Gayatri Devi, Maharani of Jaipur, 1929-2009, was often said to be the world’s most beautiful woman, and she has been written about so many times.
On January 16th, 2013, her name was mentioned continually at the launch of Rambagh Palace, Jaipur, Dharmendar Kanwar’s beautiful new book about her family home, which became a luxury hotel managed by Taj in 1972.
The launch of this, Dharmendar Kanwar’s 25th book, was first at Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai and then at another glorious luxury hotel, Taj Mahal Delhi, and the gal was there.
There certainly was, and is, plenty of space at Rambagh Palace. As a family home there were 25 suites, of bedroom, sitting room, bathroom. Gayatri Devi and her husband had separate quarters and her day began with wake-up bed-tea. After a communal breakfast with house guests, there was shopping or sightseeing. After lunch came polo.
Fortunately there were masses of servants (in some cases there still are – I heard a few days ago of a very-modern Indian woman who flew to Munich last year for surgery taking a total of six along with her).
Now Rambagh Palace, named for god and garden, has 95 bedrooms, and 50 acres around.
At the book launch, a specially-commissioned video showed a banker and his wife discovering the delights of the palace (I remember when I was there, staying in corner suite 311, looking out at peacocks strutting the lawns, and one evening we went by horse and carriage to a table for two, set on a carpet of thousands of rose petals, a canopy overhead and local music, all on grass in a distant part of the campus – and the meal was royal Indian, and absolutely gorgeous).
The book launch brought out the most beautiful saris imaginable – every woman among the 200 invited dignitaries was wearing her very best. Beforehand, guests strolled around, champagne in hand, looking at photos of Gayatri Devi.
Later, after book readings, a fashion show paraded palest candy-coloured saris by Sabyasachi Mukherjee, who has just designed the new Cinema Suite in Taj’s London flagship, 51 Buckingham Gate. The girls were made up GD style, from the 1960s. There was a post-launch party, pool-side, but I had to leave for my own, temporary palace, Taj Palace.
Today’s luxury list could well include the ceiling-fed infinity Jacuzzi tub in Tata Suite 755 at Taj Palace. This comes with a glass-fronted ten-foot wide shower for two – you have separate ends, separate controls and you really need telephones to speak between yourselves.
Your main bedroom has a Hästens mattress and linens, you have a gym with really good equipment, including weights, and dining for 14. A private meeting room seats 16 around that table.
Luxury is different things to different people. At this particular luxury hotel, I picked up on the soft suede of the folder holding guest stationery, and the fact that the envelopes are the self-seal variety.
Some might relish having, as here, a grand piano in the suite, but for me I loved lights I could manage easily… And having black and white framed photographs of earlier Tata family groups and homes brought so much heritage to mind.