The melting point of variegated culture, art and architecture, India has forever been coveted by foreigners, who have further contributed to its multitudinous profile over the period of its golden history. The culture of this rich land can be best defined as the way of life of the people. One can notice a kaleidoscope of pictorial landscapes, cuisines, art, music and religious beliefs and practices in various parts of the country. The Indian architecture and styles of painting are renowned all over the world. The Rajput rulers, specifically, had a keen sense of beauty in Art and Architecture which is seen in the artistic excellence of their forts, palaces and temples. The style received enhancement and nurturing when the Turkish and Muslin invaders gripped the central power of the land, and later the British government.
Boasting such a blend in its architecture, known as the Indo-saracenic style, is the Lalgarh Palace built not only to preserve and continue the Rajput royalty, but also to meet the needs of the modern monarch, Maharaja Ganga Singh (1881-1942) and his associates and allies. Named in the memory of his father, Maharaja Lall Singh, the Lalgarh palace has since become the seat and home to the Bikaner royalty after Junagarh Fort. The Lalgarh Palace is an elegant architectural marvel, featuring dramatic Rajputana exteriors with overhanging balconies, opening corridors decorated with hunting trophies, painting and etchings and several grand halls. Keeping in mind the king’s demand for modern extravaganza for himself and his British associates, it also possesses splendid drawing rooms, smoking rooms, guest suites, a dining room which could seat 400 diners, magnificent pillars, fireplaces and Italian colonnades. Designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob with imposing red sandstone, the 3-storey palace complex is bejeweled with lattice and filigree work that defines excellence in the craftsmanship of not only its designer but also the workers and speaks of their imagination, creativity and hard work. It is an amalgamation of Mughal, Rajput and colonial British architectural style. The style gained momentum even in the west with the publication of the various views of India by William Hodges and the Daniell duo.
Now owned and managed entirely by Princess Rajyashree Kumari, besides a certain wing of the palace where the royal family resides, the other wings have either been handed over to a charitable trust or converted into luxury hotels. The Ganga Singhji charitable trust established by Maharaja Karni Singh for philanthropic purposes looks after maintenance of heritage sites in Bikaner and promotes socio-cultural and educational development amongst the youth of the state. For a royal experience two other wings of the palace have been refurbished into Lalgarh Palace hotel and Lakshmi Niwas Palace hotel, the earning from which are put in the trust. It also houses the Shri Sadul Museum and the Anup Sanskrit library that preserve not only the ancient belongings of the late Rajas and Maharajas, but also some of the oldest handwritten manuscripts.
Still the residence of the royal posterity of the Singhs, this beautiful structure stands true to the reason of its foundation of blending tradition to modernization, by opening itself to people from all around the world with an intension of not just giving a grand reception to its guests and lodgers, but also for patronizing culture, education and development. It is not just living that needs to be upgraded, but also the way of living, by merging the best from both the East and the West.