< INDIA | MUMBAI: The Taj Mahal Palace
The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai was born out of Jamsetji N. Tata’s dream. Mr. Tata believed that Bombay (now Mumbai), the commercial capital of India, required a
grand hotel, one that would enhance its reputation amongst the great cities of the world. Jamsetji N. Tata was the visionary founder of India’s premier business house – the Tata
Group. With annual revenues over US$ 11 billion, the Tata group has a commanding presence in sectors as diverse as steel, energy and engineering, as well as information technology,
telecom and services.
Built at a cost of 500,000 pound sterling with no expense spared, this labour of love opened its doors to its first 17 guests on December 16, 1903., with 30 private suites-cum- apartments, 350 double and single rooms, electric lights, fans, bells and clocks and 4 electric passenger lifts – true luxury at the turn of the 20th century. In its quest to provide the very best in luxury, the hotel even had it’s own power plant with electricity, a CO2 gas ice-machine plant that provided refrigeration and helped cool the suites. Mr. Tata ensured that from the very beginning, guests could enjoy the ‘latest arrangements and contrivances’ – electricity, fans, a power laundry, electric irons, a chemist’s shop, resident doctor, Turkish bath, post office and modern sanitation.
The imposing edifice of the hotel is an amalgam of styles that range from Moorish domes and Florentine Renaissance, to Oriental and Rajput. The official “engineer and architect” was a radical
Englishman, W. A. Chambers who completed the project, originally initiated by two Indian architects - Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya and D. N. Mirza. Unknown to most, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
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. Since then however, the photograph of the Gateway of
India, flanked by The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai has become a global symbol of both, the city of Bombay, and a representation of Indian hospitality and tourism.
One class of customer that became a regular patron of The Taj, was the Indian Maharajas and Princes, for whom the Hotel provided a luxurious escape from the formality and restrictions of their States, and yet maintained the palatial standards of living they were used to. Over the past century, the hotel has set a benchmark for being a trendsetter – THE place where it all happens. From Mumbai’s first ever licensed bar – the Harbour Bar (Bar License No. 1) to India’s first all-day-dining restaurant and the country’s first international discotheque – it all happened at the Taj. The hotel has also been renowned for its great ‘entertainment options’. From live classical orchestras, British Regiment Bands, Jazz and Saturday Night dances to opera, dance performances - from the ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ to Nijinsky! – and a resident fortune teller; The Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai has been ‘where everything in Bombay happened!’
History too, has played its role in the life of The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Mumbai. World War I saw the hotel being converted into a 600-bed hospital.
Just as the Maharajas considered the Taj as a ‘second home’, the hotel was as much a part of the Indian Freedom Movement. Luminaries like Mohamed Ali Jinnah; the originator of the idea of partition and later the first head of the State of Pakistan and Sarojini Naidu; a President of the Indian National Congress, both held court in suites at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai. Visitors included a long list of the who’s who of the movement, from M. K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru to foreign visitors like Aldous Huxley and Somerset Maugham who were supportive of the movement.
In 1947, the year the country gained its independence, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai played host to the legends and architects of Independence. In fact, Independent India’s first speech to industry was made at the hotel. It was during those days of celebration and splendour that Jamsetji Tata’s masterpiece took form on the political and tourism map.
The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Mumbai, has played an intrinsic part in the life of Bombay City for the past century. An enchantment spanning a century of lives, loves, history, arts and cultures. A treasure-trove of invaluable memorabilia, there is a story to tell behind every pillar, a tale to narrate past every corridor, a celebration under every awning. Ever since it opened its doors, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai has played host to an endless list of global and local who’s who. From the Maharajas and Princes to the various kings, presidents, legends, performers, entertainers and religious figures, the Taj has played the perfect host, supportive of their every need. From George Bernard Shaw to Irving Stone and Barbara Cartland; from Douglas Fairbanks to Sir Richard Attenborough to Baz Luhrmann; from Yehudi Menuhin to Andrew Lloyd Weber to Mick Jagger; Margaret Thatcher and Prince Charles to Jacqueline Onassis to William Jefferson Clinton; David Rockefeller and Robert McNamara to Lord Wedgwood and the list goes on.
In 1973, a Tower Wing, architecturally different, yet in sync with the ethos of the Taj, was conceived. 23 stories of arches and balconies, topped by a jagged diadem were created by Melton Bekker, a renowned American architect. Today, the two wings stand as one in harmonious contrast. Along with the construction of the Tower Wing, the management of the Taj realised that its future growth lay, not just in Bombay, but also in the development of India as a tourist destination. And thus began the creation of India’s premier hospitality chain, The Taj Group of Hotels. Starting with the management of the most magnificent palace hotels in the country – the Rambagh Palace, Jaipur and the Lake Palace Udaipur, the Taj Group expanded in key cities across the country, firmly putting its stamp on the Indian hospitality industry.
Today, The Taj Group of Hotels is India’s largest and finest global hotel company, comprising 53 hotels in 34 locations across India with an additional 12 international properties in the Maldives, UK, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Africa and the Middle East. From world-renowned landmark hotels to modern business properties, idyllic beach resorts to authentic Rajput palaces, each Taj hotel offers an unrivalled fusion of world-class service and modern luxury.
In the late 1990’s, in preparation for its 100th birthday, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai put in place a complete renovation and refurbishment program. International architects working hand in hand with the hotel staff and local artisans began a loving restoration, with the objective to reconnect the hotel’s ties with its glorious past, yet within a contemporary setting.
Over the past century, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai has amassed a diverse collection of paintings and works of art. From massive Belgian chandeliers to the finest in Bastar tribal art, from Anglo-Indian inlaid chairs and tables to Goan Christian artifacts, from Mughal inspired Jali designs to contemporary Sculpture, the hotel manages to incorporate a myriad of artistic styles and tastes.
At the completion of its Centenary year, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai sports a rejuvenated look, with new restaurants, beautifully restored guest rooms and a charming new lobby lounge, ready to begin a graceful journey toward its next hundred years.
#Charles Allen: The Taj at Apollo Bunder
Pictor Publishing Pvt Ltd., 2010 | ISBN-10: 8175085185; ISBN-13: 978-8175085183
English language | 336 pages | Hardcover
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