Surya Mahal Palace, Rajasthan, India
At the centre of Deeg – a small, rarely visited, dusty tumult of a town about 36km north of Bharatpur – stands the incongruously glorious Suraj Mahl’s Palace edged by stately formal gardens. It’s one of India’s most beautiful and carefully proportioned palace complexes. Pick up a map and brochure at the entrance; photography is not permitted in some of the bhavans (buildings).
Built in a mixture of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles, the 18th-century Gopal Bhavan is fronted by imposing arches to take full advantage of the early-morning light. Downstairs is a lower storey that becomes submerged during the monsoon as the water level of the adjacent tank, Gopal Sagar, rises. It was used by the maharajas until the early 1950s, and contains many original furnishings, including faded sofas, huge punkas (cloth fans) that are over 200 years old, chaise longues, a stuffed tiger, elephant-foot stands, and fine porcelain from China and France.
In an upstairs room at the rear of the palace is an Indian-style marble dining table – a stretched oval-shaped affair raised just 20cm off the ground. Guests sat around the edge, and the centre was the serving area. In the maharaja’s bedroom is an enormous, 3.6m by 2.4m wooden bed with silver legs.
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