The Bangalore Palace owned by the Maharajahs of Mysore. The construction was started in 1862 and completed in 1944.
It’s like somebody whisked away Windsor Castle from Berkshire, whittled it down a bit, added some flourishes and planted it in Bangalore – fit for the Maharaja of Mysore to live in.
Of course, since transplanting buildings is still not something we’ve managed to crack, Chamaraja Wadiyar, the Maharaja of Mysore, mightily impressed by the medieval getaway of the English royal family, decided to do the next best thing: Create his own Windsor. The result was the Palace that we see today, surrounded by its famed gardens and strategically-placed cannons (it was built shortly after the Indian Mutiny and that’s why it looks like a fortress).
Here’s how it all started: In 1873, in the days when Karnataka was called the state of Mysore, a sprawling piece of 454 acres was bought from the Maharaja’s personal funds from Reverend J Garrett, the first principal of the Central High School (now called Central College).
Garrett had already built a mansion there in 1862 but Wadiyar wanted to redo it in the Tudor style. He started renovating it in April 1874, replicating Windsor Castle’s fortified towers, battlements and turrets complete with clinging ivy. Covering an area of 45,000 sq ft, most of the 35 rooms were bedrooms with small, compact restrooms. The renovation was completed in 1876 at a cost of Rs 1, 98,158.
The interiors were just as English. The furniture, which was neo-classical, Victorian and Edwardian in style, was designed by Lazarus & Company. And every detail of the Palace is testimony to the fact that the Wadiyars were truly connoisseurs of art and architecture – whether it was the painted and carved roofs above their heads or the intricate flooring with its multi-coloured motifs that they walked on. The upholstery, brass inlaid rosewood doors, stained glass windows, chandeliers made from Belgium crystal, paintings, hunting artifacts – everything was fit for a king.
“The architecture of the Palace is not just Tudor. It is also Victorian Gothic and was influenced by the architecture that one sees in Regency London. That type of architecture was popularised by John Nash between 1800 and 1820,” says Michael Ludgrove, the curator, Royal Collections, Bangalore Palace. Ludgrove believes that the Maharaja may have been inspired by pictures of Windsor Castle and that it is unlikely he actually visited the London landmark.
The gardens were designed by famed German botanist Gustav Krumbiegel, the architect of Lalbagh and government botanist at London’s Kew Gardens. Plants were chosen carefully to ensure that there was colour all through the year.
The Bangalore Palace later became a favourite holiday getaway for the royal family. While the Mysore City Palace and the Lalit Mahal Palace were excellent statements of opulence befitting their royal stature, the Bangalore Palace was where they could feel at home because of its smaller proportions. Of course, a 35-room palace may not be our ideas of a compact home but don’t forget they were royalty. The scion of the Wadiyar dynasty, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, fondly remembers his growing-up years in the Palace and how he would stay in the north-eastern wing during the summer holidays.
The Palace, steeped as it is in history, is evocative of the opulence of an era long gone when royalty was a way of life. Two rooms that deserve special mention are the Ballroom on the ground floor and the Durbar Hall on the first floor where the Maharaja addressed the assembly. The Ballroom is grand -from its polished teak floor that came from the forests of Burma to the cutglass chandeliers.
The other highlights are the intricately-carved banister leading to the Durbar Hall and the mounted head of a magnificent elephant, shot by the current Maharaja’s father, Jayachamaraja Wadiyar.
And to think that all this splendour was so nearly lost due to a prolonged litigation with private parties and the state government. This grand building fell into a state of neglect, attacked by termites and nearly destroyed before it was returned to the royal family.
For the last five years, Srikantadatta Wadiyar has been working very hard to restore the palace. “I will ensure that every inch of it goes back to being a Palace,” he had said when restoration work began.
And though it may no longer host world leaders and be the centre of the administration of the old Mysore state, it’s still big enough to accommodate a Bryan Adams show. And its treasures are open to the public too with the help of an audio guided tour that takes you through 21 highlights of the Palace.
The Bangalore Palace, built on the style of London’s Windsor Castle, was a favourite holiday getaway of the royal family.
You Must Know !
* The cost of constructing the Palace in 1876 came to Rs 1,98,158 lakh. The built
area covers 45,000 sq ft.
* Film industries across the country have used the Palace as a backdrop for