In a Nutshell:
Address & other details: Rambagh Palace
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Our trip & about our stay experience:
In August 2019 we did a road trip from mumbai to delhi. We stopped over at nights in Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Udaipur & jaipur. To read about that experience, please click here – Roadtrip.
We had called Taj Worldwide reservations to get us back to back bookings in different cities on the route. They helped us curate the trip very well after not a very pleasant start. While booking the jaipur leg of the trip, we had realised that Rambagh palace was the best in Jaipur but it was exceeding our budget & also the fact that after a long 7 hour drive we might get late & not be able to enjoy this place at its fullest. So we decided to stay at Jai Mahal Palace instead & decided to get back to Rambagh palace in a few months (as Jaipur is max 4 hours drive from Gurgaon).
So finally we landed up at Rambagh palace in January this year & ended up spending a memorable weekend.
While it was quite cold & thick fog in Gurgaon when we started in the morning, Jaipur had a beautiful sunny weather.
The sight of bright yellow mustard fields & the aravallis in the background created some beautiful scenery as we drove.
The sun shone bright as the day progressed & thankfully we were relieved of the gloomy weather in the morning.
During our overnight stay at Jaipur, we just spent time at the palace, did not venture out to the city at all, soaked in loads of stories about the palace, the Royalty, enjoyed some great conversations with other guests & some people from the Hotel, went for some nice experiences & just walked around.
While the beauty of the palace was stunning, another person who was known for her beauty & much more, Maharani Gayatri Devi, was coming up in all conversations…… way more than the king whom she was married to – the erstwhile owners of this palace. More about Gayatri Devi later in the post ….
Rambagh Palace is way more grand than the Jai mahal palace. All the buildings in the campus of Rambagh palace had beautiful gardens, well maintained surroundings, generally warm service, beautiful period architecture, but what created permanent memory here was the really friendly peacocks who have got used to human presence & were mingling freely with guests.
External facade of the palace looked simple, light yellow walls & red accent – same as in Jai mahal palace. Unlike the main palaces of Jaipur & Jodhpur, this palace looked much simpler from outside. The facade was not imposing as well. Yes, coz this was more of a second house than the main palace.
The interiors of Rambagh Palace were however very very ornate though. While in Jai mahal palace the spectacular visual theatre was mainly near the entrance, here at Rambagh palace, the visual extravaganza was spread all across the building.
The pathways leading to the suites, the Asian restaurant interiors, the Indian restaurant, all were stunningly beautiful in their own way.
The pathways had beautiful paintings on both sides. They looked like an endless display of art. Beautiful, intricate & simply stunning.
The lift was a piece of art. The wooden carvings were unforgettable & the so was the depiction of a peacock in full bloom.
The suites each had a name, which was written in a wooden placard next to the door. The electrical equipment looked like the ones from DC era – a century back.
The doors were wood carved.placeholder://
The suite in which we stayed had the classic Islamic architecture principle – 4 walls. Above lintel, in each layer the number of walls would double – 8, 16, 32 & then circle (infinite sides). The ceiling was of course circular & a simple yet beautiful chandelier hung from it.
The bed was wooden with poles for mosquito nets (pre mortein days that was a must).
The storage case was made of wood with golden hand-inlay work on it.
The table lamp cloth cover was an intricate one.
A beautiful carpet was spread atop wooden floor.
The carved wooden table was a piece of art.
Panels on the wall niches & also above the lintel had mirror like squares on it that would light up in a dark room with candle – much like in sheesh mahals of Rajasthan.
There were beautiful carvings on parts of the walls as well.
In & around the living area
The heritage Swimming pool is located inside a building across the road to the main palace building. The pool was made keeping the queen’s privacy in mind. The jhoolas (swings hung from ceiling) on the poolside from where the queen & her friends used to dive into the pool are still intact.
A row of Shops selling different variety of products was impressive – usually in most hotels there is one or at most two shops. The products in these shops were not run of the mill. The products were not ‘over the top’ expensive as well. Good curated collection, I would say.
People were very warm – from reception, to all the restaurants we went to & the other staff we interacted near our room.
Property tour in the evening – The guy designated for the tour was very well dressed, spoke English with a strange, superficial accent. He did not seem to be someone I would have a memorable conversation with. However, the monologue of information that he gave about the property was informative.
The property had 6 restaurants –
· Suvarna mahal for Indian food, open only for lunch. We ate lunch here. The food was good but too far from the real flavors & rustic ness of rajasthani food – to suit the taste of Europeans. If you want the real rustic feel, please ask for it
· Steam served comfort global cuisine in a lounge bar. This restaurant is set up inside a real train.
· Verandah cafe was a multi cuisine restaurant with outdoor seating.
· The marble arch & Raj put room was all day dining.
· The polo bar where the maharajah used to have a drink after a polo match maintains the same style & ambience even today.
The oriental restaurant was once Gayatri Devi’s study. It’s visually stunning intricately carved wooden panels, paintings, furniture, unique designs & other art was unforgettable. Loved the food here.
Steam restaurant was inside a real train coach attached to a steam engine, placed on a small patch of specially constructed railway track. A platform & station look-alike has been created to give it a real look. We were able to walk into the driver’s cabin & see all the equipment.
The real erstwhile functional coaches have been restored & seating changed to suit a restaurant. Beautiful paintings hung on the wall.
Intricate Wrought iron furniture with colourful tops gave a unique character to the décor.
The story of this palace:
About rambagh palace – The first building on the site was a garden house built in 1835 by the rajput rulers, 22 years before the Sepoy Mutiny!!! In 1887, during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh, it was converted into a modest royal hunting lodge, as the house was located in the midst of a thick forest at that time. In the early 20th century, it was expanded into a palace.
The extended palace was designed in Indo saracenic (a fusion of Indian art & design sensibilities in European building architecture) style by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob. Sir Jacob headed the public works department of Jaipur & his department was responsible for the construction of everything in the state of Jaipur ranging from walls, outhouses, guard houses, roads, canals to major public buildings. Sir Jacob designed some remarkable buildings like Albert house museum, Jaipur, Laxmi niwas palace, Bikaner etc.
For a brief period, sir Jacob was even assigned to assist Lutyens in planning of New Delhi but due to old age & ill health he could not continue.
Decades later, Maharajah Sawai Man Singh II made Rambagh his principal residence and added a number of royal suites in 1931.
The maharaja converted this property to a luxury hotel after independence. The taj group now manages this property as a taj heritage hotel.
The story of Sawai Man Singh 2 & Gayatri Devi.
Sawai man singh 2 – In 1921, the then ruler, Madho Singh II adopted a boy named Mor Mukut to be his son and heir. The boy was given the name “Man Singh” upon his adoption. Madho Singh II died a year later and was succeeded by Man Singh as Maharaja of Jaipur and head of the Kachwaha clan of Rajputs.
Maharaja man singh 2 had two marriages till he was in his 20s – both are said to be political alliances. The senior Maharani, known within the palace as ‘First her Highness,’ was Marudhar Kunwar, sister of Maharaja of Jodhpur. She was about twelve years older than him. His second wife was Maharani Kishore Kanwar, niece of his first wife and daughter of Maharaja Sumer Singh of Jodhpur. She was five years younger than him. Man Singh 2 married a third time with someone whom he fell in love with – Gayatri Devi.
In 1970, Man Singh had a fatal accident while playing polo in England.
Gayatri Devi – She was born in a Koch Rajbongshi Hindu family. Her father was Maharaja Jitendra Narayan of Cooch Behar in West Bengal, and her mother was Maratha Princess Indira Raje of Baroda, the only daughter of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III.
Gayatri Devi was educated in England, Shantiniketan, and Switzerland.
She first met Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II, when she was 12 and the 21 year old maharaja had come to Calcutta to play polo and stayed with their family.
They kept in touch since then. Years later, the maharaja proposed to her in the back seat of a Bentley in London, as the car went around Hyde Park.
However, the alliance was not well appreciated by their families. Gayatri’s family, in particular, was afraid that the bold, educated and ‘modern’ Gayatri would reduce herself to the ‘purdah’ system of the Jaipur Royals.
Maharaja Sawai Man Singh had two wives, but he simply couldn’t help being enchanted by the charming Gayatri who was nothing quite like the more orthodox Rajput women he knew.
They married anyway in May 1940, which created quite a stir.
As expected, Gayatri Devi was not ready to be confined to the purdah system, a custom that the other two wives followed.
I was reading in an article ‘She was warned that being third wife of the king will not be easy and she was often under scrutiny by others, yet she carried all her duties with charm and grace while being a changemaker.’
Maharani Gayatri Devi was a particularly avid horse rider and a good Polo player. She was a good shot and enjoyed many days out on ‘Shikars’. She was fond of cars too.
People who have met her say that she was very temperamental as well as compassionate at the same time. She would not mind spending huge sums on social work but she would get micro into some little overspent somewhere else.
She was included in Vogue magazine’s Ten Most Beautiful Women list.
She thought it was important to spread education among the women & hence she started women’s schools in Jaipur, most prominent of which is the Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls’ Public School established in 1943. She also revived and promoted the dying art of blue pottery.
After partition and independence of India, Jaipur kingdom became a part of india. Gayatri Devi ran for Parliament in 1962 and won the constituency in the Lok Sabha in the world’s largest landslide, winning 1.92 lac votes out of 2.46 lacs votes cast. She continued to hold this seat on 1967 and 1971 as a member of the Swatantra Party founded by C. Rajagopalachari, running against the Indian National Congress party.
Gayatri Devi had a constant tussle with Indira gandhi. She was was arrested during the Emergency of 1970s due to an alleged political vendetta on the false accusation of violating tax laws, and served 5 months in Tihar Jail. The official reason was undeclared gold and wealth that was recovered from her palace.
After returning from jail she moved away from active politics. She went to cooch Behar at the age of 86. She lived till the age of 90.