Four times the size of Buckingham Palace, the Laxmi Vilas Palace in Vadodara is the home of the Gaikwads, the erstwhile ruling family of Baroda State, before the state became part of independent republic of India, in 1948.
The family continues to live there, but a large section and parts of the grounds have been public. The building and the grounds are really beautiful and regal, and very well maintained.
The administration of the museum have made excellent arrangements for tourists – you can get a media player with audio commentary in a language of your choice. A curious but unsurprising fact is that most of the officials I met spoke Marathi – after all, the Gaikwads of Baroda were one of the most important families in the Maratha Confederacy, and many people of Maharashtrian origin still reside in Vadodara.
The magnificent peacock leading from the grounds into the Museum kind of sets the tone for the palace – it reminded me very strongly of bygone days.
The building is also magnificent – an imposing pile, to use Wodehousean language.
The various rooms in the Museum need to be seen – I can’t describe the armoury, the throne room, the 42 or 43 Raja Ravi Verma originals housed in the Museum, the golf course and other wonderful things about the Palace.
The Darbar Hall is really imposing. The portraits of various kings and rulers, the tutors to some of the later rulers, their wives and mothers – there was a strong feeling of nostalgia even in my heart – and I’m a hardcore republican, imbued in the philosophy of the French Revolution!
This is a place that one must visit – knowing a bit of history about the Marathas, the Gaikwads and the Palace does really help. I’m now thinking of returning in winter.