The erstwhile princely state of India and now a major city in the central state of India, Gwalior, and the tales of its rich past fascinated me to no end. The city is grand in every sense.
I loved visiting the glorious gems of Gwalior – Gwalior Fort, Gujari Mahal, Sun Temple, Other fascinating Temples in Gwalior, Tansen Memorial, Sarod Ghar, Tigra Dam, Samadhi of Rani Laxmi Bai, and shopping for handicrafts, jewelry, hand-loom at Sarafa Bazar.
One place that saddened me was Jai Vilas Palace and Scindia Museum. It was an utter disappointment, at least for me.
At first look, the palace seemed impressive. The palace is deemed as one of India’s most impressive and outré relics from the 19th century.
Jai Vilas Palace – Historical Background
Commissioned by Maharaja Jayaji Rao Scindia (then Maharaja of Gwalior) in 1874 to welcome Prince Edward VII (Prince of Wales), Jai Vilas Palace (Jai Vilas Mahal) is designed and built by Sir Michael Filose, Maharaja’s close friend.
He on Maharaja’s request traveled each and every corner of Europe in the quest for inspiration. He collected fabric, paintings, cut-glass furniture, tapestries, and antiques for the palace. The design plan of the palace mimics the Versailles and the likes.
Jai Vilas Palace is thus most appropriately an exaggerated combination of Tuscan, Italian-Doric, and Corinthian architectural styles. The palace is said to be an example of the ‘Neo-Classical Palace’ in India.
Any idea about how much did they spend on the construction of the palace? It’s for 1 crore. We can imagine the worth of 1 crore in 1874.
As per Wikipedia, 1 crore then amounts to 4,000 crores now!
The palace has 400 rooms and a prodigious Durbar Hall.
The total area of the Jai Vilas Palace A part of the palace (two wings, to be precise) is opened to the public and a part of it is still inhabited by royal Scindia Family.
The west wing houses the HH Maharaja Sir Jiwajirao Scindia Museum. The wing was converted into a museum by late Rajamata Vijaya Raje Scindia in the remembrance of her late husband Maharaja Jivaji Rao Scindia. Erstwhile president of India, Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan inaugurated the museum on 12th December 1964.
Some say the museum is a unique coup d’œil of royalty. However, It’s nothing but a showoff of Scindia’s richness and their ostentatious way of life since eons.
The museum takes up about 35 rooms of the palace and exhibits the valuable possessions, antiquities, and curios collected by the generations of the royal family.
The articles on display are said to belong to the estate of Louis XVI, the last king of France before the French Revolution.
The displays include rare Mughal and European paintings, gold and silver accessories, antique furniture, Malabar furniture, Persian rugs, silver buggy, silver chariot, vintage luxury cars, palanquins (palkis), clothes and footwear worn by the members of the royal family, photos of royal family members, lithographs of Tipu Sultan and Napolean, and so much more.
The museum also preserves the swords of Aurangzeb and Shahjahan and the shield of Jhansi ki Rani.
The silver and gold embellished royal attires worn by Scindias are also kept for public showing.
Also, on display are the traditional boat-shaped turbans worn by Scindias.
You can also see the unusually small and dainty furniture which was reportedly crafted to fit the very short Maharani Chinku Bai Raje Scindia, the first wife of Madho Rao Scindia.
The different rooms – living rooms, bedrooms, kids’ rooms, bathrooms, reading room, dining rooms, Staterooms, billiards room, durbar hall, prayer hall, the royal kitchen, all are preserved just the way they were extravagantly designed and adorned for the royal family.
The palace has a separate larger than life indoor swimming pool with a bar for the royal household ladies only.
The museum also houses the Chitrangada Raje Art Gallery and a royal library.
On the other side of the courtyard from the museum, lies the second wing. It surpasses the extravagance showcased in the first wing.
One of the banquets or dining halls features a huge dining table with a solid silver train carrying wine, snacks, and cigars for guests running along a track. They call it a masterpiece.
What can be the significance of showcasing a silver train on the huge dining table that carries the wine and cigarettes in a country like ours where people struggle hard to earn a one-time meal or make ends meet? I don’t find it worthy for public showing.
Another dining hall was the one used by the family members of the royal family. It has a traditional floor arrangement with silverware laid out in front of each padding.
Famed Durbar Hall is enormous. Inside, Durbar Hall (Royal Court) shines with all the flashy and intricate real gold furnishings and flaunts two colossal chandeliers weighing 3.5 tonnes with 250 bulbs and a carpet known to be one of the largest in Asia.
The prisoners from the Gwalior Fort were employed to build the fort and they were also given the job of weaving the largest carpet in Asia for the Durbar Hall which took 12-years to complete.
They say 8 elephants were suspended for about a week from the hall’s ceiling (Are you too wondering how?) to test whether it can take the weight of the chandeliers. So much for the ostentatiousness!
The east wing houses the Tiger gallery and the Royal Kitchen gallery.
They find pride in displaying the skins of tigers (Our national animal and the most endangered species) hunt by them.
Is it worth a visit?
Of course, that’s absolutely my viewpoint. I’m ready to do perspective-taking and reflect on how things appear to you guys.
There’s nothing but the stories of the greatness of the Scindia family.
These are the same Scindias who supported the British and betrayed Rani (Queen) of Jhansi, Laxmi Bai and became traitors in their own country.
These are the same Scindias that have been ruling Gwalior for centuries but the city is still a dusty, dirty, and disheveled town.
I was distressed and exhausted listening to good things about them which weren’t true.
And amusingly, this palace is the most up-priced and expensive among all the places one visits in Gwalior. Sad and Ironic!
And all the income goes to the Royal family. Frankly, I didn’t find it worth the money they charge. Nothing but just a pretentious show of wealth.
First time in my life, I regretted visiting any place.
I would recommend people to visit authentic places that actually preserve our culture and heritage rather than a place like this that shamelessly advertises its richness.
There are many such places to visit in Gwalior.
Getting to Jai Vilas Palace
Gwalior is a well-known city in Madhya Pradesh in Central India. The city is easily accessible via air, rail, and road from all the major cities in India.
Jai Vilas Palace is quite a famous tourist attraction (it is, wistfully) in Gwalior. You shouldn’t have trouble finding it.
Gwalior Airport is about 15 km away from the palace. Gwalior Junction at about 2.6 km from the palace is the nearest railway station.
Gwalior City Bus can also be used to reach the palace. Taxis, Ola Cabs, tempos, and auto-rickshaws are available in plenty for the ride in and around Gwalior.
We drove from Delhi to Gwalior in our own car. It took us around 7 hours via Taj Express Highway. The roads are in good condition and thus, the drive is comfortable and pleasant.
Indian nationals: INR 150
Foreign nationals: INR 800
Entry is free for children up to 5 years and differently-abled visitors.
Still Camera and Mobile: INR 100
Videography: INR 300
10 am to 4:30 pm
Tuesday to Sunday; Closed on Mondays and National Holidays
The palace offers special tours coupled with high tea or dinner on the palace lawns after the normal visiting hours at special prices.
A section of the palace is also available for hire to organize events.
- Jai Vilas Palace or for that matter Gwalior is best visited from October to February.
- Wear comfortable and light cotton or bamboo clothes if you plan around summer months (June, July, and August) and warm woolens during winter months (November, December, and January). Carry a light jacket during the spring season (March, April, and May) as you might need one in the evenings.
- Wear comfortable sneakers no matter what’s the season.
- Check beforehand if the palace is open or not on a day you plan to visit. On some occasions, it’s closed for the royal family’s private gathering.
- Carry plenty of water as the palace is huge and exploration requires a lot of walking besides there’s no drinking water facility within the palace grounds.
- The entry to the palace is open only through the northern gate.
- The palace has a small cafe at its entrance if you feel like having a cup of coffee with snacks though it’s not that well-maintained.
- Every mobile phone you carry is chargeable. Deposit mobile phones and handbags at the locker room before making an entry.
This post contains affiliate links. Please read the Disclaimer for more details.
Sharing is nice:) If you have liked our post please share it with your friends and family and feel free to subscribe to our mailing list or you can also follow our stories on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.