Samode Palace


Samode, an erstwhile principality of Jaipur and now-a-days a small village town, is famous for being on tourist map of Rajasthan. Samode is visited by the tourists to watch Samode Palace, Samode Haveli and Samode Bag. Samode Palace is the prime attraction of Samode. The historical features and architectural niceties are very carefully and painstakingly maintained. Samode Palace has been converted by the royal family into a luxurious heritage hotel. Stay in Samode Palace hotel makes a tourist/ visitor feel as if he has come into an oasis amidst arid and desert landscape of Rajasthan.

Samode palace is not only one of the most exquisite creations of its period but also one of the finest of all the Rajput palaces and its breathtaking durbar hall lives up to every expectation. Of particular brilliance are its painted walls and ceilings, created under Rawal Berisal Singh in the mid-nineteenth century. The Sultan Mahal is an exquisite example of the Jaipur miniature style at its best, with every inch metculously painted with geometric and floral motifs; the dados represent garden borders filled with flowers and mango trees and inhabited by a profusion of every species of bird found in the region. The rulers of this desert state loved gardens, and this hall brings the delights of an imaginary garden inside.

In the 1970s, there seemed little future for Samode as for so many other palaces, but then its two youthful heirs, Rawal Raghavendra Singh and his brother Rawal Yadavendra Singh, took on the task of saving the property and opened it to a discerning public. Slowly, with considerable thought, sensitivity and integrity, they have returned the huge palace to its former splendour, rightly assuring it a place of honour among India's heritage hotels.

Samode Palace, forty-two kilometres from Jaipur, represents a distinctive period in the evolution of the fortified palace in Rajasthan. The arrival of the British brought a degree of stability to the region, and with this the need for fortification receded; consequently, the royal purse was free to indulge in courtly decoration and display. The formal reception rooms, especially the durbar hall and Sheesh Mahal (mirrored hall), are masterpieces of painting and glasswork, featuring intricate geometric designs and an explosion of flowers, birds and figurative motifs.

The grand durbar hall is the formal reception area of the palace where in the past, the Rawal of Samode would have received royal visitors, dignitaries and high-level British administrators. Few other interiors can rival the skill of execution and the ravishing beauty of the decoration. The ceiling in the durbar hall is hand-painted and features geometric and floral patterns alongside portraits of natch girls (professional dancers).

The elaborate quality of the painted decoration shows that vast expense was incurred in the various public rooms of the palace. The advent of the British secured a greater stability in Rajasthan so that where previously money would have been spent on waging war or on defence, the palace exchequer was able instead to use funds for patronage of arts. In the hall behind the Sultan Mahal, every surface has been painted: the ceiling has swirling floral motifs in a Dutch blue; the dado is decorated with pencil firs, mango trees and various species of garden birds; landscapes include detailed illustrations of sites of religious pilgrimage.

The Sheesh Mahal runs alongside the durbar hall on the upper level. The entire ceiling and upper walls are covered with convex pieces of mirrored glass. What would have been a dark space, has become delightfully bright, the myriad pieces of mirror playing with reflected and re-reflected light. The Sheesh Mahal also had a more romantic purpose. The Rajput men at one time spent much of their lives outside, hunting or protecting their families. Their lives changed in the 1900s as they settled down to more sedentary pursuits, spending more time at home rather than outside. Lighting candles under the mirror work in the Sheesh Mahal would create just the effect of the celestial canopy under which they used to camp.

The Sultan Mahal is a public reception area for more intimate gatherings. The silver furniture, sofas, charpoys and footstools were brought from Nepal and the dhurries and rugs were all locally woven in Jaipur. The walls are painted with flowers, bowls of fruit and scenes from religious mythology. The ceiling and upper portions of the decorative jharokha in the Sultan Mahal has been covered in mirrored glass and overlaid with delicate gesso tracery work. Not only is the jharokha a decorative focal point, it is also practical, letting in light along the back of the Mahal (palace).

The small anteroom overlooking the durbar hall, finished in monochrome, provides a clever contrast to the ravishing paintwork of the durbar hall, seen through the archway. The women of the palace would have used this room and the corridors running round the sides of the hall on its upper level to view the ceremonies and court proceedings below.

In this desert region, gardens were highly prized, also known as 'paradise gardens' they brought colour, scent and birdlife to the rugged surroundings. Great efforts were made to locate sources of running water to supply fountains, ponds and waterways, the likes of which can be seen at Samode Bagh.

The mirrored decoration in the gallery alongside the Sheesh Mahal is a tradition that originated in Iran. Glass balls were blown and mercury poured into them while they were still hot; the balls were then smashed and the shards shaped to fit the design. This gallery and the adjoining Sheesh Mahal are among the finest examples of such glass work in Rajasthan.

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