UMAID BHAWAN PALACE, located at Jodhpur in Rajasthan, India, is one of the world’s largest private residences. A part of the Palace is managed by Taj Hotels. Another part of the palace houses a museum.
The history of the building is linked to a curse by a Saint who had said that a period would follow the good rule of the Rathore Dynasty. Thus, after the end of about the fifty- year-reign of Pratap Singh, Jodhpur faced a severe drought and famine condition in the 1920s for a period of three consecutive years. The farmers of the area, faced with famine, sought the help of the then King Umaid Singh, who was the 37th Rathore Ruler of Marwar at Jodhpur, to provide them with some employment so that they could survive.
The site chosen was on Chittar Hill, in the outer limits of Jodhpur, where no water supply was available nearby and hardly any vegetation grew, as the hill slopes were rocky. The building material (from sandstone quarries) required were quite a distance. The Maharaja built a railway line to the quarry site to transport the building material. Donkeys were inducted to haul soil to the site. The sandstone transported was dressed at the site into large blocks with interlocking joints, so that they could be laid without the use of mortar and thus create a wonderful edifice.
The Hotel wing of the Palace is run by the Taj Group of Hotels. It has 79 guest rooms, including the luxurious Regal and Vice Regal Suites and the fabulous “Maharaja” & “Maharani” suites, and the latter is fitted with a bath-tub that is carved from a single block of pink marble, said to be the only one of its kind in India. The Maharani suite has a parquet flooring and a terrace. The bedroom has an attached kitchen and the furnishing here is in pink and peach colours. The bed is also fitted with an art feature of a woman sitting on a lion. The Maharaja suits has furnishings in leopard skin and black marble flooring and a curved mirror dome. Both the suites are decorated with murals. The Banquet Hall of the Palace now forms a large restaurant.
The Museum has exhibits of stuffed leopards, a very large symbolic flag, gifted to Maharaja Jaswant Singh by Queen Victoria in 1877, an impressive “quirky” collection of clocks in windmill and lighthouse shapes and photographs of the elegant art-deco interior of the palace. The Classic cars of the Maharajas are also on display in the garden in front of the Museum. Glass, porcelain ware, memorabilia and information on the building of the Palace are also part of the exhibits.
The Darbar Hall, which is part of the Museum, has elegant murals and a substantial number of miniature paintings, armour and an unusual collection of household paraphernalia that was in vogue in the 1930s, which were costly and then not found in India.
October to March, during the winter season, are the best months to visit the Palace and the Museum.