The Jai Vilas Palace in Gwalior is the seat of the Scindia royal family. Commissioned by Jayaji Rao Scindia to welcome King George V and Queen Mary who visited India in 1876.
Designed and built by Sir Michael Filose, construction on the palace was completed in 1874, well in time for the royal couple’s arrival.
Said to be inspired by the Palace of Versailles, the Jai Vilas Palace has three distinct styles of architecture: Tuscan on the ground floor, Italian-Doric on the first, and Corinthian on the second.
The three diverse architectural styles blend together seamlessly in the Jai Vilas Palace. Jayaji Rao Scindia is said to have spent a crore to build this majestic building in 19th century.
By some estimates it would cost over Rs 4,000 crore to build it today.
A part of the palace has been open to the public since the mid-60s but the remainder of the palace continues to serve as the official residence of the Scindia family.
The current maharaja, albeit titular, is Jyotiraditya Scindia.
The museum in the palace offers some insight into just how lavish a lifestyle the Scindia family may have led. Almost as soon as you enter the palace you will be greeted by a railway coach that was designed by Rolls Royce.
The Scindias and the railways have a long history. What was originally a 22-km private tramway was extended to a nearly 55-km route used to bring in supplies to relieve the famine. Over time, the Gwalior Light Railway, as it was called then, was renamed to Scindia State Railway before being sold to and merged with the Indian Railways is 1951.
The connection of railways to the Scindia family extended right up to Jyotiraditya Scindia’s late father, Madhavrao Scindia who was the Minister of State for Railways in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet.
Paying homage to this legacy is a model train made of solid silver that runs along the length of a 42-seater dining table. The ingenious invention served as a vehicle for brandy and cigars at the end of a formal dinner.
Indeed the dining room itself is among the larger rooms of the Jai Vilas Palace but doesn’t match the grandeur of the Durbar Hall which measures more than 5,000 square feet alone and has two 12.5 m high 3.5 tonne chandeliers and a handwoven carpet that supposedly took 12 years to complete.
The ornate hall as over 560 kg of gold that’s been used as part of the room’s décor.
In all there are some 200-odd rooms in the palace some of which served as bedrooms while others as lounges, nurseries, libraries, etc. There’s also an indoor swimming pool that, when in use, was restricted to the women of the household. Of the 200 rooms, the museum occupies 35 of them.
Among the things you can see as part of the museum are rare paintings – both Mughal and European as well as silver and gold accessories, Persian rugs, vintage cars, palanquins, and photographs and lithographs. Swords belonging to the Mughal emperors Aurangzeb and Shahjahan as well as a shield belonging to Laxmibai, the queen of Jhansi are on display.
All photos: Wikimedia Commons/Under Creative Commons License
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