The world has a new royal baby to gush about. But are you familiar with the royalty that was, closer home? Consider our list of some of India’s finest royal palaces that will leave your head spinning.
Hawa Mahal, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Built by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1799, this continuation of the City Palace, with over 950 jharokhas (sit-outs), was intended to be the window to the outside world for the women of the royal family. That is why the Hawa Mahal is connected to the Zenana Mahal, or the women’s section of the City Palace. It was built on the main thoroughfare of the old city so that women could get a glimpse of the buzzing market, royal processions and festivities.
The Hawa Mahal was designed keeping in mind the mukut (crown) of Lord Krishna. The five-storey building is replete with terraces, sit-out areas, courtyards and resting quarters. Interestingly the structure has no stairs; instead, the floors are connected by an inclined passageway. The top-most balcony offers great views of the city, and is perfect for some quick camera shots.
Rs 10; 9am–4.30pm; audio guide: Rs 90
City Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Built in 1727 as the residence of the royal family, the City Palace was converted into a museum by Sawai Man Singh after the princely states became part of the Indian Republic. Today, the premises house five galleries that showcase rare artefacts, household commodities, costumes, jewellery and weapons through centuries of Rajput rule.
A wing of the palace continues to be the residence of the erstwhile royal family of Jaipur, and visitors are allowed to see some parts of the living quarters as part of the Royal Grandeur Tour (`2000). The two-and-a-half flags fluttering on the top-most dome indicate the presence of the current royal heir in the palace.
adult/child: Rs 75/35; student/defence personnel: Rs 40; 9.30am–5pm; closed: Dulandi (day after holi); audio guide: Rs 80; camera/still: Rs 200/75
Amba Vilas Palace, Mysore, Karnataka
The domed, three-storey structure in grey granite, surrounded by large gardens, is a fine example of late 19th century Indo-Saracenic architecture. Also known as Amba Vilas, the palace is the official residence of the erstwhile royal family, and is beautifully illuminated every Sunday and on public holidays, between 7pm and 8pm.
Photography is prohibited; visitors are required to remove their shoes; adults Rs 40, entry free for children under 10 years; 10am–5.30pm
Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, Rajasthan
One of the largest royal residences in the world, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, is a must-see in western Rajasthan. There is a museum within, with displays on the Marwar dynasty. Take in the stunning views from the ramparts, and if your budget allows, spend the night in the uber luxurious hotel inside. The palace makes for a great day trip, and its grounds are perfect for a picnic.
Amer Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan
The capital of the Kachchawa Dynasty for over 150 years, Amer was abandoned in the early 18th century when Sawai Jai Singh II decided to build the new capital city of Jaipur. Amer is a small town of about 4sq km and exudes an oldworld charm. The cobbled pathways, temples, wells and havelis tell the story of past times. The main attraction is, of course, the Amer Fort, also popularly called the Amer Palace, which was built during the reign of Raja Ram Singh in 1592.
The steep drive up a cobbled pathway with the magnificent fort on one side and a deep gorge leading into the Maota Lake on the other, makes for a spectacular view – especially during the monsoon. The architecture of the fort is a mix of Mughal and Rajput influences and thus arches and domes coexist with perfect elan. The fort has four courtyards, halls of private and public hearing, women’s quarters, a Sukh niwas (naturally air-conditioned quarters) and a sheesh mahal. The massive Jaleb Chowk, which is the visitors’ first brush with the interiors, was used as a parade ground by the king’s men.
It has light-and-sound shows in the evenings.
Adult/student: Rs 25/10. Light-and-sound show: English Rs 200; Hindi Rs 100; summer: 7.30pm–8.30pm (English), 8.30pm–9.30pm (Hindi); winter: 7pm–8pm (English), 8pm– 9pm (Hindi).