Nestled in the heart of Bahawalpur, Punjab, Pakistan, stands the resplendent Noor Mahal, a palatial masterpiece that has withstood the test of time. This magnificent structure, owned by the Pakistan Army, is a testament to the grandeur and architectural prowess of the Nawabs of Bahawalpur, who ruled during the British Raj. Built in 1872, Noor Mahal exudes an Italian chateau aesthetic, featuring neoclassical design elements. Its opulent interiors, adorned with ornate ceilings, colossal chandeliers, and meticulously marbled floors, make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and architecture connoisseurs.
A Glimpse into History
Noor Mahal is not just a symbol of architectural magnificence but is also steeped in historical significance. The palace, spanning over 4140 square meters, was designed by the English state engineer, Heennan, in 1872 and completed in 1875. Over the years, various Nawabs added elements to the palace, such as a mosque in 1906, emphasizing their commitment to both art and religion. The construction was a lavish affair, with materials imported from England and Italy. Notably, it is believed that the entire building was constructed using mud mixed with rice and pulses, forgoing the use of iron and cement.
Noor Mahal: A Palace Shrouded in Legends
Noor Mahal is enveloped in fascinating legends, some of which contribute to its allure. One such legend claims that Nawab Sadiq Khan-IV built the palace for his beloved wife, Noor. However, it is said that she stayed there for just one night, as the view from her bedroom balcony overlooked the nearby graveyard of Basti Malook Shah, which deterred her. Consequently, she moved to the Darbar Palace, marking the palace’s unique history.
Preservation of Heritage
Noor Mahal serves as a repository of Bahawalpur’s rich history, with its walls adorned by portraits of the Nawabs who once ruled the state. Notably, Nawab Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi-V played a pivotal role in the palace’s history. A loyal friend of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi-V acceded to Pakistan after its independence, signifying his unwavering support for the nation. His contributions during World War II were recognized with various medals from the British.
The palace also meticulously preserves the historical court setting, complete with the nawab’s throne and seating arrangements. It immerses visitors in a bygone era, with a collection of historical photographs and paintings, making Noor Mahal feel like a living museum.
The Future of Noor Mahal
In 1956, following the merger of Bahawalpur state into Pakistan, the Auqaf department assumed control of Noor Mahal. The Nawab retained his title, along with the traditional protocol and an annual stipend until his demise in 1966. Noor Mahal was later leased to the Pakistan Army in 1971, and they eventually purchased the palace in 1997. The Pakistan Army, committed to preserving this cultural gem, invested two years in extensive restoration work, bringing the palace back to its former glory.
Visitors to Noor Mahal can also explore the surrounding Noor Mahal Park, a splendid addition in 2017. The park boasts an antique-style fountain, an amphitheater, a water feature with a bridge, a children’s play area, and a jogging track. Additionally, two historic automobiles, including the Shahi Buggy, used by Nawab Sadiq-V’s family, are displayed on the palace’s lawns.
Noor Mahal, a symbol of Bahawalpur’s rich history and architectural opulence, stands as a timeless treasure that invites visitors to step back in time and experience the grandeur of a bygone era. With its captivating legends, historical significance, and meticulous preservation, Noor Mahal offers a unique opportunity to connect with Pakistan’s past and explore its rich heritage. A visit to this architectural marvel promises to be an unforgettable journey through time and history, leaving a lasting impression on all who enter its regal gates.