The Delhi government has received a proposal from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) to restore Malcha Mahal, a 14th Century hunting lodge built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq, which was occupied between 1985-2017 by members of a family that claimed its lineage to the royals of Awadh.
Official sources said that while the proposal, which also has financial components, was still being examined, the government is inclined to accept it, provided the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has no plan to restore the structure, which now lies in ruins.
Founded in 1984, INTACH is a non-profit organisation working to generate awareness on heritage and conservation.
“The government, which had approached INTACH, recently received a proposal. It’s not a detailed project report (DPR) though. INTACH will submit a DPR once they get a go-ahead. Although the mahal was not with the ASI, they will get the first opportunity in case they are also interested in conserving and restoring it. But the Delhi government wants to take up the project,” an official said.
Malcha Mahal is located deep inside the Central Ridge, off Sardar Patel Marg in Chanakyapuri. It is named after Malcha Marg, which houses the elite of the city, including diplomats, businessmen and authors.
For years, the existence of the structure, which has a few arched chambers and a hall, was nearly forgotten. The death of Prince Ali Raza, the last occupant of the mahal, in 2017 sparked renewed interest around it. Raza, known as Cyrus, was found dead inside the mahal on September 2, 2017, having led a life in abject penury, devoid of any material comforts that one associates even with a commoner, let alone a royalty.
“In the first phase, consolidation and conservation works have been proposed. The task of restoration will come later as the challenges are immense. There is thick foliage in and around the structure, which has obviously damaged the building. Excavation work has also been proposed at a later stage.
“Currently, the main hall stands. There are arched chambers, but they are damaged. The government and the project executing agency plan to work together in illuminating the area and putting up signages for visitors. For years, the family lived without any power and water supply, so arrangements for basic necessities will also have to be made,” another official added.
Raza, his sister Sakina and their mother Begum Wilayat Mahal had moved into the mahal along with around a dozen hounds in May, 1985. Before they moved in, the structure was known as Bistadari ruins. The Begum was allotted the mahal after she camped in a first-class waiting room of the New Delhi Railway Station in the 70s, demanding recognition from the government.
The entire duration of their stay in the mahal remained shrouded in mystery as the family detested any outside interference.
Begum Wilayat Mahal died in 1992, having allegedly swallowed crushed diamonds in her possession, while her daughter passed away a few decades later. Cyrus was the last one to die.
The last Nawab of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah, ruled for nine years till 1856, and died near Kolkata in 1887.