Mysuru's, much celebrated architectural marvel, Lalitha Mahal Palace built by the Mysore royals originally for stay of viceroys and other state guests equipped with a hand-operated heritage lift imported from England in 1921, ringed in its 100th birthday this year.
The day of the 100th year celebration of Lalitha Mahal palace comes ahead of the World Heritage Week held from November 19-25. Although the centenary day of the once-regal palace, now a heritage hotel, was ushered in albeit quietly on Thursday as management and other staff went about their daily business, but everyone there knows the significance of this day. Exactly hundred years ago on November 18, 1921, the foundation stone of this palatial building was laid by Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, the then maharaja of the Mysore Kingdom.
The historic building, with its shimmering white façade surrounded by beautiful landscaped gardens set in a sprawling 40-acre campus, sits on a hillock on the foothills of revered Chamundi Hills, and is located a few kilometers outside the main city of Mysuru. The majestic two-storied structure mirrors the styles of English manor houses and Italian piazzas with a projecting porch. A row of twin Ionic columns on both floors in the façade support the structure, which has a dominating central dome and cupolas at the roof level.
The palace, which is said to have been built over nearly 10 years, shone as an architectural jewel in its heydays, however saw a period of faded glory after Independence and was later taken up on lease by the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) to run as a heritage hotel. The hotel was inaugurated on September 13, 1974, according to a marble plaque embedded in a wall of the portico. From 2018 onwards, it has been operated by Jungle Lodges and Resorts, an entity of the Karnataka state government. The main heritage hotel has 22 rooms, including heritage suites -- Viceroy Suite, Vicerine Suite, Duplex Suite, Heritage Suite and Turret Rooms, and 32 rooms in an annexed building added later, according to the management officials.
While the palatial building may now be under a different administration, signatures of its royal patronage in the past are visible, from the Mysore royals insignia on the pediment of the main façade, the channel gate of the mechanical lift, and ornate 'gandaberunda' royal emblems placed in walls of the entrance area facing the lobby.
Mysuru native Krazveen, who has been working as a 'durban' at the hotel for over three decades, said he has welcomed many guests who have experienced western opulence and Indian hospitality at the Lalitha Mahal Palace. "Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan and film crew had come to Mysore to shoot film 'Mard' (released in 1985). The actor had shot scenes here during his Mysore stay. The 'Sadak' film was also shot here,".
The interior of the hotel has a magnificent banquet hall which served as a ballroom earlier and a majestic conference hall and a grand staircase with heritage lamps. Portraits of many Mysore kings, including Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, and rare artworks depicting life of Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan and his family, are hung in the lobby and neighboring walls.
A visit to this heritage palace is enough to transport any wandering soul to the opulent bygone eras of royalties.