11 July, 2016

Hotel review & Heritage tour: The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai

Recently, I was invited to stay and review one of the heritage hotels of India. It is one of the most prestigious hotels, which has hosted who's and who's of the world. It was a privilege for me to review it and showcase it for my readers. This hotel is considered the flagship property of the Tata group and contains 560 rooms and 44 suites. There are some 1500 staff including 35 butlers. From a historical and architectural point of view, the two buildings that make up the hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace, and the Tower are two distinct buildings, built at different times and in different architectural designs. It was the city’s first harbour landmark. It was built in 1903, 21 years before the Gateway of India.For over a century, this luxury hotel has been the residence of choice for maharajas, dignitaries and other famous personalities.The hotel has hosted many notable guests, from presidents to captains of industry and stars of show business.

It is said that Jamshetji Tata decided to build this hotel when he saw the sign outside Watsons hotel that read, "Dogs and Indians are not allowed". At that time, that was the only hotel in Mumbai. Today it stands as an old building.

There is another myth or rumour about Contractor, who made a silly mistake. It is said that face of the hotel became back and back became front. The architect of the hotel went on top of the hotel on dome and jumped down. This is not true. There are two different gates on two diff sides of the swimming pool. They were original entrances. Till 1920 it was facing sea on both sides. They used have beautiful garden where there is a swimming pool now. In 1929 pool came in. It was first hotel to accommodate 500 people and have electricity.

In 1903, room rate was Rs. 6/- . This is a very unique amount for a 5 star hotel. The hotel was opened at 16th December 1903. That time there was no electricity and elevators were not functioning. But it was opened because an astrologist told Mr. Tata to open it.
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is a five-star hotel located in the Colaba region of MumbaiMaharashtra, India, next to the Gateway of India.

View from my room

My room in Taj Mahal Palace.

The famous grand staircase

Early morning swim

Breakfast in the Sea Lounge overlooking the sea. Sea  lounge is the second licensed bar in India to serve alcohol. Its Licence no is 002.

Hotel has become famous for combining Islamic and European Renaissance architecture. Its 565 rooms are decorated in Moorish, Oriental, and Florentine styles. Interior details include:
  • onyx columns
  • vaulted alabaster ceilings
  • cantilever stairway
  • prized collections of Indian furnishings and art

  • Different styles and elements of architecture are Florentine architecture of dome. Below that triangle and shield is Greco roman. Next to it are two Normandy cones of France. 

This was the original entrance of the hotel.

This was the way to the entrance or the lobby

Original entrance gate that led to the reception.

   This painting was made by Ratan Tata. It was auctioned and gifted back to the hotel by its buyer.

The hotel was first to have English butlers, first to have German lift technology, first Turkish bath hammam in each room. Now they do not have hammam in each room anymore.
See below the German lift technology.

This is 1700 piece of art. It is made of teak wood. It was Air India Ticket counter first and was brought to the hotel later.

For guests staying at Palace, there is Palace lounge for tea and coffee all day. The lounge has black and white floor like a chess board. Chess that is chiseled in wood is kept here. It also has super expensive paintings here worth over 27 crore each. These have been done by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde was regarded as one of India's foremost abstract painters.

Floor like chess

Famous paintings

chess board

In the grand staircase is the sculpture of its founder Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata. He was the founder of a textile mill.

There are these many ballrooms in the hotel.

Distance from ground to 5th floor is equal to distance from 5th floor to the tip of the dome. For more than 50 years after it was built, the hotel’s 240-foot-high dome was the first clear marker of Bombay Harbour that could be seen from the sea – the Gateway of India wasn’t built until 20 years later. The dome is still an official triangulation point, along with a chimney and a rocky island, for ships of the Indian Navy to fix their position in the harbour. When it opened, the hotel boasted a series of firsts: American fans, German elevators, Turkish baths and English butlers. The building was also the first in Bombay to be lit by electricity. Eventually it also ended up having the city’s first licensed bar, India’s first all-day dining restaurant, and the country’s first international discotheque, Blow Up.

These are some of the old pictures of the hotel.

See the price of the room- Rs. 6/-

This was the most fascinating part for me. And this is where Taj and I collaborate- Tea Tango dated 1943. We should revive it again.

Palace has a fantastic art gallery.

Treasure chest

Masala Kraft is the first Indian restaurant to offer proper Indian cuisine with different regional cuisines and also famous for its dabbawala concept or tiffin box concept and only restaurant in hotel where you can have food in tiffin. Also it was famous in those days where there was live classical performance in the restaurant. Dances- Bharatnatyam, Kathak and Kuchipudi were performed. Now they have live cooking stations where chefs prepare food in front of you.

Pictures of dignitaries who have stayed in the hotel.

Harbor Bar was the first licenced bar of india, with licence no 001 open in year 1933. So the hotel has both the first and the second bar. It is at the lobby level.

They also have Japanese restaurant- Wasabi by Chef Morimoto. 

The Tower wing was opened in 1973. When they wanted to expand the hotel around 1960’s, the major concern was that Taj foundation was weak and Taj is sinking but in1967 there was the most dreadful earthquake. The hotel shook but it held on strongly putting an end to all debates and concerns regarding Taj foundation. After 2 years they had the 6th floor added. For expanding hotel, there was Greens mansion adjacent to it, that was not Taj. Indian hotels company acquired it and built 23 tower story building now called Taj Mahal Palace and tower. The existing lobby was a government road. They acquired this too and it became the lobby. 
In the reception there is MF Hussain painting that is 30 feet long single largest painting of his. It is divided in 3 panels.

Floor has pietra dura image. It is an inlay technique using cut and polished semi precious stones.

A wall in the lobby is made of pure sandstone- jaali style hand carving. Made by Local people of Dholpur, a place in Rajasthan. 

And there is a Memorial wall of the hotel with names of people who died in the tragic terrorist attacks of 26/11. There is a bronze tree that survived the attack. It was earlier in palace wing on 6th floor. This survived the attack and is now called tree of life.

What is also extremely impressive is the designer saris of the staff. A special mention to the most courteous and hospitable staff. They are always eager to help, always smiling and give you the best possible service. No wonder there are innumerable people like me, who are Taj loyalists and fans. The stay in Taj property is always the best. It is the most impeccable. 
The property is luxe. It has a vintage feel to it, yet is very modern. You get all the comforts, great food, good location, beautiful ambience, a perfect getaway from home. Whether you want to plan a wedding here or a business conference, this is the best hotel in town to be in.

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