A day comes when you realize that merely executing your daily chores is getting hectic and you cannot do any better despite pushing harder. This is the moment when you start craving for a much needed break that removes all the clutters and the unwanted voices that begin to echo inside your head. At this point, it would be better if you look out for a historical place to visit, as a journey to the past will let you forget the worries of the present day life and also learn how different the lifestyle of the people was in the time when technologies such as computers, mobile phones, internet, and other devices were not in existence, and the obsession of the people was to project their majesty with their residences; grand structures made on the land that eventually became iconic landmarks and continue to fascinate the onlookers.
A perfect destination for a historical escapade is the Laxmi Vilas Palace in the state of Gujarat.
The Laxmi Vilas Palace is built in the lands of Vadodara, an ancient city and now a major trade hub of Gujarat.
The construction of the palace began in 1878 and was completed by 1890. The design of the structure was created by an Englishman named Major Charles Mant. Spread over a wide expanse measuring 700 acres, this palace is said to be the largest residential structure made till date and is four times larger than the Buckingham Palace of London.
The palace was built by Sayajirao Gaekwad III, a ruler of the Gaekwad Dynasty. It is a fine example of the Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture style. The structure was equipped with ultra-modern facilities including elevators. It closely resembles a European country house.
Being the largest residential structure of the ancient times, there is no room for any doubts regarding the beauty of this structure. The Laxmi Vilas Palace boasts a Durbar Hall, where musical events and other cultural programs are held on a regular basis. The unique features of this hall include the floor designed with Venetian mosaic, stained glass from Belgium and designer walls and the very prominent ornate artwork. The courtyard of the palace is an equally, if not more, enchanting portion where water fountains have been constructed in an appealing manner.
Similar to any other ancient royal residence, the palace now houses a wide range of artifacts.
The palace is divided into different buildings. These are the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum building, Moti Bagh (or Motibaug) Palace, teak floored indoor tennis court, badminton court, two clay tennis courts and a now defunct fives court.
The current museum building was originally used for schooling of the Maharaja’s children. The exhibits in the museum include the famous works of Raja Ravi Verma, one of the most iconic painters in the history of India. Apart from his works, which depict the events of Ramayana and Mahabharata, the portraits of the members of the royal family also add to the museum’s collection.
The wealthiness of the royal family is evident from the fact that the children of the royal family were privileged with a private train that carried them to and from the school.
As an epitome of luxury, the palace featured unique characteristics, including a mini zoo. All that now remains in this zoo is a pond which is the habitat for a number of crocodiles. There is an ancient well named Navlakhi Well, a step well, at the north side of the palace.
In the nineteenth century, Maharaja Pratapsinh employed workers to construct a golf course for the guests who would arrive from the European countries. A few decades later, his grandson, Samarjitsinh decided to renovate it and open it for the public. This golf course is now administered by the Gaekwad Baroda Golf Club.
A swimming pool, sauna and a gym were added to the Motibaug Palace, as it was converted into the club house for the golf club.
Places to See
The historical Laxmi Vilas Palace is now home to the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum, where visitors can look at some of the most beautiful artworks collected by Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad collected during his visits to different parts of India. The collection consists of paintings created by some prominent European and Indian artists of that era.
Added to the paintings is an array of sculptures carved out in marble and bronze. Some of these artifacts are genuine works of renowned artists such as Titian, Raphael, Murillo, etc., while a few of these are just replicas though the beauty of these artifacts is worth looking and appreciating. Included in this collection is the work of Fellicci, an Italian artist whose creations have been put on not just at the museum, but also in other sections of the palace.
Other works put on display at the museum include sculptures from foreign countries collected by the Maharaja himself.
The Vadodara Museum and Art Gallery has put on show some well-preserved collections of geological, archaeological, historical and ethnological significance.
Eat, Drink, Collect
Visitors of the Laxmi Vilas Palace can opt to stay at the Gateway Hotel, Hotel Surya, Hotel Raajpath, Hotel Presidency Towers, Hotel Kalyan, Hotel GRG, Hotel Sunrise, etc. These hotels also have in-house restaurants where you can enjoy a meal or simply place an order for room delivery if you feel too lazy to move out after exploring the palace and other attractions of the city.
Other famous outlets that serve meals, fast food, desserts and snacks include Vishal Sandwich, Dairy Den, Kalyan Restaurant, Vanity, Fabia, Zaika, Periyar etc.
Shopaholics will be able to collect some richly crafted camel leather goods, handicrafts, and clothes from this city.
How to Reach
The airport of Vadodara city connects it to various cities of the state and country through regular flights. The authorities are planning to set up an international airport to provide the city better connectivity with foreign countries.
The railway station of Vadodara city has been operational for more than a century now. As of now, more than a hundred trains pass from this station everyday. The railway route is further divided into five stations within the city: Vadodara Junction, Makarpura, Bajwa, Pratapnagar and Vishwamitri.
Vadodara is connected with Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Mumbai through National Highway 8 that passes from this city. Within the city, the public transport vehicles make it easy for the visitors to travel from one place to another through the prevailing cluster of taxis, auto-rickshaws and buses.
A private firm by the name VTPL has eased the congestion occurring in the roads of Vadodara due to large number of private vehicles by operating private buses that can carry up to 50 passengers at a time.
The Laxmi Vilas Palace is definitely an amusing, bewildering, and worth remembering place, as it surpasses the norms of size and grandeur of a normal residential space. With its amazing offerings to the visitors, the palace clocks a large number of visitors every year. Adding yourself to the list of amused visitors should be a priority next time you plan a vacation.