Hyderabad:The 165-year-old Gyan Bagh Palace, also known as Dhanraj Gir Palace, situated in the heart of Hyderabad, is being renovated.Built in the European style, the palace was one of the most expensive mansions of that era and frequented by royalty. It was featured in the 1975 super-hit Telugu film Mutyala Muggu when the heroine Sangeetha decorates the courtyard of the palace with a muggu (rangoli) as the popular song Mutyamanta Pasupu Mukhamentho Chaya plays on.
Time has taken its toll on the palace that sprawls over 30,000 square feet, amidst eight acres of land in Paan Mandi. A fire also damaged some part of it about six years ago, which has led to the renovation work. Yet the palace retains its original grandeur like few others of that era in Hyderabad and the original owners, the Dhanraj family, still live in it.Rajkumari Indira Devi Dhanrajgiriji and her nephew Tejvan Gir Dhanrajgir (Tarun Dhanrajgir) told Deccan Chronicle that the renovation will be done in phases and the work has just started. The family is paying for the facelift, and refused to reveal how much it costs them.
Ms. Dhanrajgiriji said the palace built with limestone and marble was constructed in three phases during the period of Raja Gyan Girji Bahadur, Narsingh Girji Bahadur and Raja Dhanraj Girji Bahadur.“The palace has 19 suites. One side of the palace is in bad shape and is being renovated. There was a fire accident six years ago, causing severe damage,” she recalls.She says she loves to stay in the magnificent palace and had briefly thought of moving to Banjara Hills but decided against it.“We thought if we want to shift from here to Banjara Hills, why not to Mumbai? Finally, the family dropped the idea and decided to stay in the palace. The reason is not only sentiment, but we cannot replicate it elsewhere,” she explains.
Indira Devi is married to renowned Telugu poet Seshendra Sarma. She wrote about her family and the palace in a coffee table book titled Memories of the Deccan which was dedicated to the eighth Nizam, Prince Mukkaram Jah Bahadur on his 75th birthday and Princess Esra, Princes Azmath Jah and Shekiyar, in October 2008.Theirs was the second richest family in the south after the Nizam's family and they were once called the Rockefellers of Hyderabad.
“That's the Louis XIV drawing room. Have a look at it,” says Ms Dhanrajgiriji as she shows us around. “These are portraits of Nizam VI Mir Mahaboob Ali Khan and Nizam VII Mir Osman Ali Khan. That is a picture of my husband and other family members,” pointing to the collection of paintings and photographs.
Raja Dhanrajgirji Bahadur (1893-1988) married Vijaya Raje Rani Saheba Premila Devi in 1928. The family originally came from Gandhar (now Afghanistan) via the silk route after touching Ujjain. From there, they moved to Pune and spent seven generations in Pune. During Peshwa rule, they migrated to the Deccan when the last Qutb Shahi ruled.One of the scions of the family reached the court of the second Nizam and helped the State to modernise and meet its commitments to the British. The family had mills, landed properties in Sholapur and Mumbai, hospitals, ginning factories, and mina mines.Access to the palace is difficult today because of the residential and commercial colonies that have sprung up all around the palace. To reach it, go through Nampally via Darussalam, the MIM headquarters or through Goshamahal-Mangalghat Road near the Aghapura bus stop....