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A perfect palace! -by Stephan Bayley

27 Feb 2013

The majestic Butler Palace was built in 1907 for Sir Harcourt Butler, deputy commissioner of Avadh and which revived much of the glory of Lucknow lost after the mutiny in 1857. Butler's own residence was at the kothi hayat baksh, present Raj Bhawan but he admired other beautiful homes built along the banks of the Gomti.

Raja Mohammad Ali Khan of Mahmudabad was a close friend, and he offered to build the palace for Butler.

The palace was designed as a sprawling residence with three huge wings. What is left today is just one-fourth of the original structure. The blueprint of the building was by Sardar Hirasingh, a well known name amongst builders of that time and who also helped to design the chamber of the state council building. The foundation stone of the palace was laid by Butler himself in 1915 and later the premises became famous as Butler Palace. A part of the palace was completed in 1921 but in 1923, the river flooded the area and completely submerged the palace complex under construction.

The architecture of the four-sided kothi is inspired by the Rajasthani style and resembles palaces in Udaipur. It is one of its kind in the whole state of Uttar Pradesh. During the Indian freedom struggle, the palace was used as a guest house by many freedom fighters, including Motilal Nehru, Tej Bahadur Sapru, Agha Khan, Ali Imam from Patna and the Maharaja of Nepal.

Even in its incomplete state, Butler lived here and enjoyed his Avadhi evenings in the courtyard. On all the four corners of the Mughal style copulas, lattice work has enhanced the beauty of the building. The umbrella like constructions in marble, and the fountain now removed added to the overall beauty of the building. There is a lake adjacent to the palace which gives a magnificent look not only to the palace but to the entire premises around.

The gateway equalled the grace of the Rumi darwaza in the old city and to the eastern and western gates of the Kaiserbagh complex.
To make the job of workers easier, a brick kiln was built right next to the construction site. It is said that there was so much of digging at the place that ground water started to spout and which was most imaginatively converted into an all season lake whose waters were later connected to the river. The gate not in use now faces Tilak Marg that was earlier called Butler Road.

Popularly called the Purana Darwaza, the gate is now surrounded by a slum colony inhabited by descendants of the gulam gardish, or attendants of the Raja of Mahmudabad. After independence, the palace was rented for the Post-Graduate Programme (PGP) of the Indian Institute of Management when it was established in 1985 with a strength of 30 students. Later it was home to a library of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR) until 2005 after which the premises were vacated following a Supreme Court order. The property originally belonged to the Raja of Mahmudabad, Mohammed Amir Mohammed Khan but today it is disputed and, therefore, it is possible to see it only from the outside. 

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