Mukhi House was built in 1920 by the patriarch of the family Jethanand Mukhi as a palace and family home in which resided 27 of his heirs.
By Dr. Saba Noor
It is difficult to believe that the city of Hyderabad once boasted architectural masterpieces, which were homes of some of British India’s more wealthy and influential individuals. Such sites have been forgotten as the city expanded and became commercialized. But thanks to local efforts and government support, these historical sites with a rich history have now begun to reach the public. Mukhi House (also called ‘Mukhi Palace’), is one such place.
The Mukhi House was once the home of the Mukhis, a wealthy Sindhi Hindu family who resided in Hyderabad. It was built in 1920 by the patriarch of the family Jethanand Mukhi as a palace and family home in which resided 27 of his heirs. After his death in 1927, the house was passed on to his brother Gobindarm Mukhi. The Mukhi heirs who once lived in the Palace remember the place as a vibrant and bustling home for a large family.
The family stayed in the palace until Partition, when threats to the family forced them to migrate to India, and they gradually dispersed to different parts of the world. The last family member to leave Mukhi House was in 1957, leaving behind countless memories and precious valuables. Despite its beauty and fascinating history Mukhi House remains unfamiliar to many, primarily due to its location in the narrow streets of Pakka Qila Road, amidst the congested, older areas of Hyderabad.
During the 1980’s ethnic riots, it was almost burnt down completely, and had to be occupied by law enforcing agencies to save its structure from vandals and encroachers.
Mukhi House exchanged hands several times after Partition, which came at the expense of the building’s integrity. Initially, it came into the possession of the Evacuee Trust Property Board and then the rangers occupied it, taking out several of its wooden foundation for firewood. Several years later, Mukhi House was turned into a government school called ‘Khadija Girls School’, and then used as a resettlement office for new immigrants following the 1971 war. During the 1980’s ethnic riots, it was almost burnt down completely, and had to be occupied by law enforcing agencies to save its structure from vandals and encroachers.
After many court settlements and lawsuits, the school was relocated, and conservation work began in 2009 by the Antiquities Department of Sindh. Mukhi Gobindram’s children gave the government their blessing to take over the property, only on the condition that it would be a museum for the public, and would not be used for any private purposes.
After permission was granted, the department set up a reunion of Mukhi family members to learn about the interior design of the house, as well as the lifestyle of its residences. The conservation program was held under the supervision of Dr. Kaleem Lashari and a team of Benazir Bhutto Youth Support Program members. They not only interviewed the family, but also looked through the archives and recreated the original artwork.
Architecturally, Mukhi Palace stands as a remarkable feat of its era’s most popular architectural styles. It is a two story building with four narrow but elegant entrance gates, which lead to a vast indoor space. There are several bedrooms, two courtyards, two spacious halls, and a library with a very rare collection of books on the city’s history. The architectural style is a wonderful combination of Renaissance structures with Art Deco and Art Nouveau motifs.
The floor work is from Jodhpur, India, and the wooden doors and large windows are all made of Sheesham and Sagwam Wood. The geometric, fresco-like stonework was done by the Salawati community in Jaipur, and it is called ‘chitsali’. Additionally, the intricate glasswork and the printed walls further enhance the beauty and mystery of this place. One can imagine the lavish parties and important gatherings which took place here during the height of Hyderabad’s grandeur.
Though the palace stands out for its architecture, it was largely built in accordance with the traditional homes of Hyderabad at that time. Local furniture, rifles, pottery and photographs have been displayed on the ground floor of the museum. It is evident from the family photographs, that the Mukhi family and their home had all the elite utilities of the time.
Pictures on the wall also depict the grand and lavish lifestyle of the Mukhi Palace. As a prestigious family, the Mukhis were considered among the richest people in Hyderabad, who were active both socially and politically. Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was a family friend of the Mukhis, as shown by the photographs. But, this is also balanced by the warmth and intimacy found in family portraits. The focus of most of these pictures seems to be Dharam Mukhi, the beautiful daughter of Gobindarm Mukhi who is adorned with the best clothes and jewels of the time.
In January 2020, Mukhi House was officially declared a museum. Anyone who knows about the Hazrat Mohini District’s Central Library must be familiar with the location of Mukhi House, as the library stands just opposite to the main entrance of Mukhi House. Since the onset of the pandemic, Mukhi House has been closed to the public. But despite being closed, the museum is well organized and carefully looked after by its director and staff.
Mukhi House will remain open to those who are interested in the city’s history and key figures. Many locals of Hyderabad are not familiar with this remarkable, aesthetically pleasing and historically significant building. However, as more people learn about this remarkable place, they may be inclined to visit the historic city of Hyderabad and discover the hidden gems that tell the story of the city’s past.
Courtesy: Youlin Magazine (Posted on July 06, 2021)