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Hotel Taj witnesses bloodiest siege

The famous dome of the hotel which is a landmark of the Mumbai skyline was engulfed in thick smoke as the encounter went on and area reverberated with blast sounds and staccato of automatic weapons.

india Updated: Nov 27, 2008 08:24 IST

The globally renowned Taj Mahal Hotel in Colaba here, just opposite to historic Gateway of India was not lucky the third time around.

The heritage hotel which bore the brunt of the 1993 serial blasts and again in 2003 at the Gateway of India, now played the mute witness to one of the bloodiest seize situation ever to be undertaken in the country.

The famous dome of the hotel which is a landmark of the Mumbai skyline was engulfed in thick smoke as the encounter went on and area reverberated with blast sounds and staccato of automatic weapons. Army and other forces engaged the militants in the main lobby which symbolises the grandeur of the hotel.

Eyewitnesses say that the fire was seen coming out of the main dome and flames soon spread to other domes as well. The entire top floor was in the grip of heavy fire and severely damaged during the seize which claimed lives of several of its customers.

The flames were seen coming from windows of the top-floor as fire-fighters tried hard to evacuate the trapped and douse the flames.

The indiscriminate firing by a group of hardcore militants in the century-old hotel on Wednesday left several of its patrons killed and injured and tens of foreign tourists trapped as forces tried to clear it from killers holed inside.

The Taj was first hit during the 1993 serial blasts in which a bomb went off in a car parked opposite the heritage site. The Hotel again became the epicentre of 2003 terrorist attack as bombs went off at stone throw distance from it.

The historical hotel was commissioned by Steel man of India, Jamshedji Tata after, according to folklore, he was denied entry into one of the grandest hotels of its time Watson's Hotel as it was meant for 'Whites only.'

The iconic building constructed at the cost of Rs 42 crore, is an architectural marvel and amalgamation of Moorish, Oriental and Florentine styles.

The picturesque towering building, which has 565 rooms including 46 suites, once acted as a 600-bedded hospital as well during the World War I.

The distinguished list of guests that the hotel boasts of include rockstar Mick Jagger, former French President Jacques Chirac, Prince Charles, The Beatles, Bill Clinton and the rock and roll star Elvis Presley among others.

What one gets to see as you step into the hotel which, overlooks the Arabian sea, is the vaulted alabaster ceilings, onyx columns, beautiful archways, hand-woven silk carpets, crystal chandeliers, an eclectic collection of furniture, and a dramatic cantilever stairway.

The hotel also boasts of a wide range of restaurants patronised by who's who of the corporate world to the Indian political class.