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Updated: January 4, 2013 19:10 IST
INSIDE STORY

Royalty under the dust

LAKSHMI SHARATH
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Regal Beauty Jamakandi Palace
Regal Beauty Jamakandi Palace

We discover a quaint Maratha palace on a hill

It is a riot of colours on the highway. A sea of yellow and green greets me as the landscape alternates between fields of sunflower, sugarcane and groundnuts. The sun is generous with his morning rays and the sunflowers look up at the sky nodding at me as I drive past.

It is a quiet day and we are driving through North Karnataka in Bagalkote district, a region that once bore the legacy of the Chalukyan king, Pulakesi 1. The towns are mostly dusty and dirty but they are scattered with monuments, caves and temples built by kings and queens several centuries ago. But we are not heading there.

In the distant horizon, I can see layers of smoke, swirling and curling as they rise into the sky. I am close to my destination, Jamakhandi, a town known for its sugar factory. But I am to discover another facet of this remote town.

It is the market that first catches my attention. It seems more like a carnival to me as women, dressed in bright clothes seem to compete with the colours of the market. The red chillis scattered on the ground add a bit of shine like the glitter of the nose ring worn by the woman selling them.

A faded photograph of the brave Kittur Rani Chennamma brandishing a sword hangs at the entrance of a quaint building that serves as an old market. Pumpkins hang from the tiled roof, held by colourful threads and sacks of potatoes and onions are thrust into autorickshaws to be sent to other markets. Meanwhile, the open courtyard of an erstwhile jail is now a bustling vegetable market. A fresh lot of greens from the local farmer’s market is spread out and vendors start the day’s business, enjoying the shade of the trees.

On the streets, the entire town is there to meet you. Carts of fresh sprouts strike a contrast to the sweets that are sold here. Yellow seems to be the colour of the season. Laddus jostle for space with marigolds and sunflowers while heaps of turmeric powder are sold along with garlands and golden threads, by women wearing yellow sarees and men in yellow and orange turbans.

I hear that Maharishi Jamakhandi lived in the Puranic ages in these mountains. Historically, Jamakhandi is an erstwhile princely state of the Marathas during the British rule and the town was its capital. The only monument that reminds this humble town of its legacy is a quaint palace on a hill overseeing the town that belongs to the erstwhile rulers, the Patwardhan family.

On our way to Ramteerth, driving up a hillock, we see remains of an old moat. Old banyan trees lend an air of antiquity. Walking up one of the lanes to the Royal Palace School, we find towering gate leading us to a beautiful garden, where two stately palaces stand.

This is the private property of the Patwardhans, commanders in the Maratha army in the 18th century and rulers of the region. They fought several wars against the British but eventually allied with them to defeat Tipu Sultan. We walk around the premises, lost in the silence. From the palace, we can see the entire region through a haze of dust. It’s a pity that India’s princely states are buried in the dust of a bygone era.

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