Laxmi Vilas Palace – Things To Know Before You Go!
The pride of Vadodara – the Laxmi Vilas Palace – is a marvel draped in the tapestries of history invoking within you admiration and reverence. Some also call it Lakshmi Vilas Palace, here’s all you need to know about the palace before you visit. Read on…
Welcome To The World Of The Maharaja
The Laxmi Vilas Palace unlike other palaces and places of historical importance is unique and one of its kind with its enchanting beauty and lively vibes. While places of historical importance are just an item to tick off your bucket list, Laxmi Vilas Palace is a place to appreciate the royalty and understand the Maharaja’s true vision and patronage towards art and artwork.
History Of Laxmi Vilas Palace
The Laxmi Vilas Palace was commissioned as a permanent residence in the year 1878 for the then Maharaja of Vadodara – Sayajirao Gaekwad III. Built at a cost of £180,000, it was one of the most expensive palaces built during its time. It took twelve years for the palace to take its present form, and is till date the largest ever private dwelling ever built comprising 170 rooms.
Architecture Of Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara
An architectural marvel, the Laxmi Vilas Palace was built in the Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture. It blends beautifully the elements of Indian, Mughal and Gothic architecture. Although Mant, the architect, while designing the palace stuck to the traditional arrangement of Indian palaces – the king’s private quarters in the center, the ladies’ private quarters in the right wing and the Darbar Hall and the public rooms in the left wing – he incorporated many facets of the European architecture to suit the Maharaja and his family’s increasing taste for western life-style. The palace upon its completion boasted of modern amenities such as an elevator, western plumbing, electric bells, internal telephone system, a dining and a billiard room to suit the exquisite tastes of the Maharaja’s distinguished European visitors.
Laxmi Vilas Palace – Exteriors
One close look at the palace’s architecture from the outside and even a layman could easily point out the blending of different architectural styles. The left wing and the center which houses the Darbar Hall, the public rooms and the king’s quarters respectively have Mughal influence with Mughalized domes and arches at the top. The right wing where lies the ladies’ quarters have arched domes and sikharas which are modeled on the Jain temples of Gujarat, giving it a local touch.
The Story Of The Clock Tower
Standing quite distinctly amongst the domes and arches of the Laxmi Vilas Palace is the 300 feet tall clock tower resembling the Gothic architecture. Originally intended to have a clock in place, the idea never saw the light of the day since the constant ticking sound of the clock would be nuisance to the king as well as its residents. Instead a lamp was installed in its place that would light up to bright red indicating that the king is in the palace. The tradition is still followed till date.
Fact 1: Major Charles Mant committed suicide soon after he contemplated that his calculations were wrong and that the palace would collapse instead.
Fact 2: When looked at from a distance the skyline of the palace adorns a unique blend of chhatris, a central cupola, a tower and bangaldar eaves complementing one another.
Fact 3: The palace was completed with the help of both local and foreign workers and materials. Red sand from the quarries of Agra, blue trapstone from Pune and marbles from Rajasthan and Italy were imported to beautify this magnanimous residence.
Fact 4: Unlike many places of historical importance where you are persuaded by guides to hire them, but here, you are given an audio device that explains you everything in detail. Sounds good?
Laxmi Vilas Palace – Interiors
The interiors of Laxmi Vilas Palace are as extravagant as its exteriors. A small courtyard with plants, bronze statues and statues made with Italian marble by the 19th century Italian sculptor, Augusto Felici, intricate railings and marble inlay work welcomes you for the grand tour of the palace. As you move into the reception, you will find the Gaekwads – the royal family – beautifully captured and looking down upon you in all their splendor. There is also a huge staircase that goes up to the private rooms of the Maharaja and his family who reside in the palace, an area inaccessible to visitors.
The Royal Inventory
As you make your way into the palace, you will be visiting the armory that unlike other exhibits houses a unique collection of armament and weaponry in one single place. Right from swords and daggers you have an impressive collection of guns and rifles most of which have been used in actual battles. What’s more is that the small exhibit of weapons has in its display the sword of the most feared Mughal Emperor – Aurangzeb. On the display are even images of gold and silver cannons.
Of Thrones, Feathers & Paintings
After acquainting yourself with the weapons you will be guided to the Gaddi Room. This large spacious room houses a white throne with a peacock feather which is used during the coronation ceremony to coronate the next king. What attracts the eye of the visitor are the nine life-size paintings hanging on the walls by the celebrated Indian artist – Raja Ravi Varma, who was patronized by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III. Just like the palace the paintings in itself are a wonder narrating you stories on their own.
The Elephant In The Room!
Following your tour of the Gaddi Room you will be approaching the Elephant Room through a lush green courtyard with tall palm trees in the middle of the palace. In this courtyard itself, stands the clock tower, the cog wheels of which never operated, but which is used ever since to indicate the Maharaja’s presence in the palace. The Elephant Room has a large gate that allowed the Maharaja to ride his elephant within the palace. Just as you would be accorded a royal treatment aboard the Deccan Odyssey, this is royalty at its best, isn’t it?
Darbar Hall – Of Stained Glasses & Music
Probably the most fascinating attraction of the Laxmi Vilas Palace is the Darbar Hall. As you enter the hall, filtered sunlight transcending through the Belgian stained glass windows with images from Indian mythology will be welcoming you. The ornate Darbar hall which is often booked for music concerts and other cultural events is swathed with Venetian mosaic floor, the walls of which feature intricate frescos and murals. There are stories that Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III upon the request of Raja Ravi Varma allowed him to exhibit his paintings in the Darbar Hall for the commoners of Vadodara.
Fact 1: Laxmi Vilas Palace is reputed to have the maximum number of stained glass ever used in a palace!
Fact 2: It took twelve workmen from Murano Company of Venice eighteen months for the Venetian mosaic in the Darbar Hall to be laid.
Fact 3: Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III employed Felici in his court to advise him in the purchase of western art and even create some masterpieces for the palace.
Fact 4: Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad constructed a miniature railway line for his children that ferried his children between the palace and Motibaug School.
Maharaja Fatehsingh Museum
Just outside the Darbar Hall is an Italian courtyard of fountains and the palace compound which houses the Maharaja Fatehsingh Museum. If there is one thing that one can be sure of is that Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III had an enhanced taste for art. The Maharaja was fond of collecting many artworks for the sake of educating his subjects. Therefore in the year 1961 as a tribute to the Maharaja, the erstwhile Motibaug School, built for the Maharaja’s children was converted into a museum that houses Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad’s impressive collection of paintings and sculptures. The museum exhibits a number of paintings and sculptures including copies of famous Roman and Greek sculptures. The museum also exhibits collections of Chinese and Japanese sculptures, porcelains and enamel.
The Gaekwad Baroda Golf Club
Surrounded by a lush green compound of over 700-acres and with the Laxmi Vilas Palace in the background, it is a perfect setting for golfers to hit the Double Eagle. Therefore in the 1930s, the grandson of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, Maharaja Pratapsingh Gaekwad created a golf course to entertain his European guests. In the 1990s, the golf course was renovated and opened to the public and today it is one of the most picturesque and prestigious golf course in Vadodara.
You’ll be visiting this impressive palace on the second day of your journey with Deccan Odyssey starting from Mumbai. Here you will be acquainted with a king who emptied his coffers not just for his own sake but for the sake of his subjects. He bought in artefacts from around the world and created a world of his own in his very own Laxmi Vilas Palace.
About The Author
Sumit Roy is an Editor, Writer, Researcher, Translator and Proofreader at Aatman Innvoations Pvt. Ltd. When not working, he likes to read, write, watch movies or series, play computer games or even better – procrastinate. He believes in free basic education for all and thinks that capitalism first and socialism next can change this world for better.