The beautiful 19th century Jai Vilas Mahal in Gwalior is one of the most opulent of royal palaces in India. Spread across 1,240,771sqft, the palace was built in 1874 to welcome Prince George and Princess Mary of Wales who visited India in 1876. Built with a cost of one crore rupees in those times, the palace was designed by Englishman Sir Michael Filose, and incorporated a mixture of European architectural styles with Doric, Tuscan, Corinthian and Palladian elements.

Jai Vilas Museum

Today, the Jai Vilas Museum is a beautiful showcase of the pomp and grandeur of the Scindia royals, with the family still occupying some wings of the royal abode. Even before you step into the white-painted sandstone palace, you see the Rolls Royce Railway Coach – equipped with a toilet, dressing room and rifle rack – that was used by Madhavrao Scindia–I for inspecting the city and personal pleasure rides. Inside, the palace is an almost-obsessively maintained record of the family with galleries upon galleries with palanquins, artefacts, photographs, rare carpets and more. With about 200 rooms in the palace, you will see tableaux of sitting rooms, bedrooms, and a beautiful puja room. There is even a ladies-only indoor swimming pool. The pride of the palace has to be the gilded Durbar Hall furbished with a huge carpet and two gigantic 12.5m high, 3.5tonne chandeliers. The large dining room has an enormous, many-leaved dining table and displays a model silver train, running on tracks all around it. It used to carry after-dinner brandy and cigars.

One rather interesting gallery is devoted to the Shindeshahi Pagdi, the boat-shaped headgear that is so distinctive of this clan. The padgi, or turban, is made of fine silk cloth extending 60 meters. Tying the pagdi is an art in itself, and there are royal pagabandhs, or turban-folders, who are specialists in this craft.

Another revelation is the royal kitchens. Not only are there stoves and open-topped equipment that would rouse envy in even a modern housewife, but cupboards and sideboards full of glistening metal pots and pans, picnic stoves, wine glasses, dressers, huge sinks… somehow the kitchen, even more than the durbars, bring home to you the luxury that once belonged to these walls.

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