I could never get tired of exploring the heritage of India. The numerous stories, anecdotes and myths associated with all such figures and buildings in question make it even more desirable for me to find out the truth behind them and watch them with my own curious eyes. Of all, the palaces intrigue me the most. As soon as I enter any such palace, I begin to imagine stories behind it. The lives of the kings and the queens and numerous other royal people associated with such grand and spectacular architectures visually come alive before me. While walking down through the long passages and corridors of such royal palaces, I imagine the kings and queens of bygone era who once had walked pompously in these very corridors.
One of my trips last month was to one of the royal palaces of Jaipur, The Ram Bagh Palace, maintained by The Taj Hotels so renamed as, The Taj Rambagh Palace, Jaipur. The site was once the palatial home to the erstwhile royal couple, Maharaja Man Singh II and his third and the most beautiful wife, Maharani Gayatri Devi of Kooch Behar.
The Palace is spread in the sprawling area of 47 acres and has 78 suites and rooms in all and I was told by an escorting staff member that no two rooms are alike when it comes to textures, drapes, chandeliers, or any embellishment making each one of them a unique entity in its own.
Though I was unable to see all those luxury rooms because of time constraints, but I was quite smitten by the grand royal suit named after the Maharani herself and once her private chambers. The suite has a separate living area and a bedroom adorned with richly textured furnishings and French windows facing the garden. The suite is decked with the charismatic Gayatri Devi’s huge photo frame that reminds one of the woman with ethereal beauty and elegance. The suite serves as the personalia of the Maharani herself no matter whether it occasionally witnesses the guests within its royal environs.
It is a known fact that the Maharani was none like the conventional Rajputana royal women of her time. She was a well educated royal princess who loved horse riding and was an accomplished polo player much like her husband, the Maharaja.
Unparalleled Architectural Magnificence: A Historical Overview
The palace sits grandly on the Bhawani Singh Road, 5 kms outside the city walls. The Palace has long been maintained by the Taj Hotels and is running successfully as one of the most expensive hotels of India. But before it was up and running as a luxury hotel, the site of the Ram Bagh was a humble building constructed for Kesar Badaran, wet nurse of infant Ram Singh II, who ascended to the throne of Jaipur in 1835, when he was merely 16 months old, after the death of his father, the then king, Maharaja Jai Singh III. Thereafter, the site saw an architectural change in year 1887, when the next ruler, Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II, the adopted heir of Ram Singh II, converted the site into a modest hunting lodge because of its pristine forest locale.
The palace saw yet another transformation in year 1905 when Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II designated Samuel Swinton Jacob, an honored British army officer and also an impeccable architect, designed and remodeled the site to add a ‘royal playground with squash and tennis court, a polo field and an indoor swimming pool’ to its premises along with many bedrooms, drawing rooms, a dining room, and a reading room, verandas and new guest quarters.
Later the palace saw the reign of Maharaja Man Singh II, yet again an adopted son and heir to the throne after the death of Madho Singh II. At a tender age of 11, Sawai Man Singh II became the ruler of Jaipur (1922-1949), and the last one to do so, after the state acceded to the dominion of India. The Maharaja made the Ram Bagh his residence in 1925 after he married Maharani Gayatri Devi of Kooch Behar, his third and most beloved wife. The maharaja then had the palace renovated for his new bride and has her quarters designed by the Hammonds of London. But soon after India got independence, the privy purse of all maharajas and princely states was limited by the Government of India and thus it became difficult to maintain the cost of such a huge and magnificent building serving only as a royal accommodation for the couple.
The Maharaja then, ahead of his time, decided to convert the Rambagh Palace into a luxury hotel in 1957 run by the royal family itself. The Palace was expanded in 1968 but later on The Taj Hotels took it under its management in 1972 and since then the luxury hotel cum palace has been successfully running under the aegis of the Taj Group.
The entry into the palace itself is none less charismatic and royal. We find the guards decked up in tradition Indian red Pagri(head gear), black button-down long jacket with fitted pants underneath, and boots. The guards would welcome you with traditional ‘namastey’ and adding a warm and welcoming smile to it. As I alighted out of my car and entered the reception, I noticed the beautiful glass door carved out in wooden frame. Though these structural changes are the later works of expansion of the palace but still resonate the elegance of the royal taste.
I passed through the corridors of the palace with checkered marble floors in black and white, reaching in front of the huge and sprawling open lawns with peacocks frolicking in the palace gardens. And it is particularly strange as the birds are not afraid of the humans present their! They strut and stride in and around the lawns and near the guests making the surroundings even more serene and beautiful. I had a few fun pictures of myself with the national bird of India in such close proximity!
The palace has a Rajput Room and Suvarna Mahal, the two restaurants facing each other. The Rajput Room is an all day dining restaurant serving multi-cuisine. It is beautifully decorated in traditional Rajput style and also has a huge portrait of Gayatri devi in its inner dining area. I always feel fascinated by her beauty and the pride that she carries in the traditional Indian attire, the saree.
Another restaurant cum dining hall is the Suvarna Mahal, specializing in Indian cuisine, situated just opposite the Rajput Room. The restaurant was a banquet hall once, decorated into traditional Indian grandeur, warmly lit.
The palace also has a contemporary style restaurant, STEAM, running inside a restored steam engine, and a platform redone in Victorian style station. We had the pleasure of having dinner in one of the compartments of the train too.
The food was awesome and a few sweet dishes were a real treat for my taste buds. This is the only restaurant which is open for all, whether a guest staying at the palace hotel or just a visitor.
It was evening and the palace came alive yet again in the lamp lights of yellow hues. The whole structure looks very elegant in the evening lights making it a beautiful indo-gothic architectural archetype, which was once the commonly used architectural adopted by British in 19th century India.
My trip to Jaipur was a short one this time and I could manage to quickly have a glance of the palace in a span of few hours. But there is a lot more to look for in the Rambagh Palace if given time enough. You can only feel the royal charisma when you plan a stay at the property and see for yourself the beauty of the heritage building turned into a successfully running high-end luxury hotel.
I would update my readers with new things that I found in the Palace; the next time I plan a visit. Till then, enjoy the pictures.
let me know how you find the pictures. Do share your experiences of visiting such palaces. I would love to hear them all!!