The Indian Windsor castle

The Bangalore Palace has been thrown open to the public. Jangveer Singh reports.

Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar has given a fresh lease of life to the Bangalore Palace
Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar has given a fresh lease of life to the Bangalore Palace

ONE can experience the charm of a manor house or a ch`E2teau as the Bangalore Palace in India’s silicon valley opens its gates to the public. What will make one’s visit to the palace different from, say the Agra Fort, or even Patiala’s Quila Mubarak closer home, is the period tourism concept which is still to take root in the country. The royal English splendour has been recreated in the Bangalore palace.

Though the splendour and the setting may be English but the blend of cultures is there to see. One can hear the strains of the Gayatri homa or other homas in the air besides the Indianised interiors with stuffed cushions made of deer and elephant legs and the odd Raja Ravi Varma painting.

The palace is a miniature version of the Windsor Castle, complete with turrets and ivy clinging to the walls. It was constructed by Major Garett. Later, it was bought by Chamaraja Wodeyar in 1884 for Rs 40,000, who turned it into a luxurious manor as it stays today. He imported stained glass and mirrors from England, besides a manual lift and even wooden fans from General Electric.

The building has been given a new lease of life by the present scion of the Mysore royal family, Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar. Though the granite stone exterior may look rock-solid and is so, Wadiyar says immense damage had been done to the roofs and the wooden fixtures.

According to the royal scion, the roofs have been re-laid and most of the doors and windows have been restored by artisans from Rajasthan.

The scion of the Mysore house scoured various markets for replacing stained glass wherever it was missing. The restoration includes the landscaping of the vast grounds around the palace, which form a 470-acre estate in the heart of the city. Visitors will be able to tour most of the palace, excluding the part being used as residence by the erstwhile royal family.

The grand staircase leading to the Durbar Hall
The grand staircase leading to the Durbar Hall

The front view of the palace
The front view of the palace

Souvenirs and artefacts, besides accessories like door handles, latches and even the cast iron lamps, are out for grab. Tourists can also make purchases from the sari collection of the royal family. The family has also acquired three old buggies that will be available for joyrides.

The palace attractions include an open courtyard on the ground floor which has concrete seats covered with fluorescent blue ceramic tiles against the granite on all sides. A ballroom is open for organising private parties.

A grand staircase takes one to the Durbar Hall. A massive elephant head has been mounted in the room besides the paintings of the Maratha Light Cavalry lined along the staircase.

The Durbar Hall has stained glass windows in Gothic style on one side and those with clear glass adorn the other. The dominant colour is yellow with sofa sets too in that colour. There is also a coloured screen on one end, which was used earlier by the ladies to observe the proceedings the Durbar Hall. The room has also the painting of a reclining lady by Raja Ravi Varma.

From the Durbar Hall, a rosewood balustrade takes one to the bedrooms used by the former maharajas and their consorts. The attractions here include an unusual chair-shaped weighing machine, which was used to weigh the rulers. Rooms used by the maharanis of Bharatpur and Mysore are next to a bislumadi or parapet, which was used by the royal ladies to dry their hair.

Tickets for adults have been priced at Rs 100 while those for children are for Rs 50. Wadiyar admits that the rates are definitely on the higher side, but then he is selling a concept.