Most of India's best-known palaces are named after the cities or towns where they stand. This one's a different one: Murshidabad's Hazarduari Palace, named after the number of doors it has. Which, considering the fact that it's called `Hazarduari', should strictly speaking be thousand (`hazar' being thousand, and `duar' being door), but is actually just nine hundered are real doors with the rest being false. This, incidentally, is not the only reason to visit this stunning palace- you can, if you wish, spend your entire day counting each door, but do set aside a few hours to admire the amazing museum that is a part of the palace!
The Hazarduari Palace in Murshidabad (West Bengal) was designed in 1837 by General Duncan McLeod of the Bengal Engineers for Murshidabad's Nawab Najim Humayun Jah. An imposing three-storied rectangular building, it lies amidst sprawling gardens (covering a total of 41 acres) and is a fairly unblemished example of Italian-style architecture.
The palace consists of 8 galleries and 114 rooms, with a colonnaded façade, a domed tower, high windows, beautifully ornate pillars and more, all of it a befitting venue for the Nawab's durbar, which was held here. The Hazarduari was also used as a residence by the Nawabs and by high-ranking British officials.
Much of the palace is now a museum, which contains an impressive array of memorabilia from the days of the British Raj. The collection on the first floor and the ground floor is a merry mishmash of artefacts, from marble statues to oil paintings, crystal chandeliers, ivory and teak furniture, fossils, stuffed animals and other belongings dating back to the time of the Nawabs of Murshidabad. Spread across the Dining Room, the Landscape Gallery, the British Gallery, the Nawab Gallery, the Dewan Gallery, the Prince Gallery, the Committee Room, the Durbar Hall and about half-a-dozen other areas, the museum's display includes some truly interesting items, a cannon used at the fateful Battle of Plassey, royal thrones, howdahs of silver and ivory, palanquins, phaetons and even two cars, purchased way back in 1914.
The second floor of the Hazarduari Palace houses an equally (if not more) interesting collection of about 12,000 books and 3,000 manuscripts, in Persian, English, Arabic and Urdu. The Nawabs may or may not have been of a literary bent of mind, but their library certainly is well stocked. Wander through, and you'll see examples of some of India's most priceless manuscripts, such as the original Ain-e-Akbari and the Akbarnama, written by Akbar's court historian Abul Fazal; a copy of the Holy Koran penned by the emperor Aurangzeb and another, weighing close to 20 kg and measuring around 4' x 3', written by the famous Haroon-al-Rashid, the caliph of Baghdad.