Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel: Live like a modern maharajah

Experience the legendary service and stunning décor of Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. (Supplied)
Updated 01 November 2019

Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel: Live like a modern maharajah

MUMBAI: You might have heard of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower. In 2008, it was the center of a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai by members of the Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. The pictures of smoke coming through the massive red Florentine Gothic 240 feet central dome of the hotel became the symbol of India’s commercial capital being under siege.

In April this year, “Hotel Mumbai” — directed by Anthony Maras and starring Dev Patel — chronicled the courage of the hotel’s staff during those horrific events (the staff’s selfless service has also been the subject of a Harvard Business School case study). The hotel is an emblem of Mumbai’s heritage and resilience.

The hotel is an emblem of Mumbai’s heritage and resilience. (Supplied)

According to legend, the industrialist J. N. Tata decided to build the hotel early in the 20th century when he was refused entry at The Watson Hotel, then the city’s grandest. The Taj Mahal Palace was constructed in 1903, and is still considered the grandest hotel in India.  It sits across from the Gateway of India (although the hotel actually predates that iconic monument). It was from the steps of the hotel that Lord Mountbatten announced India’s independence.

Following the 2008 attacks, the hotel underwent a reported $30 million refurbishment, reopening in August 2010. And the improvement work didn’t stop there; a new spa and modernized gym were unveiled last year.

The industrialist J. N. Tata decided to build the hotel early in the 20th century when he was refused entry at The Watson Hotel. (Supplied)

But the hotel remains instantly recognizable as the “Grand Old Lady of Mumbai.” With its Oriental, Florentine and Moorish architecture — complete with alabaster ceilings, onyx columns, silk hand-knotted carpets and marble floodways — it really does feel like a palace. On its walls are some of India’s most important artworks; its Belgian chandeliers are priceless; and the Edwardian-Gujarati trellises are crafted with precision. It has hosted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Oprah Winfrey, Mahatma Gandhi and Bill and Hilary Clinton. Ruttie Jinnah — the wife of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah — had a permanent suite at the Taj.

With its Oriental, Florentine and Moorish architecture, the hotel really does feel like a palace. (Supplied)

In the 1970s, the Tower was added so that the hotel could accommodate more guests and business-friendly facilities, but the Palace (referred to as “The Heritage Wing”) is the one to stay at.

The Taj, as it is fondly called, is where locals go to celebrate special occasions — its ballroom is still the most prestigious wedding location in Mumbai  — and where tourists come to experience Indian hospitality. All of the generously sized rooms in the Heritage Wing enjoy  butler service, and comprehensive attention-to-detail — for example, leaving a bookmark next to your current bedside read.

The hotel reopened in August 2010. (Supplied)

The regal poolside (on the lobby level) is a great place to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner, but for afternoon tea the Sea Lounge is a must. Its art deco furniture and views of the Arabian Sea will transport you back to the days of Colonial India. 

The hotel has several restaurants (warning: they are, unsurprisingly, among the most-expensive in the city) including Mumbai’s finest Japanese venue in the city, Wasabi by Morimoto, and Masala Kraft, which is all about modern Indian cuisine.

The hotel has hosted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Oprah Winfrey and Hilary Clinton. (Supplied)

But since the hotel is located in the wealthy residential area of Colaba, many of the city’s best eateries are within walking distance. As, indeed, are some of Mumbai’s best shops, from lifestyle store Good Earth, to the by-appointment-only jewellers, Gem Palace. Plus the city’s art district Kala Ghoda is just around the corner.

Any stay at this Indo-Saracenic beauty, with accommodation straight from the days of the Raj, and its deservedly world-famous hospitality, really will leave you feeling like royalty.

Archaeologists unveil possible shrine to Rome’s first king

Updated 21 February 2020

Archaeologists unveil possible shrine to Rome’s first king

  • Possible shrine to Romulus is found at the heart of Rome, on the site of the old Roman forum
  • The founder of Rome was abandoned by the banks of the river Tiber, before being nursed back to health by a she-wolf

ROME: Archaeologists said on Friday they had discovered an ancient cenotaph that almost certainly commemorated the legendary founder of Rome, Romulus, buried in the heart of the Italian capital.
The small chamber containing a simple sarcophagus and round stone block was originally found at the start of the last century beneath the Capitoline Hill inside the old Roman forum.
However, officials say the significance of the find has only just become clear following fresh excavations and new research.
Alfonsina Russo, the head of the Colosseum Archaeological Park, said the site probably dated back to the sixth century BC, and was located in the most ancient part of the city which was directly linked in historical texts to Rome’s first king.
“This area is highly symbolic. This surely cannot be Romulus’ tomb, but it is a place of memory, a cenotaph,” Russo told Reuters TV.
The shrine is buried beneath the entrance to the Curia, one of the meeting places for Roman senators which was subsequently converted into a church — a move that protected it from being dismantled for its stones as happened to other forum buildings.

The underground chamber was also located close to the “Lapis Niger,” an antique slab of marble that was venerated by Romans and covered a stone column that was dedicated to “the King” and appeared to curse anyone who thought to disturb it.
Russo said the Roman poet Horace and ancient Roman historian Marcus Terentius Varro had related that Romulus was buried behind the “rostra” — a tribune where speakers addressed the crowd in the forum. “The rostra are right here,” she said.
No body was found in the sarcophagus, which was made of volcanic tuff rock, but according to at least one legend, Romulus vanished into the sky following his death to become the God Quirinus, meaning that possibly he never had a tomb.
According to the myth, Romulus and his brother Remus, the sons of the god Mars, were abandoned by the banks of the river Tiber where a she-wolf found them and fed them with her milk.
The brothers are said to have founded Rome at the site in 753 BC and ended up fighting over who should be in charge. Romulus killed Remus.