Mumbai, Aug.12 (ANI): The heritage wing of Mumbai's iconic Taj Mahal Hotel will reopen this weekend since becoming a target during the Mumbai terror attack incident in 2008.
On Thursday, holding balloons and flowers, employees pledged to re-dedicate themselves to Mumbai's Taj Mahal Hotel when it reopens on the weekend after the 2008 militant attacks in which many guests and staff members had died.
Standing on the grand cantilever stairway, the staff members cheered and tossed rose petals in the air after Chairman Ratan Tata garlanded a bust of Jamsetji Naoroji Tata, the founder of the Tata Group, India's oldest conglomerate, which also owns the chain of luxury Taj hotels.
Ahead of the hotel's scheduled reopening on Sunday, also India's Independence Day, Ratan Tata said, "This flagship property, this venerable Old Lady, is going to reopen in the same glory, the same splendor of more than 100 years."
Tata had vowed to 'rebuild every inch' of the iconic hotel, founded in 1903, and which has played host to maharajas, heads of state, chief executives, movie stars and entertainers alike.
Architects, designers and restoration experts from India and around the world spent more than 21 months assessing the damage, then restoring the hotel, said Raymond Bickson, Managing Director of Taj Hotels, a unit of Indian Hotels Co Ltd.
Later speaking to media persons Ajoy K Misra, head of Tata group's Sales and Marketing, said that they were overwhelmed by the response of the patrons.
"We are extremely overwhelmed and humbled by the response that we are getting from our customers. Many of whom have been asking and over the next few weeks most of them, most I would say of our guest whoever have stayed here in the last couple of months are finding an opportunity or other to visit Mumbai and stay with us," said Ajoy K Misra.
The company spent some 1.8 billion rupees ($38 million) on repair and restoration, and lost more than that in the time that the hotel was shut for business.
But it has received several inquiries, including from guests who were present during the attack, informed hotel management.
Misra also said that even when the heritage wing of the hotel was under renovations, world leaders and CEO's of the major companies from across came to the hotel to lend their support to the iconic structure.
"We are humbled by the kind of presence world leaders and dignitaries who have been coming and visiting us even though the palace wing wasn't ready, best of our suites weren't there, whether it was Hillary Clinton or other heads of states that came," he said.
Founder Jamsetji Tata had originally shopped for the hotel in London, Dusseldorf, Berlin and Paris, ordering 10 spun iron pillars that he saw at the Eiffel Tower opening exhibition for the hotel's large ballroom, now redone in tonnes of gold.
The hotel, which combines Oriental, Florentine and Moorish architectural styles in its vaulted alabaster ceilings, graceful archways and marble floors, houses fine examples of modern and contemporary Indian art, and now, modern security systems, too.
The palace wing, built on reclaimed land overlooking the Arabian Sea, is a prime example of Indo-Sarcenic architecture, with cupolas and a dominant dome, which during the 60-hour siege was engulfed in flames and thick smoke from grenades.
The luxury Oberoi Hotel around three kilometres away, which was also attacked, reopened earlier this year.
While the Taj has retained its priceless Belgian chandeliers, antique chests and sacred icons, it has completely refurbished its luxurious suites, including the Ravi Shankar suite, where maestro Shankar taught Beatle George Harrison to play the sitar.
The Taj hotel had suffered extensive damage from a siege laid by four heavily armed gunmen. It was one of prominent Mumbai landmarks attacked by Pakistan-based militants on November 26, 2008 which lasted over 60 hours, killing over 166 people. By Sanjiv Shukla (ANI)