Sunday, 22 February 2009

Jai Vilas Palace

Jai Vilas Palace, Gwalior

The fort is definitely the defining architectural feature of Gwalior, but it's not all there is to this town. In the 19th century, the centre of power in the town shifted from the massive hill fort to a location more geared towards providing the ruling classes with the modern-day comfortable life style they were expecting and knew from Europe. So they built and moved into the opulent Jai Vilas Palace.

The palace, which looks rather European in style, was built in 1874 by a Maharaja of the almost mythical, ruling Scindia family, which to this day holds great political clout. The previous Maharaja died in a plane crash in 2001 before he could pursue a likely bid to be the country's Prime Minister and the present Maharaja is a Union Minister for the Congress Party. And just in case power should shift, other branches of the family are actively involved in the main opposition party, the BJP.

As far as I understand the family still inhabits part of the palace, but another part has been opened as a museum, giving an insight into the fantastic (but also somewhat kitschy) surroundings in which the Scindias lived through the late 19th and the 20th century. Indoor swimming pool, fantastic European cars, Belgian furniture and a drinks-train (!) and fantastic dining and party halls were all part of everyday life. In the biggest hall of all, two massive crystal chandelier weigh 3.5 tonnes each. They were so heavy that it was decided to test whether the ceiling would be strong enough to bear the weight. So a ramp was built and eight adult elephants were paraded over the roof - luckily it all held, but unluckily no pictures were taken of this spectacular event.

It was - and still is - pretty grand to be a Scindia.

Women workers tending to the palace grounds

Colourful hallway with pictures of Maharajas past and present

The Scindia Crest

The indoor swimming pool complete with a diving board

One of the most kitchy rooms: The Scindias' room hunting trophies

A Napoleon table allegedly an original time piece from his days - one of very few left in the world

Napoleon is also present on the tapestry (along with other famous historical character) - they must have had some fascination with him

A swing in the Queen's old bedroom

A hand coloured photograph of the Queen - yes, she was a midget

The top of a crystal water fountain imported from Europe

Baby carriage... disguised as a swan

Very cool little BMW. This is the front of the car.

In a seperate wing you'll find the grandest part of the palace - here is a part of the grand dining hall, in which many of India's leading dignitaries have had many lavish meals. Notice the black track on the long table...

...on those tracks runs the drinks train! Whenever you take a bottle from the train it will stop and then take off again when you put it back down.

The grand staircase leading up to the grandest hall of all

This is where all the grand parties would ultimately end up: The Durbar Hall. It was on the roof of this hall the elephants were marching.

Unlike some of the other areas of the palace I actually think this hall is pretty classy.


Rachana Shakyawar said...

I read many posts of your Blog and each post made me so much nostalgic. I have lived most of the places you have posted in. I have done my MBA from Gwalior and have a very special connection with the place.I also loved your Shillong Post!I ahve gone to this place many times when i used to stay in Guwahati.

I am so glad to have visited your blog. From now I shall be your frequent reader of this blog. I have also added you blog in my Blog-Roll.

And thank u so much..well because
I enjoyed reading your blog!

Rachana Shakyawar
BLOG:Humming Today

K.Sadasivam said...

your blog is nice and very interesting

Esben said...

Hi Rachana and K.

I'm glad you like my blog post. Also glad, that it brought back some memories Rachana. Gwalior is a nice place and quite over looked by most tourists.

Anshika said...

really nice..