Jai Vilas- a palace to visit Acknowledgement A heartfelt thank you to Ms. Rige Shiba Ex Assistant Curator Mr. Rehan Yusuf Tourism Manager- HH Maharaja Sir Jiwaji Rao Scindia Museum, for their Valuable information and photographs.. Sincerest thanks to all the Museum personnel who have aided with me during the my working period. The Jai Vilas Palace of Gwalior, is one of the spectacular examples of ‘Neo-Classical Palace’ in India. It was commissioned by HH Mahārāja Śr̥īmanta Jayājī Rāo Śinde and completed in 1874 CE. It was built to commemorate the visit of ‘The Prince of Whales’. This grand European architecture was designed by Lieutenant Col Sir Michael Filose who was also a minister in the Scindia Royal Court. Architecture of the palace based on Tuscan and Corinthian style, includes long colonnade, pediments, extended courtyards, porches etc. Till 1904 North and East wing of the palace were used as the secretariat and West wing for the personal use of Royal family. South wing of the palace which consists of billiards room, banquet hall, darbar hall and tat-pat room was used for public affairs and to entertain the royal guests. Mannu Mahal or East wing of the palace was used as library. The Jai Vilas has been the living palace of Scindia royal family for generations which continues to do so even today. The West wing of the palace was converted into a museum by late Rājamātā Vijayā Rāje Scindia in the memory of her late husband Mahārāja Sir Jivājī Rāo Scindia. The museum was inaugurated by the former president of India Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan in 1964. Museum gives a rare glimpse of royal attributes and etiquettes by its collection to the art and history lovers worldwide. The museum is majorly divided into ceremonial galleries, periodic rooms and darabāra hall complex. Museum is filled with immense valuable objects like Silver Buggy the royal carriage of the Scindia family which was made around late 19th century during the regime of HH Mahārāja Śr̥īmanta Mādhava Rāo Scindia II. The carriage is a testament to various events associated with history. It is based on a wooden and metal frame and contains 50 kilograms of silver on it. A thick sheet of silver is embellished with representations of various objects and beings including sun, snake, floral pattern, fish, women, lions and angels. The upholstery of the carriage is done in golden brocade and velvet laces, with seats for four people along with separate seats for attendants and charioteer. The silver carriage is still used on important ceremonies like Daśeharā Pūjana and Royal Weddings which makes it an object of religious and auspicious significance. Napoleon table is as gilded, cabriole styled three legged circular table with enamel portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte I set into central recess and surrounding portraits mounted in circular frames surrounded by delicate ornate and floral mouldings. Bonaparte’s image is surrounded by miniature portraits of his family members and army generals who played an important role in his warring period. Edges of the table carry acanthus mouldings. Friezes have central flower moulding and quatrefoils lightly engraved on the background. There are three such Napoleon Tables in the world other one is in Salarajang Museum and third one is in Turkey HH Mahārāja Śr̥īmanta Mādhava Rāo Scindia I commissioned a Silver Train with SCINDIA initial inscribed on it.The silver train carrying refreshments like dry fruits and wine chugs on the tracks placed on the central table at the banquet hall. The banquet hall or the European dining room has three tables. The first table for Non-vegetarian dishes, the second one for vegetarian dishes and the centre one for drinks and refreshments. Earlier the train with refreshment runs on battery but now it it runs on electric supply and it would stop once the lid of the container with refreshments was lifted.The train is one of the most loved displayed objects in the museum and it is still used by the Royal Family during private gatherings and state functions. The Kirman Masha’ir carpet belongs to a family of carpets produced in the south eastern Iranian city of Kerman and it is one among the greatest carpets in the world. Iranian carpets basically have two versions –one depicting old rulers of Iran and the second depicting famous people of the world. It is a pictorial carpet which depicts Jesus at the top with a Greek temple like architecture at the background. The medallion and the main field are covered with portraits of Persian Shahs, Emperors and European officials. There are a total of 185 portraits including that of Napoleon, Jesus and a young Shah of Iran in a military uniform, depicted at the bottom area. Each of the woven portraits is separately numbered in Persian. The name on the medallion’s periphery corresponds to the numbers that are marked on the images. Similarly the text in Arabic woven inside the inner guard corresponds to the names given against the kings and famous people occupying both medallion and field design. The carpet was woven by Muhammad Ibn Ja’far which is also signed at the base of field.Above all is the main attraction Darabāra hall Complex, which includes Tāta-Pāta Bhojana Hall, Banquet Hall, Billiards Room, Crystal Fountain Courtyard a porch and Royal court. The ornately gilded and majestic Darabāra Hall was used by the Scindia family as their Royal Court to hold receptions and stately function/events for royal guests and eminent dignitaries. The opulent interior design of the hall is a testament of a unique synthesis of European architecture. Commissioned by HH Mahārāja Śr̥īmanta Jayājī RāoScindia, in anticipation of a visit by the Prince of Wales in 1875, the interiors were in keeping with the taste of the Royal guest and thus designed in the Baroque style. The columns of the hall are influenced by the Corinthian order and the dome of the Durbar Hall was modelled on that of St.Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Amongst the many fascinating features of the hall, facts like the usage of approximately 560 kilograms of pure melted gold in decorating every corners of the hall, the presence of 90 Feet long and 48 feet wide carpet which was woven within the hall by captives kept in the palace jail, as no carpet manufacturer was found able to produce carpet of such vast dimensions and the presence of two of the largest chandelier ever manufactured by F. & C. Osler company of Birmingham, England are worth a mention. F. & C. Osler was one of the two companies that provided most of the glass furniture to Royal Palaces in India. Each Belgium cut glass chandelier in the hall weighs 3.5 tons which is equal to 3500 kilograms. They are of 42 feet height, bearing 248 lights each. It is believed that before installing the chandelier and to check if the roof could withstand the load of the world’s one of the heaviest pair of chandeliers, 8 elephants were made to walk on the roof for 7 days and only then was the chandeliers installed in the Durbar Hall. It takes 1 month to clean the one chandelier and it is stilled cleaned in a very traditional manner with very basic equipment. Where scaffolding is prepared with mattress, bamboo ladders etc.
By Saurabh Pal