The night of 11th July, 1814 was fateful in the history of Lucknow. As a consequence of a clique between the Resident and a son-in-law of Nawab Saadat Ali Khan, the Nawab had been poisoned to death. His body was lying in ‘Kasr-ul-Sultan’. To add insult to injury, the British administrators had put it underground. The choice of the next ruler lay indirectly with them only. The Red Baradari, in which the body of the Nawab lay, was not accessible even to the bereaved family.
Beyond the palace, junior prince ‘Jarnail’ Shamsuddaula was pleading with the Resident Sir John Baillie to declare him the heir to the throne. In the meantime, the senior prince “Wali Ahed’ Rafatuddaula, accompanied by Raja Bakhtawar Singh and a few brave warriors reached the Haveli of ‘Khas Mahal’ and succeeded in gaining access to the Baradari by climbing over the walls with the help of “Kamand’. One of the sentries was quietly beheaded in the process of entry. Thus, while the late Nawab’s favourite ‘Bade Mirza Rafatulla was shedding tears near the body of his dead father, his fate was smiling. He was to become the next ruler.
Colonel John Baillie entered the Baradari and beckoned the prince to a corner. A few unwritten agreements were made and Rafatulla was declared the new Nawab under the name Ghazi-ud-Din Haider.
Wednesday, the 12th July, 1814 was declared as the day of coronation. Firing of cannon announced the ceremony. The coming Resident ritually placed the crown on the head of the new Nawab and consoled the other princes.
Shams-ud-Daula, however, acquired an indifferent attitude towards his younger brothers. He even refused to accept their presentations gracefully.
On 8th October, the new Nawab paid a visit to the Governor-General Warren Hastings at Kanpur. There, he was persuaded to discontinue dealings with the Delhi Darbar. He had also to pay to the Governor-General the ‘loan’ of rupees one crore, which was never returned. When the rulers of the company realized that his father had left rupees fourteen crores in cash in inheritance, they resorted to flattery.
In 1819, the Nawab, who had earlier been awarded the title of His Excellency, was again given the superior title ‘His Majesty’. Now he was no longer known by the traditional title of ‘Nawab Wazirul Mumalik Bahadur’. His new name was the imposing ‘Badshah-e-Avadh-Arral Ghazi-ud-Din Haider’. This title had cost him two and a half crore rupees in cash and a part of his jagir. His coronation was a red letter day in the history of India. The festivities were marked by profound extravagance. On this occasion even the commoners were given pearls worth rupees thirty thousand as ‘Nichavar’. As a befitting memorial to this occasion Badshah’ Ghazi-ud-Din ‘Haider’ laid the foundation of two settlements ‘Badshah Nagar’ and Haiderabad in the trans-Gomati area.
The ‘Shah’ also completed the partially-built palace on the right bank of the Gomati near Farhat Baksh. This palace was earlier built by the Nawab Saadat Ali Khan in memory of his mother Chhatar Kunwar. A golden ‘Chhatra’ was also built on top of the palace. Decorations and furnishings in the palace were taken up by Badshah I and later completed by Nasir-ud-Din Haider. A ‘Chhoti Chhatar Manzil’ was also built by him. Golden ‘Chhatras’ were also built on the Kaiserbagh Kothi, Kaiser Pasand and Lakhi Darwaza. The last remnant of this tradition may still be seen of the Kothi ‘Aiwan-e-Haider’ of Aminabad.
Chhatar Manzil is a magnificent palace depicting Indo-Italian architecture. It has an imposing Devan-e-Khas, a large number of chambers and many basements with access to strategic tunnels. In its original shape, this palace presented a magnificent view from across the river. However, now in absence of its domes and Mehrabs, much of its beauty has been lost.
Earlier, the two Chhatar Manzils and palaces adjoining them had a common boundary wall, which was destroyed in the battle with Havelock on 25th September 1857, In between the two Chhatar Manzils was a marble tank, which now lies buried beneath a highway.
Miss Eden, a well-known foreign tourist of that period has given a vivid description of this magnificent palace. She describes it as the most impressive palace she came across. The Chhatar Manzil reminded her of the Farhat Bagh Zubaida Begum in ‘Arabian Nights’ which was built as a parallel to the Tasvir Mahol of Khalifa, She was convinced that the concept of the famous ‘Garden of Delights’ of ‘Arabian Nights’ was derived from Chhatar Manzil. Miss Eden was deeply impressed amongst other things by the baradaris, canals, bathrooms, delicate ‘Chhataris’ (Canopies) built with marble and red stone, beautifully decorated flower beds and spreads of silky grass in the lawns of the Chhatar Manzil. The court of Badshah Ghazi-ud-Din Haider and this magnificent palace are vividly depicted in the paintings made by French and Belgian artists. Though described in history as a cynic, Ghazi-ud-Din Haider was a large-hearted person. He was very just and of helpful temperament. He had extended help in marriages to hundreds of girls by giving handsome dowries. There are interesting anecdotes on this aspect of his character. Once during a casual morning walk beside the river Gomati, he came across a poor widow and her young marriageable daughter in rags. He was shocked by their pitiable appearance and could hardly believe that in his capital of well-known affluence such helplessness also existed. On an inquiry he came to know that the poor widow was unable to marry her young daughter for want of resources. He immediately issued a decree for providing the widow with 500 ‘Asharfis’ from the royal treasury by nightfall. His Wazir (Prime Minister) Motm-ud-Daula Agamir, however, felt that this was too large a donation for the poor, but did not have enough courage to defy the Nawab’s order. In order to give a subtle hint to the Nawab, about the impropriety of the gift, he arranged to spread the five hundred golden coins on the threshold of Chhatar Manzil. The objective was to create a visual impact of the enormity of the donation. The Nawab, on the contrary, felt that this amount was too little for a marriage and asked his wazir to double the donation. This incident shows that in such matters, Ghazi-ud-Din Haider was guided more by his own instincts than the advice of his courtiers.
Chhatar Manzil had also had the distinction of serving as the ‘Harem’ of Nasir-ud-Din Haider’s favourite Begums. Amongst them were Malka Jamani and Kudasia Mahal. His other queens lived at the Daulat Sara-e-Sultani, at Husnabagh in the trans-Gomati area. The latter place is now occupied by the T.G. Hostel and the factory of Mohan Meakins Breweries.
Chhatar Manzil was provided with a large number of windows facing the river Gomati, because of which it was well-ventilated and comfortable during summers, Malka Kiswar, wife of Badshah Amjad Ali Shah and mother of Wajid Ali Shah too had lived here during the summers.
In the initial part of his life as ruler, Wajid Ali Shah did not have much interest in dance and music. he was then living at the Chhatar Manzil and was known to be a good administrator. Later, however, he was entrapped in the world of wine and women at his Kaiserbagh palace.
After the Mutiny, Chhatar Manzil was plundered by the British rulers, who clandestinely exported its entire priceless furniture, decorative articles and chandeliers to Europe and converted the palace into the United Services Club and a library.
The palace was flooded during a deluge of 13th September, 1894 and protective measures were undertaken for its safeguard.
On the 19th April, 1913, the foundation of Lodge Chhatar Manzil was laid by Sir James Meston. Since 1950, this building has been in charge of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and houses the Central Drug Research Institute. Thus, this historic palace, with its impressive architecture, has now been reduced to the status of a forlorn building. In 2014 this building was vacated by the Central Drug Research Institute and handed over to state archaeology for restoration to it glory thus is being restored presently.
Source : Monuments of Lucknow, Yogesh Praveen