Noor Mahal the italian style palace of the fifth ruler of Bahawalpur State, Nawab Sir Muhammad Sadiq, is the latest monument in the Punjab to be notified under the Antiquities Act.Completed in AD 1875, one of the most exquisite buildings in the state, Noor Mahal was meant for the residence of the Nawab. He, however, did not lived here for a singal day after being cautioned against doing so on account of its proximity to the Basti Muluk Shah graveyard.
Supervised by Mr Heenan, a British Engineer, the palace was later used as the state guest house. The Nawab also held occasional cabinet meetings here and gave audience to notable guests. On some occasions the palace was used as the State Court for the Nawab’s address to his courtiers. Noor Mahal was built in the middle of a spacious garden having a water tank and fountains. Thick carpets covered its verandahs and the walls were decorated with paintings, most of them by western artists.
The two-storey palace had exquisite furniture and fixtures like chandeliers and cupboards. There was a rich collection of arms in its armoury.Some swords and muskets were also displayed on the palace walls. A mosque, styled like the one at the Aitchison College, was added to the palace by Nawab Bahawal Khan, a later ruler of the state of Bahawalpur. The palace was completed at a cost of RS. 1.2 million. Repairs half a century later cost Rs. 100,000. The mosque was built at a cost of Rs. 20,000. The property dispute among the heirs of the last ruler resulted in Noor Mahal (as well as several other buildings) being abandoned.
It was locked under a judicial order but not before most of its rich belongings were smuggled out. Its furniture, carpets, paintings and crockery were sold almost all over the country.
Subsequent to the military takeover on Oct 12, 1999, the palace was used as an army club. The army took almost two years restoring some its past glory. It has now been protected under the Antiquities Act of 1975, the latest monument to be so preserved in the Punjab. The notification has, however failed to attract funds for its necessary conservation. The building is still in army’s possession. The best use option being weighted for the nineteenth century monument include a hotel, a museum and public park.
Noor Mahal – Some precious moments of the past
JAN 11, 1890: His Highness Prince Albert Victor was there as a guest in Noor Mahal.
DEC 22, 1892: Sir McOrth Beck CCIS Senior Financial Comissioner of Punjab with family stayed at the palace for three days.
MAY 11, 1897: The court was held on the 60th Birthday of the Queen Vicotria.
FEB 9, 1933: A historical function was arranged because of the union of the Birtish Government and the Bahawalpur State.
MARCH 8, 1934: The Government of the State of Bahawalpur arranged a ten years jublie celebration in the lawn of Noor Mahal.