Wednesday, October 1, 1997

The Story of Bella Vista

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad : 29

The Story of Bella Vista
by Narendra Luther

On the junction of the roads leading to Raj Bhavan and to Punjagutta is a stately building called ‘Bella Vista’. It houses the Administrative Staff College of India. It has a very interesting and chequered history and has seen many changes in its life of over 9 decades.

It was built in 1905 by Muslehuddin Mohammed, Bar-at-law who rose to be the Chief Justice of the High Court of Hyderabad. He was given the title of Hakim-ud-dowla. The building had no columns. it stood on walls which were 2 feet thick. Hakim-ud-dowla lived in Bella Vista from 1905 to 1914 when he died due to plague at the age of about 57. Incidentally, he was the cousin (father’s sister’s son) of Sir Nizamat Jung who built the Hill Fort Palace which till recently was the Ritz Hotel. It is also a co-incidence that the Prince of Berar, the elder son of the Nizam VII lived in ‘Bella Vista’, while the junior prince came to live in the Hill Fort Palace after they were sold by the original builders.

In the compound of ‘Bella Vista’ another smaller house was built for the younger brother of Hakim-ud-dowla, Jalaaluddin Sad Jung, Bar-at-law. On his death in 1916 the family decided to sell the mansion. The Nizam bought it with furniture in 1917 for Rs. 60,000 The original cost of the construction was Rs.45,000.

The building was occupied by Sir Ali Imam who became the Prime Minister of Hyderabad in 1919. He used the building next door now known as the ‘Lake View’ guest house as his office. On the departure of Sir Ali Imam from Hyderabad in 1922. The building was renovated and made the official residence of the Prince of Berar in his capacity as the commander- in- chief of the State armed forces.

During his occupation lasting more than two decades, night was day and day was night. Revelries lasted throughout the night and as the sun rose the principal occupant and his protégés retired to their beds.

The Prince was married to Durreshawar who was the only child of the deposed Caliph of Turkey. She was one of the most beautiful women of her times. The marriage didn’t work and she moved to England where she still stays visiting Hyderabad occasionally.

The Prince of Berar had a monthly allowance of Rs.25,000 and lived such a lavish life that he could not manage within that amount. He therefore incurred debts from all and sundry. Very often he would give a promissory note for Rs.30,000 when he actually took Rs.10,000 which he urgently needed. These notes were preserved carefully by the creditors and at one time the Nizam cleared the debts of the two princes which reportedly amounted to about 4.5 crores of rupees.

The site at which the A.P.State Electricity Board is located was used as the stables of the Prince of Berar.

‘Bella Vista’ swarmed with womens of all types. At one time the Nizam became so disgusted with them that he issued a firman ordering them to quit and set up a committee to settle their claims.

The Prince of Berar also was keen to succeed to the gaddi of Hyderabad and felt frustrated that whereas his father had become Nizam at the age of 25, he going on 50 was still waiting. He therefore organized black magic and secret prayers and mannats seeking the early demise of the Nizam. One Moulana Abdul Qadeer Badayuni was sent every year for a special prayers to Baghdad. His ADC was sent to all the holy Muslim places in India with the same objective.

The news reached and upset the Nizam. In 1964 the Nizam was taken seriously ill. The Prince wrote to the Government of India asking them to declare him the Nizam. This was the last straw and the Nizam decided to supersede him as his successor nominating instead his grandson, Prince Mukarram Jah as his heir. This naturally created hostility between the father and the son and they never spoke to each other.

On the integration of the state with India in 1948 the Prince ceased to be the commander-in-chief of the State Forces and so he had to vacate his official residence. The mansion was then converted into the State Guest House. I have stayed in the luxurious guest house at a very nominal cost. The staff had very juicy stories to tell the guests.

In 1955 it was decided to establish the Administrative Staff College of India. The state government then sold the building for 10 lakhs rupees to be paid in 10 annual installments. General S.M. Srinagesh who had retired as Chief of Army Staff in 1957 was appointed the first principal of the college. The building had to be subjected to considerable changes to be converted from a palace to a college. The ball room was converted into dinning hall and the drawing room into a lecture hall. The college was run on military lines by the first principal but later on the discipline softened under civilian and academic principals. Amongst the recreational facilities for the participants there was also a bar and the joke was that the college was attached to a bar.

The College, started in 1957 has grown from strength to strength and has had nine principals so far. In 1996 it had a faculty of 50 out of which 7 are women. It trains India’s senior managers both in the public and the private sector. It has also organized high level ‘retreats’ for central and state ministers and senior civil servants. It is interesting to see how the career of a building like that of a human being has undergone so many changes in a span of nine decades.

There are numerous legends and anecdotes associated with this building, which can be read in my small book : ‘The Nizam Who Wasn’t’.


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