How well do you know India’s First Luxury Hotel?

Written by Black Swan Journeys
January 16, 2015

The Taj Mahal Hotel

How well do you know India’s First Luxury Hotel?
Image Source: Outlook India

“If you can dream it, you can do it” – Walt Disney

 There was a visionary practicing this mantra even before Walt Disney was born.  Jamsetji Tata was the dreamer, the visionary and the leader who set up what we now know as the Tata Group. Regarded as the “Father of Indian Industry”, while much has been written and said of his pioneering effort for the Iron and Steel industry, one of his four stated goals was to set up a unique hotel, one that would place India on the world map.

How well do you know India’s First Luxury Hotel?
Image Source: Flickr – Mosi Lager

And thus was born the idea of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay (now Mumbai). The Taj Mahal Hotel was India’s first luxury hotel. It was and remains a symbol of excellence, of royalty and of exacting standards, conceived by one man’s ability to dream big. Jamsetji Tata overcame skepticism and criticism from close quarters and decided to set up the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay in the 1890s. Many believe that his desire to build a world-class hotel was born when he was denied entry to the then-leading Watson’s Esplanade Hotel in Bombay (10 minutes away from the Taj Mahal Hotel), which entertained “white-only” guests. But historians and those close to Jamsetji Tata have detailed how his desire to set up a luxury hotel found its roots in his selfless love for the city of Bombay. After the Bubonic Plague in the 1890s and other incidents, it was his way of returning Bombay to its past glory and attracting the rich and all-powerful to Bombay, from across the globe. With this lofty vision, the foundation of the Taj Mahal Hotel was laid in 1898.  Construction was completed in 1903, at a cost of £ 250,000 and the Taj Mahal Hotel opened its doors to the first guests on 16 Dec 1903, 21 years before the Gateway of India was built. For the longest time, the 240-feet high dome of the hotel remained the only marker of the Bombay Harbor.

How well do you know India’s First Luxury Hotel?
Image Source: Rahul Sheel’s Blog

Here are a few things to know about India’s First Luxury Hotel:

  1. It outdates the Gateway of India by 21 years
  2. Even though its design is popularly credited to English architect WA Chambers, the original booklet of architectural plans from Jamsetji Tata’s collection cites Raosaheb Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya as the architect of the original plans. WA Chambers was enrolled to oversee completion after Vaidya’s untimely demise before completion of the hotel
  3. It is a common misconception that the layout was reversed by mistake. In fact, The Taj Mahal Hotel was designed this way to ensure easy access from the city and a sea-view for most rooms
  4. When the hotel opened its doors to guests in 1903, it charged ten rupees for a single room and twelve rupees for a room with fans and an attached bathroom
  5. The Taj Mahal hotel hasn’t always been a hotel. During World War 1, it was converted into a 600-bed hospital
  6. There are several references to the Taj Mahal hotel in books by acclaimed authors such as Jeffrey Archer, referred to as “Hotel Grand Palace”, its literal translation
  7. The hotel is deeply rooted in India’s history. Then President of the Indian National Conference, Naidu, and Jinnah, the then to-be leader of Pakistan, held their courts here
  8. If you have stayed at the Taj Mahal hotel, you have shared residential address with the likes of George Bernard Shaw, Sir Richard Attenborough, Mick Jagger, Margaret Thatcher, Prince Charles, David Rockefeller and several Maharajas and statesmen
How well do you know India’s First Luxury Hotel?
Image Source: Jon L Albee – Flickr

List of first:

  1. First building in Bombay to be electrified by its own Power Plant
  2. Bombay’s first licensed bar
  3. First Discotheque and Restaurant to remain open 24 hours a day
  4. And ranked the Fifth Best Hotel in the world in the early eighties
  5. Opulence Redefined

Art Walk: Over the years, the hotel has built an enviable collection of paintings and works of art. Enjoy a guided art walk to explore Belgian Chandeliers, Goan Christian Artifacts and works from several eras.

Regular guests have the option of maintaining a permanent wardrobe at the hotel

Personal Butlers to cater to a guest’s every need

A fleet of Jaguars and Bentleys for those residing in Grand Luxury Suites

In-room recreation of restaurants for private meals

Luxury yachts exclusively for guests of the hotel

A fleet of modern chartered aircrafts to fly you in and out of destinations across the world

About us:
At Black Swan Journeys, we design and execute customized experiential holidays for discerning travellers. To know more about the exciting travel ideas we have in store for you, write to [email protected] or visit us at www.blackswanjourneys.com

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