Tuesday, 3 April 2012


Noor Mahal stands amidst rolling emerald green lawns. After the Sadiqgarh Palace, it is the largest and most beautiful of the Abbasid palaces. It was commissioned by the governor of the Punjab as a residence for Ameer Sadiq Muhammad Khan IV, popularly known as the Shah Jahan of Bahawalpur for his passion for constructing beautiful buildings. It was designed by Muhammad Husain, an architect from the Chief Engineer's Office in Lahore, and its construction supervised by a state engineer named Heenan. Its foundation stone was laid by Ameer Sadiq Muhammad Khan IV in 1872; a jar full of state coins and an inscription bearing the date of the foundation-laying were buried in the foundation. The palace was completed in 1875 at a total cost of 1.2 million rupees. Ameer Sadiq Muhammad Khan IV resided in the palace for a short time, but soon shifted out, possibly because of his apprehensions concerning its proximity to the graveyard of Maluk Shah.

Later on, the palace was reserved solely for court functions—such as the durbar held  by Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Agerton, the governor of the Punjab, on 25 November, 1879, installing Ameer Sadiq IV as the ruler of Bahawalput in the palace—or for lodging guests of high rank.

(Site Plan of Noor Mahal)

(Nawab Subah Sadiq (Shah Jahan of Bahawalpur) with Mr. Hennan
(State Engineer and architect of Noor Mehal) - 1875)

One of the most important events to be held at the Noor Mahal was the coronation of Ameer Muhammad Bahawal Khan V on 12 November 1903. India's viceroy and governor-general, Lord Curzon, was also present for the occasion. Many prominent people from all over India attended the coronation, including more than a hundred foreign officials. After 1947, the palace continued to host visiting dignitaries, and was used as a state guesthouse by the second prime minister of Pakistan, Khawaja Nazim-ud-Din, who visited Bahawalpur in 1955, before the state seceded formally to Pakistan. In 1976, the palace was initially rented out, and later sold, to the Pakistan Army.

(Construction Work at Noor Mahal)
(Noor Mahal at Night)
(Noor Mehal Hall View - 19th Century)
Rectangular in plan, the Noor Mahal consists of square, double- storey rooms at each of its four corners, crowned with square domes. The central dome is octagonal, arching towards the centre. Viewed from the front, it stands out as impressively with white pillars and domes that provide a contrast against the brick construction. The porch has a unique triangular face and bears the official state emblem.

(The Porch of Noor Mahal)

(The Central dome of Noor Mahal)
(The Barrel-shaped ceiling of the Central Hall)

(The Barrel-shaped ceiling of the Central Hall)
The main central hall is rectangular in plan and oriented in a north-south direction. It has a ghulam gardish (gallery) on three sides separated by pairs of columns erected below the arched openings. The main entrance to the hall is through the front porch, where a flying staircase leads inside the building. The floor of the main hall has a delicate finish of colourful, imported mosaic glazed tiles arranged in geometric patterns. The floor currently shows signs of damage at places. The hall has a barrel-shaped ceiling that is delineated by three types of intricate floral motifs, each occupying a square space in diagonal rows. A painting at one end of the ceiling depicts a river scene in bright chemical colours. Receding panels in the hanging gallery's walls display portraits of past ameers, and grand pianos and large mirrors give a palpably period feel to the palace.

(The Central Hall of Noor Mahal)

(Grand Piano in Noor Mahal)
The palace veranda is built in a series of arcades, and has a trabeated roof. The roofs of each set of three bedrooms, corridors, and side halls are laid in reinforced brickwork. The roof of the corridors is also curved, and provided with ventilation ducts. In fact, the palace is well provided for as far as ventilation is concerned, which helps keep even the high summer temperatures tolerable. The ventilation system comprises two tunnels below the main corridors in the eastern and western wings. Laid in a north-south direction, these tunnels draw in cooler air from ground level and push it up through ducts onto the floors of the rooms above. The ducts are covered by cast-iron frames, through which the warm air is then automatically pushed out through the roof.

(Corridors on the side of Noor Mahal)
(The Tunnels of Noor Mahal)
The palace was handed over to the Pakistan Army in a very poor state, and was subsequently renovated, with special emphasis given to conserving the original character of the building while enhancing its outstanding features. As a result of this renovation, the palace is now well worth visiting, especially at night when it is beautifully illuminated.

(Stairway at Noor Mahal)

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