Our second day in Jodhpur started quite early. Though we had not planned to do too much of sightseeing today, there was still a lot to do and Ekta wanted some hours spared specifically for shopping. So after a hectic breakfast, we were up and out on the streets again. There were an auto rickshaw at the end of the street and we hired one for a package, INR 300.00 for the Umaid Bhawan Palace and then a drop to Mehrangarh.
The Umaid Bhawan Palace was the result of a natural calamity, commissioned by Maharaja Umaid Singh in 1929 to provide employment to his subjects when the kingdom was reeling under a severe famine. It took 16 years to be completed and could be completed only by 1943, making it one of the last Raj era palaces built in India and one of the most prominent predecessors of NREGA.
The palace is located on the Chittar Hill, the highest point in Jodhpur. It is the largest private residences in the world, with 347 rooms. The palace is divided into three parts, while one part serves as the residence of the erstwhile royal family, the other two parts have been turned into a hotel (Taj Palace Hotel) and a museum.
Our auto navigated through the narrow by-lanes of Jodhpur, came to the new parts of the city, came on the airport road and then took a turn and continued its ascent on the small hill on the way to the palace. As we reached the gates of the palace, we stood there with our mouths agape looking at the spectacular sight in front of our eyes, much more than what we had ever imagined. Built in a magnificent blend of the Victorian and Rajput styles, the palace is made of cream colored sandstone with a pink tint, brought all the way from the mined of Makrana. It might be surprising to know that mortar was not used in the construction of this building and the stone blocks were first cut perfectly and then the pieces was placed at their assigned places, interlocked with each other. In its majestic grandeur, this palace stands unsurpassed even by the world standards, with every brick of this stately building being a symbol of blue blood royalty.
The tickets for the palace museum were quite economical (Indian/ Foreigner INR 20/50) when compared to the ones in Udaipur. There are sprawling manicured lawns and gardens in front of the palace with the entrance to the museum being on one side. Aging guards in the uniform of the kingdom of Marwar were standing at the gates, also acting as guides.
On the entry, the visitors find themselves in the middle of a majestic hall. Deeply influenced by the Edwardian style, this hall transports one to another era, not in the deserts of Rajasthan but some court in rural England. On display in this hall are the insignia of the Rathods of Marwar (Ran Banka Rathod), various portraits and paintings depicting the history of Marwar, a true to life model of the palace and various other artifacts like aviation models of the yore.
There were many galleries and rooms displaying various artefacts from the days of the Raj. There was a room with portraits of the members of the royal family, stately Kings and beautiful Queens. There was another gallery which displayed beautiful antique furniture and pottery. But one gallery which we found very remarkable displayed clocks. Beautiful timepieces from all corners of the earth, chariots, windmills, lighthouses and what not ! Some of them were looked so complicated that it was difficult to imagine that they have been made almost a century ago. These kings clearly had a some sophisticated taste, which was quite apparent from the things they had collected.
The seemingly European Palace had something with a clear Marwari touch, the central courtyard. This courtyard houses a mini shop which sells souvenirs, ethnic jewellery and clothing endemic to the palace. I liked some T shirts but they were a little pricey, so we decided to give shopping a pass.
The last gallery of wonder we saw was not inside the palace but actually outside, across the garden. This was a wonderful showcase of vintage cars which belonged to the Maharajas of Jodhpur. For the first time in my life, I was face to face with a Silver Ghost Rolls Royce. I wish I could have one of those Jodhpur 1s and 2s.
One of the finest specimens of Indo-Colonial Art Décor, the Umaid Bhawan Palace is a majestic heritage of India. Be it beauty, or sheer grandeur, this monument is next to none in the world. A perfect start to a perfect day !
Next: Mehrangarh Fort… till then bye bye with this last cheesy pic !