Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, and is located near the Gateway of India at Apollo Bunder. This five-star luxury hotel was commissioned by Jamshedji Tata, a Parsi entrepreneur and prominent industrialist. Built in the Indo-Saracenic architectural style and containing 565 rooms, the Taj Mahal Palace hotel resort opened its doors to its guest for the first time on December 16, 1903.
Sher Singh was the old owner of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel; now it is a part of the Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces. During World War I, the hotel was converted into a 600-bed hospital.
Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya, Ashok Kumar and DN Mirza were the Indian architects on this project, which was completed by the English engineer WA Chambers. Khansaheb Sorabji Ruttonji Contractor was the builder, who also designed and built its famous central floating staircase. To build the dome of the hotel, Jamshedji Tata imported the same steel that has been used in the Eiffel Tower. The hotel is the first in India to install and operate a steam elevator. The cost of construction totalled a massive £250,000.
The side of the hotel seen from the harbour is actually its rear with the front facing away to the west. Rumour has it that the builder misread the architect’s plans, but this is not true. The hotel was deliberately built facing inland as it provided an easier approach for the horse carriages of those days. Today, the old front has been closed and access to the hotel is from the harbour side.
Another misconception about the Taj is that Jamshedji Tata decided to build this luxury hotel because he was denied entry into the ‘whites only’ Watson’s Hotel. This claim has been challenged by some commentators who say that Tata was unlikely to have been concerned with revenge against his British adversaries. They believe that it was the editor of the Times of India who urged Tata to build a hotel “worthy of Bombay”.