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Over the centuries, India has been known for its architectural splendor, tremendous wealth, grandeur and majesty. And nowhere is it more evident than in the many royal forts, palaces homes and retreats that dot the country’s landscape. It in these royal homes that one gets to see the ultimate in craftsmanship of Indian artists be it in stone, clay, leather, wood or ivory. In fact prior to Independence 40% of the subcontinent was ruled by royalty. In all there were 562 princely states ruled by maharajas and raos, walis and nizams who were known for their outrageous wealth and whimsical fancies.

India is home to a large number of palaces and vast empires. The history of India is full of numerous dynasties that have ruled over various parts of the country. While most monuments of the ancient period have been destroyed or lie in ruins, some medieval buildings have been maintained well or restored to good condition. Several medieval forts and palaces still stand proud all over India. These magnificent buildings are examples of the great achievements of the architects and engineers of that age. The palaces of India offer an insight into the life of the royalty of the country. While some royal palaces have been maintained as museums or hotels over the last decades, some palaces are still home for the members of the erstwhile royal families. These forts and palaces are the largest illustrations and legacy of the princely states of India.

Some of these palaces have converged in to royal hotels, especially in Rajasthan has some of the most splendid palaces converged heritage hotels, one can actually stay in many of them and enjoy the regal experience. Some of the best-known palace hotels in Rajasthan include Jaipur’s Rambagh Palace, Laxminiwas Palace in Bikaner and Samode Palace in Samode. Jodhpur has the spectacular Umaid Bhawan Palace – a fantastic monument that incorporates the art deco architecture that was in vogue when the palace was built in the last century. A relatively new palace it was built as a part of a famine relief project. Udaipur has several beautiful palaces built by generations of royalty and the jewel among them is the Lake Palace built as a royal summer residence on an island. Even smaller, relatively unknown places in Rajasthan boast of pretty royal homes and you can be sure to find one where ever you go.

An excellent example of a royal home and township is Fatehpur Sikri built by the Mughal emperor Akbar. Though it lies abandoned today, it is a fascinating piece of architecture and town planning complete with royal homes. In the western state of Gujarat, one of the most beautiful palaces is in Wankaner. Now a heritage hotel one can enjoy staying in the royal suites while checking out the Maharaja’s fantastic collection of vintage cars, many of them made to order. In central India, Madhya Pradesh’s many towns and cities have many beautiful places, hunting lodges, and jungle retreats such as Mandu, Orcha, and Shivpuri.

In the South, Mysore and Bangalore in Karnataka both have palaces that are a must visit on any itinerary. Tamil Nadu’s temple towns also house lovely royal homes with their own unique architecture that was largely let untouched by Mughal influences. Madurai’s highly ornamented Nayak palace built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak is a remarkable synthesis of varied decorative elements.