India: The British Residency in Hyderabad- the setting of Love and Betrayal in India

The old building of the British Resident to Hyderabad- colonial splendour meets a thrilling love story.

Why visit?
The Residency plays a central role in William Dalrymple's excellent book 'White Mughals'. Most people who come visit have read the book and want to see the place where it is set. 

The building is outstanding in its own right: a grand mansion, built in the European neo-classical style, reminiscent of the White House in Washington DC. It was intended to signify the power and grandeur of the British, and in this sense, the building outlasted the colonial power who built it. Hyderabad was an independent state but the British East India Company maintained its influence by appointing a Resident to the Hyderabadi court, who would spy, scheme, and protect British interests. 

The building is now much dilapidated- in spite of being one of the best examples of British colonial architecture in india it is slowly falling to pieces. 

In the center of Hyderabad, on the northern bank of the river. The Residency building is now part of the Osmania Women's college. Map. 

THE BRITISH RESIDENT represented the interests of the British East India Company with the independent state of Hyderabad. The Nizam (King) of Hyderabad was trying to maintain his independence versus increasingly aggressive British and French colonial powers and accepted the stationing of a Resident who acted as an advisor and ambassador. The Nizam even ended up paying for the building of the Residency!

The building's grand neo-classical design was intended to signify the power and wealth of the British. It is a near-contemporary of the White House in Washington, DC. It was commissioned by the Hyderabadi Resident, James Kirkpatrick, around 1803. 

The building acted as the seat of British Residents up to Independence. After that, at some point the building became part of a Women's College. 

Because it's still part of a functioning college, access can be a little tricky. When I showed up on a Saturday, there were no students present but I managed to convince the guard let me trough (the magic word being, as usual, 'baksheesh'). 

Eventually somebody showed up who worked for the Principal's Office and took me around and inside this magnificent building.
The front of the building is truly impressive and grand. 
British Resident James Kirkpatrick is the protagonist of William Dalrymple's excellent book 'White Mughals'. It's a bit like Romeo and Juliet, but with Juliet wearing a headscarf and Romeo as an officer in the British army. In a nutshell, Kirkpatrick got involved with and eventually married a local girl from an aristocratic Muslim family, and 'went native'. Especially the latter caused a small crisis in the colonial administration, which didn't see marrying Muslim princesses as part of the White Men's Burden. 

Kirkpatrick and his wife, Khair Um Nissa, had two children, and their tragic story is at the heart of White Mughals. I don't want to give the story away but it's heartbreaking and gives you an idea of the challenges those stationed overseas faced in the days before Skype, WhatsApp, and budget flights. 

Inside the Residency, a replica of a famous painting of the Kirkpatrick children graces one of the walls. 

Mir Ghulam Ali Sahib Allum (aka William) and his sister Noor-un-Nissa Sahib Begum (Kitty).
The building looks impressive from all sides. I'd imagine it would have been very comfortable to live in, and great for the kids to play hide and seek: spacious, with lots of shaded areas to withstand the Indian heat. Although it's often compared to the Washington, DC White House, one obvious difference is the beautiful light ochre colour of the Residency. 
The Residency's backside. 
Side view. 
Massive columns create shaded verandahs. 
Once inside, the grandeur of the building just blows you away. A dramatic double staircase leads up to a magnificent ballroom, replete with massive chandeliers. The ballroom is two stories high and has a balcony so guests could watch the dancing and music downstairs. (A similar set-up can be found in the Salon de Musique of the Jacquemart-AndrĂ© mansion in Paris)
To find this here, in the middle of Muslim India, in an dilapidated building in an empty park is just bizarre. If this building were in Europe, it would be a museum (or an investment banker's private residence). Here, you can enter through a clandestine entrance of the dark basement and be the only visitor that week.  
The double staircase. 
The Ballroom. Notice the balcony around the room. The chandeliers are enormous!
Parts of the building are in really bad condition. Next to the ballroom is a room whose ceiling has collapsed, exposing the floor above! Some of the decoration remains but clearly it can be dangerous to explore this part of the building. Hard hats were not available...
Room with collapsed ceiling. 
However, one of the wings of the building appears to be still in use. We were here on a Saturday, so we didn't see any students, but the wing was set up like a classroom and the principal's office was also signposted. 
The wing that was used as a classroom. Note the small door under the staircase which is how we managed to enter the building- through a large dark underground passage. 
Principal's office. 
The grounds of the Residency are extensive. There are old stables and various other building that date back to the same period. Some of the original gateways still stand. Many of these buildings appeared still to be is use. 

A little further back is a small English cemetery, mostly overgrown. There is also a scale model replica of the building, although this is even more ruined than the building itself and mostly overgrown. 

The ruined scale model. 
Old canon in the garden. 
Getting there:
As is often the case in India, there are multiple versions of the truth. 

First of all the Residency is known under various names. It's located in a neighbourhood called Koti, so that name is often used. It's now part of the Osmania's women's college, so that name is also in use. 

Locating it can be tricky (again, as is often the case in India). 

There are conflicting locations on Google so here is the exact location of the complex. The entrance is on what's labelled below as 'Koti Main Rd'. 
Take a rickshaw and direct the driver to the exact point on the map,   

Useful links:
William Dalrymple's White Mughals
Wikipedia entry on James Achilles Kirkpatrick
Koti residency in shambles


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