The Jaivilas Palace was constructed in 1874 by Maharaja Jayaji Rao Scindia, the Maharaja of Gwalior, and is still the residence of his descendants, the former royal Maratha Scindia dynasty.
The palace is simply enormous, estimated to be over 1,240,000 square feet. Designed and built by Sir Michael Filose, the palace comprises of a mixture of architectural styles; the first floor is Tuscan, the second is Italian-Doric, and the third floor is Corinthian.
In 1964 a wing of Jai Vilas Palace was converted into a museum in memory of Srimant Jiwajirao Scindia, by the late Rajmata Shrimant Vijayaraje Scindia.
The Scindia Museum offers the public a unique view of the palace created in the 19th and 20th century, and focuses on various arts and crafts that grew and reached their zenith under the patronage of the royal family.
What follows is a quick visual tour of the museum for those interested to know what there is to see here.
There are seven galleries on the ground floor, including the Scindia lineage, sardars, textiles, uniforms and carriages.
The lighting in these galleries is very dim, and rightly so in order to preserve the items on display.
Most of the first floor is used to showcase ten rooms, each of which have been styled to a specific period.
The highlight for me on this floor was the stained glass in the oriental room, and some elaborate and intricate carvings on the malabar furniture.
Durbar Hall Complex
By the time you reach the Durbar Hall complex, you may have a sense of just how wealthy and eccentric this family was. Money was clearly no object. Just before the entrance to the Durbar Hall complex is a three wheeled BMW Isetta, which was in production from 1956 – 1962.
After the Tat-Pat Bhojan Hall, you come to one of the highlights of this museum. As one would imagine for such a room, the Banquet Hall has a very large table set up, but oddly with miniature railway track laid out on top…
In front of the table is a silver train with carriages, which used to carry after-dinner brandy and cigars around the table.
If that’s not mad enough, the silver carriages all had a mechanism that would instantly stop the train whenever an item (like a brandy bottle) was lifted out, and would start again when the item was placed back !
After seeing a couple of additional rooms, you come to what is visually the absolute highlight – the Durbar Hall itself.
This is a massive room, measuring over 100 feet long, 50 feet wide and nearly 50 feet tall, and decorated with gilt and gold furnishings.
Hanging in the middle of the room are a pair of huge chandeliers with 250 light bulbs, said to be the largest fair of chandeliers in the world.
A story says that eight elephants were suspended from the Durbar Hall ceiling to check it could cope with two 12.5m-high, 3.5-tonne chandeliers.
An alternative version of that story says that the strength of the ceiling was checked by having ten elephants walk up a purposely built ramp to stomp about on the roof.
The Jai Vilas Palace and Scindia Museum offer something a little different from the other sites to see in Gwalior. Whilst the entrance fee is not cheap compared to other attractions in Gwalior (Rs.150 for Indian, Rs.800 for foreign visitors, Rs.100 – Rs.300 camera charge!), it is a very well laid out museum and there’s plenty of variety across the galleries.
Note that the museum does not open until 10am, and is closed on a few occasions during the year. For up to date information it’s best to check their website.
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