Laxmi Vilas Palace is one of the most majestic structures in India and was the private residence of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III. Known to be the largest private dwelling of the size equivalent to four times of the Buckingham Palace, this magnificent palace is a must visit when in Vadodara. Sprawling across an area of about 700 acres, it is still home to the royal family of Vadodara, the Gaekwads. The lush gardens of the palace add to the beauty of the entire experience of being here. Lucky tourists can spot monkeys or peacocks strutting around. The grounds also include a 10-hole golf course. In earlier times, a small zoo was also a part of the area. What remains today are a small pond and a few crocodiles.
The striking palace was constructed in 1890 and took nearly twelve years to complete. The total cost of the construction was around £180,000. The chief architect of the place was Major Charles Mant. He followed the Indo-Saracenic style while constructing the palace which is a hybrid of the Hindu, Gothic and Mughal architectural forms with the presence of domes, minrates and arches. It also incorporates several other buildings within its complex including the LVP Banquets and Conventions, Moti Baug Palace and the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum building. An excellent audio tour with free drink and snack are included in the ticket price.
The museum building was mainly constructed as a school for the Maharaja's children. Today, the museum houses an extraordinary collection of paintings by Raja Ravi Verma and various other artefacts gathered from all around the world. A good blend of both foreign as well as local materials and workmanship was used in the construction of the palace. Red stone was brought in from Agra, blue trap stone from Poona, marbles from Rajasthan and Italy were used while twelve workmen from Venice laid down the beautiful montage floor of the Darbar Hall of the palace.
The Laxmi Vilas Palace is one of the most impressive Raj-era palaces in India till today. The interiors of the palace consist of well-maintained montage, artwork and chandeliers. The palace was built with the most high-tech facilities including elevators at the time of their creation so as to make it a more appropriate place with western facilities. It has 170 rooms and it was built for just two people, i.e. the Maharaja and Maharani. Major Charles Mant who was hired as the architect of the palace was said to be a perfectionist. However, he thought that his calculations were wrong which is why he hung himself to death after assuming that the palace would not last long. However, this majestic palace stands strong even after 125 years. After his death, Robert Fellowes Chisholm was hired to complete the remaining work.
The spectacular palace is styled in Indo-Saracenic Revival style of architecture. Upon entrance, the Darbar Hall is adorned with mosaic floors, period furniture, Venetian chandeliers and Belgian stained glass windows. This ornate room houses some of the best sculptures made of bronze, marble and terracotta and is often the venue for cultural events and musical concerts. This palace which is spread over 700 acres consists of the very beautiful Navlakhi stepwell, Maharaja Fatehgarh museum and a small zoo which is known to be the resting ground for crocodiles. The Fatehgarh museum has a section wherein all the paintings by Raja Ravi Verma have been showcased. Before a museum, this was the school of royal offsprings. Also, a miniature train line connected the place to the school so as to make the commuting easy for kids.
A special collection of swords and weapons of war used during the Maharaja's time is displayed in the armoury. Recently, the museum also had a new addition and exhibits headgears collected by MaharajaRanjit Singh Gaekwad. It is now one of the few museums in the country with a dedicated headgear gallery. The entranceway of the Laxmi Vilas palace has a palm courtyard adorned with an ornate fountain. Numerous marble tiles and other artworks are used in the interior of the palace. The splendid palace also has a number of gardens which were designed by the very famous botanist Sir William Goldring who also designed the famous Kew Botanical Gardens in London.
There is a swimming pool at its deck which are amongst the favourite spots for tourists to hang out at. Along with a Jacuzzi and baby pool, the place becomes all the more enjoyable for the families. There is an Ayurvedic massage centre present as well which lies close to the pool and offers numerous remedial massages as well as treatments. Puppet show as we all know has always been a vital part of the Rajasthani tradition and can be enjoyed at the palace every evening. There are recreation rooms as well comprising of table tennis, a pool table and carom board. In addition to that, there is a play area for children nearby the swimming pool so that the parents can relax and keep an eye on their kids at the same time.
Not only this, you can enjoy a game of badminton or sit down for a relaxing session of yoga. You can also go around on a sightseeing trip by booking it at the travel desk present in the premises. Cultural Programme, as well as a DJ too, are arranged on special demand.
This grand museum is present within the Laxmi Vilas Palace. Visitors get to see an ample amount of sculptures here which are renowned and are said to belong to the great artisans of the past. These artists belonged to both Indian as well as foreign origin. The museum showcases art which belonged to the time of the royals Maharaja Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad III and his family. On his trip to the various trips within as well as outside India, all the art and paintings collected by the Maharaja have been housed in the museum as well. Raja Ravi Varma was one of the most renowned artists of the time and his paintings based on Hindu mythology captivate people even today.
There are several portraits of the royal family inside the museum and one can actually feel the grandeur of the royal families which existed then. It also attracts a number of tourists due to its beauty and extensive lawns. The oriental gallery present inside the museum comprises of Chinese as well as Japanese sculptures.
The timings for the palace is 9:30 AM- 5:00 PM (Lunch time is between 1:00 PM- 1:30 PM which is when you are advised not to visit the palace). The palace remains closed on Monday.
The entrance fee for the museum is INR 60 per person.
The entrance fee for the palace is INR 150 per person.
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A pleasant climate adds to the beauty of a place. The ideal time to visit this elegant and massive palace is during the months of October and March when the climate is enjoyable as well.
The palace can be easily reached. It is located on the Nehru Road which makes it accessible and easy to reach via cabs and auto-rickshaws. The mode of transport is easily available from every part of the city.
Photography is restricted inside the palace.