A slice of Hyderabad in Delhi

- June 16, 2024

Hyderabad House, built by the British in the early part of last century, is considered the most magnificent of the royal residences in Delhi and has played host to several top dignitaries

PLAYING HOST: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hosted several dignitaries, including US President Donald Trump PHOTO: GETTY

Even as the sun beats down, the gentle and sweet breeze flowing from dozens of old and big Neem trees at Hyderabad House provides solace to the weather-beaten people. 

These trees, mute witnesses of Delhi changing over the past nine decades, were planted when Hyderabad House was being built according to Edwin Lutyens’s design. 

Families of some of the employees, who have been living since 1940s, share so many fascinating stories of the iconic building that was originally known as Palace of the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Spread over approximately eight acres, Hyderabad House was built in 1928 by Nizam of Hyderabad, Osman Ali Khan. 

Building of palaces of various states

Delhi had become the new capital of the British-ruled India in 1911. Following this, several princely states requested the British government to allocate land for their ‘houses’ in the new capital. 

Land was allotted according to their request. 

At that time, princely states like Hyderabad, Jodhpur, Travancore, Kota, Jaisalmer, Baroda, Bikaner, Gwalior, Patiala, and Mandi built their houses here. Among these, the 26-room Hyderabad House is considered the most magnificent.

“Edwin Lutyens had designed Hyderabad House in the shape of a butterfly. The entrance hall of the palace, a domed roof is the outstanding feature. It is a mix of the Mughal and European styles of architecture,” says S. Sarthak, a Delhi-based architect. 

For his lavish house in the new capital of India, the Nizam purchased around three dozen hand paintings from Abdur Rahman Chughtai, a famous painter of Lahore, who had created his own style, strongly influenced by Islamic art traditions. 

His subject matter was drawn from legends, folklore and history of the Indo-Islamic world, as well as Punjab, Persia and the world of the Mughals. Chughtai had also designed the logo for the Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV). 

It also has a collection of carpets that were imported from Iraq and Afghanistan. 

When it was built, neither Andhra Pradesh nor Telangana existed on the map. Both these states came into existence only after independence and Hyderabad remained their capital till June 2, when it became the capital of Telangana only.

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Hyderabad House was handed over to the Ministry of External Affairs when PV Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996.  Since then, it is hosting banquets and meetings for foreign dignitaries. 

“My father came here to work in Hyderabad House in late 1940s from Deoband in Uttar Pradesh. Once he retired, I joined Andhra Bhawan staff.  My father used to recall how Sardar Patel, along with his advisors, strategised the police action in the Hyderabad state from his residence at 1, APJ Abdul Kalam Road (earlier Aurangzeb Road),” recalls Ghaus Mohammad, football commentator.  

The police action in Hyderabad state was known as ‘Operation Polo’. It began at 4 am on September 13, 1948. After this action, Hyderabad merged with India. 

Events held at Hyderabad House

Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi’s wedding reception was held here on February 25, 1968. The arrangements for the reception were overseen by BK Nehru and PN Haksar, who were close to Indira Gandhi. Amitabh Bachchan and Ajitabh Bachchan were actively involved in the reception.

Dalai Lama has also lived here at Hyderabad House on his maiden trip to New Delhi in 1959. 

In his biography One Life is Not Enough, career diplomat and former Union minister, Natwar Singh writes, “His Holiness the Dalai Lama had crossed the Indo-Tibet border on 31 March 1959. The Dalal Lama arrived in Delhi after a few days’ rest in Tezpur, Assam. He was put up in Hyderabad House.” 

During his stay in Delhi, Natwar Singh was attached as his liaison officer.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also hosted two US Presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, for meetings and dinners at Hyderabad House. The government is now constructing a new building near South Block called ‘India House’. It is said that summit meetings will be held there. 

It remains to be seen what will happen to Hyderabad House, which has been hosting presidents and prime ministers from other countries. It is important to note that Andhra Pradesh Bhavan was part of Hyderabad House. Since Telangana emerged from Andhra Pradesh, both states share the building. The Andhra Pradesh government owns 58% of the old Andhra Pradesh Bhavan, while the remaining 42% belongs to Telangana. The construction of Andhra Pradesh Bhavan was completed around 1975. It was designed by JM Benjamin.