Shiv Niwas Palace
Diadem of the Palace
The debonair Shiv Niwas Palace was first opened for the shooting of the 007 Bond film Octopussy. This crescent shaped palace was originally the annexe to the Shambhu Palace near the southern end of the Pichola Lake. It was built sometime in the beginning of the century by Maharana Fateh Singh for nearly Rs 6,00,000, a very great sum in those days. The style and design of the building is purely European although it has retained some of the distinctive traditional Hindu elements seen in Udaipur. It is a beautiful combination of Hindu tradition and European elegance. As a structure it is more harmonious and artistic than the Shambhu Niwas. The maharana had sent two of his court artisans, Khaja Ustadh and Master Kundan Lal, to England; the former to learn the art of glass-mosaic design and the latter to study the fine art of fresco painting. The former has given the interiors of Shiv Niwas their radiant effect. In 1903 when the Prince of Wales came to visit Udaipur he was dazzled by the brilliance of the palace and described it as 'the Diadem of the Palace'.
The Shiv Niwas Palace was used for a short period by Maharana Fateh Singh as his personal residence and during Maharana Bhopal Singh's stint as the king the palace was used for partying and entertainment for the royal guests. The original palace had nine suites all around the courtyard. The first among these is ornated with beautiful paintings. The second, third, seventh and eighth are without any such ornamentation. The fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth are decorated with inlaid glass mosaics. The fifth suite once housed the celebrated Crystal suite and is the most intricate and beautiful of the glass-mosaic work. The palace was converted into a hotel by Bhagwat Singh in 1982 which was later developed by his son and heir Arvind Singh into India's most luxurious and exclusive hotel. Later more suites were added on the second floor overlooking the courtyard and the marble swimming pool, and each with an open terrace facing the lake. The decoration of the traditional suites has been candidly preserved. The suites, with hand-cut coloured glass inlay work on their walls, crystal chandeliers and polished teakwood doors inlaid with ivory, have all been retained in their original state for the privileged guests. The conference room has a breathtaking view of the lake and since from wall to ceiling it is covered in glass, the water of the lake is reflected at every nook and corner of the room.