Among the world’s largest private residences, Umaid Bhawan Palace is located at Jodhpur in Rajasthan. The palace has been divided into three wings – museum, residence of the erstwhile royals and the heritage hotel.
The palace was designed by Henry Vaughan Lancaster, who planned it as a cross between ancient Hindu temples at Angkor Vat and a British town hall. During the construction of the palace, it was called the ‘Chittar Palace’, due to its location on Chittar Hill which is the highest point of Jodhpur.
The palace was built to replace Mehrangarh Fort as the symbol of new Jodhpur and to provide employment to the people during drought and famine.
The foundation of the palace was laid on November 18, 1929 by Maharaja Umaid Singh, after whom the palace is named. The palace was completed in 1945.
The palace is built from yellow sandstone and the interior of the palace is designed in Art Deco style, which was the raging trend in Europe and America during the first half of the 20th century.
The palace built over 26 acres of land was the world’s largest private residence with 347 rooms. However, the distinction is currently enjoyed by Lakshmi Vilas Palace at Vadodara. During the visit, one can see 105 foot high cupola, a Durbar Hall, a billiards room, two marble squash courts, an indoor swimming pool and heritage spots in the palace.
A part of the palace was converted into a five star hotel in 1972 and is managed by ITC hotels. The hotel is designed to give the experience of royal lifestyle to its visitors.
One of the major art works inside the palace are the murals drawn by Stefan Norblin grandson of Peter Norblin, considered the father of Polish genre painting. Norblin, who fled to India during the WWII, was the court painter during his stay in Jodhpur. He painted Ram, Sita and other mythological characters. The Hindu gods and goddesses have European look and are distinct from those drawn by Raja Ravi Varma and others.
Umaid Bhawan has been a favourite with celebrities. Mick Jagger, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Diana Ross, Sarah Ferguson, Bob Geldof and Eva Herzigova are among the few who have stayed at the palace. Supermodel Naomi Campbell booked the entire hotel tο celebrate birthday οf hеr Russian boyfriend Vladimir Doronin in November 2012.