In Photos: The ‘Danse Macabre’ in Malcha Mahal
Although the lodge was in shambles, the dining area was stocked up with royal cutlery.
Although the lodge was in shambles, the dining area was stocked up with royal cutlery.(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)

In Photos: The ‘Danse Macabre’ in Malcha Mahal

The material things we collect over the course of our lives, often outlive us, perhaps to tell the world about the stories that we leave behind. After “Prince” Ali Raza – believed to be the last descendent of the royal family of Awadh – was found dead in the first week of November, the 14th century lodge he spent most of his life in, and the items stored within became the keepers of a sordid tale.

Consumed by the forest of the central ridge in Delhi, the reclusive Malcha Mahal bore a semblance to its erstwhile occupants — Begum Wilayat Mahal and her children, Sakina and Ali. The unkept royal setting echoed memories of the characters who lived like ghosts, unable to come to terms with the present.

As media houses ransacked the vestigial flicker of the family’s history in search of a dramatic story, their lives were laid out in the open for all to see. Through letters, books, and magazine subscriptions, in neatly stacked tea sets and dog vaccination cards — all of it reflected a danse macabre, that embodies the eerie setting of Malcha Mahal.

Begum Wilayat Mahal, the self-proclaimed grand daughter of the last Nawab of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah, spent most of her life writing to the Government of India, asking that she be allotted a palace.

After Begum Wilayat Mahal’s death, the servants that accompanied the family began to leave. The family’s pack of dogs began to die one after another. Things quickly fell apart like a pack of dominoes.
After Begum Wilayat Mahal’s death, the servants that accompanied the family began to leave. The family’s pack of dogs began to die one after another. Things quickly fell apart like a pack of dominoes.
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)

She never had a palatial residence, but settled for a hunting lodge built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq – who ruled over the Sultanate of Delhi. It was here that she committed suicide in 1993.

Prince Ali’s library membership card and a copy of <i>Anna Karenina,</i> with a handwritten note addressed to Princess Wilayat.
Prince Ali’s library membership card and a copy of Anna Karenina, with a handwritten note addressed to Princess Wilayat.
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
When did Princess Sakina die? How did she die? No one knows.&nbsp;
When did Princess Sakina die? How did she die? No one knows. 
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
Hand-written notes and a CD case of Vladimir Ashkenazy’s <i>Romeo &amp; Juliet.</i>
Hand-written notes and a CD case of Vladimir Ashkenazy’s Romeo & Juliet.
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
Prince Ali  wasn’t exactly a people’s person. But after his sister Sakina’s death, he retreated further into himself.&nbsp;
Prince Ali wasn’t exactly a people’s person. But after his sister Sakina’s death, he retreated further into himself. 
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
How many meal times have these items of cutlery seen? &nbsp;
How many meal times have these items of cutlery seen?  
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
A neatly stacked tea set makes for a peculiar sight amid the disarray that is Malcha Mahal.
A neatly stacked tea set makes for a peculiar sight amid the disarray that is Malcha Mahal.
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
Although the house was in shambles, the dining area was well stocked with expensive-looking cutlery.
Although the house was in shambles, the dining area was well stocked with expensive-looking cutlery.
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
A photograph of Begum Wilayat with one of her mastiffs. When she first arrived in Delhi, she brought with her around 12 dogs.
A photograph of Begum Wilayat with one of her mastiffs. When she first arrived in Delhi, she brought with her around 12 dogs.
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
A  biography, purportedly hand-written by Sakina.
A biography, purportedly hand-written by Sakina.
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
Hidden in the forests of Delhi, Malcha Mahal had no electricity or water supply; Visitors were unwelcome, making it inaccessible in every possible manner.&nbsp;
Hidden in the forests of Delhi, Malcha Mahal had no electricity or water supply; Visitors were unwelcome, making it inaccessible in every possible manner. 
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
An old radio among the miscellaneous objects in Malcha Mahal’s courtyard.
An old radio among the miscellaneous objects in Malcha Mahal’s courtyard.
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
Ironically enough, the family lived in the lodge without any electricity.
Ironically enough, the family lived in the lodge without any electricity.
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)
A letter addressed to Ali, appreciating his art, lies next to a crate full of old paint.
A letter addressed to Ali, appreciating his art, lies next to a crate full of old paint.
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)

With the bloodline coming to an abrupt halt, ideally the lodge belongs to the Archaelogical Survey of India who should take up the responsibility of preserving the items of historical interest and most importantly restoring the building.

The death of Ali Raza has attracted reporters and visitors from all over the city who have unchecked access, making the ancient monument a prey to possible vandalism.

Heritage buff Sohail Hashmi who is an expert on all things ancient in Delhi said, “I’m against the idea of the government giving a heritage building as compensation whatever the reason maybe. Ideally, the Archaeological Survey of India should restore it but the government will only do so if it is of national importance. If a highway has to be built around Humayun’s Tomb, it’ll rise to the level of national importance,” he pauses, “But as far as the Indian government is concerned, nothing has happened in the past few hundred years.”
Old letters addressed to the royal family.&nbsp;
Old letters addressed to the royal family. 
(Photo: Shorbori Purkayastha/The Quint)

360 View: What’s Inside Malcha Mahal?

(Photo: Prashant Sharma/The Quint)

(Photo: Prashant Sharma/The Quint)

(Photo: Prashant Sharma/The Quint)

(Photo: Prashant Sharma/The Quint)

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