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Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel turns 112

Mumbai's iconic The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel was opened to guests on this day, December 16 in 1903. On this occasion we take a look at some interesting facts about Jamsedji Tata's finest architectural contribution to Mumbai...

The Gateway of India (R) and Taj Mahal Palce & Tower. Pic/AFP
The Gateway of India (R) and Taj Mahal Palce & Tower. Pic/AFP

>> Built 21 years before the Gateway of India (which was opened on December 4, 1924), the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower is considered Mumbai's first harbour landmark.

>> The hotel is the site of Mumbai's first licenced bar.

An unusual panorama of the Apollo Bunder, showing the Gateway of India and the Taj from the early 1940s. The Gateway was a latecomer completed in 1924 to commemorate the earlier visit of the King Emperor George V.
An unusual panorama of the Apollo Bunder, showing the Gateway of India and the Taj from the early 1940s. The Gateway was a latecomer completed in 1926 to commemorate the earlier visit of the King Emperor George V. Pic/ The Taj Magazine & Taj Memories

>> The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel has 560 rooms including 44 suites, 1500 staff members including 35 butlers.

>> During World War I, the legendary Mumbai landmark was converted into a hospital with 600 beds.

>> Jamsetji Tata's family members were critical of his decision to build the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, with once sister remarking, why the man who is building an institute of science in Bangalore, a great iron and steel factory and a hydro-electric project wants to put up a  'bhatarkhana' or boarding house.

>> The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel was home to leaders of the  Indian Freedom movement such as Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Sarojini Naidu and many others. One of first major speeches representing Independent India was given at the hotel in 1947.

Jamsetji Tata (1839-1904)
Jamsetji Tata (1839-1904)

>> Popular legend states that Jamsetji Tata decided to build the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel after he was denied entry at Watson's Hotel, as it was restricted to white patrons only. This theory is debunked by many, who feel Tata wanted to build the hotel at the urging of the editor of a major Indian newspaper that a hotel "worthy of Bombay" was needed.

>> The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel boasts of an extraoridnary international guests list that includes personalities such as George Bernard Shaw, Irving Stone, Barbara Cartland, Douglas Fairbanks, Sir Richard Attenborough, Baz Luhrmann, Yehudi Menuhin, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Mick Jagger, Margaret Thatcher, Prince Charles, Jacqueline Onassis, William Jefferson Clinton, David Rockefeller, Robert McNamara and Lord Wedgwood among many others.

>> In 1973, an additional wing to the hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, designed by Melton Bekker was opened. It had 20 storeys of arches and balconies and increased the number of rooms from 225 to 560.

The new archival corridor and show windows were inaugurated on July 29, 2014, to mark the birth anniversary of JRD Tata. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The new archival corridor and show windows were inaugurated on July 29, 2014, to mark the birth anniversary of JRD Tata. Pic/Bipin Kokate

>> A new archival corridor and show windows were inaugurated at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel on July 29, 2014, to mark the birth anniversary of JRD Tata.

>> Out of the many casualities during the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks on November 26, 31 died at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel. 12 of them were staff members and seven were injured. The Taj Hotels fully paid the medical expenses of the victims. Indian commandos killed the gunmen barricaded in the hotel to end the three-day battle.

>>  About 450 people were staying at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel during the Mumbai terrors attacks. The hotel's roof was destroyed during the seizure.

One from the Tata family photo album: The big four — JN Tata and his three partners, his sons Ratan and Dorab (seated) and his cousin ‘RD’, father of JRD Tata
One from the Tata family photo album: The big four — JN Tata and his three partners, his sons Ratan and Dorab (seated) and his cousin ‘RD’, father of JRD Tata

>> Although official local history credits Englishman WA Chambers for the original design of the Taj, notable contributions were made by engineer Raosaheb Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya, who was assisted by one DN Mirza. Sitaram Khanderao had served a long apprenticeship under the great master-builder of Victorian Bombay, FW Stevens.

>> At the time of its inauguration, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was the only hotel in India to have electricity.

A crescent moon lights up the night sky as the dome of the Taj Mahal Hotel looks resplendent in its regalia. Pic/AFP
A crescent moon lights up the night sky as the dome of the Taj Mahal Hotel looks resplendent in its regalia. Pic/AFP

>> During the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Six explosions were reported at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel – one in the lobby, two in the elevators, three in the restaurant. Firefighters rescued 200 hostages from windows using ladders during the first night.

>> After noted filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma was denied permission to shoot his docudrama 'The Attacks of 26/11' at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, he recreated the entire lobby of the Colaba hotel at another suburban hotel in Juhu for a whopping Rs 2.5 crore.

>> During his India visit in 2010, US President Barack Obama, who was staying at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, reportedly refused a 9-item Indian breakfast for a cheese sandwich, leaving the Taj kitchen upset.

US President Barack Obama

>> US President Barack Obama's entry in the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel guest book states, "We will always remember the events of 26/11; not only the sorrow, but also the courage and humanity that was displayed that day. The United States stands in solidarity with all of Mumbai and all of India in working to eradicate the scourge of terrorism, and we affirm our lasting friendship with the Indian people."

>> In April this year, 16 live cartridges were found in a lane near Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel. Police sources said that the bullets, belonging to a licensed 0.32 bore revolver, were found by a patrolling team inside a hole in the lane used for public parking.

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