A travelogue of sorts of my visit to Laxmi Vilas Palace in Vadodara, this Sunday. Visited the Palace along with Jagpreet, Kashish and my roomie Sumit.
Laxmi Vilas Palace
Baroda can boast of one of the finest Palaces in India. Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III (1875-1939) was the adopted son of Queen Jamnabai. Sayaji Rao began constructing the Laxmi Vilas Palace, naming it after his first wife (a princess of Tanjore). He has brought about many reforms in education (M S University – Paid about 7.5Lakhs Pounds in those times to establish the University), health and administration. Sayaji Rao was one of the few princes who got a 21 gun salute (The others being Princes of Hyderabad (Deccan), Mysore, Gwalior, Jammu and Kashmir, Chittor)
The Gaekwads, a Maratha clan carved out a kingdom for themselves in Baroda. Although an English Resident was appointed to the Court of Baroda, the rulers had a good equation with the British.
It is very obvious that the wealth of the family is legendary, and it shows in the works of art. Built in 720 acres, the Palace is 4 times larger than Buckingham Palace. Designed by British Architects, designed by Major Charles Mount in the Indo-Gothic style, the work started in 1878 and was completed in 1890. The royal family, under the current Maharaja, Ranjit Singh Gaekwad still resides here.
The Palace is a marvelous work of eclectic architecture, with a mix of all styles.
In the portico you look around in amazement for the detailing done on the Palace and adding to it, as you step inside – the colourful frescoes in Italian style on the walls of the Palace astonish you with their grandeur. Beautiful statues, marble fountains, Moorish arcades, Belgian mirrors and Belgian-stained glass windows adorn the structure. The audio-tour guide articulated more than 3000 such glass windows across the Palace.
The convention hall has the entire gamut of carpets, painting (gild work on canvas is a view to mull over), photographs of the royal family, silver, gold, ivory, furniture and Venetian chandeliers. The Palace also houses a remarkable collection of old armoury and sculptures in bronze & marble.
Massive black bull (I guess) stands in the doorway leading into the Palace Durbar Hall and the grounds, a real one but stuffed long back. Also a stuffed tiger, shot dead by the Maharaja in 1908 stare at you at the Palace entrance. The impressive staircase made out of Italian Marble, leads to the top floor, where the the royal family lives.
The Durbar Hall has an Italian mosaic floor and walls with Venetian mosaic decorations and an ornate ceiling. Durbar Hall is divided into two parts, the Diwan-E-Khas (Also known as Elephant Hall) for special/chief guests and Diwan-E-Aam for the common man who visits the Maharaja with their woes. The Logo SRG stands out on the floor and is imprinted on the Glass Windows of the Hall. The arrival of Maharaja in the City is reflected by the Green Flag at the gate during the day and Red Light at the Tower during the night, a practice still followed even today. A spiral staircase leads to the tower.
The Golf Course originally started by Maharaja Pratap Singh Gaekwad in 1930 is now re-developed by his Grandson since 1990 with a membership fee of about 2.5 Lakhs (hearsay figures), and boasts more than 300 members. Peacocks can be spotted around the Palace compound. The area also houses the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum, Cricket Ground of Baroda Cricket Association, Indoor Badminton and Tennis Courts.
Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum
Established in 1961, houses a royal collection of art treasures as well as modern, western and Indian paintings, Hellenic exhibits, Chinese and Japanese art and a large collection of modern-day Indian art. The Museum has an outstanding collection of the portraiture of Raja Ravi Varma which today belongs to this royal family. Another section puts up Chinese and Japanese porcelain artifacts, while two rooms on the ground level are treasure troves of art in asymmetrical ornamentation and has a set of crystal furniture specially made for Sayaji Rao Gaekwad. It also houses a royal room decorated as they had been in the olden days during the Sayaji Rao Gaekwad’s stay in England, which are also open for the public.
Please note that the Palace and Museum is closed to Public on Mondays
The entire tour took about 3 hours. It’s truly worth a visit for those visiting Baroda.
Pssst: Overheard that the Palace Courtyard is given on lease for functions for about 30 – 40 Lakhs a day (unsubstantiated). For all those who are thinking of have a grand wedding can consider Laxmi Vilas Palace
PS: I guess the word “wedding” or “marriage” will be present in almost all of my posts 😀