THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE POP ART PALACE | Jaipur
At Jaipur’s Suján Rajmahal Palace, kitsch and calibre make for curious bedfellows
It’s the secret, biologically and historically improbable love child resulting from a ménage à trois between Shammi Kapoor, Marilyn Monroe, and Andy Warhol. Moreover, I feel as though I’ve stumbled down the rabbit hole and landed smack-dab in the heart of the Mad Hatter’s flamboyant Christmas bash to encounter it.
I’ve entered the property’s seemingly endless reception room/ lobby and there’s not a soul in sight. This opulent homage to the royal life is heaving with wall-length paintings (mostly of poultry), chandeliers mined from the Maharaja’s private collection, a gold-swathed assemblage of finery, and imperially-appointed divans bathed in deep magenta. It’s almost ten minutes before a front-office representative, serving as a royal aide-de-camp, appears on the scene with a smile. He’s dressed in the crisp white, badge-encrusted uniform of a French officer. I get the feeling the word ‘surreal’ will be passing through my mind at regular intervals during this stay.
Rajmahal Palace occupies a coveted space in Jaipur’s imperial fables. Bearing the Royal Standard of the House of Amber, this treasured address has served many roles in its 250-year history: H.H. Sawai Jai Singh II’s private palace; a pleasure garden; a royal guest house; an ode to Chandra Kanwar Ranawat, the daughter of the Maharana of Mewar; private home of H. H. Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur; and Maharani Gayatri Devi’s favourite address. Still very much part of the royal family’s bouquet (notwithstanding a recent political fracas instigated by plainly greedy motives), Rajmahal’s past has witnessed legendary parties thrown by the dashing Man Singh II and Gayatri Devi, where the likes of Princess Diana and Jacqueline Kennedy were often at the centre of things. To see this hallowed space now covered end-to-end with different hues of wallpaper is, well, slightly disconcerting.
Rajmahal’s evolving story has come to rest in the hands of two of India’s most celebrated homegrown brands: Suján and Good Earth. While the former – the Jaisal Singh-helmed creator and connoisseur of luxury properties – operates and manages it, it is the latter’s distinctive design ethos that’s stamped all over the palace. At times it seems as though Good Earth have pulled off the greatest marketing coup of the century: converting a palace into a Good Earth boutique!
As I take in Rajmahal’s exuberantly refurbished interiors, as I peer through its tall bay windows and mirrored doors, as I come across Sawai Man Singh’s polo regalia, original family portraits, and the photographs of its exclusive guest-list, and as I explore its rooms lavished with meticulously appointed interiors, what becomes clear is that this Royalty Part Deux.
The first part of a 2-part immersion into Rajmahal Palace