Noor Mahal or Royal Palace in Bahawalpur is one of the most awe inspiring historically and culturally rich architectural spectacles of Pakistan. Based upon neoclassical lines of Italian chateau, the construction of Noor Mahal started back in 1872 during the British Raj.
One too many stories were fabricated with regards to its construction. But, in accordance with the most authentic narrative, Noor Mahal was founded by Nawab Sadiq Mohammad Khan IV who dedicated this palace to his beloved wife. His wife, upon seeing the graveyard adjacent to the boundary wall of the palace, refused to stay for another night after spending a single night there. For that matter, the palace remained uninhabited and abandoned throughout the reign of Nawab Sadiq Mohammad Khan IV.
Nawab Sadiq Mohammad Khan IV was rightly remarked as the Shah Jahan of Bahawalpur owing to his ever-growing passion for establishing momentous buildings which blatantly showcase the loftier aesthetic taste of its founder. This beautiful palace was designed by the state engineer Mr. Heenan – an Englishman and completed in a tenure of three years ranging from 1872 to 1875. The total estimated cost of the palace is Rs. 1.2 million which was considered a fortune back then.
The same artistic value which was taken into consideration while perfecting the exterior of the palace was retained during the interior designing of the palace. Designing material coupled with fixture was imported from Italy and England at a heavy cost. At palace, a Belgium-made mirror along with a piano and other furniture is still worth a glance.
Noor Mahal covers a huge area of 44,600 square feet. Out of total 32 rooms, 14 are based in the basement region. Total count of verandas and domes of the palace is 6 and 5 respectively.
State coins and a map were buried while laying the foundation of the palace as a good omen.
Design of the palace majorly incorporates salient features of Islamic and Corinthian styles of architecture with a minor touch of subcontinental style. Dome is a significant part of Islamic architecture and the palace comprises of 5 domes in total. Columns and pediments of the palace, in addition to balustrade and the arched ceiling of Durbar Hall reveal the touch of Corinthian architecture. Shapes which are elliptical and angular in manner represent the tinge of a subcontinent style of construction.
A masjid was added to the palace back in 1906, by Nawab Muhammad Behawal Khan V at the cost of Rs. 20,000. The design of which is inspired by the masjid of Aitchison College Lahore.
In 1956, Noor Mahal was taken over by the Auqaf Department when the state of Bahawalpur got an affiliation with Pakistan. In 1971, the building was leased by the Auqaf Department to the army for the total sum of 119 million.
Owing to the lack of publicity, Noor Mahal is widely recognized as a hidden gem of Bahawalpur which is now used as a state guest house and a place where meetings with foreign delegations are held by the army.
Back in 2001, after being declared as a “protected monument” by the Government of Pakistan’s Department of Archaeology, the palace is now opened up for the general population and interested visitors.