India is set to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its independence from British rule on August 15, 2017. It is a remarkable moment for the country, still young in many ways. The largest democracy in the world has struggled and stumbled in these decades, falling into dark times even. But it has survived and thrived also. India today stands as a successful example of a democracy: finding harmony in chaos. But before there was democracy and India as we know it, there were centuries of kingdoms, small and large, that made up Hindustan. These rulers led their subjects and played big roles in carving the art and culture of India. We are, after all, an extension of our history. So on the 71st Independence Day, we are looking at the palaces of India where these royal families still reside. ALSO READ: 10 magnificent heritage hotels in India that are truly luxurious!
Laxmi Vilas Palace, Gujarat
Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara
Vadodara, formerly Baroda, is a majesty city steeped in rich history, and much of that history was carved by the Gaekwads, a Maratha family that ruled Baroda since the 18th century and all the way until independence. Built in 1890 by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the Laxmi Vilas Palace is a grand, sprawling palace that is still home to the Gaekwad family, who are still end in high regard by the people of Vadodara. Spread over 500 acres, the palace complex consists of several buildings, including the Moti Baug Palace and a golf course constructed in the 1930s.
Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
Umaid Bhawan, Photograph courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
One of the last palaces ever built by an Indian king before lady liberty knocked on India’s doors, the Umaid Bhawan Palace is today one of the largest private residences in the world. Ground broke on the palace in 1929, under the reign of Maharaja Umaid Singh, and it took nearly 15 years to complete. When the palace opened in 1943, hundreds of royal family members were there to witness it. Today, part of the palace is a hotel managed by Taj, and another part is a museum. The royal family under Gaj Singh continue to reside in the palace, which was called Chittar Palace when it was being built. CHECK OUT Breathtaking photos of what Umaid Bhawan Palace looks like from the inside!
Lalgarh Mahal, Bikaner
Laxmi Niwas Palace, Lalgarh Palace, Bikaner, Photograph courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Built for Maharaja Ganga Singh after deeming the older Junagarh Palace unsuitable, Lalgarh Mahal is not as large as the other two mentioned above, but is still a royal spectacle. The palace’s first ruler, Ganga Singh, was the second-last ruler of the kingdom of Bikaner in Rajasthan and was highly successful statesman and visionary. Built in the years from 1902 to 1926, the palace was named after his father, Maharaja Lall Singh. His successor, Sadul Singh, would be the last ruling Maharaja of Bikaner and one of the first princes to accede to India before her independence. The palace today is a mix of two heritage hotels, a museum and the residence of the royal family, who operate one of the hotels.
Mysore Palace, Mysuru
Down south, the Royal palace of Mysore in the city that now goes by Mysuru, Karnataka remains the official home of the Wadiyars, rulers of the kingdom of Mysore. The royal family continued to rule Mysore even after Indian independence, even though Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar ceded his kingdom in 1947. It wasn’t until 1950, when India became a republic, that Mysore officially became a part of India. The palace today is still the residence of the Wadiyars and is a sprawling public tourist attraction. In fact, it is said to be the second most famous tourist attraction in the country, the Taj Mahal obviously taking first place. Did you know these amazing facts about the Mysore Palace?
The City Palace, Udaipur
The City Palace in Udaipur
The City Palace of Udaipur, located beside the massive Lake Pichola, is probably the most impressive of all royal residences in India. Built over the course of nearly 400 years by several Mewar kings, the City Palace is actually a sprawling complex full of small but impressive palaces, and exploring it all is not something you can do in a single day. The palace construction began under Maharana Udai Singh II in 1553 when he shifted the capital of the Mewar kingdom from Chittor to Udaipur. Today, the flamboyant palace complex is home to several monuments, including the Jag Mandir and Monsoon Palace, and displays an incredible mix of Mughal and Rajasthani artwork and architecture.