India // Rajasthan //

City Palace

Alwar’s principal attraction is its rambling and atmospheric City Palace, or Vinai Vilas Mahal, a sprawling complex of ornate but slightly dilapidated buildings, covered in crumbling ochre plaster and studded with endless canopied balconies. Most of the palace’s innumerable rooms are now put to more mundane use as government offices, while the courtyard in front provides open-air office space for dozens of typists, lined up behind clanking old antique metal machines, and lawyers, who prosecute their business under the trees.

The palace’s time-warped museum, on the top floor, has extensive collections of weapons and miniature paintings, alongside a medley of objects belonging to former maharajas ranging from musical instruments to stuffed animals.

Steps at the left-hand end of the main facade lead up to a large tank, flanked by symmetrical ghats, pavilions and a terrace on which stands the delicate Moosi Maharani Chhatri, built in memory of Bhaktawar Singh’s mistress, who immolated herself on his funeral pyre.