On a recent visit to Lallgarh Palace in Bikaner I found that this palace-turned-hotel is stuck in time and this very quality makes it special. The hotel doesn’t give you a “vintage like feeling”. It is vintage and historical in itself and doesn’t require over-the-top adornment to hook the onlookers. It ignores this effort and is still fascinating. This is because this is a palace converted into a hotel and has a natural organic quality of royalty. The beautiful and grand palace thus can give stark competition to hotels made to look like a palace.
The palace was designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob in 1898, a British army officer and a prominent architect who has designed several Indian buildings like Albert Hall Museum, Jaipur and Daly College, Indore and the like. It is often assumed that Lallgarh Palace has been named so because of the red sandstone that was employed in its making, however, this is incorrect. Lallgarh Place was named by Maharaja Ganga Singhji in the memory of his father Maharaj Lall Singhji.
There are four separate wings here, each with its own distinctive characteristics. The first building was the south wing (Laxmi Niwas) which was constructed in 1902. The second wing, the west wing (Sadul Niwas) was constructed in 1912. The north wing (Karni Niwas) was built in 1924, mainly for formal entertainment and banquets and shortly after the fourth and final wing, the east wing (Shiv Villas) was constructed in 1926.
Each room of the hotel is quite spacious. Apart from the usual necessities like air-conditioner, mini-bar, television, phone, tea/coffee maker, etc. it is the little details in the room that catch your attention. The air conditioners are wooden which are no longer manufactured, but can only be customised. The mini-bar again is fixed in a wooden case. There are photographs of family members of royalty in the room inviting you to take a glimpse of royal history. Even the washroom is roomy, giving an air of luxury with all the modern amenities.
The indoor swimming pool area appears like a large room with fancy and huge windows and pillars. The windows are adorned with floral imagery. Above the windows one can see jaali patterns on the wall, a regular feature of the mughal architecture. However the palace’s architecture is Indo-Saracenic where one can see western and Indo-Islamic architecture combined together. The white marble benches around the pool add to the charm.
The open corridors are naturally lit and patches of sunlight provide a rare calm to a passer-by. The guests might like to read a book while sitting on cane chairs placed in the corridor. Past is still present in the vast central courtyard of the palace. Earlier royals used to celebrate festivals here and at present several performances depicting Rajasthani culture are arranged for the guests time and again. The rooms and halls present in the hotel can be rented for private functions.
The food served at the Padam Mahal restaurant in the hotel is multicuisine with a special focus on Rajasthani food. Gatta curry, laal maas, sangri, spicy garlic chutney and the like are the indigeneous foods of this state and are highly recommended. The staff is polite and always ready to share historical tales if you request them to.
Lallgarh Palace is rich in history and royals have documented their narrative in a museum. Set inside the premises of the palace itself, Sri Sadul Museum is worth a visit. Here one will find original memorabilia from the olden times. Visitors can see old photograph albums, miniature paintings, armouries, exquisite textiles, trophies belonging to the royal family. The museum encourages scholars to access the collection. There is also a small bookshop in the museum from where visitors can buy postcards and books so as to take a little of history with themselves.