The Rashtrapati Nilayam is a magnificent ensemble of attractions
One of the three Presidential retreats in India (Delhi and Shimla being the other two) and the only one in southern India, the Rashtrapati Nilayam in Bolarum, Secunderabad opened its doors to the general public earlier this year, much to the delight of history enthusiasts and avid botanists.
Previously known as the Residency, the Rashtrapati Nilayam has been the host to several past Presidents including, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Pratibha Patil, Ramnath Kovind and the current President Droupadi Murmu. Built in 1860 by the Nizams of Hyderabad, the Rashtrapati Nilayam oscillated between the Nizams, the Britishers and was finally given to the government of India upon Hyderabad’s accession. Interestingly, this retreat is also the place where the Indian tricolor was ceremonially unfurled on September 17, 1948, after the Nizam’s army yielded to the Indian forces.
Sprawled across 92 acres, the Nilayam is a splendid collective of attractions starting with the 163-year-old single-storey main building built entirely of limestone. This white mansion is divided into three wings – the Presidential wing, the family wing and the Aide-De-Camp or the ADC’s wing. The mansion includes a conference hall, a state dining hall, a morning room, the Durbar Hall and the ADC’s quarters. To curb staff interference, noise and ensure there are no untoward additions to the food, the kitchen is connected to the dining hall through a secret 50 feet-long underground tunnel that ferries VIP meals from the kitchen to the dining hall. This tunnel is adorned with colorful masks and discourses rendered through GI-tagged Cheriyal art. The next attraction is a Knowledge Gallery replete with historical depictions and tales of yore. The rest of this rambling property is home to theme-based landscaped gardens such as the Nakshatra Garden based on the navgrahas (nine planets) and Vedic astrology. The Herbal Garden is home to 116 types of medicinal and aromatic plants, out of which a few important plants are kalabandha, sarpagandha, lemongrass, citronella, jasmine, tulsi, kalmegh, etc.
Earlier, the Rashtrapati Nilayam used to be open for visitors for a few days a year, but now for a ticket of Rs 50 that can either be booked online at https://visit.rashtrapatibhavan.gov.in/visit/rashtrapati-nilayam-hyderabad/p2 or at the Nilayam itself, visitors can view the attractions all year round.
Location: Headquarters. Telangana Andhra Sub Area (TASA), Sai Colony, Bolarum, Secunderabad
Booking slots are open from 9 am to 4 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Please carry your water if you’re particular about it and an umbrella if you intend to walk around the Nilayam on a sunny day. Photography is not permitted everywhere for security reasons.
(There’s an e-cart vehicle facility for senior citizens, people with disabilities and pregnant women, our friendly e-cart driver Rama Rao tells us as he drops us off at the exit ending our wonderful hour-and-a-half tour of this historic property).