Hazarduari Palace, earlier known as the Bara Kothi, is located in the campus of Kila Nizamat in Murshidabad, in the Indian state of West Bengal. 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 August 9, 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.
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 9, 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 down. The suffocating atmosphere created due to the large concourse of people which stood surrounding them made Her Highness to faint. At last, after she was helped up, the foundation stone was truly laid and was declared to have been well.
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 900 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.
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 900 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 INR6 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 and so on. The famous one is the mirror and the chandelier. The residential palace of the Nawabs is built somewhere else but has an identical name. The Nawabs were then actually a puppet due to the system of Dual government.
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.
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