Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is located in Colaba in Mumbai. It is a five star hotel in close vicinity of the Gateway of India and contains 560 rooms and 44 suites. The hotel consists of two prominent and distinct buildings - The Taj Mahal Palace and a Tower. Both these buildings are quite different in their architectural styles and were built at different times.

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai

The most prominent guests in the Taj Mahal Palace have been The Beatles, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac, The King & Queen of Norway, The Duke & Duchess of Kent, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, Roger Moore, Joan Collins, Mick Jagger, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Deep Purple, Michael Palin, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama,and Oprah Winfrey, as well as professional cricket teams on tour.

Magnificent view of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and its Tower wing

The original building of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was built in Indo-Saracenic style by Jamsedji Tata. It was inaugurated and opened to guests on Wednesday, 16th December 1903. Once Jamsedji Tata was refused entry in one of the grandest of all the hotels in Mumbai - the Watson's Hotel. Watson's Hotel was restricted to WHITES ONLY. Being hurt by this incident, he decided to build his own hotel which was planned to be better than the best. However, this view has often been challenged by some learned men, who believe that Tata could not have been nursing revenge in his heart against his British adversaries. They suggest that Jamsedji Tata built the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel on the requests of the editor of The Times of India, who felt the necessity of a good hotel that could be "worthy of Bombay".

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel at night

Historian Sharda Dwivedi, argues that for a businessman like Tata, this would hardly have been reason to invest his own money in an industry he knew nothing about. She writes that the Taj was built at the time of a huge plague epidemic that started in 1896 and was threatening Bombay’s fortunes. Tata set up the hotel “purely for the love of the city”.

W. A. Chambers
While the original architects of the building were Siddhesh S., Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya and D. N. Mirza, the project was later completed by an English engineer, W. A. Chambers. Chambers’s only design contribution was to increase the size of the central dome when he took over after Vaidya’s death. Khansaheb Sorabji Ruttonji Contractor was the builder of the infamous monument who also built an architectural marvel - the Floating Staircase with the expense of £250,000 (about £127 million today). The hotel uses the same grade of steel in its dome as is used in the Eiffel Tower. To create a marvelous structure, Jamsedji Tata imported the same steel during that period.

For the first time in India, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel imported German elevators, American fans, Turkish baths and English butlers. It was the first in India to install and operate a steam elevator. During World War I, Jamsedji Tata allowed the hotel to be converted into a 600 bed hospital. It was also the first building in Mumbai to be fully electrified.

Because the courtyard faces inward, away from the sea, there’s always been a rumour that the hotel was constructed back-to-front, that the architect approved the layout when on holiday without noting the direction the structure was facing and jumped to his death from the fifth floor when he returned and realized his error. In truth, it seems the Taj was built facing away from the harbor because Tata wanted the rooms to look out to the sea, a practice unheard of in India.

Rear view of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

There is a widespread misconception that the architects' building plans were confused by the builder so that he built it facing away from the harbor. The part of the hotel facing the harbour is actually its rear portion, while the front-side of the hotel faces away to the West. The myth is now believed to be untrue as the hotel was deliberately built facing inland and not towards the harbour. It seems the Taj was built facing away from the harbour because Tata wanted the rooms to look out to the sea. The other possible reason of building the monument facing inland was the horse carriages which carried the hotel guests could approach the hotel more easily from the city. Then carriages were then taken to Wellington Mews, which has now been converted into luxury service apartments operated and owned by the Taj group. About 45 years ago, the front side of the hotel was closed. Since then, the harbor side entrance is made accessible.

The Tower wing of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
During the 70's, the Taj Mahal Hotel purchased Green's Hotel at the Apollo Bunder, Collaba, Mumbai and later demolished and created the Tower wing at the same place. Due to its low cost, the Green's Hotel was very popular among sailors and was well known and notorious for its wild parties.

During the able administration of the General Manager Mr. Jamshyd D. F. Lam (Retd. Sr. Vice President IHCL) of the Taj Group from 1980 to 1985, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel & Tower was ranked as the fifth best hotel in the world for two consecutive years. In the prestigious Conde Nast Traveller Readers' Travel Awards of 2010, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel & Tower was ranked 20th in Asia.

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was attacked on Wednesday, 26 November, 2008 in a series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai. There were about 450 people staying in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel who were taken as hostage during the attacks. Indian commandos killed the gunmen barricaded in the hotel to end the three-day battle. At least 167 people, including foreigners were killed in the attack out of which 31 causalities were reported at the Taj. The hotel was built again in a year, while the less damaged sections of the hotel reopened on 21 December 2008.

The Taj Mahal Hotel burning after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai

On 15 August 2010, India's Independence Day, the Taj Mahal Palace was reopened after restoration.

According to a popular belief, W. A. Chambers, the engineer who later took over after the death of Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya, the chief architect went back to his country after designing the hotel in 1903. When he returned from his vacation, he discovered that the monument has been built in the opposite direction, with the courtyard facing inwards, away from the sea. It was very shocking for him when he saw that the hotel was actually built back-to-front. He had approved the architectural layout when he was on vacation without noting the direction the structure was facing. Chambers realized his mistake and jumped to his death from the fifth floor of the building.

Fire Engines fighting out the fire in Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

It is believed that his ghost still haunts the old wing of the hotel. Hotel staff and guests claim that his ghost roams in the old wing of the hotel obviously still lamenting his misfortune. He is believed to be lingering on the corridors of the hotel, walking on the roof and sometimes even crying.


  1. Good to find your impressive post of valuable stuff. Thanks and keep sharing such instructive post with all.

    Wedding Venues in Mumbai