As The Taj Mahal Palace Turns 117, We Look Back At Its Unparalleled History
The hotel is more than just a luxe abode
Think about it. What does the name The Taj Mahal Palace bring to your mind? Some will think of its rich, power-packed heritage and history while others can never forget 26/11. Whatever may be the associated memory, the fact remains that The Taj Mahal Palace has always been an icon in its own. A brainchild of Jamsetji N Tata, the hotel opened its doors to precisely 17 guests on December 16, 1903. Architect, engineer and a radical English man W.A Chambers completed the project while the construction was originally initiated by two Indian architects—D.N Mirza and Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya.
Unknown to most, The Taj Mahal Palace preceded the famous Gateway of India by over 20 years. Until then, the hotel was the first sight for ships calling at the Bombay Port. When it comes to its edifice, the hotel exudes a stunning amalgamation of Moorish domes, Florentine Renaissance, with influences of the Oriental and Rajput culture. The inside of the building is lightened throughout by an extraordinary arrangement of galleries, laced together with Edwardian-Gujarati trellises and balustrades that run from one end of the building to other.
Trust us when we say that its history speaks more than its architecture—World War I saw the hotel being converted into a 600-bed hospital. While on the other hand, Indian Maharajas and Princes of the bygone era were regular patrons of The Taj Mahal Palace as it provided them with a luxurious escape from State duties and formalities. And more recently, its roster of eminent guests boast of names like the Obamas, TRHs William and Kate, the Prince of Morocco, Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Madonna and more.
There’s a lot more to the hotel than what meets the eye. The pillars in the hotel’s Ballroom are made from the same steel as the Eiffel Tower. While the crystal chandeliers that hang in the Crystal Room are a gift from Petit Mansion—Rati Petit (wife of Mohammad Ali Jinnah).
The Taj Mahal Palace has witnessed its many iconic ‘firsts’. From Lord Mountbatten announcing India’s independence from the steps of the hotel to being the first hotel that introduced butler service in India, it’s packed with stories. The hotel also houses Mumbai’s first licensed bar called the Harbour Bar.
The hotel is also renowned for the medley of precious artworks that reflect an important era of creativity in Indian History. Iconic names like M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza, Jamini Roy, Tyeb Mehta, Jehangir Sabavala, Bose Krishnamachari, Krishen Khanna and more have left their indelible signatures at the hotel. From massive Belgian chandeliers to the finest in Bastar tribal art, from Mughal inspired Jali designs to contemporary sculpture, the hotel manages to incorporate a myriad of artistic styles and tastes.
For a century, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, the iconic flagship has set a benchmark for fine living with exquisite refinement, inventiveness and warmth. Vaulted alabaster ceilings, onyx columns, hand-woven silk carpets, crystal chandeliers and an eclectic collection of furniture brings together the gorgeous structure.
Photographs: Courtesy of The Taj Mahal Palace