BAHAWALPUR-The Abbasi family ruled Bahawalpur for more than 200 years and did a lot for the development of the state commonly known as “Princely State” particularly in the shape of tasteful palaces that still reflect the Abbasi rulers mastery of and taste for architecture.

Darbar Mahal is one of the masterpieces of that era, standing tall as testimony to the sagacity and prosperity of the Abbasi rulers.

According to the archaeologists, architecture style of Darbar Mahal cleverly blended both local and foreign influence, particularly that of Delhi, Mughal, Sikh and even Europe. History shows that Bahawalpur emerged as the Abbasi’s new royal capital and the heart of Abbasi’s architecture in India after Derawar after few palaces including Darbar Mahal were constructed in Bahawalpur, which is why it is often known as the “Princely State” in local culture.

Darbar Mahal was built by Nawab Bahawal Khan (V) in 1904. Originally conceived as the “Bhawal Garh”; the palace was completed in 1905 and was dedicated to one of the wives of the Nawab.

It was built out of red brick and is built in the style of the earlier Lahore Fort. The building contains 4 domes that are connected to each other via short corridors. The structure is an elegant blend of red and white; with white dominating the roofline and windows, while the exterior walls are red. The architectural theme of Ancient Arab and Indian traditions is consistent throughout the building, with a spacious building adorned with more than 80 windows that have been styled in the old Islamic traditions of the 14th century.

The interior of the Darbar Mahal is one that exudes elegance and class; the walls have been given a unique light gold-tan colour that is eye-catching and gives the rooms a feeling of robustness and space. There are valuable paintings on the walls too, which date back to the mid 1800s and traditional Indian style ornaments and swords, there are also portraits of some imminent members of the Nawab family throughout the building.

The interior has been adorned with fabulous furniture, which is among the premium and finest local variety of the day, and the carpets are equally rich and spectacular. Velvet curtains hang on the doors and have been given a lush maroon colour, which ties in well with the surrounding walls, and adds to the effect of royalty. The archways have been garnished with ceramic tiles that glitter under the light of expensive chandeliers and further increase the majestic of the Mahal.

The rooms are decorated with fabulous furniture and spectacular carpets. The doors are covered with elegant lushly curtains of maroon colour. All of walls are made up of marble and the roofs are made up of mosaic. The large lamps placed in the palace have increased its majesty.

There is big gallery with the main hall which was used as an art gallery containing rare norms times ago. Today, this gallery does not contain any norms but some rare pictures of the former rulers of the State of Bahawalpur are displayed on its walls. This Gallery was housed some of the most priceless and rare art relics and family heirlooms, but these were sadly stripped down during the time. Pak Army took control and decorated with photographs of the rulers of the State of Bahawalpur and the Nawabs.

The view of the architecture that resembles that of the ancient Mughalai Forts, and is on par with the typical fusion of East Indian and Arabic architectural techniques that was prevalent in the subcontinent during the 1800s.

The Mahal was eventually given into the services of the Pakistan Armed Forces and government offices after 1947, and the tenants paid due dividends to the Nawab. The Mahal has also served as the sitting bench for regional court of the State of Bahawalpur. For a long time this palace was in use of Nawab Abbas Abbasi. Now this palace is used as an Army office for last more than 3 decades.

The palace grounds are filled with lush greenery and constitute an area in excess of 75 acres, which makes it one of the largest properties in the immediate area, and also an adequate place for numerous exotic and native plants to flourish. The grounds are always maintained in impeccable order and also contain fountains.

The Darbar Mahal has great potential to work as a tourist spot owing to its old architectural design, which is reminiscent of the pre-partition India, and is steeped in local cultural history. But sadly, little of the property is open for public access, only the outskirts of the gardens are rarely opened to host galas or official functions.