Umaid Bhawan Palace
Construction of the PalaceThe palace built by Maharaja Umaid Singh who ruled from 1911-47 was the last expression of princely architectural extravaganza during the British Raj. It was in 1925 that Umaid Singh went to London in search of an architect and commissioned the firm of Lancaster and Lodge to build the palace. The foundation stone was laid in 1929 at Chittar Hill- a sight dictated by astrological considerations. "Striking indeed is the impression of romance and dignity which this occasion conveys" said Col. Windham at the time of its inaugaration, adding while addressing the king "It conjures up both a retrospect of the past and a prospect of the future Your Highness."
Chittar-ka-BanglaUmaid Bhavan palace Jodhpur, IndiaIt took some 3000 people working round the clock some 15 years to complete and ranks as one of the world's largest residences. The massive structure is also referred to as Chittar-ka-Bangla or Chittar Bungalow. The 347-room building was designed by Henry Lanchester, an understudy of Edwin Lutyens (who designed most of New Delhi) it contains two huge wings separated by a double dome 185 feet tall.
The primary entrance to the palace is called the Rajmahal, which contains the traditional Rathore coat-of-arms, bearing the sacred kite, an incarnation of the family goddess. Its symbol is omnipresent in the palace and as a mark of reverence, kite hunting is not allowed in Jodhpur. It houses several banquet halls and ball rooms where the monarch used to entertain his guests (usually European), a billiard hall and an imposing Durbar Hall. It has libraries panelled with teak, circular reception halls, magnificent double staircases, marble flooring, a swimming pool embellished with tiles depicting the zodiac. The wings include courtyards, staff offices and zenanas (women's quarters), a cinema house and opulent royal suites. Suffice to say a visit to the palace will simply knock your breath away. The unique feature of the palace is that it is not mortared at all, but like the Jaisalmer fort it was built out of solid interlocking blocks of stone. The chunks of rock were cut from the Sursagar quarry located 13km away.
Palace Served As A Military Base During Second World War
During the Second World War even while the structure was unfinished, the palace became a military base for the allied troops. Christmas dinners for the entire military community were organised annually at the palace, with the Jodhpur royals playing a key role in keeping up the morale of the soldiers during the war. When Umaid Singh died in 1947, his son Hanwant Singh became maharaja but he too was killed in a plane crash five years later. While his heir Gaj Singh, who was only four at the time was being educated in England the palace remained unoccupied. One year after Gaj Singh returned to India, the then Prime Minster derecognised the princes and ended their privileges.