BAHAWALPUR: For more than 200 years, Bahawalpur was ruled by the Abbasi family. During their reign, they contributed immensely for the development of the state. They built numerous palaces with state-of-the-art architecture which are the great examples of craftsmanship.
One such beautiful structure located in Bahawalpur City is Darbar Mahal. It was constructed by Nawab Bahawal Khan-V in 1904, and was initially called Bahawal Garh. The palace was completed in 1905 and was dedicated to one of the Nawab’s wives.
The Darbar Mahal has been built out of red brick and is built in the style of the Lahore Fort. It contains four domes that are connected to each other via short corridors. The structure is an elegant blend of red on white; with white dominating the roofline and windows, while the exterior walls are red.
The architectural theme of ancient Arab and Indian traditions is consistent all throughout the building, with a spacious building adorned with more than 80 windows that have been styled in the old Islamic traditions of the 14th century.
The interior of the Darbar Mahal is one that exudes elegance and class; the walls have been given a unique light gold-tan color that is both eye-catching, as well as give the rooms a feeling of robustness and space.
There are valuable paintings on the walls too, which date back to the mid 1800s and traditional Indian style ornaments and swords.
The interior has been adorned with fabulous furniture, which is among the premium and finest local variety of the day, and the carpets are equally rich and spectacular. Velvet curtains hang on the doors and have been given a lush maroon colour, which ties in well with the surrounding walls and adds to the effect of royalty. The archways have been garnished with ceramic tiles that glitter under the light of expensive chandeliers.
According to archaeologists, the architecture of Darbar Mahal is a blend of both local and foreign influence mainly from Delhi, Mughal, Sikh and European trends. Historians say Bahawalpur emerged as the strong royal capital of Abbasi’s.
The main hall of the building was once reserved as an art gallery, which housed some of the most priceless and rare art relics and family heirlooms.
The palace grounds lush green and constitute an area in excess of 75 acres, which makes it one of the largest properties in the immediate area, and also an adequate place for numerous plants to flourish. The grounds are always maintained in impeccable order and also contain fountains.
Darbar Mahal was given to the armed forces and has been housing government offices since 1971.
This palace also served as the sitting bench for the Regional Court of Bahawalpur State. For a long time it was used by Nawab Abbas Abbasi but for the last three decades it has been used as an army office.
Muhammad Akram, a resident of Model Town, Block B, told The Express Tribune, “Darbar Mahal is one of the marvels of Bahawalpur’s history. It is one of the best tourist attractions in Bahawalpur.” He added, “If it is opened to general public then it would help boost tourism in the region.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2017.