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What does having a palace say about your personality? You don’t build a huge residence with a hundred bathrooms if you want to be alone. You don’t decorate it with fanciful turrets, strange shaped windows and acres of marble, glass and sparkling crystal if you are keeping a low profile. Palaces are built to attract people, to show off a lifestyle and have others join in the fun. Indian Maharajas lost their political power in 1971, but not their way of life. And the palaces did not lose their tradition of luxury and hospitality in the name of democracy, they just call them hotels now. A trio of the best palace hotels is distributed across the legendary northern Indian state of Rajasthan. Rambaugh: a jewel in a park Rambaugh Palace in Jaipur began life as a house for a favourite royal wet nurse and evolved into a serene fantasy set in a vast park, the exclusive preserve of a limited number of members of the local royal family and an unlimited number of attendants. Its creamy white domes protrude above the tree line, manicured lawns, formal rooms and private apartments reflecting the evolving taste and world travels of its owners. It was not originally intended to be the main residence of the Maharaja, he had the City Palace. When, in the 1920s, the crown prince appeared to be getting a little pudgy, Rambaugh was converted to a private school so that His Highness could play polo and other manly sports in the vast grounds with his chums. It worked. The young man turned into an athletic, handsome Maharaja who took London by storm. The newsreels referred to him as “the man who has everything.” While in Britain the Maharajah became engaged to a fellow Rajasthani of appropriate breeding. During the engagement he renovated his old school building and brought his bride back to live happily ever after in the fairytale home Rambaugh Palace had become. So much champagne was drunk to celebrate the birth of their first child, that the new Prince, was known as “Bubbles.”

Mahajarahs are mortal But alas, it was not happily ever after. The Maharaja died in a polo accident in the prime of his life and the dowager Maharani lived in a house on the grounds until her death at the age of 90 in 2009. Rambaugh Palace is leased for the long term to Taj Hotels, a division of the Indian steel and manufacturing giant, Tata Companies, that also owns Land Rover and Jaguar. With the backing of those deep pockets, Rambaugh and some other palaces, have been able to be beautifully maintained and keep their doors open to appreciative and well-heeled visitors.

Palaces are built to attract people, to show off a lifestyle and have others join in the fun. And somehow I got in too. For a couple of days I had a suite at the back of the palace overlooking a formal garden. I dined in all the dining rooms and had an enormous Indian dinner on the lawn. The sitar music was more intoxicating than the wine. Following an afternoon of walking around the old city, I felt slightly dusty so I phoned the spa whose attendants were standing by on my return to cure my hint of fatigue. >

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