Outbounder Issue 3

 In Newsletter

“Athithi devo bhava” – guest is God! Indian hospitality isn’t a slogan, it’s a way of life

Dharamshalas, can be considered the earliest places of shelter or resting places for pilgrims, are believed to have their origins in village chaupals (community centre), which served as a meeting ground for the villagers to plan and discuss various social welfare and development measures. Record of famous Chinese scholars Fan Hien (AD 399-424) and Huein Tsang (AD 629-643), who came during the reigns of Chandragupta Vikramaditya and Harshvardhana respectively, have mentioned the existence of shelters for travelers.

The ancient Buddhist monks were probably the first to institutionalise the concept of a shelter in India. The cave temples have both a chaitya (sanctuary) for worship and prayer and a vihara (monastery) for residence. The Mughals introduced caravanserais –an exclusive traveller’s lodge with a residential cook. Sher Shah Suri, the Afghan Emperor built caravanserais at regular intervals all along the Grand Trunk Road creating favourable conditions for commerce and travel.

British colonial rule can be credited with the establishment of hotels in India. Almost all hotels in India were owned and operated by the Britishers. Western-style residential hotels are comparatively of recent origin and were started mainly for princes and aristocrats and high dignitaries. Kolkata which was the epicentre of the British trade, became a host to number of hotels. John Spence’s hotel, the first ever hotel in Asia, opened to general public in 1830. Pallonjee Pestonjee opened the first western-styled hotel, the British hotel in Bombay in the year 1840.

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A Catalogue of Firsts: Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai

The founder, Jamsetji Tata built the hotel as a tribute to India in its journey towards economic and industrial independence: the first to have electricity, to serve world-travellers, and Maharajas, From the day the grand doors of The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai first opened on December 16, 1903 it was acknowledged as India’s finest hotel. It opened with little fuss or grand public announcements.

This royal palatial building is carved with Victorian Gothic and Romanesque details along with Edwardian touches on the roof. The hotel boasts of many firsts in the Indian hospitality industry – it used American fans, German elevators, Turkish baths and English butlers to give the people of its city an experience like no other hotel in the country.

During the First World War, the hotel was converted into a hospital with 600 beds. Lord Mountbatten, the first Viceroy of Imperial India delivered his farewell speech to Independent India from these doorsteps and British troops departed from the same gateway that was built to celebrate imperialism.

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