Bahawalpur region is renowned for its history, splendid architectural marvels, historical sites and rich cultural heritage in the shape of Abbasids Palaces, forts, shrines and Cholistan Desert ‘Rohi’. Among these marvels, Noor Mahal is indeed an iconic palace that attracts tourists from far and wide. The Palace was constructed by Ameer Sadiq Muhammad Khan IV from 1872 to 1875, with a total cost of Rupees 1.2 million. Ameer Sadiq Muhammad Khan IV is known as Shah Jahan of the State of Bahawalpur due to construction of Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital, Darbar Mahal, Gulzar Mahal, Nishat Mahal, Farhat Mahal, Mubarak Manzil and Eid Gah. Today, Noor Mahal stands with all its elegance as a reminder of artistic splendor of the erstwhile State of Bahawalpur and a masterpiece reflecting 224 years of glory and magnificence of the Nawabs’ era. Pakistan Army has made consistent efforts in maintaining this national heritage over the years.
In continuation of these efforts, the former Commander 31 Corps Lieutenant General Syed Muhammad Adnan perceived the idea to preserve this national heritage for the future generations as well as to enhance its appeal for tourists by increasing its educative and entertainment value. It was envisioned to restore this majestic palace to its original glory, duly addressing its archaeological value and adding up to its glory by developing it into a Live Museum. It was necessary to first ascertain the existing condition of the palace before undertaking any further development.
Structure Stability Test. A stability test was conducted in February 2020 by using advanced technology. It was found during the stability test that foundation of the basement was being affected due to seepage and the roof was not only overburdened but it also had serious water leakage issues. However, main structure of the palace was found satisfactory. Efforts began to consult a number of experts with requisite experience to undertake such delicate work.
Restoration Work. On conclusion of the Stability Test Report, restoration work commenced on June 5, 2020 for which one of the best experts of the country was employed. Restoration work included foundation stabilization and protection, roof and floor treatment, construction of stairs as well as restoration of the basement. In addition to this, removal of all interventions was also planned so as to restore the palace to its original condition. Basement was dug approximately 9 feet down to unearth the original floor. Likewise, old roofs are also being replaced.
Almost 50% of the restoration work has been completed, while the remaining is likely to be completed by February 2021.
Development of the Museum. To supplement the ongoing restoration as per the vision of the Corps Commander, work on the development of Noor Mahal into a Live Museum has commenced simultaneously. The museum aims to preserve and display the rich cultural heritage of the region in general and the Nawabs’ era in particular in a way that chronicles journey of the Bahawalpur State based on authentic research through photos, sculptures and antiques. To achieve this purpose, the museum will include lobbies, galleries and corners in a manner that it takes the visitors back to the history of this unique land and its inhabitants. To materialize this vision, many experts were consulted apart from abundant feedback received formally and informally.
Noor Mahal Seminar. A plan for the museum was conceived and experts were shortlisted accordingly. In this regard, a seminar was conducted at Noor Mahal on September 4-5, 2020 aimed at seeking valuable input from experts all across the country for finalizing the conversion of Noor Mahal into a museum. Consequently, initial concept and technical aspects were shared with shortlisted experts and professionals before inviting them for the seminar. This step was meant to obtain structured input from experts and enable them to offer well-thought-out proposals in the seminar.
Different distinguished experts and professionals were invited from renowned institutions including UNESCO, Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, Lok Virsa, Archaeology, Bahawalpur Museum, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (Federal & Provincial, both), Quaid-i-Azam University and Islamia University Bahawalpur. The Vice Chancellor along with 20 best performing students of Islamia University Bahawalpur were also invited. Nawab Muhammad Usman Abbasi attended the seminar to share authentic aspects of his ancestors. The seminar proved very useful and an educative step in the development of the museum, as it helped in addressing many technical and procedural issues. The participants candidly shared their views and appreciated the efforts made in restoration of the Mahal by Pakistan Army. They also lauded the effort in preserving this national heritage by developing it into a live museum.
Representatives of UNESCO and Tourism Departments offered their help for both restoration and preservation. Enthusiasm and fervor of students from Islamia University Bahawalpur was noteworthy as they actively participated in the activity and shared ideas for development of the museum. The seminar added real value to the museum’s plan.
Museum Plan. Work on development of museum commenced in October 2020. This museum, inter alia, offers digitally interactive media room, restored sitting room, dining room and retiring room of the Nawabs. It will also have Pakistan Gallery, Abbasi Gallery and Nawab Sadiq V Gallery on the lines of other advanced museums of the world. Live activity at Coronation Hall will be one of its own kind. The elegance of Noor Mahal at night will be further boosted by replacing the existing old patterned lights with custom-made washer lights. Besides, a state-of-the-art souvenir shop will provide the finest souvenirs and artefacts for the visitors of all ages and genders. The work will be completed in a year’s time.
Research on the Glorious Past of the State. In addition to the preservation and development of museum at Noor Mahal, efforts have also been made in researching the glorious past of Bahawalpur region. For this, PhD scholarship has been offered to a research fellow on Bahawalpur State. The PhD student is assisting three other interns who have been employed by Noor Mahal Management Committee to integrate youth into the overall restoration and awareness effort.
Unique in itself, light & sound show at Noor Mahal has also been upgraded and old projectors have been replaced with modern laser projectors which have enhanced the beauty of this show. Construction of artistic Saughat Shop and marvelous Shahi Cup in the near vicinity has added colour to the premises, making Noor Mahal Complex a “must visit place” in Bahawalpur.
Undoubtedly, Noor Mahal will become one of the biggest attractions for visitors and its appeal will be enhanced all across the country after development of the Live Museum. Soon, Bahawalpur will garner interest as one of the top tourist destinations in Southern Punjab.
To keep the public and those interested up to date about the ongoing work and seek their valuable input, details regarding work at Noor Mahal are being uploaded regularly on all social media networks which can be easily accessed on the following addresses:
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