THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE POP ART PALACE (II) | Jaipur
I can safely say that very few, if any, properties in the world look, feel, and behave as Rajmahal does. Its hallways, walls, ceilings, and tiny nooks are a Pandora’s Box of discovery and creativity. When Princess Diya Kumari commissioned the palace’s renovation in 2013, she did well in choosing Adil Ahmed – then Creative Director of Good Earth’s bespoke interior design division, Charbagh – to helm affairs. Ahmed’s created individual patterns for Rajmahal’s 15 rooms, suites, and its public spaces, each a window into Jaipur’s royal pedigree and its enduring legacies, embodied through cypress trees, floral flourishes, haveli embellishments, and buta ornaments. As I continue strolling through this haunting yet undeniably contemporary space, my earlier misgivings begin to give way, happily: it seems that Rajmahal, despite this infiltration of sometimes OTT colours and the often distracting visage of seeing an ocean of wallpaper before your eyes, has held on, often stubbornly, to its regal vestiges and to its heritage-filled proclivities.
For a guest, the feeling of being rockstar royalty is unshakeable. As are the juxtapositions at play: faded museum meets hip art gallery, fabled past meets showpiece present, Rajput grandeur meets bohemian swagger, Indian fantasia meets creative exotica, rococo meets art deco, and so on. I feel the need to explore my digs, and while even the smaller rooms at Rajmahal aren’t shy of royal showmanship – what with their soaring ceilings, palatial linen, pale marbled-bathrooms, and original furniture upholstered in deep velvets – it’s the grander ones that come textured with stories.
I’m ushered into Ram Niwas – The Maharaja’s Apartment – and it’s as though I’ve instantly entered a time warp where whispers, conspiracies, and conquests rent the air, with the space having served as the private residence for two successive Maharajas – Sawai Man Singh II and his son, Sawai Bhanwani Singh. Compromising of The Maharaja and The Yuvraj Suite, this 3,000 square feet plus ode to sumptuous living is a richly textured mélange of fabric, fragrance, portraits, and chandeliers, with dark wood serving as the strong, silent undertone. I run my fingers across the bar’s crisp textures and make my way out onto the private terrace, even as Jaipur flirts with winter’s shy initial embrace. The Maharani’s Apartment meanwhile offers more of the same, with my thoughts drifting toward the soirees that must have taken place in the private dining room, the poetry that must’ve been peened in the enclosed private verandah, and the more recent lavishness of a heated plunge pool.
At Rajmahal, I feel as though I’m creating my own myth. Here I am, indulging in suites that are yours for 9 lakhs a night, plus change; off I drift, among the stylised flower motifs in the chinoiserie-style hallway; there I go, browsing through treasures that few have laid eyes on; and off I drift again, into the Polo Bar, into haunted conversations with the old photographs that betray the Jaipur royal family’s numerous polo triumphs. When the address goes awry, as in the screaming pink and magenta psychedelia of the ‘51 Shades of Pink’ breakfast room, it’s easy to dismiss Rajmahal’s fresh avatar as a gimmick. But when it gets it right, as it so often does, especially as it is doing now in The Colonnade, there’s magic.
I’m sipping on a martini, staring out at the greens of the palace gardens being kissed by winter’s early insouciance. Around me, polo players and warriors in full ethnic regalia dot the turquoise-scented walls. Somewhere in the distance, an Ella Fitzgerald record plays. It floats and merges into an Èdith Piaf goodbye. I drift off into sleep. The Mad Hatter’s Christmas bash, as it turns out, is a mighty fine place to be.
The second part of a 2-part immersion into the Sujan Rajmahal Palace