A Mammoth Pink Monument to the Twilight Days of the Maharajas
India’s most colorful state, Rajasthan isn’t called the Land of Kings for nothing. Rambling palaces and forts are everywhere, most converted into intriguing hotels after the maharajas were stripped of their regal stipends but allowed to keep their real estate.
After a while many of them begin to blur together in the minds of travelers, so if you begin to feel a bit blasé – “another day, another palace” – refresh yourself by pulling up to the most imposing of them all: the Anglo-Indian Umaid Bhawan Palace, one of the largest private residences ever built. This last of the royal palaces employed 3,000 artisans and laborers for fifteen years as a famine-relief project organized by Maharaja Umaid Singh for his subjects.
The current maharaja, grandson of Umaid Singh, keeps one extensive wing for his family, leaving the rest for a museum of glorious paintings and armor and setting aside 55 of the palace’s 347 grandest rooms as a deluxe hotel, opened in 1971. The building, extravagant even by maharaja standards, is unique for its Art Deco details, which reflect both the period and the British architect’s tastes. The pink buff sandstone was chiseled and interlocked without the use of mortar – something to ponder while standing beneath the palace’s lofty 135-foot-high central dome.