Where: Rajmahal Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
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This small Art Deco palace, owned by Jaipur’s royal family, underwent a painstaking restoration before reopening in 2015. A bold contemporary take on palatial Indian style, now with the finest rooms in the city – and there are just 14 of them.
The Royal Standard of the House of Amber still flutters above the Rajmahal Palace, one of the oldest and most treasured palaces in the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur. Only the City Palace and the royal family’s private forts hold this distinction. Home to the Maharaja of Jaipur, this exquisite royal palace is located at the heart of Rajasthan’s bustling capital. An enclosed oasis, secluded in verdant gardens, Rajmahal Palace is the repository of a celebrated history. Tall bay windows, mirrored doors and meticulously appointed interiors allow guests to be transported to a new era of 21st century regal living. Conceived by H.H Sawai Jai Singh II as a private palace, a garden retreat, built for his beloved wife, Chandra Kanwar Ranawat ji, the daughter of the Maharana of Mewar, Rajmahal Palace has stood witness to over 250 years of history.
In 1821, Rajmahal became the official residence of the British Resident Political Officer of Rajputana and in 1958 His Highness Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur – the celebrated and dashing ‘Jai’ – chose it as his personal private residence. Over the decades this remarkable Palace has hosted Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, as well as several other members of the British Royal Family, and eminent international celebrities such as Jackie Kennedy, Lord and Lady Mountbatten, and the Shah of Iran. Following a carefully orchestrated restoration, this palace continues to embody the heritage of its past, maintaining the original, stunning marble staircase, elaborate chandeliers, and treasured family possessions. Initially comprising 14 Royal Apartments, Suites and Palace Rooms, guests are invited to be a part of Rajmahal Palace and share its history and hospitality.
Set in extensive lawned gardens, the palace is a 15-minute walk south of Jaipur’s old walled city and on the right side of town for rail and airport transfers. A country manor in the heart of the city, tea is still served on the lawn of what was once the British Residency. The private home of the last Maharajah of Jaipur and his glamorous wife Gayatri Devi, who hosted legendary parties, there’s still a sense of being a guest of the family. The Rajput grandeur has now been replaced by exuberant modern interiors using custom-made wallpapers to interpret traditional motifs in fun new ways.
Sparkling wine and fresh lime soda greet new arrivals and – in keeping with the country house concept – there are no breakfast hours, laundry charges or sense of staff hovering for a tip. The original pool, sunk into the gardens, has been restored and spa treatments are available. Even the smallest rooms are palatial with high ceilings and sitting areas scattered with the sort of books, photographs and curiosities found in an English country house. The original chairs and sofas have been reupholstered in jewel-bright velvet’s and playful chintzes. Bed linen is the best sateen cotton and the scent of fresh-cut roses and jasmine fills the air. The turquoise Polo Bar is full of trophies and photographs of princely triumphs on the field and has an international cocktail, spirit and wine list. The formal dining room shimmers with cut glass and polished silver. The menu includes the rich meat curries beloved of Jaipur royals and European classics such as chicken cordon bleu and braised lamb shank. A similar menu is also served in the glass-walled Colonnade overlooking the gardens and on the lawn itself. Breakfast, served in the zany ’51 shades of pink’ room is particularly well executed.
Rajmahal makes a statement where style and symmetry dominate. It is both a classical and a contemporary home within the walls of a royal palace. From first being conceived as a pleasure garden for a ‘favourite Queen’, this property, once on the outskirts of Jaipur and now at its core, became the British Residency, and then finally reverted back to being the private home of His Highness Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur. Theirs was a family of unparalleled riches and power, indelible truths that mark the history of the Kachwaha clan, from the grand City Palace complex to the majestic Amber Fort and much more. Signs of their power are symbolized by many historical facts.
Rajmahal Palace epitomizes the power and sensibility of a ruling family that actively contributed and participated in the layered history of India. It is an extraordinary ‘home’ set in an extraordinary city that is a living museum without boundaries, embracing one and all, a celebration of a vibrant diversity. The painstakingly restored palace, a sparkling gem, embodies that ethos of Jaipur and its royal family, its glittering past and is now entering its gilded future. In the 1900s and through to Independence in 1947, the ‘Jaipur Life’ symbolized the dash and vivacity of a rare glamour displayed on polo’s playing fields and heady soirees. Perhaps no one personified this charmed life more than the charismatic and brilliant H.H Sawai Man Singh II. An exceptional expert of polo, a solider and popular ruler, H.H Sawai Man Singh II’s life ran parallel to the changing face of Jaipur and India.