India is known for its royal palaces, and over the years many have become some of the most magnificent hotel properties in the world. While most of the Rajasthani palaces are known for their gorgeous regal architecture and grand scale, there is one particular gem in Jaipur that stands out for being both a palace, yet quaint and cosy. The Raj Mahal Palace, one of the palaces of the Maharaja of Jaipur which was opened to the public last year by Sujan, an elite hotel group, and a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux, exudes a proud sense of dignity and heritage.
The palace was built in1729 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II as a garden retreat for his wife. It later served as the official residence of the British Resident Political Officer of Rajputana. In 1958, it became a home away from the official home–City Palace— for Maharaja H.H. Sawai Man Singh II and his wife, the glamorous Maharani Gayatri Devi.
Maharani Gayatri Devi was named by Vogue as one of the most beautiful women in the world. She exemplified the truly exotic and regal life of the princely states of the Raj, where custom and tradition brushed hands with modernity and élan. She was known to have some of the most beautiful jewels in the world and always wore them with an air of nonchalance that only added to her sense of style. Her signature look however, was a classic French chiffon saree coupled with a strand of pearls and a stunning personality that was in fact the main attraction and charm of the Maharani.
Some of the guests who have visited Raj Mahal in the past were Jacqueline Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, and Lord Louis Mountbatten amongst others. Their photographs are displayed in frames like family photos in the main salon of the hotel, and a special touch that the hotel added was naming all the suites after these famous guests.
Diya Kumari, the current princess of Jaipur, and mother of the present Maharaja of Jaipur – the dashing Padmanabh Singh, decided that it was time for the palace to be refurbished and turned to Sujan’s owners Jaisal and Anjali Singh and their friend, designer Adil Ahmad. Ahmad spent hours poring over the City Palace archives and family possessions for inspiration. The result is an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new with splashes of vibrant colour. Ahmed was keen to restore the intricate chandeliers and marble staircases of the original palace and maintain the Art Deco feel.
The outdoor area can make one forget they are in fact in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Jaipur, and for a moment be tricked into believing they are back in the 1930s era of the Raj with a Great Gatsby feel to the swimming pool and garden areas. This is one place that a palace aficionado must absolutely not miss! --- Suneela