Delhi's Malcha Mahal, storied abode of royals in exile, set to be restored

Delhi: 20 April, 2022 (Times of India)


NEW DELHI: Malcha Mahal, the 14th century Tughlaq-era hunting lodge in Delhi’s Central Ridge which made international headlines as the desolate abode of self-declared descendants of the Nawab of Oudh and lies deserted following the death of the last of the family in 2017, is set to emerge from its ruins.

The archaeology department of the Delhi government has decided to conserve the heritage structure, which was treated as private property by the last occupants, and open it to history aficionados. Sources said the government will soon start the process to hire an agency to prepare a detailed proposal for its restoration.

Hidden in the thick vegetation along Sardar Patel Marg, the hunting lodge was built without doors or windows, only grand arches leading from one chamber to another, and largely open to the elements. Here, Feroz Shah Tughlaq would spend his time when out on hunting excursions. The lodge derived its name from the village Malcha where it was built.

“We are now looking at inviting major players that have the expertise in this line to participate in the bidding process. The RFP (request for proposal) is being prepared now and we hope to float it soon,” said a senior Delhi government official.

Though the government had initially decided to rope in INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage) for the restoration of the hunting lodge — the agency had even sent a proposal — the pandemic put a spanner in the project.

Malcha restoration work may begin in 4-5 months

If the Delhi government's Malcha Mahal restoration project goes to plan, work should begin in 4-5 months and it may take a few years to restore the hunting lodge to its old glory, an official said.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done, the official said, as only the main hall and a wall-like structure is currently visible now. The floors and the pavilions at the four corners, brackets and parapets are broken and need to be fixed. The thick foliage around the structure has caused a lot of damage too. It will have to be removed while the trees around it require pruning to expose the hidden edifices.

Set in the midst of a teeming city, Malcha Mahal has largely remained off-limits for close to four decades. In May 1985, the central government offered the structure to a woman who called herself Begum Wilayat Mahal, royalty from Awadh, and camped in the first-classwaiting room at New Delhi railway station for nearly a decade. She shifted to the lodge, which had no electricity or running water, along with her son and daughter who called themselves prince Ali Raza and princess Sakina. With them came a few servants and 11 dogs.

While Wilayat Mahal died in 1992, allegedly after swallowing crushed diamonds, Sakina passed away a few years later. Raza, the last royal occupant who lived as a recluse and rarely met anyone, died a pauper in September 2017.

Officials said there was a plan initially to carry out excavation at the site, as it was believed that there could be other structures too in the vicinity.

“It will be up to the agency that we hire to carry out a detailed study and suggest what is required to be done,” said an official.