If this were Hogwarts, I would have expected the sepia portraits hung on the corridors to begin recounting the laurels of Bikaner’s Maharajas and Maharanis at a moment’s notice. Though it was not a magical school where paintings can talk, the historical Lallgarh Palace, with its red sandstone façade embellished by intricate stone carvings, spoke volumes about the grandeur of its blue-blooded history.
The place is a luxury boutique hotel today, but I seemed to have stepped into a time machine. Interestingly, Maharaja Ganga Singhji built it in the 19th century to mark a shift to modernity, to define what it meant to be a kingdom in a modern world. Rulers were done making forts, which now bordered on obsolescence, their residences. Palaces on the other hand, with all their symbolism and aesthetic consideration, were considered the way forward. And, so, every nook and cranny of Lallgarh’s interior was designed to capture regality.
Palatial corridors connected one wing to another. Other than portraits and sculptures, animal trophies—deer, rhino and even tiger skin—were hung on the corridor walls and banquet halls. Back in the day, architect Samuel Swinton Jacob introduced many British colonial elements, such as billiards, smoking and card rooms, to the place.
For me, it was an honour to walk the same hallways as many of the palace’s famous guests in the past. British royalty such as Queen Mary and King George V, viceroys like Lord Irwin and Lord Mountbatten, Indian presidents including Dr Rajendra Prasad, and a host of celebrities and politician’s from today’s era; all have graced the palace, sifted through the souvenirs at the boutique souvenir store, and savoured gatte ki sabzi and sangri sabzi at the Padam Mahal restaurant.
As soon as I entered my Maharaja Suite, it was easy to see why was it named so. The maharaja-sized bed was at a height, with a wooden step placed next to it. The restored vintage furniture looked as good as new. And my bedding was so cushy that I could truly sleep like a royal.
The next morning, a faint melody woke me up. I stepped out to a courtyard where Rajasthani folk musicians cajoled guests. The Lallbagh Palace spreads over five miles and has lush lawns, beautiful bougainvillea and pretty peacocks. I enjoyed a cuppa in the garden, something I’ve always dreamt of while living in a clustered city like Delhi.
I did not expect the palace to have an art-deco-style indoor swimming pool. It was in a huge hall with tall pillars, rounded glass windows and white marble benches. In awe of the opulence, I soaked myself in the pool. And truly felt like a king.