indore palaces

Prepare to be awed at Patalpani Waterfalls. (Photo: Getty Images)

Culture + Style

Take a Royal Tour of Indore’s Jaw-Dropping Parks, Palaces and Temples

With roots as a 16th-century trading hub, Indore — the largest city in India’s Madhya Pradesh state — is acclaimed as home to some of India’s loveliest temples, palaces and parks. Today, the city is a cosmopolitan center of education and finance but retains vestiges of its regal heritage.

Beginning in the 1700s, Indore was ruled by the Holkar dynasty for more than 200 years. The maharajas, with a penchant for lavish living, left behind a lasting legacy in their grand palaces.

Here’s where to go on a royal tour.

Annapurna Temple

Four massive stone elephants form the base of an ornate gateway with carved towers leading into this ancient Hindu temple. The Annapurna Temple is an architectural marvel and important pilgrimage center, dedicated to Annapurna, the Hindu goddess of food.

Inside, the temple is calm and colorful, with wall murals depicting Hindu mythology and shrines to several deities, including Shiva and the Monkey God, Hanuman.

Holkar Palace (Rajwada)

The striking 18th-century palace of the Holkar dynasty looms over the city in wood and stone. The seven-story palace served as a royal residence and has suffered three fires, when much of the wooden upper floors were destroyed.

However, the grand façade remains, with a magnificent iron-studded doorway opening onto a courtyard surrounded by arched balconies and ornate pillars. A mix of Maratha and Islamic styles can be seen in the latticework and overhanging balconies. A small in-house museum of the Holkar dynasty contains arms and sculptures.

Kanch Mandir Temple

indore palaces
Sunglass might be in order as you gaze upon all this sparkle. (Photos: Getty Images)

The dazzling, glass-inlaid Jain temple shimmers from floor to ceiling with colorful murals. In the early 1900s, an industrious trader, Seth Hukumchand, built the temple next to his mansion, Sheesh Mahal. The temple’s pale stone exterior belies what lies within.

Walls, ceilings and pillars are lavishly embellished with colored mirror work, featuring quotations and pictorial stories. The most surreal part of the grand temple is the special chamber housing the Jain temple’s main idols, their images reflected infinitely in the glass-encrusted room.

Lal Bagh Palace

Italian marble pillars, taxidermic animals and grand chandeliers make up the flamboyant interiors of this Holkar dynasty royal residence. Imposing gates — replicas of Buckingham Palace’s gateways — lead to the lawns that surround the grand, three-story palace.

Construction took 35 years, and design features are distinctly European, featuring a blend of Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo elements. The lavish ornamental style is reflective of the design sensibilities of the era, as well as the Holkar fondness for opulence.

Patalpani Waterfall

On the outskirts of Indore city, this towering waterfall is a popular picnic spot, especially buzzy on weekends. Set in lush green surrounds, the falls are in full spate during the monsoon months, from July to September.

Water cascades down a sheer rock face into a deep green pool. Locals believe the pool reaches as deep as the underworld (or patal), lending the waterfall its name.

Kamla Nehru Park

indore palaces
Fall in love with nature at the zoo. (Photo: Getty Images)

The sprawling city zoo offers a green respite to Indore’s urban pace of life. Tigers and elephants, bears and deer roam in leafy enclosures. There’s a wide variety of avian and reptilian life, as well, including peacocks, painted storks, monitor lizards and huge crocodiles.

Of course, it is the big cats that are the major draw – regal lions, lithe leopards and the Bengal tiger.