Farah Bagh, Ahmednagar, MH - Amazing 16th century naturally air-conditioned palace of Shahi sultans

Farah Bagh  Ahmednagar, India dreamstime.com

Farah Bagh  Ahmednagar, India commons.wikimedia.org

Farah Bagh, also known as Faria Bagh, an attractive palace  with a fine ambiance was popular among the Shahi Sultans of Maharashtra. Built in 1583, sultan Murtaza Nizam Shah of the Ahmednagar sultanate liked it so much, he often visited this place to play chess with a Delhi singer and friend whom he called Fateh Shah, He  built  a separate mahal  for him  called Lakad Mahal in the garden.  The central eight-sided palace is now in in a poor state due to official apathy. A thirty feet high dome  (with a flat--roofed upper story)exists in the central hall. The monument has a diameter of about 250 feet which includes an outer platform running all around. 

Farah Bagh  Ahmednagar, India

Farah Bagh palace with its serene surroundings is architecturally so carefully planned and  designed, the interiors are always cool despite hot  outside temperature. Ahmednagar region, a part of the Deccan Plateau, being  hot  in the summer months it is difficult for the inhabitants  to stay comfortable because of radiation from  the ceiling, However, the inhabitants of  the 16th CE Farah Bagh palace stayed cool and comfortable in the summer period. How was it possible in a hot region of what is now Maharashtra state? The answer lies in building construction techniques and wall plastering!!

Farah Bagh  Ahmednagar, India dreamstime.com

Archaeologists, intrigued by the natural air-condition effect in the palace, undertook the study of  Farah Bagh, The study by the ASI and others revealed that  to stay indoors cool and comfortable the architect and masons  used  a unique lime mortar technique that would cut down the radiation and heat from outside  to keep indoors cool.

Farah Bagh  Ahmednagar, India miscellaneousbharat.com

The natural cooling technique kept  day temperatures low inside the building  from 8-12 degrees Celsius far much lower  than the outdoor  heat from 46 to 48 degrees Celsius normally common between March and June in this Deccan region, most of which is made of volcanic Basaltic rocks. 

Delhi-based National Museum Institute (NMI) of the History of Art, Conservation and Museology, and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Chennai, in 2019 carried  a detailed study of the material used in the palace’s construction and found out the riddle is in the ''porosity and permeability'' of the materials mixed in the plastering. In the summer heat, the moisture escaped slowly through the plaster, cooling the interiors.

The study concluded that  if 13-cm thick lime plaster (on outer and inner walls) is mixed with stone, fired pottery and brick pieces it may improve its permeability.  If Sand, jute fiber and dry paddy stem  are mixed, this blend increases  porosity, durability and flexibility, thus promoting the  absorption  of moisture from the surrounding water fountains. In the hot season, the escape of moisture slowly through the plaster promotes indoors cooling. ''The embedded potsherds provided mechanical strength to the plaster and helped in its survival.”. according to MR Singh, lead author and professor, department of conservation, NMI. The high percentage of air pores in the plaster mix also promoted the diffusion of moisture from the underlying building materials. 

The other facts are location of the building, its design and surrounding place with trees, water  body, pools, etc., which may shape up the temperature. The octagonal palace is flanked by gardens with pools and trees,  lake, forests and a shallow pond for bathing. The Bhingar aqueduct used to feed the pond around the palace which was about seventeen feet deep and 150 feet wide. All these played a role in reducing the temperature inside the palace. 

Researchers are of the opinion  the unique construction technique used in Farah Bagh is rare, unlike palaces in India that used natural wind to cool indoors.  Thus Farah Bagh is a fine example of this ingenious technology to keep interiors of the buildings cool centuries ago and the ASI and the state agency must put in serious efforts to save this building so that it will be useful to the young construction engineers. No conservation measures have been undertaken to restore and protect the monument,” lamented M.R. Singh.

The construction work took a while owing to disagreement in design plan, The building was redesigned and built  under  the famous building designer  Salabat II who finally  completed it in 1583


The study ‘Architectural features and characterisation of 16th century Indian Monument Farah Bagh, Ahmed Nagar, India’, was published in the International Journal of Architectural Heritage on May 8.