The Royal Retreat

Somewhere in the midst of all my yearly travels to India, I had forgotten the reason for people from far and wide flocking to the homeland for extraordinary vacations. A recent post by a friend on social media reminded me about the beautiful cultural heritage and architecture of our country's finest treasures. Wearing our 'tourist lens' this time around, we were determined to explore one such palatial treat. We made a happy family trip to explore a local marvel in our hometown of Vadodara. You will be nothing short of dumbstruck to see the majestic grandeur of Laxmi Vilas Palace. Behold!

As soon as you set foot on the palatial grounds, you are thrown back into a majestic past like no other. Tucked away sacredly in the heart of a busy city, this beautiful palace is a true retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city that surrounds it. 

Our images do not do justice to the sheer magnificence of this place. Constructed in 1890 by Charles Mant, a British architect, for Maharaja Sayajirao III, this grand structure is about four times the size of the Buckingham Palace in England. The king at that time adopted Maharaja Sayajirao III to be the heir to his Gaekwad dynasty. Maharaja Sayajirao III was a true visionary and a pioneer in many ways. I distinctly remember the four towers of the palace envisioned by him. Each tower is symbolic of a different religion, bearing a prominent religious symbol on the tower to represent Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, and Christianity. The four unique towers co-exist on the palatial grounds and together add to the beauty of the place. What a fantastic way to represent the principles of religious tolerance and secularism!

The palace is still home to the royal family of Vadodara. Oh how I wished I would spot Prince Charming playing a game of polo on his royal horse, trotting along the vast green fields; or strutting majestically down the royal stairway! But to my dismay, there was no sign of his Highness anywhere!

As you make your way through the tour of the palace, you will be blown away by the intricate art work, the gorgeous sculptures, colorful paintings, and royal decor. What impressed us the most was the self-guided tour option available to explore leisurely on your own terms. You can stroll at your own pace listening to an audio guided tour of the whole palace, while enjoying your royal solitude in the extravagant space around you. The recording plays for about an hour and is extremely well organized and descriptive. The talk is presented with soothing music in the background. What's even better is that you can chose to hear the information in English, Hindi, or the local language of Gujarati, giving tourists and locals plenty of options to learn about the palace. We immersed ourselves in all the royal details and had such a great experience overall. It was not crowded, which allowed us enough time to explore the space around us.

Check out the beautiful depiction of a royal wedding painted on the outdoor wall of the palace.

Ufff...these gorgeous details. I can't get enough of it:) The only bummer was that we were not allowed to take photographs inside the palace, as is the case in most museums. Some highlight points inside included:

- A majestic stairway leading to the residence of the royal family

- A room filled with a stellar display of arms and weapons

- The Gaddi Room- An auspicious 'throne' room that is surrounded by life size paintings on all it's walls and has the royal throne, set to commemorate the next heir in line

- A phenomenal display of water fountains and lotus leaves adorning a small indoor pond in the passageway

- The awe-stirring 'Darbar Hall'- My mouth was open in awe the whole time inside the Darbar Hall. The whole space is clad with huge chandeliers, Venetian mosaic flooring, and Belgian glass paintings. There's an upper viewing arena ornately decorated to watch the performances that take in this event space 

Most folks are able to complete the tour of the palace in about an hour and a half. I'm not going to lie...we took our time and spent an amazing four hours working our travelling toes. There's also a cafeteria inside that serves yum samosas and other savories to your heart's delight. 

The word on the street is that they are now offering permits to host weddings in the outdoor arena at the palace- important announcement for all you wedding obsessed peeps out there:)

Have a fantastic week my lovelies...more awesomeness coming your way super soon!