Hazarduari Palace

Hazarduari Palace, earlier known as the Bara Kothi,[1] is located in the campus of Kila Nizamat in Murshidabad, in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is situated near the bank of river Ganga. It was built in the nineteenth century by architect Duncan Macleod, under the reign of Nawab Nazim Humayun Jah of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa (1824–1838).

The foundation stone of the palace was laid on 9 August 1829, and that very day the construction work was started. William Cavendish was the then Governor-General. Now, Hazarduari Palace is the most conspicuous building in Murshidabad.

In 1985, the palace was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India for better preservation.[2][3]

According to the Archaeological Survey of India as mentioned in the , the Hazarduari Palace and Imambara ASI Listed Monuoments.[4]

A painting of the Nizamat Fort Area (c. 1814–1815), kept in the British Library, by William Prinsep, showing the old and small Nizamat Fort

Kila Nizamat or Nizamat Kila (Nizamat Fort) was the site of the old fort of Murshidabad.[5] It was located on the present site of the Hazarduari Palace, on the banks of the Bhagirathi River. The fort was demolished to build this grand palace.

Now, Kila Nizamat refers to the campus where the palace is located along with the Nizamat Imambara, Murshidabad Clock Tower, Madina Mosque, Chawk Masjid, Bacchawali Tope, the Shia Complex, Wasif Manzil, the two Zurud Mosques - one on the east of the palace and the other one between the Wasif Manzil and the south gate of the palace - and the Nawab Bahadur's Institution (or, Nizamat College) surrounding it. Tourists call the Hazarduari Palace the Nizamat Kila or the Kila Nizamat.

The palace was built and designed under the supervision of Colonel Duncan MacLeod of the Bengal Corps of Engineers. He was the father of Sir Donald McLeod. The foundation stone of the palace was laid by Nawab Nazim Humayun Jah of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa (1824–1838) on August 29, 1829, and that very day the construction work was started. The construction was completed in December 1837.

The concrete bed on which the foundation stone was to be laid was built so deep that the Nawab had to use a ladder to descend. The suffocating atmosphere created due to the large number of people, which stood surrounding them, caused the Nawab to faint. The foundation stone was laid after he was brought up.

The name of the palace that is Hazarduari means "a palace with a thousand doors". Hazar means "thousand" and Duari means "the one with doors"; thus, the total sums up to "the one with a thousand doors".

The palace earlier known as Bara Kothi has been named so as the palace has in all 1000 doors, of which 100 are false. They were built so that if any predator tried to do something wrong and escape, he would be confused between the false and real doors, and by that time he would be caught by the Nawab's guards.[6]

The enclosure where the palace is situated is known as Kila Nizamat or Nizamat Kila. The campus except this palace, has in addition the Nizamat Imambara, Wasif Manzil, the Bachhawali Tope, Murshidabad Clock Tower, three mosques out of which one is the Madina Mosque, and the Nawab Bahadur's Institution. Other buildings include residential quarters. It is situated on the east bank of the Bhagirathi River, which flows just beside it. The gap between the Bhagirathi's banks and the palace is just 40 feet (12 m); however, the foundations are laid very deep, which protect the palace. The palace is rectangular in plan (130 meters long and 61 meters broad) and is a good example of Indo-European architecture. The front facade of the palace, which has the grand staircase, faces north. This staircase is perhaps the biggest one in India.

The palace has 1000 doors, of which 100 are false, and a total of 114 rooms.

The wooden Nizamat Imambara built by Siraj ud-Daulah caught fire in 1846, so the present building was rebuilt within a year in 1848 by Nawab Nazim Feradun Jah of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. This Imambara is the biggest one in India. More than 6 lacs were spent for its construction.

The Madina Mosque is kept open for a look at the Muharram festival by the general public but is kept closed throughout the year.

The Bacchawali Tope which lies in the campus of Kila Nizamat was brought by Murshid Quli Khan. This cannon has been placed on high altar and its mouth has been covered up with an iron plate. It is said that when used it made such a huge noise that it forced pregnant women to give birth to babies at that very time.

The palace was used to hold durbars (official or royal meetings) and official works between the Nawabs and the Britishers and also used as a residence for high-ranking British officers. It has now been transformed into a museum which houses collection from the Nawabs like priceless paintings, furniture, antiques.

A grand flight of stairs of 37 steps of stone, the lowermost one of which is 108 feet (33 m) long, leads up to the palace's upper portico. Perhaps it is the largest one in India. The pediment of the palace is supported by 7 huge pillars, each being 18 feet (5.5 m) at the base. There is also the Nawabi Coat of Arms depicted on the pediment. This grand staircase is perhaps the biggest one in India.

On either side at the beginning of the grand staircase are two statues of two seated masonry Victorian lions with stone slabs embedded in the wall behind them.

There are several large gates used as an entrance to the palace some which bear names like the Imambara, Chawk and Dakshin Darwaza (south gate). The main gates have Naubat Khanas (musicians' galleries) over them and are large enough that an elephant may pass with a howdah on its back.

Photos from Hazarduari Palace with the palace's chandelier in the center. This chandelier is the second largest in the world after that in the Buckingham Palace.

The palace has now been transformed into a museum which houses collections from the Nawabs like priceless paintings, furniture, antiques and so on. The famous one is the mirror and the chandelier. In 1985, the palace was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India[2][3] for better preservation. The Hazarduari Palace Museum is regarded as the biggest site museum of Archaeological Survey of India and has got 20 displayed galleries containing 4742 antiquities out of which 1034 has been displayed for the public. The antiquities include various weapons, oil paintings of Dutch, French and Italian artists, marble statues, metal objects, porcelain and stucco statues, farmans, rare books, old maps, manuscripts, land revenue records, palanquins mostly belonging to eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a bamboo from Assam and so on.

The Durbar Hall of the palace which houses the furniture used by the Nawab has a crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. It is the second largest chandelier in the world, after one in Buckingham Palace. It was given to the Nawab by Queen Victoria.

There are also two pairs of mirrors in the museum, that are placed at an angle of 90 degrees in such a way that one cannot see one's own face but others can see. It was used by the Nawab to prevent predators from harming him, and was kept at a place so that the predator cannot see his face and think a mirror to be there but the Nawab could and he would be caught.

A painting of the Nizamat Fort Campus with the palace and the other surrounding buildings (c. 1830s – 1840s), kept in the British Library, painting by Robert Smith

In the entrance porch there are two carriages, of which one is a camel carriage and the other is a Victorian carriage. Both of them were used by the Nawabs. The lobby has been decorated with photographs of several buildings of historical importance and it also has a huge stuffed crocodile and a thick bamboo from Assam. There in all 20 galleries as follows:

The Victorian lion on either sides of the grand staircase. This flight of stairs is perhaps the biggest one in India.

A miniature of the palace,[7] made by Sagore Mistri in ivory, along with portraits of His Highness and his son, among other presents, were sent to King William IV. He honoured the Nawab with a full-size portrait of His Majesty and an autographed letter, and conferred upon him the badge and insignia of the Royal Guelphic and Hanoverian order, which are still preserved in the Palace.