Laxmi Vilas Palace
Lukshmi Villas Palace, an extravagant building of the Indo-Saracenic school, was built by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III in 1890 at a cost of GBP180,000. Major Charles Mant was the architect. It is reputed to have been the largest private dwelling built till date and four times the size of Buckingham Palace. At the time of construction it boasted the most modern amenities such as elevators and the interior is reminiscent of a large European country house. It remains the residence of the Royal Family, who continue to be held in high esteem by the residents of Baroda. Its ornate Darbar Hall, which is sometimes the venue of music concerts and other cultural events, has a Venetian mosaic floor, Belgium stained glass windows and walls with intricate mosaic decorations. Outside of the Darbar Hall is an Italinate courtyard of water fountains. The palace houses a remarkable collection of old armory and sculptures in bronze, marble & terracotta by Fellici. The grounds were landscaped by William Goldring, a specialist from Kew Gardens. The palace is open to the public and an audio tour is available. The Palace "compound" is of over 500 acres and houses a number of buildings, particularly the LVP Banquets & Conventions , Moti Baug Palace and the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum building. Adjacent to the Moti Baug Palace and the Museum is the Moti Bagh Cricket Ground, the offices of the Baroda Cricket Association and a very rare indoor teak floored tennis court and badminton court (where the All India Badminton Championships were previously held). The Museum building was constructed as a school for the Maharaja's children. Today a large number of works of art belonging to the Royal family have been displayed in the museum. The most remarkable of these is the fabulous collection of the paintings of Raja Ravi Verma, who was specially commissioned by the then Maharaja of Baroda. The collection includes portraits of the Royal family in addition to the paintings based on Hindu mythology for which Raja Ravi Varma was famous. The Maharaja constructed a miniature railway line, which circled the mango orchard within the palace compound, to take his children from the school to the main Lakshmi Vilas Palace. The train engine was recently refurbished by Ranjitsinh Pratapsinh Gaekwad, who was the maharaja during the time, and can be seen at the entrance to the Museum. The palace also boasted a small zoo. The only remnant of the zoo is the pond where a number of crocodiles remain. The Navlakhi (literally meaning "of nine hundred thousand") Well, a fine 'baoli' or step well, is 50 meters north of the palace. In the 1930s Maharaja Pratapsinh created a golf course for use by his European guests. In the 1990s Pratapsinh’s grandson Samarjitsinh, a former Ranji trophy cricket player, renovated the course and opened it to the public. The audio tour of the palace gives a deep insight to the history behind it.