When the taj was untouched

Updated: Dec 1 2008, 04:59am hrs
After the dastardly attack on the Taj, how will one now remember the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai as a heritage building or as one that was assaulted by grenades and bullets by intruders from across the sea.

Its a place steeped in history. Commissioned by Jamshedji Nasserwanji Tata, after he was spurned away from a European-guests-only hotel, it was designed by architect WA Stevens. It was inaugurated in 1903, becoming Indias first luxury hotel, taking the mantle of Indias grandest hotel from Kolkatas The Great Eastern.

It had been news several times since then most noticably when it was converted into a 600-bed hospital during the Second World War to nurse the victims. Kings and presidents, pop stars and sports heroes have all made it their temporary home. George Bernard Shaw, Irving Stone, Barbara Cartland, Richard Attenborough, Yehudi Menuhin, Mick Jagger, Jackie Onassis and Bill Clinton the list is a virtual whos who of the worlds elite.

Counted among one of the few heritage buildings in India, the Taj is not only a piece of architectural brilliance, it is also one of the economic hubs that has been housing many business meetings, seminars and conferences.

Jamshedji Tata had foreseen that Mumbai would be the nerve centre of economy and commerce and thus he believed that it would need a palatial grand hotel. Today it is a leisurely business hotel where foreigners are greeted with the same kind of hospitality that is representative of Indian culture.

Increasing need for more space saw the addition of the Tower block in 1970. It increased the room numbers to 565, added the F&B outlets and created space for the state-of-the-art conference facilities.

The heritage property combines the Moorish, Oriental and Florentine architectural styles. The hotel at once showcases contemporary Indian styles in its architecture and design, from Belgian chandeliers to Goan artifacts.

American architect Melton Bekker conceived the new addition in harmony with the old and picturesquely depicted the same essential character through its arched balconies topped with the jagged diadem. Hong Kong-based Swiss designer Dale Kenner also made his efforts in retaining the Indian touch in the interiors.

Today scarred, charred, and witness to unprecedented terrror, it is being estimated that approximately Rs 5 billion will be required to rebuild Taj Mahal hotel.