Courtyard – The central courtyard of the palace is the most serene spot in the building. In the centre stands a bronze statue of a lady with a lamp, parrot on her shoulder and a snake winding in her hair. The King of Puddukottai in Tamil Nadu gifted this magnificent piece of art to the Maharaja. Infact, it was personally handcrafted by him. A small flower shaped pool surrounds the statue as balconies of the first flower sift the sunlight gentlyfalling in the centre. Around the courtyard, pillared verandas are perfect retreats.
Dining Hall – The dining hall of the palace seats 25 guests for three or four course meals with local, North Indian, South Indian, Chinese and Continental specialties. The food is served from an adjoining modern kitchen. While pre-planned menus ease the task of ordering, you can make special requests 12 hours in advance. Based on availability of ingredients, the chef will be delighted to serve you any particular dish. When in the heart of Karnataka, trying the local fare is recommended; holigae, jowar roti, yene badnekai, shenga chutney, kempu khara and mosarannawill leave your taste buds delighted. The service at Shivavilas Palace is worth a mention – a separate host for complete attention attends individual tables. The room service can be availed only uptil 10.30 p.m.
Darbar Hall – The heavily guarded entrance to the Darbar Hall from the outer veranda of the palace leads you into an era of royalty with rare collection of armour, weapons, artefacts and a grand silver-plated centralthrone flanked by taxidermed tigers. The Darbar Hall is reminiscent of the exact way that the King used to greet his patrons in this quarter. The museum transports one into the imperial era in the blink of an eye.
Temples – At the end of either sides of the entrance of the palace, lie temples of Lord Subramanya and Malahari Marthanda. Every morning and evening, the royal musicians call for prayers as the priest starts the longstanding tradition of daily invocation. The Karthik Poornima celebrations are of special scale in November. Do find the time to peep in and see the ancient idols of Shivaji, Parvati, Shiva and Hubli Baba in the temples. Brightly turbaned men serenade the God’s with a chantaki and shambal (local instruments).
Vintage Car Museum – A symbol of wealth and superior status, the private collection of vintage wheels still imbibes a touch of aristocracy.The glistening Mercedes Benz S 230 (1965-66), 1943 Ford GPW Jeep, 1961 Willy’s Station Wagon and the 1932 Dodge Brothers with ‘Sandur 1’ on its number plate rank as one of the most intriguing part of the palace.
Library –The floor to ceiling walled shelves of the palace library are packed with books from history, classics in English, law and nature. These surround a central reading table with travel themed books and magazines in India. Here, you can also find the books authored by M.Y Ghorpade. ‘Divine Glory’, ‘A Profile in Courage’ and ‘ Development Ethos and Experience’ are some of the reads that will give you a better understanding of the background of the Shivavilas Palace.
Bar and Billiards Room – An original full size John Roberts & Co billiards and snooker table stands in its full regal aura, in the middle of the Jungle Bar and Billiards room. The hotel is yet to receive its liquor license, but refreshments and soft drinks are served here. The Maharaja’s glory is framed with hunted game and curios and posters adorn the walls. Taxidermed fox, wild boar, buffaloes and even a full sized black bear transport you to a time when hunting was a royal sport and a reminder of the bravado that went behind it.
Board Room – Small corporate groups can avail of the boardroom facilities and superior accommodation to hold meetings. A first floor meeting room provides the silent haven and ambience for serious work, while set menus can be provided for the day. The twelve rooms of the property also offer an accommodation option for overnight retreats. The Maharaja’s own work folder in red velvet is spread at the head of the table, with his pen stand and a diary, which has been preserved meticulously.
Sai Baba’s Room – A serene spiritual air hangs in the air of the first floor of the palace. A small room here on the northern side has been kept aside in commemoration of Puttaparthi’s ShriSatya Sai Baba, who visited the palace in 1948 and 1974, and stayed for a few days at the invitation of the Maharaja. Baba’s possessions, including his bed, dressing table, writing table, cutlery items, towels, blankets and incense stand stay enshrined in this small room, which can be visited on request. The family, ardent followers of Swami have vowed to keep his possessions intact in the palace so his blessings always remain on the family.
Bhajan Hall – A commodious empty room with seating mats and framed pictures of Gods makes for the ‘bhajan’ hall, which is used by the royal family on special occasions. Guests who want a quiet retreat without any distraction can use this as a meditation space.
Coffee Shop – While the dining room has timings, a first floor coffee shop between the Maharaja and Maharani royal suites takes care of the midday hunger pangs by servingsnacks, tea and coffee to the guests. Easy chairs to sink in and a small terrace to look down at the row of fountains from the gate to the porch is the perfect place to spend the afternoon. You only wish that the antique radio here would miraculously come alive and fill the air with classic numbers.
Activity Room – A spacious activity room on the first floor of the palace encompasses indoor games such as a play station, table tennis facility, carom board, chess, playing cards, dart boards, Pictionary and other board games. Amidst the tranquility, if you hear squeals of laughter and fun, be sure to know that the sounds might be coming from the activity room, usually a haunt for the kids. A large screen TV with cable facility is also available in the room.
Outdoor – The outdoor activities are a notch above the indoor ones, where excitement is concerned. Cycles, an all terrain vehicle and a basketball ring nudge you to add some action to the holiday. The property is also a great birding spot. Do carry your binoculars to look out for an array of avian species, pictures of whom you can find on the walls of the outer galleries of the palace. Parakeets, White breasted Kingfisher, Orioles, Hoopoes, Bulbuls, Mynahs, Cranes, Moor Hens, Babblers, Flycatchers, Warblers and Wagtails are regular occupants of the green vicinity of the palace. Early mornings are a great time to don your binoculars and head out.
Swimming Pool – The enticing blue of the swimming pool is what catches the eyes of the travellers as soon as they look over to the lawns behind the main palace building. Skirted by a green lawn and barbeque area in front, the pool is the perfect place to get some sun in the day and laze on the tanning chairs around the pool. One edge of the pool is cordoned off for children with a shallow option. The changing rooms have a steam room that one can access.
Barbeque Area – In front of the pool, a large bakula treeprovides a shady corner to the barbeque area. A brick barbeque has been specially constructed for cool nights to enjoy sizzling specialties, while a bonfire is lit in the distance. This is usually operational in winters or on special requests by the guests.
Banquet Lawns – A massive expanse of green sprawls next to the swimming pool and offers the perfect venue for large-scale functions. The lawns accommodate 800-1000 people and a special kitchen, separate from the one for the 12 rooms, provides banquet facilities. With multiple open places that can be cordoned off, different sized groups can be accommodated. The pleasant weather, serenity and the palace make for an enthralling backdrop.
Spa – The spa of Shivavilas palace lies amidst a small thicket of green, infusing the tranquility of a forest to the two rooms that overlook this. Ayurvedic massages for full body, head, arms, legs and feet can be booked in advance.Trained masseurs do not live on campus and have to be called from Sandur town, so a little heads up is required to make the arrangements. The trained hands of the masseurs are sure to leave you refreshed and rejuvenated.
Others – Other facilities include high-speed Wi-Fi, ample covered car park for self driving guests, a children’s play area, doctor on call and pick up and drop on request.