From Koti to Washington
It was the late 18th century, the Deccan state of Hyderabad is in Subsidiary Alliance with the Raj and one of its most faithful ally. The Raj had appointed an ambassador to Hyderabad, called the Resident, who would represent the Company’s interests and be the head of the diplomacy in Hyderabad. To house the Resident, a neo-classical Palladian mansion, known as the Residency, was built at Chadarghat on the northern banks of Musi as a seat of the British Residents close to the Nizam’s seat of power in Khilwat. It was completed in 1798 and was paid for by the Nizam. James Achilles Kirkpatrick, a controversial figure, was the Resident at the time of the completion of the Residency.
While the Residency is infamous for the scandalous love affair of James Achilles Kirkpatrick and Khairunnisa, many seem to be unfamiliar with the Residency’s relation to the White House in Washington DC, completed in the year 1800.
The White House and the Residency have great similarities, both were built for the same purpose, as the seat of power. Both of them came up in the same period, but the Residency was completed before the White House. Architecturally, both mansions appear to be the same. The layout of both buildings is the same but the Residency features additional features like the Zenana Gardens, the Formal Mall, the Sphinx and the Italian Garden. Both buildings have an Oval Office, Corinthian columns, the semi-circular southern portico and the grand central hall, known as the Durbar Hall in the Residency. Additionally, the Residency was fortified with lofty gateways on either end of the compound. The southern empress gate overlooked the Musi and the walled city of Hyderabad. The Residency was designed by Samuel Russel.
Similarities in spatial arrangement:
Keeping the similarities aside, the Residency is larger than the White House in scale. Yes, the Residency beats America's seat of power in grandeur. The White House may enjoy widespread recognition currently but the Residency was also the most important building to the north of Musi for a significant period of time. The Residency was abandoned post-1947 and lost its glory momentarily. It was then turned into a women's college under the Osmania University in 1949. While the White House is definitely one of the most important, secure and most looked after building, the Residency fell into decay. Efforts are on to conserve the structure and renovation works are being carried out currently at the Residency.
A scaled model of the Residency was built before the construction of the actual one and it sits in the Residency grounds still. It was severely damaged by tree falls but is now restored to its original condition.
The Residency is currently off-limits for visitors as it is a part of the Koti Women's College, however, one can visit through guided heritage walks that are conducted here by various organisations. Willaim Dalrymple's book 'The White Mughals' talks about the political scenario of the British and the Hyderabad and the story around the Residency.
Remember, it was first Koti, then Washington.
The Residency is a symbol of Hyderabad's Imperial past and our shared heritage which must be highlighted and embraced.