Raj Niwas Palace, Dholpur
A symphony in deep red sandstone, the historic city of Dholpur was founded in 700 CE by its namesake, Raja Dholan Dev Tomar. In 1876, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, came to visit this then British Protectorate and Raj Niwas Palace was built by Maharaja Nihal Singh to welcome the monarch in suitable splendour.
Post-independence, Dholpur merged with the young nation of India, and in 1956 the princely state ceased to exist. Nevertheless, magnificence still reigns at Raj Niwas Palace. The property is now owned by Dushyant Singh, the son of the erstwhile maharaja and Vasundhara Raje Scindia, the current chief minister of Rajasthan.
Through wrought-iron gates and down a tree-lined path, the imposing European-style edifice awaits, its Western aspect pierced sweetly by Rajasthani notes of intricate arabesques and jalis. Inside, amongst the maze of high- ceilinged rooms and up the winding floral-muralled staircase, are eight bedrooms, clad in tiles from Europe – most strikingly, a fish-and-water motif, glazed in cobalt and ochre in the Maharaja Suite. The interior is a theatrical set piece with Victorian baths and art nouveau light fittings.
Downstairs, ornate cream-and-gold stucco in the drawing and dining rooms set off the floors covered in mosaics transported from west Asia by camel kafilas. The Persian carpets are another far-flung import from Isfahan in central Iran. The lofty drawing room is flanked by family portraits and features a turn-of-the-century satinwood piano wreathed in photographs. As time unfurls around its walls, Raj Niwas Palace continues to be an oasis of princely hospitality; French windows lead out onto 13 acres of lawn, which house 18 guest villas with plunge pools, and a flock of peacocks from the nearby National Chambal Sanctuary.
ABOVE: The palace’s 19th-century sandstone facade conceals an exuberant interior decorated with European tiles of jewel-like hues; original art nouveau light fittingsOPPOSITE: A bedroom clad in stunning decorative Dutch glazed tiles with panels featuring domestic scenes