Several emperors and monarchies have ruled over India in the past few millennia. From the Mauryan Empire, Indo-greeks, Gupta Empire, Mughal Sultanate in north, British Raj among others. Each empire is known for its own heritage, battles, culture, forts and palaces with marvelous engineering and architecture for their times. Post Indian independence while the royalty was abolished, their residences have since been conserved by the royal families and some by private owners and government bodies. These palaces today are India’s finest luxury heritage hotels.
Our last article dwelled into the Rajasthan chapter of luxury palace hotels, and as promised we are here with some of India’s finest luxury palace hotels for you.
Taj Falaknuma Hotel, Hyderabad
With construction starting in 1884 and lasting a whole 9 years, Falaknuma Palace is built on a 32-acre sprawling land by the then Prime Minister of Hyderabad, Nawab Sir Viqar-ul-Umra. He later offered the palace as a gift to his brother-in-law and the Sixth Nawab of Hyderabad, Mehboob Ali Khan. The Nawab did not accept the gift and rather paid a handsome amount to buy the Falaknuma Palace from his brother-in-law and made the palace a regal residence. According to the rumor mills, Nizam was the richest man in the world at one time.
Falak-numa in Urdu translates to English as ‘Mirror of the Sky’ or like the sky. William Ward Marret, an English architect is known to have designed the palace. This enchanting palace today is managed by Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces.
Taj has been noted to quote that the refurbished rooms have been lovingly restored by the Turkish wife of Nizam, Her Highness Princess Ezra. Today one can enjoy the grand staircase once walked by royalties, halls glittering with the belgian chandeliers, royal decadence of assorted gardens and terraces and be ready to be enchanted by the royal service of the hotel and 60 rooms and suites that exudes romance with grandeur in this 400 year old palace.
Jehan Numa Palace, Bhopal
A fusion of British Colonial, Italian Renaissance and Classical Greek, Jehan Numa Palace was built in 1890 on the slope of Shamla Hill. The palace is spread over 7 acres, and is a tribute in honor of Sultan Jehan Begum known to be the longest ruling Begum of Bhopal, built by her second son General Obaidullah Khan. He was the Commander-in-Chief of the erstwhile Bhopal state force. Post his death in 1924 the palace was used for many purposes, including renting out to the government to use as a hostel and then as the office of the Geological Survey of India till 1981.
Today, the grandchildren of General Obaidullah Khan, Nadir and Yawar Rasid, are the owners of the Palace and one’s to convert the Palace into a world class luxury heritage palace hotel by 1983. It is the first of its kind in central India to be granted a status of Heritage Grand Hotel in 2000.
Along with modern luxuries galore, the royal property has a splendid mosaic fountain, regal gardens with blushing pink roses, shady mango and jamun trees and a range of pedigreed horses with a trotting track. The 100 rooms in the palace with six suites open up to wide verandahs or green courtyards.
Lalitha Mahal Palace, Mysore
Lalitha Mahal was built exclusively for the stay of Viceroy of India in 1921 by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, the then Maharaja of Mysore. Today the shimmering white palace is an opulent luxury hotel set amidst sprawling terraced and landscaped gardens.
This two story white pearl in Mysore with a structured and spherical dome on the rooftop is set on a ridge, a low hill – at the foot of Chamundi hill, with a panoramic view of the valley.
The palace offers a glimpse into the life of royalty with their life size portraits in the central hall, ornate Rosewood furniture, the breathtaking stately balustrade staircase sweeping one up to the upper floor to belgian glass dome, carved wood shutters, lithography portraying tippu Sultan’s clashes with the british amongst other regal embellishments and decor.
The charm of the hotel is in its limited offering of 54 rooms and stately suites, gourmet restaurants, awe-inspiring and stunning airy bathrooms with a range of services offered by their dedicated and fine trained staff.
Stok Palace, Ladakh
Built in 1820 as a summer home to the royal Ladaki family from the Namgyal dynasty ( of Ladakh), Stok Palace is a fine example of medieval Tibetan architecture. Built over a hilltop overlooking the valley of Singey Sangpo ( known as Indus River), Stok Palace is an architectural beauty with a remarkably high level of attention to detail with its craftsmanship that is endearing to the viewer.
The palace was opened to the public as a luxury hotel in 1980 with the blessings of the Dalai Lama. Today, the palace is a boutique hotel that is an eminent landmark of the mysterious and beautiful land of Ladakh. This nine story palace is decorated with carved wooden figurines and the entire decor and interior design holds a great amount of significance to the Ladaki culture and traditions. It is a unique palace which is the only residential complex in the region and also contains high quality and well maintained murals of both secular and religious styles.
Today you can dive deep into the history of Ladaki royalty at Stok Palace with their preserved areas such as the entry courtyard and Yabkhor (veranda), Lhakchung (temple) – both which indicate the pivotal role that social and religious activities had in the past.
The Baradari Palace, Patiala
Designed by Kaur Sabhi Ranbir Singh in 1876, brother of Maharaja Rajinder Singh of Patiala, The Baradari Palace is a significant piece of Colonial architecture. It is known that before the Maharaja moved to the Baradari Palace, they lived in Qila Mubarak, once considered Asia’s largest residence. Today Qila Mubarak is a museum of royal memorabilia.
The palace is a spectacular white coloured building which is centered on a rectangular Sikh-Mughal style, twelve door pavilion or baradari (which gave it its name). This enthralling and sprawling garden palace in the heart of a culturally rich city of Patiala is an architectural marvel that happily unites Hindustani, Mughal and Colonial styles of architecture. The royal family then is known to have built a cricket ground, a skating rink and a mono-rail around the palace.
Over the years, the palace has been a Shahi Mehmandari ( state guest house), the Punjab University and the Punjab State Archives after which one of the finest brands known in restoring fort-palaces, Neemrana – took over the palace to preserve the heritage, restore the charm of the by-gone era and revitalize it to make it suitable for a modern day traveler.
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Ahilya Fort, MP
Located in Maheshwar town of Madhya Pradesh, Ahilya Fort is a 250- year old palace that sits above the Narmada River. During 1765-1796, Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar ruled the area. She is known to have also built Ahilya Wada that included her personal residence, offices and darbaar audience hall within the fort.
Resting on a cliff the fort-palace commands a spectacular view of the Narmada River and the Ghats. The fort offers you a comfort of luxury with its shaded courtyards, verandahs on many different levels that are linked by stone walkways for the guests and visitors. Fort is known for its numerous gardens, hidden terraces and ancient turrets / battlements.
Prince Richard Holkar, the only son of the last Maharaja of Indore ( Maj Gen HH Maharaja Shrimant Yeshwant Rao II Holker), converted the fort into a luxury hotel.
These impeccable palaces turned luxury hotels and luxury boutique hotels offer you an opportunity to experience the grandeur and royal lifestyle of the kings and queens of yerter-era’s. The perfect mix of history, hospitality and refined- extravagance for a relaxing stay.
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