Lakshmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara
My tour of Vadodara took me to experience the royal life of the Gaekwad family. The audio tour at the Lakshmi Vilas Palace was an exceptional experience. I planned this to be the last place on my tour, as I knew it would take a while to explore this palace (it took me 1.5 hrs). As the royal family still resides in it, a few areas are out of bounds for the public.
I visited Nyay Mandir, which is actually a court and I was roaming around it searching for a temple until I asked a flower vendor about it. The huge structure of this court can easily catch your eye from far away. Approximately 2 km from Nyay Mandir on the Palace Road is the Kirti Stambh or “Tower of Victory”.
The Lakshmi Vilas Palace management still uses the old form of British English to spell the name of the palace i.e. Lukshmi, instead of Lakshmi. This is evident on the entry ticket as well. The entry ticket costs Rs. 150 and includes an audio tour of the palace, which will last for an hour and include eleven stops. This palace took 12 years to build, from 1878 to 1890. It has 170 rooms and was originally built for only two people, the Maharaja and the Maharani. The architect of this palace was Major Charles Mant.
This palace has three sections – left potion for public, middle portion for the Maharaja and the right portion for the Maharani. In front of the palace is the sunken garden and in between it, a reservoir which used to be filled with water back then and reflect the palace. It has the statues of two Roman nudes and four urns are kept in four directions. There is “Gaddi Hall” where the coronation was prince was done and “Hathi Hall” from where the Maharaja used to sit on elephants.
When the construction of this palace was completed, it boasted of having elevators and telephone lines within the palace (back in 1890!). It was built at the cost of GBP 1,80,000. It has the most number of stained glasses used in any palace. Also, it is four times the size of Buckingham Palace! You will find the monogram of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at many places inside the palace.
This palace is built from brick and red sandstone and the marble was brought from Italy. This palace has paintings of various members of the family, lots of chandeliers, an Armoury Hall that has a great collection of swords and various other weapons used by various maharajas (Chattrapati Shivaji, Alexander the Great, etc.) at the times of war, and various sculptures and statues carved by the famous artist Felici.
I felt completely immersed into the royal life that Gaekwad family used to live and still lives, and was awestruck by the genius architecture and Venetian carvings done in this palace.