Noor Mahal – Resplendent in its glory

Published June 15, 2011
Noor Mahal was constructed by Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi IV – also known as the Shah Jehan of the princely state of Bahawalpur – for his passion for architecture and his drive to construct beautiful buildings in Bahawalpur.
Noor Mahal was constructed by Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi IV – also known as the Shah Jehan of the princely state of Bahawalpur – for his passion for architecture and his drive to construct beautiful buildings in Bahawalpur.
After suffering years of neglect, Noor Mahal is now under the army, which has conducted extensive restorative work to it and now uses it as a guesthouse and an army mess.
After suffering years of neglect, Noor Mahal is now under the army, which has conducted extensive restorative work to it and now uses it as a guesthouse and an army mess.
One legend surrounding Noor Mahal states that the palace was built for Nawab Sadiq’s bride who had accepted his proposal on the condition that he build a palace for her. Rumour has it that after spending one night at the palace, she saw how close it was to Basti Muluk Shah, a graveyard in the area, and refused to live there. Darbar Palace then became her place of residence.
One legend surrounding Noor Mahal states that the palace was built for Nawab Sadiq’s bride who had accepted his proposal on the condition that he build a palace for her. Rumour has it that after spending one night at the palace, she saw how close it was to Basti Muluk Shah, a graveyard in the area, and refused to live there. Darbar Palace then became her place of residence.
Noor Mahal was then used for occasional cabinet meetings, to grant audience to and as a guesthouse for high-ranking visitors – one of which included Edward VII of Britain.
Noor Mahal was then used for occasional cabinet meetings, to grant audience to and as a guesthouse for high-ranking visitors – one of which included Edward VII of Britain.
Heavy crystal and silver chandeliers hung from the ceiling, one of which fell when it was being taken down, damaging the staccato tiles at the floor of the Palace.
Heavy crystal and silver chandeliers hung from the ceiling, one of which fell when it was being taken down, damaging the staccato tiles at the floor of the Palace.
Mr. Heenan – a British engineer, supervised the construction of Noor Mahal. It was built like an Italian chateau along neoclassical lines. The palace had its own primitive air conditioning system – cool water would be poured in underground dungeon that would pass as cool vapour through openings at the floor, pushing warm air out small windows constructed on the roof of the palace.
Mr. Heenan – a British engineer, supervised the construction of Noor Mahal. It was built like an Italian chateau along neoclassical lines. The palace had its own primitive air conditioning system – cool water would be poured in underground dungeon that would pass as cool vapour through openings at the floor, pushing warm air out small windows constructed on the roof of the palace.
This baby grand piano was flown in from Germany by Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi IV for his bride.
This baby grand piano was flown in from Germany by Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi IV for his bride.
A photograph of the court in session at the main hallway of Noor Mahal.
A photograph of the court in session at the main hallway of Noor Mahal.
Nawab Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi V and Haroon Rashid with Queen Victoria. A famous institution in Bahawalpur, the Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital (BVH) is named after her.
Nawab Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi V and Haroon Rashid with Queen Victoria. A famous institution in Bahawalpur, the Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital (BVH) is named after her.
Begum Nawab Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi V with President Ayub Khan.
Begum Nawab Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi V with President Ayub Khan.
A painting of the founding father of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah playing pool at a table he gifted to the Nawab of Bahawalpur. The original table and pool sticks are preserved at the palace.
A painting of the founding father of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah playing pool at a table he gifted to the Nawab of Bahawalpur. The original table and pool sticks are preserved at the palace.
Entrance to the dungeons.
Entrance to the dungeons.
A view of the exit from inside the dungeon. There are small rooms inside the dungeon where cold water was stored so it could pass as vapour through openings on the floor of the palace.
A view of the exit from inside the dungeon. There are small rooms inside the dungeon where cold water was stored so it could pass as vapour through openings on the floor of the palace.
Visitors in the dungeons. The tehkhana was also used to imprison people who had gone against the Nawab.
Visitors in the dungeons. The tehkhana was also used to imprison people who had gone against the Nawab.

A former princely state, Bahawalpur still carries quaint reminders of its rich past– from mighty forts to resplendent palaces to mystical shrines. But the jewel in the crown continues to be Noor Mahal, the palace of light.

According to popular lore, the palace was built by Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan IV for his wife but she refused to live there due to its close proximity to a graveyard. Built on neoclassical lines, was completed in 1875 and covers an area of 44,600 square feet. Noor Mahal was declared a national monument and the Pakistan Army spent two years restoring the building. While the building is now open to visitors, it also serves as an army mess. Its glorious façade and interiors were saved for posterity in drama serial Noor Bano, a modern day fairy tale.

Be it the grand baby piano, massive chandeliers and the gilded furniture, the chipped mosaic floors or the ‘haunted’ dungeons, every nook and cranny of Noor Mahal has some bit of history attached to it. – Text and photos by Madeeha Syed

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