the-south-asian Life & Times               July - September 2010




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Jodhpur’s Three Unusual Places to Stay

Some of India’s best heritage hotels – and also the most expensive - are in Jodhpur. The range in size of rooms and tariff is immense – from Rs 4,000 a night to Rs 500,000

Umaid Bhawan Palace

Rising high above the arid and sparsely shrubbed landscape of Jodhpur is the mighty, larger than life Umaid Bhawan Palace - a turreted, golden-sandstone, Art Deco masterpiece set amidst 26 acres of lush gardens. It is one of the largest residences in the world – the palace has 347 rooms, 98 of which have been turned into an unusually stunning hotel.

Conceived on a grand scale in the Art Deco style of the time, it was designed by the renowned Edwardian architect Henry Lanchester, and commissioned by Maharaja Umaid Singh, grandfather of the present Maharaja of Jodhpur. Maharaja Umaid Singh died in 1947 – having lived in his astounding palace for only four years. It has been the principal residence of the Jodhpur royal family since 1943. They still live in one of the wings - in what was the former women’s quarter. Construction of the palace began in 1929, and it took 3,000 workers and 14 years to complete it in 1943.

The 105 feet high cupola of its central dome, inlaid marble floors, a rarely used subterranean swimming pool, vast rooms with lavish interiors, gilt furniture and elegant artwork, a colonnaded balcony overlooking the gardens, and a politically incorrect Trophy Bar, where the stools are made of elephant feet and the standing lamps of elephant trunks – all this and more is Umaid Bhawan. Statesmen, tycoons, and celebrities have stayed here – Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar chose to get married in the ultra regal surroundings.

Rooms at Umaid cost anywhere between Rs 15,000 to Rs 500,000 per night.

Ajit Bhawan Palace

Down the road from Umaid Bhawan is another former royal residence - the Ajit Bhawan Palace hotel - more reasonable in terms of room tariff. Owned by the maharaja's uncle Maharaj Swaroop Singh, Ajit Bhawan was India’s first heritage hotel. Some hotel aficionados feel this is perhaps Jodhpur’s best hotel – its scale more real. It is a small complex of elegantly designed and decorated rooms grouped around lush courtyards. A former royal residence, Ajit Bhawan was India’s first heritage hotel.

Taj Gateway

The recently opened Taj Gateway is an upscale business hotel and a resort – in a 28 acre palace-like property amidst spacious, rolling lawns, a little distance away from the bustle of the city. It is almost minimalist in its décor – a much-needed relief at times. The 88 monothematic rooms and suites are Taj standard – the food is excellent and the service personal and friendly. Rooms start from Rs 4,000 per night – there is no better deal in Jodhpur. It is true value for money – perhaps more.



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