Umaid Bhawan palace

Umaid Bhavan Palace

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.

It was called CHITTAR PALACE, during its construction, due to use of stones drawn from the CHITTAR HILL where it is located.  Ground for the foundation of the building was broken on the 18th of November, 1929 by Maharaja Umaid Singh and the construction was completed in 1943.  The Palace was built to provide employment to thousands of people during the time of famine.

 Umaid Bhavan Palace

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 King decided to build a lavish Palace.  He commissioned Henry Vaughan Lanches, who was a contemporary of Sir Edwin Lutyens, who planned the buildings of the New Delhi Government Complex, by adopting the themes of domes and columns.  The Palace was designed as an extraordinary blend of Western technology and many Indian architectural features.  About 2,000 – 3,000 people were employed.  However, the actual occupation of the Palace by the Maharaja came only after its completion in 1943, very close to the period of India’s Independence.

Umaid Bhavan Palace

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 Palace was built with dun-coloured (golden-yellow) sandstone with two wings in an area of 26acres of land, including 15 acres of well-tended gardens.  The interior central dome sits above a sky-blue inner dome.  The inner vaulted dome rises to a height of 103ft in the interior part, which is capped by an outer dome of 43ft height.  Makrana marble has also been used, and Burmese teakwood has ben used for the interior woodwork.  When completed, the Palace had 347 rooms, several courtyards and a large Banquet Hall which could accommodate 300 people.  The architectural style is considered as representing the then in vogue BEAUX Arts Style, also known as INDO-DECO Style.  However, for many years, the Palace did not function fully on account of many tragic events in the Royal family.  Umaid Singh, who stayed in the palace for only four years, died in 1947.  Hanumant Singh who succeeded him also died at a young age  ——- he had just won in the 1952 General Elections and was returning after this win, when his plane crashed and he died.  Gaj Singh –II, who succeeded his father, then decided in 1971 to convert a part of the Palace into a Hotel.

Umaid Bhavan Palace

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.

Umaid Bhavan Palace

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.

Umaid Bhavan Palace

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.

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