The Living Ghosts of Malcha Mahal 

A genuine Riches to Rags Story or a fictional story. Read to give your opinion... by Ashu Verma Chaubey

September 3, 2017, onwards Malcha Mahal, an abandoned Estate surrounded by the thick forests of Delhi Ridge, which was till then guarded by ferocious canines who would attack any trespasser, even if he would be a forest guard, has started getting visitors.

The list includes foreign tourists and journalists, local people, vagabonds, ghost hunters, etc., etc. Some are driven to it by sheer curiosity, some use it as a hideout for antisocial activities and some go there in search of some kind of paranormal energies.

How could a family survive in such conditions is a question which usually all the visitors must be having in their mind after visiting this place?

This palace has its own story for each one of its visitors.

It came to be known as Wilayat Mahal after the government gave it to Begum Wilayat Mahal of Awadh in May 1985. Since then, this family of three had been residing here, keeping the palace out of bounds for unsolicited guests, for decades.

After dwelling at the Delhi railway station for a decade, along with seven servants and some brutal hounds, Begum Wilayat Mahal acquired this palace in lieu of her ancestral properties seized by the British administration way back in 1856.

Although the government initially offered them modern accommodation, but they refused and later settled for this Palace. She then along with her daughter Princess Shakina, Son Prince Ali Raza and some servants occupied this Palace.

It was no Palace in its existence but just a ruined overgrown hunting lodge without any doors or windows and without electricity and water connections. It was nowhere close to even being called a home.

People still wonder how this family lived here for so long. But the reality is that it housed a royal family for decades till September 2, 2017, when the last residing prince died.

Begum Wilayat decided to stay here. Once she owned the place she hung a metal sign “Entry restricted. Cautious of the hound dogs. Proclamation: Intruders shall be gunned down.”

While alive, the family decorated their house with artefacts resembling nobility, complete with Persian carpets and portraits displaying royalty that they had carried along with them. Their food would be served in fine porcelain crockery they inherited, by their servants.

Prince Ali Raza who was a product of his eccentric mother, spent his entire life here along with his mother Wilayat Mahal and sister Shakina who were the self-proclaimed descendants of the royal family of Oudh and refused to vacate this 14th-century hunting lodge until the government returned them their property.

They lived in Royal seclusion forever and died the same way. Begum Wilayat Mahal died by committing suicide by drinking a concoction of powder of her family diamonds in September 1993.

Her children unsuccessfully embalmed her body themselves and later buried her a year after. Princess Shakina Mahal also passed away later in 2013.

With the passage of time, the sounds of the bloodhounds also vanished. The rain seeped in through the roofs, the jackals hounded in the woods.

Although he kept complaining to some of the foreign journalists about the injustice his family had suffered, this unshakable terribly lonely prince lived all his life looking back at his Royal past, the repercussions of which are quite obvious to society.

In September 2017, the Prince was rumoured to have died of starvation.

Later on, days after his death, he was buried at the Delhi Gate graveyard, after no one came to claim his body.

A bonfire still exists exactly in the centre of one of the rooms along with some marks of vermillion on the adjacent walls. No one knows for sure if all this was there when they lived or is a part of occult practices taking place, due to the place becoming deserted after the family deceased.

One of the few people, Prince Ali Raza, better known as Cyrus to a few people whom he befriended, was the journalist, Ellen Barry, Former South Asia Bureau Chief in New Delhi. She explained in her article, how every few years they would allow a foreign journalist to interview them and speak about their grievances against the state.

Her friendship with Cyrus lasted around fifteen months and during this time he was always evasive about his family and always talked about his sister as if she was alive.

Later on, he broke out the truth to her and asked her not to talk to him again although the talks regained after a short interval. She illustrates how even after his mother’s death he used to keep a glass of water for her on the dining table, which she found lying on the table when she visited the place a month after his death. The glass had accumulated a lot of algae.

In both life and death, he did not betray his family. He lived and died always looking at his past.

Although all through their life this family claimed to be the descendants of the royal family but their stakes are a subject of controversy by the actual lineage. It is also said that the Begum had become bizarre and had self-proclaimed herself as the queen of Awadh. Some people also say that she suffered from hallucinations. They all, along with her were so convincing that people believed in them for over forty years.

In fact, in November 2019 journalist Ellen Barry published an article in The New York Times that the family had no royal connection and were, in fact, the descendants of the former Registrar of the Lucknow University.

Their reclusive lifestyle has inspired much awe. They gave interviews, but mostly to foreign journalists.

Their complaint had always been that the government was blind, not to be touched by their apathy yet their aversion to the common man forced them to lead their life of deprivation and die in solitude.

Now that the Royal’s are gone, they have no ownership on this Palace and it is free for all.

Is it not nature’s irony that the strictly guarded Palace was ransacked after losing its dwellers of solitude and now has been added to the list of haunted places in Delhi.

Whether this is a genuine Riches to Rags Story or a fictional story carved by those residents who are no more, no one knows for sure. They have carried the truth to their graves.

Have the paranormal experts succeeded in finding out the reality of the Ghosts of Malcha Mahal ( whether it’s their ghost or there were some of these residents occupying the place before the family arrived and stayed there as co-inhabitants ) I do not know?

But there’s just one thing that disturbs my thought process


Would they have ever realised during their lifetime or on their deathbed for that matter, that life was meant to move ahead and not about looking backward always?????

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