Errum Manzil

Errum Manzil or Iram Manzil is an expansive palace s located on top of a hillock off the Irram Manzil Colony, Panjagutt, Hyderabad, Telangana State, India.

It was built around the year 1870 by Nawab Safdar Jung Musheer-ud-daula Fakhrul Mulk, a nobleman of Hyderabad state. The story goes that Errum Manzil was the result of a wager between the Nawab and Sir Vicar ul Umra as to who could build a higher palace.

One of the first palaces to come upon a hillock facing the Hussain Sagar in Hyderabad, Iram Manzil (meaning heavenly abode), has been a silent surveyor of the city ever since it was built.

The mansion is located atop a hillock known as Erragadda or "red hill" in the native Telugu language. For this reason, nawab Fakhrul Mulk decided to name the new palace "Iram Manzil" (Persian for 'Paradise Mansion'), because the Persian word 'Iram' (ايرام), meaning 'Paradise,' sounds like "Erra" (ఎర్ర), the Telugu adjective meaning "red." He also had the building painted a shade of red in order to emphasize the link, and thus the red-coloured palace can be found on top of Erragadda hill. The nawab intended that the mansion be known by two similar-sounding names: 'Iram Manzil' for the Persian-friendly Muslim nobility of the state and 'Erram Manzil' for the local Telugu people. In time, the latter name has prevailed, and "Erra Manzil" is now the official name of the palace. Alternative spellings include "Irrum Manzil" and "Irram Manzil"

Errum Manzil was used for royal banquets and other grand events. Later, the palace was taken over by the Government to be used as a records store-house. After some years it was again transferred into the hands of Public Works Department. Presently the land on which the palace is located houses offices of the Engineers-in-chief and the Chief Engineers of the Roads and Buildings and Irrigation/Command Area Development Departments.

Built in the Indo-European Baroque style of architecture, during its heyday the palace had over 150 rooms furnished with Louis XVI furniture, nine-hole golf course, polo ground, stable for horses and a dairy farm. The palace was full of stucco and ornamental works. The palace used to overlook the Hussain Sagar, but this view has now been blocked by other buildings.

The Erram Manzil building has rich architectural features exhibiting a multitude of cultural influences. The architecture is a symbiosis of Indo Persian and Saracenic features, blended with classical Greek, Roman, Gothic, Regency, and Baroque styles.

The two-storeyed palace, a listed heritage building spread over 1,13,793 square feet, was full of stucco and ornamental works, and had huge banquet halls, over 150 rooms, and was furnished lavishly with Louis XVI furniture.

Hyderabadi lore has it that Errum Manzil was the result of friendly competition between the Nawab and Sir Vicar ul Umra (The prolific Paigah aristocrat/builder from the city who also built the Falaknuma Palace) as to who could build a higher palace. Due to Fakhrul Mulk’s originality and creativity, the mansion was a blend of unique architectural styles, making it stand out from other palaces.

Dr Mir Asghar Husain, a direct descendant of Nawab Fakhrul Mulk, Former Director of Education, UNESCO-Paris, recalls his great grandfather as someone who dedicated his life to secularism, public service, and the state of Hyderabad. He adds, “A consummate builder, he always wanted to construct monuments that last, and as a heritage for the future. When the city of Hyderabad was expanding, he chose a spot (near Punjagutta) which was then at the outskirts, and being a visionary and nature lover, built a house that was in harmony with its natural environment and ecology.”

The mansion soon became the nucleus of a small village which sprung around it to cater for Fakhrul Mulk’s family, which consisted of five sons and four daughters. Soon, polo grounds, stable for horses and elephants, a dairy farm, and a tennis court were added as was a shooting range, and the Nawab held court twice a day.

Nawab Fakhrul Mulk was among the first noblemen in Hyderabad to adopt Western dress and styles while keeping the strict oriental code of conduct in domestic matters. His cultural ingenuity and openness of mind enlarged his vision to include architectural styles from Europe. A popular story goes saying that he used to explain his ideas to the architects by drawing the outline on sand with the help of his walking stick, and expected the engineers and the masons to give shape to it.

Errum Manzil was specifically placed atop a hill to stand out in its surroundings. Dr Er Ar SP Anchuri, Architect and Structural Engineer, explains, “The height of the building was about 36 feet elevated compared to the present main road level. The height was chosen to indicate the power of the area to dominate the surrounding environment, providing a peaceful environment and isolated atmosphere from the busy road and streets.”

Several entrances are seen to the building, and were used for different purposes. Each entrance of the manzil has a unique architectural character that highlights from other immediate surfaces. Anchuri adds, “The building is in U shape with a three-side enclosed courtyard towards west. The central wing acted as the barricade between the mardana and zenana. Special female servants called mamas acted as messengers between the two blocks.”

With contours which slope naturally towards eastern side, giving a magnificent view of Hussain Sagar, the best suitable structural system was adopted in construction of the palace. The staircases and balconies are made of wood. Even today, one can catch a glimpse of Romanesque semi-circular arches, Indo Saracenic rounded horseshoe openings, and elliptical Gothic arches based on Indo-Islamic architecture.

Dr Husain says that the palace was a unique futuristic model of construction, which was self-sufficient and even had its own water bodies built as a part of its estate. He adds, “Impressed by the stark beauty of Errum Manzil when they passed by during their visit to Hyderabad, Yasser Arafat and Jacqueline Kennedy asked what this impressive monument was!”

The palace was in the possession of the Nawab’s descendants till late 1940s, when it was taken over by the government, and used for storing records. Then the erstwhile Government of Hyderabad purchased the building and the surrounding land belonging to Nawab Fakhar ul Mulk Bhadur, when Sir Mirza Ismail was Sadar-i-Azam (prime minister) of the State in 1946.

In the year 1956, after the formation of Andhra Pradesh, the State government quarters were constructed in the open land, and the same is known as the Erum Manzil colony.

Later, it was transferred to the Public Works Department, and now, the Roads and Buildings and Irrigation/Command Area Development departments share it. In 2017, KCR’s government wanted to demolish the heritage building to construct a new State Legislative Assembly, and only a huge public outcry resulted in the government changing its initial proposal.

Today, the building is in a state of disuse and neglect but used for occasional heritage walks. Anuradha Reddy, Convenor, INTACH Hyderabad, says that the palace has substantial architectural and historical value, being a legacy building. Having conducted a building structural condition assessment in 2019, she calls for the adaptive reuse of the palace, and says, “The structure can be reused in a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable manner. Well executed adaptive reuse can restore an old building not only for new use, but also for the community to continue appreciating the site's historical significance and maintain links to the past.”

Errum Manzil is one of the best examples of the time which informs the present generation of the historical, architectural, and aesthetic importance of such monuments.

Anchuri says that proper repairs and rehabilitation of the Errum Manzil can bring back its erstwhile glory. He adds, “The palace can serve a few more centuries, keeping its heritage alive. Based on the observations of the existing structure on preliminary visual inspection, the Errum Manzil building is an important heritage asset, can be structurally sound after rehabilitation, repairs, and partial reconstruction undertaken after proper in-depth analysis, and can be used for a number of probable adaptive reuses before this architectural marvel and its style disappear.”

Currently, the heritage monument is known to many only because of the metro station named after it. Husain adds, “The whole world is looking for architecturally original monuments for tourism. Erram Manzil is unique because it blends major architectural styles of the time, and there are few other buildings like it that reflect the creative originality of the Deccan. Restored, it can be a powerful magnet on the tourist circuit.”

Errum Manzil is a perfect example of the old Hyderabadi architecture which has stood the test of time. With its integrated design blending the best of structural systems, architectural style, and interiors, the need of the hour is to conserve it.