Udaipur’s early morning light is seeping through the curtains, bouncing off Lake Pichola all around. The sunlight will soon enough be brilliant, and the day hot and intense. Inside the Sajjan Niwas Suite at Taj’s Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, it’s cool and quiet, and as we roll up the blinds to allow more of the day through the bedroom’s many windows, the gentle movement of the lake creates a feeling similar to waking up on a boat – surrounded by water with the Aravalli Mountains in the distance. With the blinds open, daybreak splashes soft light across the murals that adorn the walls. Peacocks, lotus flowers, birds and trees are among the images that decorate every wall – beautiful, rich colours, faux jewels inlayed over paintings and mirrors. Lord Krishna dominates one wall and his consorts dance nearby. Udaipur is famous for such paintings, which decorate its palaces, and the craft is being preserved within the city through various artists and merchants.
Lake Palace, only accessible by boat, was built as the summer palace – or pleasure palace – of Maharana Jagat Singh II in 1743. The Sajjan Niwas Suite is one of two rooms that were used personally by the Maharana, the hotel staff tell us. The balcony overlooks the palace, now hotel, courtyard, where traditional dancers and musicians perform each night and where we relax in the evening with a cold drink to enjoy the setting sun.
The Maharana’s love of art and craft are clearly evident in the suite – showcased by the murals in the bedroom and the many chandeliers in the living area. As with so much of India’s history, the story of the suite’s crystals are not without an element of tragedy. It’s said that the Maharana loved chandeliers and those in the suite were commissioned from Belgium by the ruler. However, the Maharana died before the lights reached Udaipur and were never opened by the royal family who feared it would bring bad luck. It was three or four generations later that the chandeliers were unpacked.
When you step into this opulent suite – the decadence and lushness of Rajput style leaps out from every corner of the room. From the near six-foot standing chandelier lamp in the corner, to the plush traditional rugs; the colourful marble inlay skirting the walls; miniature paintings hanging on the walls; abundant lamps and a royal portrait; plus the heavy blue velvet punkah that hang from the ceiling — a way to cool a room from centuries ago. The rooms of the suite are grand, the craftsmanship detailed and ornate, and on first impression the decor almost clashes – it’s a perfect example of the luxurious and opulent style of the Rajput that travellers come to Rajasthan to soak up.
The famous and the powerful stay in this suite when they are in Udaipur – such as the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger – and when you say you are staying in Sajjan Niwas everyone comments on its beauty – several hotel staff have confided that it is their favourite room in the hotel. It has a large living area complete with dining table for six, a work desk and a television/lounge space, with lake views from multiple windows. On the TV there’s a channel dedicated to running James Bond’s Octopussy 24 hours-a-day. (The movie was filmed in Udaipur and heavily features the Lake Palace – something that brought fame and tourists to the city and the hotel.) There’s the large, palatial bedroom adorned with murals and a marble en suite complete with separate shower and massive marble bath and of course, a chandelier fit for a Maharana. The bathroom too has several windows that open to reveal the lake.
After two days in Sajjan Niwas, we leave feeling like royals.
Our Rajasthan In Style itinerary can be customised to include a stay in the Sajjan Niwas Suite at the Taj Lake Palace Udaipur.