Delhi’s Malcha Mahal: A Royal Mess of Myths and Lies
Begum Wilayat Mahal, the self-proclaimed granddaughter of the last Nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah, spent most of her life writing to the Government of India asking for a palace to be allotted to her. 
Begum Wilayat Mahal, the self-proclaimed granddaughter of the last Nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah, spent most of her life writing to the Government of India asking for a palace to be allotted to her. (Photo: The Quint)

Delhi’s Malcha Mahal: A Royal Mess of Myths and Lies

In the early ‘70s in Delhi, a woman, appearing as though out of nowhere, declared herself Begum of Awadh.

She came with an entourage of servants, about 15 hounds, and her two children – Princess Sakina and Prince Cyrus – demanding a befitting palace for the royal family.

Eight years later, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi accepted her claim of having been wronged, and Begum of Awadh was allotted a palace – Malcha Mahal.

Also Read : In Photos: The ‘Danse Macabre’ in Malcha Mahal

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If the name is suggestive of grandeur, the ‘palace’ is utterly devoid of it – Malcha Mahal isn’t exactly a palace but a 14 Century hunting lodge, made of stone, and tucked away in the middle of a forest in central Delhi.

After the family was allotted the ‘palace’, the royal family, especially the Begum, became ensconced in mystery. The reclusive family, living at the heart of civilisation yet so cut off from it, lived in Malcha Mahal, unkempt and in abject poverty – like ghosts. Prince Cyrus was the last to pass away, in 2017. And that’s when the plot thickened – the royal descendants of Awadh weren’t, in fact, royalty!

Journalists, gnawed by the feeling that something about the royal family was amiss, had been trying to get to the bottom of their story quite unsuccessfully for decades, until recently, when Ellen Barry, a New York Times’ journalist, unravelled the mystery.

In this podcast, journalists recount their visits to Malcha Mahal and their encounters with ‘Prince’ Cyrus. Tune in!

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