab’s family for travelling.
Different Nawabs ordered the construction of distinct palaces around the city. After joining Pakistan, this princely state could not survive for a long time. However, the Mahals tell tales of Nawabs who resided in them and their lives. Noor Mahal has something different to offer among all the palaces that are unexplainable through words. Nonetheless, people will understand it once they visit the place.
Written by: Mariam Nadeem