Bahawalpur, a former princely state, is the 12th largest city in Pakistan and also a city that is rich in cultural heritage having strong forts to magnificent palaces to spiritual shrines. Among these stands an architectural gem, Noor Mahal, which was built around 138 years ago. According to various narrations, Nawab Subah Sadiq Muhammad Khan IV laid the foundation for constructing this palace in honor of his wife, however, due to the close proximity of the Basti Maluk Shah graveyard, she only stayed in the palace for one night. It then turned into a state guesthouse where occasional cabinet meetings were held. According to sources, the construction began in 1782 AD and was completed in around 1875 AD.
This exquisite Italian chateau was built at a cost of Rs 1.2 million, following the neoclassical lines. Having 32 rooms, 14 basements, 6 verandas and 5 domes, Noor Mahal covers an area of 44,600 square feet. What stands out most about this palace is that it is not built from steel or cement rather from rice, lentils and mud after which arches are constructed to support this archaeological wonder. Not only this, the ceiling of the Darbar Hall is made from pure colours of flowers rather than synthetic colours and the floor’s tiles are made from joining 21 pieces. The Greek Corinthian order is used in columns, railings, and pediments and arches elaborating the Greek architectural style. It is also constructed along the lines of Islamic architectural style, which can be seen in the domes that are made of stucco, which is a distinct feature of the palace.
This remarkable landmark has a stunning décor of ornate furniture, curtains of the heavy class of richly decorative shuttle-woven fabrics known as brocade and crystal chandeliers, which are studded with diamonds that all adds to the palace’s splendor. This creates an ambiance of royalty and reminds one of the majestic interiors of the golden age.
Well though and designed by Mr. Heennan, this hidden treasure in Bahawalpur is under the Army’s possession since 1990. The Government of Pakistan’s Department of Archeology announced Noor Mahal as a protected monument in September 2001. This palace now serves as an Army mess but is open for public viewings. This palace screams out the rich cultural heritage that our country possesses as well as give a glimpse of the British era through which we all have emerged.