The Maharajas Express - Elite Insider

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Vudimudi Nataraju, Chief Coordinating Officer of The Maharajas' Express in India

Vudimudi Nataraju, Chief Coordinating Officer of The Maharajas' Express in India

Born and educated in India, Vudimudi Nataraju knows the Indian Subcontinent like the back of his hand, having led many high-profile tour groups across the length and breadth of the country for more than three decades. He has been associated with The Maharajas' Express since its inception and maiden voyages, likening the magnificent luxury train to a 'Pandora's Box'. "Each day leaves our guests mesmerised by the unique and magical experiences," he says.

Favourite cabin:

Navratna, which is our Presidential Suite. This is the only train where an entire carriage has been converted into a super-luxurious suite with two guest rooms and a lounge attended by a personal valet. You'll feel like a Maharaja, taking part in one-of-a-kind experiences, meeting Indian royalty, savouring cuisines from the royal kitchens of Gwalior, Baroda and Lucknow, and enjoying excursions with a private guide and car.

Where does the name originate?

Lots of Indian royal families - the Maharajas of Jaipur, Baroda, Jodhpur and Gondal, among others - travelled in their own luxury private trains, complete with staff, cooks, even their cars and drivers in case they wanted or needed to tour by road. While The Maharajas' Express is new, blending modern technologies with regal comforts, the train is a wonderful showcase of India's rich heritage.

Best cultural attraction:

I love visiting Baroda where we are met with a vibrant welcome ceremony performed by local Rathwas and Nayak tribespeople at Jambhughoda Palace. Later the same day, we visit Laxmi Vilas Palace which is still home to the Royal Gaekwad Family, where guests can view the family's 19th century art collection, enjoy a folkdance in the magnificent Durbar Hall, and a splendid dinner from the royal kitchens.

Most historic destination:

Gwalior is a city of magnificent hilltop forts, temples and palaces, thought to have been first occupied in the 6th century BC by Hun invaders from the north. Among the well-preserved jewels of various Rajput rulers are the imposing Fort encompassing six palaces, three temples and the prestigious Scindia School. The cliffs around the Fort are home to impressive Jain sculptures.

Favourite destination for nature:

Wildlife enthusiasts will love Bandhavgarh National Park, home to the greatest concentration of tigers in India. It was once the private hunting reserve of the Royal Rewa Family - on one of our visits, guests were lucky to spot six different tigers on one safari. Bandhavgarh is where the legendary White Tigers of Rewa were discovered, and the scenery is like The Jungle Book, it's spellbinding.

Most awe-inspiring sight:

The Taj Mahal is the epitome of perfection in marble, and the eternal tribute to love. There's a saying in India that the world is divided into two groups: those who have seen the Taj and those who haven’t. It’s always the highlight of the trips we make to Agra, the one sight that every one of our guests has on their must-see list.

Favourite place to relax on the train:

The Rajah Club is really cosy and comfortable lounge with leather upholstered club armchairs, a collection of interesting coffee - table books to read, and its own bar with a selection of fine wines, spirits and beers. It's a great place to relax and unwind before or after dinner, or for a nightcap with friends to reminisce over the day’s experiences.

Best spiritual destination:

Known in the Scriptures as Kashi, and later as Benares, Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest cities. Often called the City of Learning and Burning, it’s believed you attain salvation if you are cremated in Varanasi and every Hindu desires to visit it once in their lifetime. It's located on the banks of the holy River Ganges where thousands of pilgrims and locals come to bathe and pray.

Most memorable dining experience:

Mayur Mahal, on board the train, is really special. Themed on the mayur, or Indian peacock, the dining carriage is decorated in green, blue and golden hues and exquisite peacock motifs. The Executive Chef creates a daily menu of classic Indian and international dishes, which often reflect the region where the train is travelling, and the dinner service has been handcrafted in France by L'Objet.

Best place for a taste of the Raj:

Jodhpur is a wonderful place to marvel at the glories, romance and feudal splendour of Rajasthan. The palaces, forts, temples and havelis of this blue-hued city stand as a testament to its imperial grandeur. The greatest palace is Umaid Bhawan, built by Maharaja Umaid Singh who made popular the riding breeches known as jodhpurs. Mehrangarh Fort is majestic, overlooking the golden sands of the Thar Desert.

Most romantic destination:

The romance of Udaipur lies in its magical lakes, hills, waterfront palaces and beautiful gardens. Its extravagant City Palace was added to by 22 different maharanas, and is still home to one of the world’s oldest dynasties - the present ruler is the 76th in the unbroken line of the Mewar lineage!

Best festival to see on the train:

Holi, the spring festival of colours, is the liveliest of all the Hindu festivals. It celebrates the end of winter and beginning of spring and marks the rekindling of the spirit of life. People smear each other with various colours and drench each other with coloured water. It's a riot of singing and dancing when every city, town and village comes alive with March madness.