HYDERABAD: Thousands of Hyderabadis made full use of their treasured weekend, making a beeline to the Rashtrapati Nilayam which has been thrown open to the public for the second time in as many years. According to the office of the President's estate division, around 6,300 people visited the estate during the weekend.
For GK Balakrishna, a resident of Secunderabad, it was the most wonderful experience of his life. “I have heard of this place many times, but this is the first time I have actually seen it," a visibly elated Balakrishna said.
However, a good number of visitors returned disappointed as the authorities refused to allow them inside the building. Rajesh Kumar, a resident of Begumpet, said, “I thought we would be allowed inside the building but they refused.”
The most interesting feature of the building, according to most of the visitors like him, is the underground tunnel that connects the dining hall in the main building to a kitchen a few metres away. Speaking to City Express, Mahesh Babu, junior engineer and in-charge of RP Nilayam,
said, “This time, we have arranged the place as it is for the public, the way it was arranged for the President's stay”. President Pratibha Patil stayed at the Nilayam for 11 days from Dec 25 to Jan 4. Stating that it was the President's vision that led to the opening of the Nilayam for the general public, Mahesh Babu expressed the hope that the tradition would continue in the future as well.
Rashtrapati Nilayam is the President's winter camp. The 150-year-old building, constructed during the tenure of Nizam Nazir-ud-Dowla, was the residence of the Nizam's chief military officer before independence. The main building in the compound of around 90 acres, has three wings and looks like a scorpion if one takes an aerial view of it.
Some visitors like 23-year-old Suresh wanted to watch the historical flagpost/weather vane post that is associated with the accession of Hyderabad to the Union of India in 1948. The 150 ft tall wooden post, which was set up in 1867, had lost its sheen and since it posed a threat to the building, it was removed in February last year. It is however preserved in one of the store rooms.
The herbal garden, developed a couple of years ago to create awareness about the rich indigenous heritage of India's medical science, has about 116 varieties of plants like Sarpagandha, Kalabandha, Citrnella, Lemon grass, Khus, Geranium, Coriander, Sandalwood, Tuber rose, Jasmine, Kalmegh, Tulsi and Isbgol.
The Rashtrapati Nilayam campus has about 4500 different types of fruit plants like Mango, Sapota, Pomegranate, Guava, Amla, Coconut etc, in individual farm lands spread over 35 acres. “We do not have fruits growing as of now. Later on, the President's secretariat will have to decide what is to be done with the produce here,” estate in-charge Mahesh Babu said.