Royal palaces have always been an important part of Indian history. Each one of them tells a story. A story of the era they were built in.
After India gained independence from the British rule, things changed for the existing kingdoms, too. Centuries later, this is what some of the most popular royal palaces in India look like.
1. Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
Umaid Bhawan Palace is considered to be the last of the grand palaces in India. It is believed that Umaid Singh, the then Maharaja of Jodhpur, started this larger than life project to provide employment to the famine-stricken people of the princely state of Jodhpur in the 1920s.
Umaid Singh's grandson, Gaj Singh, still resides here with the erstwhile royal family. Some parts of the palace have been turned into a hotel and museum open to visitors.
2. Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
This majestic palace was first built by the then prince of Udaipur, Maharana Jagat Singh II in 1746. It was basically a summer palace and was earlier known as Jag Niwas.
Later, more chambers were added to the palace and after India’s independence, the royal family converted it into Udaipur’s first luxury hotel. In 1971, the Taj group of hotels took over the management and added more rooms and the hotel now occupies 4 acres within the Lake Pichola.
3. Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad
Mehboob Ali Khan, the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, was invited for a tour of Falaknuma Palace by Nawab Vikar-ul-Umra, Nizam's brother-in-law and the Prime Minister of Hyderabad. He was so impressed that stayed there for one month. Vikar offered the palace as a gift to the Nizam, but he refused to accept it as a gift and paid a handsome amount instead. The palace then became a regal residence.
During the 1950s, the palace started losing its grandeur due to poor maintenance. It was then renovated by the Taj group and reopened as a luxury hotel in 2010.
4. Thanjavur Palace, Tamil Nadu
The Thanjavur Palace was built in the 1530s by the Nayaka kings. They lost it to the Thanjavur Marathas, who continued their hold on it till the last king Shivaji of Thanjavur died and the palace was acquired by the British under the Doctrine of Lapse.
It was in ruins for decades, until the tourism department started its restoration and turned parts of it into a museum and gallery.
5. Kowdiar Palace, Thiruvananthapuram
Built in 1934 by the late Maharaja Sree Chithira Thirunal on the occasion of his sister’s wedding, the impressive building has about 150 rooms. It also features an elevator made up of wood.
The palace has been the residence of the royal family of Travancore since and is still home to the current erstwhile Maharaja's family. For this reason, its not accessible to the public at all times.
6. Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara
Built in 1890 by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the palace cost the royal family ₹27 lakh at that time. As the story goes, the architect of the palace, Major Charles Mant, hung himself before the construction was completed as his calculations made him believe that the palace would collapse. However, 125 years later, the palace still stands strong.
Four times bigger than the Buckingham Palace of the UK, Laxmi Vilas Palace is the largest private residence in India. The Gaekwads of Baroda continue to live here.
7. City Palace, Jaipur
Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amer, built the maginficent city palace after he shifted to Jaipur because of increasing population and water shortage in Amer in 1727.
Parts of the palace are open to public.
The royal family still lives in the palace and Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh has now hosted one of its suites on Airbnb. So you can actually stay there.
8. Jai Vilas Palace, Gwalior
Jayajirao Scindia, the Maharaja of the Maratha Scindia Dynasty built this palace in the 19th century, at a whopping coase of Rs.1 crore to extend a grand welcome to the then Prince of Wales, King Edward VII.
Later, it became the imperial residence of the Scindia family, and continues to be. A section of the palace has been turned into Jivajirao Scindia Museum and a vast library containing more than 7,000 books belonging to various genres.
9. Leh Palace, Leh
The 9-storeyed Leh Palace was constructed in 1553. It once housed members of the royal family on the upper floors and stables and storerooms on the lower floors. The palace was invaded in the 19th century and has been abandoned since.
Currently, it is being managed by the Archaelogical Survey of India but is still in a dilapidated state.
10. Mysore Palace, Mysore
The palace was originally built in the 14th century by the ruler of the Wadiyar dynasty, but it underwent several renovations over the next hundreds of years.
Today, the Mysore Palace is managed by the Government of Karnataka. Though the palace is open to the public, the erstwhile royal family still continues to live in one of its portions.
India has been a land of several kingdoms. There are many more palaces scattered throughout the country. While some are being managed by the ASI, others are privately managed by the existing royal families.