03 December, 2020

Visions Of Dakkhan

Locked and forgotten for 40 years, the Nizam's ex-wife restores the Asif Jahi Chowmahalla for Hyderabadis

D. Ravinder Reddy
Visions Of Dakkhan

Until its grand reopening this weekend, Hyderabad's crumbling Chowmahalla was just another pathetic metaphor for the demise of one of India's wealthiest royal houses, the Asif Jahis, better known simply as the Nizams of Hyderabad. It had been locked and forgotten for decades, tucked away in the bylanes behind the Charminar. Today, the clock has been turned back for this regal complex of palaces, thanks to a massive dose of restoration, stretching over five years.

With the sprawling 45-acre estate encroached on all sides by hungry land sharks and the once-ornate interiors stripped clean by greedy caretakers, it seemed the rot was impossible to stem. That was until Princess Esra—the first wife of the much-married present Nizam, Barkat Ali Mukkaram Jah—stepped into the picture. The aristocratic Turkish-born Esra Birgin and Jah went through a bitter separation more than three decades ago, but in a surprise move in 2000, Jah gave her and their son Azmat legal charge over all his assets. Jah was believed to be heavily indebted to Esra after she used her...



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