Laxmi Niwas (the abode of the Goddess of wealth, Laxmi) – the name seems apt. Grandeur and opulence are the best words to describe this palace in Baroda! In size, it was once the world’s largest home, easily eclipsing the United Kingdom’s Buckingham Palace. It was completed after 12 years of construction and at a budget of £180,000.
Sophisticated construction: At a time when India was still experimenting with European architecture, the palace had already installed elevators. It also featured amenities then considered modern, including stately dining rooms, billiard rooms, and spacious apartments for European visitors. Design and architectural students will note interplay of several styles of European and Indian architecture here. While the Maharaja’s apartments features Hindu classical architecture (influenced by the fortress of Bharatpur), the public apartments use a Mughal style. On the other hand, the ladies’ quarters use influences from Jain temples of Gujarat.
This focus on diversity is also apparent in the construction material. There is brick (sourced from Agra quarries), blue trapstone from Poona, and marble sourced from Rajasthan. Madras workmen added ‘chunam’ plaster to the interior walls, and workmen from Venice laid a Venetian mosaic floor in the Durbar hall. Similarly, the ornamental moulding and gilding, gardens, sculptures, and stained glass windows were all executed by men from different parts of the world.
Sports in the Palace Premises: The massive 200 acre property also feature a rare indoor wood floored tennis court and badminton court, along with 2 clay tennis courts. There is also a golf course which dates back 90 years, when it was first created by Maharaja Pratapsinh for European guests. Today, it is managed by the Gaekwad Baroda Golf Club.
Darbar Hall: The Palace Darbar Hall is known for hosting music and cultural events, and has a gorgeous Venetian mosaic floor, and stained glass windows. Mosaic artwork also finds place on the hall’s walls. Guests would be enamoured by the extensive collection of old armour and sculptures in well preserved bronze, marble & terracotta.
The premises not only feature residences of the erstwhile royal family, but also the Moti Baug Palace and the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum building. Nature lovers will be delighted when they spot langoors and peacocks playing around in the Palace compound green spaces. A small zoo on the premises is also home to an alligator pond.
The royal family sought to preserve their legacy and also use it to educate their next generation. For this purpose, the Museum building was built. Today, the Museum features many works of art, including the priceless paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, which were especially commissioned by the erstwhile king of Baroda. For his children, the Maharaja also had a miniature railway line built, which would travel the circumference of the palace mango.