An Architectural Wonder Four Times The Size Of Buckingham Palace.
In the late 1890s, the royal family tuck away in Gujarat was welcoming with great pomp & show a young bride from Thanjavur. She was the beloved bride of Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III and the new Maharani (queen) of Baroda. And she was welcomed with an equally precious gift – the lavish Lakshmi Villas Palace as her new abode.
Vadodara is often called the cultural capital of Gujarat – the sanskaari nagari, in local vernacular. This vast city is influenced – both, architecturally and culturally – largely by the people’s most favourite maharaja who reigned over them – Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekward III. In the heart of Vadodara lies the Maharaja’s greatest vision: the Lukshmi Villas Palace. Spanning across 700 acres, the Lukshmi Villas Palace is about four times the size of the Buckingham Palace. It is also the largest private dwelling in India – and one of the most beautiful ones too. The present-day titular royal family of Baroda resides in the Palace now.
The former Baroda State was, alongside British India, one of the largest and richest princely states. So when he tried to construct a palace for his family, Maharaja Sayaji Rao made sure to take all the stops. He hired the slightly infamous architect Charles Mant and within days of his wedding, the foundation for Lukshmi Villas Palace was built. The palace, bathed in Indo-Saracen glory, boasts a merger of Islamic and Hindu architecture. It is not unknown that the Maharaja favored a straightforward dome design, an element of Islamic traditional architecture.
The Lukshmi Vilas Palace is not the only place for sporting lovely domes–Vadodara is sprinkled with ancient structures built in his time by the Maharaja, each with its signature dome. The most prominent instance of this is the Maharaja Sayaji Rao University and the various departments of this college situated across the town.
Past the sprawling lawns and the Italian water fountains, the beautiful red-sand pillars on the exterior of the structure welcome you into the Palace – an edifice reminiscent of a country-side European house, consisting of 172 rooms.
Among these, the Darbar hall is perhaps one of the grandest. When Sayaji Rao’s bride, Chimna bai came to Baroda, she brought with her an elaborate troupe of musicians, dancers and performers of Thanjavur. Thus, Bharat Natyam was introduced to Baroda. Many of these grand performances and other cultural events were witnessed by the Darbar Hall – a room boasting of Venetian mosaic floors and intricate interiors.
There was a time when India was but a mish-mash of princely states and colonial holdings – and during this time, the riches of the royals flowed in every direction. In Baroda’s heyday, the Maharaja invited guests from all over the country to his grand palace. The palace bustled with guests, relatives, children, a great number of servants – and of course, there was room for everyone. Every room in the Palace stood out. The Veena room (which is now used as a playroom by the princesses) was inspired by the Ajanta caves.
India was, once, a farrago of colonial holdings and princely states and it was during this time, that the riches of the royals streamed in every direction. During the time of Baroda’s heyday, the Maharaja invited guests from all over the country to his grand palace. The palace saw a large footfall of guests, relatives, children, and a great number of servants. The Veena room in the palace was inspired by the Ajanta caves. There is a Gulabi room, in hues of pinks, creams and beige which was used as a private Parlour for Maharani Chimnabai –is laced with murals of cupids and angels.
Apart from the bedrooms, the palace also extended an old school house in its backyard, with a functioning toy train to take the children to their lessons. An important part of the Lukshmi Villas property is also the Kirti Mandir, which is used for Durga Pujas and other celebratory events to this day.
There was a time when India was but a mishmash of princely states and colonial holdings–and royal wealth flowed in every direction during this moment. In the heyday of Baroda, the Maharaja invited visitors to his grand palace from all over the nation. The palace was busy with visitors, families, kids, a lot of servants–and there was space for everyone, of course. Every space was standing out in the Palace. The Veena room (now used by the princesses as a playroom) was influenced by the caves of Ajanta.
One can expect to create their way to the reception when they enter the palace from where they can gather audio headsets. The audio is accessible in multiple languages, from Hindi and English to Gujarati as well.
The Gaddi Hall is iconic as it holds the throne on which many kings took their rightful position earlier. With an overwhelming quantity of incredible paintings, the elaborately big room is embroidered. The pictures of Goddess Saraswati, Laxmi, Lord Krishna, among others, meticulously arranged, create a feeling of symmetry and equilibrium.
The Royal Armoury is located near the Gaddi Hall. Different types of weapons are hung and put in abundance. Swords, knives, shields, you call it – in this comparatively smaller space you can find everything. A dream place if you are a history aficionado, you can also find Shivaji Maharaja’s favourite weapons like the Khanjar and the Wagh Nakka.
The Darbar Hall, the biggest and likely most desirable room in the whole palace, is connecting to the Hathi Hall. Chandeliers, Belgian stained glass and big artworks embellish the interior of this giant space. Cultural performances also took place here. If you find the glamor of this specific room hard to picture, remember the set used for the song Deewani Mastaani from Bajirao Mastani. Although, the set used in the movie was fancier, both places carry the same prestige.
While exploring the cultural capital of Gujarat, you can simply not miss out on this place – it spellbinds you with its grandeur and historical charm.