Bhopal, the burgeoning cosmopolitan capital city of Madhya Pradesh is also referred to as the City of Nawabs. Among her erstwhile rulers was Shahjehan Begum, a prolific builder who is credited with the construction of the imposing Taj – Ul – Masjid, the largest mosque in India.
She named her capital, Shahjehanabad which was counted one amongst the most beautiful and well planned cities of the 19th century. Some of the other structures built by her are Ali Manzil, Benazir Palace and the Taj Mahal Palace.
Her daughter Sultanjehan Begum writes: ‘Her Highness’s love for erecting large buildings and palaces was in no way less than that her great namesake, the Emperor Shahjehan of Delhi. She had three palaces constructed in the Mughal style for her personal use’.
Among these buildings, Benazir Palace built in 1875 was a pleasure garden and a palace to accommodate state dignitaries. Lord and Lady Minto stayed here in 1909 during their visit to India. The palace was built around three waterbodies and overlooks one, the Motia Talab. The other two water bodies are the Noor Mahal Talab and the Munshi Hussain Talab.
Benazir Palace is built in H shape encloses stepped terraces and water fountains. A series of steps and plinths descend down to Motia Talab. The building is a perfect blend of Mughal, Rajput and European architecture. Steel columns, carved wooden partition, stain glass windows, extensive carvings on walls and in the royal hamam are some of the attractions of this palace.
The grounds attached to the palace were used for ceremonial processions, parades and were also used as congregation grounds by the subjects. Steps on both the sides of the ground create an arena like setting that can be used by people for sitting during sports. Mahatma Gandhi addressed a rally here in 1929.
Today, the Benazir Palace is crumbling and has been encroached upon by locals. The neglected palace stands as a testimony to the dying heritage of the city of Nawabs.
Author – Jitu Mishra
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