Laxmi Vilas Palace is the first thing that you are told to see when you visit Vadodara. We saw its precincts many times while driving across the city. Its imposing arched gates stand next to a busy road. The palace compound is so huge that you have to access different sites like the Fateh Singh Museum and the Palace through different gates. To give you an idea, it houses a well-maintained golf course and a cricket ground. Besides sprawling lawns where one can see hoards of peacocks roaming around and tons of birds chirping on the trees.
Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara
There are many palaces that Gaikwads have in the city of Vadodara. But one that is best preserved and better known is Laxmi Vilas Palace. Still the largest private dwelling in the world. The erstwhile royal family continues to use the palace and the king’s presence in the palace is announced with a saffron flag hoisted on the gate. King Sayaji Rao Gaikwad III named the palace after his queen who belonged to the southern state of Tanjore in late 19th CE. We learned that the current prince is doing his doctorate on Pagris or the traditional headgear of India.
The staff at the palace were rude and awful. They still think the Maharaja rules the place. Maybe it works for them as they are hired by the royal family. At Rs 175/- I think the ticket price is quite high and not many people in the country can afford to visit the place. But then it is a private palace and owners get to decide the price. What is good though is a well-created audio tour that comes with the ticket. This audio guide not only takes you through a guided tour of the palace with most items explained in detail. But also has the current scion of the Gaikwad dynasty talking about growing up in this very palace.
It makes an interesting commentary to stand in a long corridor and hear him speak about running around and cycling in the same corridor with portraits of all the siblings hanging on the walls of the corridor to help you visualize.
Palace is a culmination of various architectural styles – Mughal, Rajput, Jain, Gujarati, and Venetian. The stones for the palace too came from as far as Pune, Ajmer, and Agra. The central part of the palace was for the king; the right one for the ladies of the royal family and the left one for the guests.
What to see in the palace
No photography is allowed inside the palace; so let me tell what you should not miss when you are there:
- Busts of the King and the Queen with such fine workmanship that you can see the pearl string of the queen behind the folds of her Sari.
- Pratap Shastragar, which is the arms gallery. Usually not my favorite part of museums. But here you must see some swords like Do-Dhari talwar or the twin blade sword. Guru Gobind Singh’s Panchkala sword and canons made in gold and silver. There are charts depicting different parts of a sword. And tips on how one should choose the right one. This place is like a living encyclopedia on swords.
- A 300 ft clock tower standing in the middle of the palace that was converted into a lamp tower.
- Raja Ravi Varma paintings in the Gaddi hall or the coronation hall of the family – the simplicity of the throne will surprise you.
- Durbar Hall that will make you wonder about the engineering of making a 95 feet long and almost as high hall without the support of any pillars. The stained glass paintings in mythological themes are a unique kind of fusion. The jharokhas on the first floor for the women are rich in carvings. And busts of the family members adorn the sides of the room. This also used to be the venue for the Annual Baroda Music Festival.
- Walk around the lawns and see the palace from a distance – some outer walls have rich paintings on them.
- Walk in the lawns all around the palace and admire it as a single structure from a distance.
Since this is a private palace, it can be closed and opened at management’s will. We were told to go away on a day it was supposed to be open as an Ad film was being shot there. So check before you go there.
Recommend you to read the following travel blog on Places to visit in Gujarat.