Behind a thin veil lays a period gone by…..
There is no place in the world where they know how to redefine a royal residence like India.
Some now famous across the globe, like Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, the Jag Niwas in Lake Pichola, Udaipur or Rambagh Palace in Jaipur.
Yet none stays in our minds like Raj Mahal Palace (Raj meaning royal and Mahal meaning palace) in the heart of Jaipur.
Built in 1729, as a pleasure garden by the founder of Jaipur, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh to 1821 when it became the official residence of the British Resident Political Officerto Rajputana. After independence it was given back to the royal family and by 1957 Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II made it into his private residence.
‘This is a beautiful month in Rajasthan. The skies are blue, the flowers are beginning to bloom, birds sing and the days are clear and cool,‘ wrote Maharani Gayatri Devi, third and most famous wife of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II in her memoirs, A Princess Remembers. They lived for many years at Rajmahal Palace.
‘It was much smaller than Rambagh, but when the workmen had finished it had charm and character and a pleasantly informal atmosphere,‘ wrote the Maharani.
World leaders of the day came to visit from Her Majesty the Queen of England to Jacky Kennedy.
Years came and went and the palace fell out of grace, first as a home and later as a hotel, still the property of the Jaipur royal family.
Fast forward to 2015 and enter interior designer Adil Ahmad (formerly at Good Earth).
The design-led restauration was done through a contemporary interpretation of ancient Indian art & craft traditions. Taking care to reference Mogul motifs and family history for the 46 wallpapers designed. Using existing family furniture, portraits and photographs and reference to the latticework in the famous Palace of Winds on the upper corridor windows. He designed the china and the chairs with the characteristic peacock arches which are echoed on the wallpaper of the pink-on-pink breakfast room, inspired by Norman Parkinson’s photographs of India for Vogue.
Real life peacocks are strutting on emerald green lawns again and cooling breezes sweep through the sunlit spaces of the palace. It was as if nothing had changed and Jackie Kennedy could, at any moment, walk down the marble staircase to enjoy a pineapple and cardamom Martini in the Polo Bar where Jai’s silver trophies decorate the shelves.
Raj Mahal Palace impeccable beauty, royal splendour, design marvel and a grand symphony of colours serves us exactly the right dose of much needed Escapism!
Contributing author: Marie Claire van Schooten–van Gelder
Cultural marketeer & consultant – Social entrepreneur – @marieclairevg