A fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture, Khalsa Mahal was one of the two structures that formed the core of the palace, which was taken over by the British in 1859.

A piece of history was lost when a major portion of the 244-year old Khalsa Mahal, the earliest example of Indo-Saracenic architecture, was damaged in a fire accident. Located inside the Chepauk Palace, it formed the core of the palace that was once home to the Nawabs of Arcot. The last such incident in this complex was in the Ezhilagam building in June 2010 when a fire broke out on its third floor.

The Palace complex, spread over 117 acres, consisted of a variety of buildings, many water bodies and gardens. The two distinctive blocks, the single-storey Humayun Mahal on the northern side and the Khalsa Mahal on the southern side were linked together by a tower designed by Robert Chisholm, the renowned British architect. It is believed that Paul Benfield, the East India Company engineer and contractor, designed these buildings and construction was completed during the later half of 1760’s.

In 1859, the buildings were modified to accommodate public offices after the British took over the palace. “The Khalsa Mahal was originally knows as Khalas Mahal to indicate the small dome on top of the structure. It was used as the women’s quarters and the private quarters while the Humayun Mahal was the durbar hall, about the structure that currently houses the offices of the Directorates of Social Welfare and that of Industries and Commerce.

The State government in the 1960s added to the existing structures by constructing the Ezhilagam building at the north-eastern corner of the plot to accommodate more government offices and the campus takes its name from this building. Many more buildings have been added in an ad-hoc manner.

Source: The Hindu

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