Lukshmi Vilas Palace
Lukshmi Vilas Palace, the magnificent residence of the royal family of Baroda was built by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III in 1890 with Major Charles Mant as the chief architect.Until the 1860s the family still occupied the old Nazarbaug palace, a tall building with an encrustation of pavilions and kiosks on the roof which the French traveller, Rousselet, found very disquieting: 'The mass of buildings, planted on the summit of an edifice almost entirely of wood, whose foundations were soaking in a damp soil, betokened great audacity on the part of the architects, and still more confidence on that of the king'.
The inside was dark and cavernous, and Sayajirao felt it was better suited to act as a storehouse for the family jewels rather than as a residence.Lukshmi Vilas Palace was completed in 1890. It had taken twelve years to build and had cost around £180,000. It was designed by Major Mant, who also designed palaces at Kolhapur and Darbhanga, but completed by Robert Fellowes Chisholm. As Chisholm told the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1896:'It must be kept in view that the native Rajas and chiefs of India are passing through a transitional period; that an old palace like that at Ambur would be about as useless to the present Gaekwar of Baroda as to an ordinary English gentleman.'
Mant's design aimed to 'combine native detail with the ordinary requirements of a modern palace and arrangement of rooms'. Reputed to have been the largest private dwelling built till date and four times the size of Buckingham Palace, this beauteous structure features an Indo Saracenic style of architecture.
Thus Mant stuck more or less to the traditional arrangement of an Indian palace - with three distinct and separate parts for the public rooms, Maharaja's private apartments, and the ladies' quarters respectively but incorporated many new rooms to suit the Baroda family's increasingly western life-style stately dining rooms, billiard rooms, and great apartments for distinguished European visitors. Similarly, he attempted to incorporate the best elements of many periods of Indian architecture with some of the functional touches and decorative flourishes of different European schools. The sheer size of the palace (the frontage was over five hundred feet long) made it possible to include all these elements without creating stylistic havoc.
Mant rejected from the start any idea of a dry symmetrical pattern, and allowed the styles to melt into one another. The exterior of the Maharaja's apartments were dressed up in the garb of Hindu martial architecture, with most of the detail borrowed from the fortress of Bharatpur. The public apartments, however, moved more into a Moghul style, while the ladies' quarters ended in a forest of domes and canopies copied from the Jain temples of Gujarat. However, even amongst this Indian tour de force, Chisholm noted:'In regard to detail an architect inspecting the forms critically will see evidence of European feeling in much of the ornament and massing of the forms. There is a thought of Venice in many of the arches, and a more decided feeling of Gothic in others, and towards the south end of the building a distinct leaning to an earlier and somewhat purer type of [classical European] art.'
Likewise the materials used were a blend of east and west. The basic construction was brick faced with red sandstone from the quarries of Agra, with some blue trapstone from Poona and marble from the quarries of Rajasthan. Workmen from Madras came to apply the ‘chunam’ plaster to many of theinterior walls. Then twelve workmen from the Murano Company of Venice spent eighteen months in Baroda laying the floor of Venetian mosaic in the Durbar hall.
Carrara marble was imported for the doorways of the hall, the pillars and the ornamental staircase. Mr Tree from London made the moulding and gilding on the walls and ceilings, Mr Goldring from Kew laid out the gardens, Signor Felici from Italy made the sculptures which decorated the staircase, Durbar hall and other public rooms, and Mr Dix from London executed the stained glass windows. Period furniture, Old Masters and Venetian chandeliers completed the effect. There are even collections of bronze sculptures, relics, armoury, terracotta and other antiques.
It is perhaps fitting that this concrete encyclopaedia of eastern and western architectural styles is probably on its way to becoming an Arts Centre. With its eclectic Indian exterior and lush European interior, it will serve as a characteristic monument to the memory of Sayajirao, and to the curious bridging role which the princes were obliged to play in the era of British rule.The present management of the club have used the old British spelling Lukshmi Vilas Palace instead of the better known Lakshmi Vilas Palace.One of the most spectacular creations within the palace if the Durbar hall with a Venetian mosaic floor, Belgium stained glass windows and walls with intricate mosaic decorations.
Outside the ornate Durbar Hall is an Italian courtyard of fountains and the palace compound of over 700 acres which houses the Motibaug palace and Maharaja Fatehsingh Museum.The resplendent Darbar Hall is the venue for reputed music concerts and other cultural events.
The Lukshmi Vilas in Baroda is set in a vast landscape park with sculptures. The dazzling Lukshmi Vilas palace also houses an exceptional compilation of old armoury and sculptures in bronze, marble & terracotta by Fellici.The grounds were landscaped by William Goldring, a specialist from Kew Gardens. The palace is open to the public and an audio tour is available.
The 'Audio tours' may now be downloaded onto your mobile phones/mp3 players before you visit the palace for an enhanced experience of the 'Royal Tour'. These audio tours are available in both English and Hindi.
As we go down the panels of history, it has been discovered that the museum building was actually built as a school for the Maharaja's children! Consequently, the Maharajas of Gaekwad have created a haven for art enthusiasts as presently, a large number of works of art belonging to the Royal family have been displayed in the museum.
Also displayed are the breathtaking collection of paintings by Raja Ravi Varma (Includes portriats of the Royal Family as well as Hindu mythology.)
The Maharaja also created a miniature railway line, which circled the mango orchard within the palace compound, to take his children from the school to the main Lukshmi Vilas Palace.The train engine was recently refurbished by Ranjitsinh Pratapsinh Gaekwad, the current maharaja, and can be seen at the entrance to the Museum.
The Navlakhi (literally meaning "of nine hundred thousand")well, a fine 'baoli' or step well, is 50 metres north of the palace.
For Palace Visitors
The Palace is open for visitors. Tickets can be bought at the Security Desk of the palace entrance south of the main gate.Visitor timings are from 10 am until 4:30 pm. The palace is open on all days except Mondays & public holidays.Photography is NOT permitted. The ticket charges include a free audio tour in hindi or english. Due to security reasons all visitors will be frisked.
For more details you can contact on tel ( 91-265) 2411022 / 2431516 / 9825017004.