he palaces of India are some of the most romantic and spectacular attractions in the world. Created by the rulers of erstwhile Indian kingdoms, they serve as an example of the splendid and opulent lifestyle of the erstwhile Maharajas of India in the bygone days. Today, many of them have been converted into museums or heritage hotels.
To give you an idea of the best palaces to visit on your next trip to India, below is a list of the top ten palaces of India.
1. Mysore Palace
Among the grandest of India’s royal buildings, the Mysore Palace, also known as Amba Vilas Palace, is the official residence of the Wodeyars, the Maharajas of Mysore, the former royal family of Mysore, who ruled the princely state from 1399 to 1950. The old palace was gutted by a fire in 1897; the current building with its domes, turrets, arches and colonnades was completed in 1912 by English architect Henry Irwin at a cost of Rs 4.5 million. The palace was built in the Indo-Saracenic style which blends Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic styles of architecture. It is a three-stone structure with marble domes and a five-story tower. The palace is surrounded by a large garden.
2. Lake Palace, Udaipur
Jag Niwas or the Lake Palace, built by Maharana Jagat Singh II between 1734 and 1751 was once a royal summer retreat and is now converted into one of the world’s great hotels. Jag Niwas seems to float like a dream ship on the blue waters of the lake. The courtly atmosphere, elegance and opulence of princely times, the painted ceilings, antique furniture combined with the truly magical setting make it one of the most romantic buildings in India. There are superb views from the balconies. . It is also a popular location for film shoots (including James Bond’s Octopussy).
3. City Palace, Udaipur
Overlooking the picturesque Lake Pichola, City Palace Udaipur is a complex of palaces built by 22 Maharanas over a period of four centuries. Built on a hill top, it had a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings. The palace is a fascinating combination of Rajput military architecture and Mughal-style decorative techniques. The interiors of the palace complex with its balconies, towers and cupolas exhibit delicate mirror-work, marble-work, murals, wall paintings, silver-work, inlay-work and coloured glass.
4. City Palace, Jaipur
City Palace Jaipur, located in the old city of Jaipur, is a massive complex of palaces, courtyards, pavilions and museums. The palace was built between 1727 and 1732 by Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur. The City Palace is built in the typical Rajput style with fretted screens and fragile pillars supporting carved balconies. Most noteworthy within the City Palace is the Mubarak Mahal and Chandra Mahal, the former seat of the Rajput Maharajas and current home to the former royal family.
5. Bangalore Palace
The private residence of the Wodeyars, erstwhile maharajas of the state, Bangalore Palace preserves a slice of bygone royal splendour for you to see. It is believed to be designed to resemble Windsor Castle, however this is not true. You can marvel at the lavish interiors and galleries featuring hunting trophies, family photos and a collection of Indian and international paintings. The palace grounds are now Bangalore’s hottest concert arena, having hosted rock ‘n’ roll biggies such as Iron Maiden, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Deep Purple.
6. Laxmi Vilas Palace, Baroda
Located in Baroda, the Laxmi Vilas Palace was built by Major Charles ‘Mad’ Mant for Sayajirao II at a cost of Rs 6 million. Built in the 19th century Indo-Saracenic architecture, its interiors are decorated with mosaics, chandeliers, artworks and jarokhas (projecting balcony-windows). Set in expansive parklike grounds, the palace is still the residence of the Vadodara’s royal family.
7. Hawa Mahal, Jaipur
Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds is one of the highlights of the old city of Jaipur. Built for the ladies of the royal household to watch the daily activities in the streets below, it has now become a building of architectural beauty. The facade of the palace is what makes it so popular, as it looks like a honeycomb web of a beehive with countless tiny windows decorated with intricate lattice work. Great views of the old city and Jantar Mantar is an added bonus for coming here.
8. Jai Vilas Palace, Gwalior
Jai Vilas Palace was built by Maharaja Jayajirao in 1874 using prisoners from the Gwalior Fort. The convicts were rewarded with the 12-year job of weaving the hall carpet, one of the largest in Asia. The European architecture of the palace was designed by Sir Michael Filose (known as Mukhel Sahib) under the guidance of Maharaja Jayajirao to welcome Prince Edward VII. Two Belgian chandeliers at Durbar Hall weighing 7 tonnes each are believed to be the most gigantic in the world. The palace has 400 rooms, of which 40 rooms have been converted into a museum.
9. Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad
Located southeast of Laad Bazar in Hyderabad, Chowmahalla Palace was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty and was the official residence of the Nizams of Hyderabad while they ruled their state. Modelled on the Shah of Iran’s palace in Tehran, this palace is unique for its style and elegance. Over the 100 years of its expansion it has absorbed Persian, Indo-Saracenic, Rajasthani and European styles into its architecture. Chowmahalla Palace consists of two courtyards, a southern courtyard and a northern courtyard. They have elegant palaces, the grand Khilwat (Durbar Hall), fountains and gardens.
10. Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur
Umaid Bhavan is a magnificent palace and grand hotel situated on Chittar Hill, three kilometres south of Jodhpur city. Most of the palace is now converted into the Taj Umaid Bhavan Hotel. Due to its beautiful renovations, the hotel also hosts special private banquets and wedding receptions in its magnificent halls. Umaid Bhavan also has a museum which is quite interesting too.