Down memory lane Metroplus

Stories behind the royal abodes

Delhi has many palaces built by former princes and an equal number of tales associated with them. The one known as Pataudi House in Daryaganj was the original home of the Nawabs of Pataudi until a modern one was built in New Delhi. It was in Daryaganj that Iftikhar Ali Khan, father of “Tiger” Pataudi, was born in the early 20th Century. It now is home to a large number of tenants. The trend to build palaces in New Delhi began after the Durbar of 1911. This was a reversal of the policy adopted after the First War of Independence in 1857 when the Brits became wary of allowing “princes to be resident in British India”.

According to Sumanta Kumar Bhowmick, who has recorded the history of princely palaces (a Niyogi enterprise), “There had been specific orders to restrict the princes buying lands outside their States. The Raja of Tripura had sought permission in 1905 to purchase a piece of land in Chittagong to build a residence. Lord Curzon (then Viceroy), referring to a circular issued in 1891, observed: The Chief would go there not for public advantage but for personal and selfish reasons and utilize this (the house) to entertain European society, whose officers would become hangers-on to the discredit of the British name.”

But after the 1911 Durbar it was observed that the order against princes acquiring immovable property was hardly applicable to Delhi, “especially accessible to the Chiefs of Rajputana and Central India. Consequently by June 1912 the Government was flooded with requests from many States, including Sirohi, Orchha, Bharatpur, Jodhpur, Dholpur, Dewas Junior, Jind, Kapurthala, Malerkotla, Miraj Senior, Bikaner, Kolhapur, Kashmir, Sirmur and Bahawalpur. Besides agreeing to allot land to these and other States, gun salutes were permitted for the princes, the number of guns signifying the State’s relations with the British Crown. “The highest gun salute accorded was 21, granted to Hyderabad, Mysore, Kashmir, Baroda and Gwalior. Each descending step had two guns less –– 19 guns, 17 guns till 9 guns.”

The following is the list of princely palaces in New Delhi, Civil Lines and Old Delhi: Bahawalpur, Balrampur, Baroda, Bharatpur, Bhavnagar, Bikaner, Bundi, Cochin, Darbhanga, Dholpur, Faridkot, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Jamnagar, Jind, Jodhpur, Jubbal, Kanika, Kapurthala, Kashmir, Kota, Mandi, Pataudi, Patiala, Sheikhupura, Tehri-Garhwal and Travancore House –– 28 in all in New Delhi. In Civil Lines, six princely houses came up: those of Gwalior, Jamnagar, Kolhapur, Nabha, Sirohi and Udaipur. Old Delhi had only three: Dujana House, Loharu House and (old) Pataudi House. The princely palaces were influenced by French, Italian, Indo-Venetian Gothic, Saracenic, Rajput and Islamic styles of architecture. The Nizam of Hyderabad’s palace had an elaborate zenana. It was designed by Lutyens, other British architects were associated with several other palaces. Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner built his palace in simple brick and mortar, while the neighbouring palaces of the Jaipur Maharaja had a more ornate building in red and buff sandstone, with Maharani Gayatri Devi the cynosure of all eyes: Some of these palaces are in decay. A prime example is Udaipur House on 15 Rajpur Road. The Maharana of Udaipur, Fateh Singh avoided presenting himself at the Delhi Durbars of 1903 and 1911 (like his father in 1877) as his ancestors never bowed even before the might of the Mughals, what to talk of the British. The building housed the circuit branch of the Punjab High Court for a long time and is now in ruins. The house at 26 Alipore Road belonging to the Maharaja of Sirohi was given to Dr Ambedkar for his stay after he had resigned from the Union Government in 1951. He stayed in it till his death in 1956, when Pandit Nehru also visited the House, now the Ambedkar Memorial.

Kota House, completed in 1939, was given for war efforts during World War II. Maharao Brijraj Singh was the only one from the Kota family to have lived in three rooms reserved for him while he was a student in Delhi University during 1951-56. Later Dr Charles Fabri, the Hungarian Indologist stayed in the house. Now it is the Navy Officers’ Mess. Mandi House was built on nine acres, while other States were not allowed more than eight acres. Maharaja George Jivajirao Scindia of Gwalior stayed at 37 Rajpur Road, along with his mother and guardian, H. Trevelyan. The front pillars of Jaipur House bore the Ashokan Capital (lions) long before it was adopted as the national symbol. Hyderabad House was the palace of the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, the richest man in the world, who observed: “Osman tammana rahi na kisi baat ki mujhe/Sab kuch hai mere pas Khuda ka diya hua” (Osman, I have no desires left in me, God has given me all that I could possibly want). These princely houses were built in New Delhi, observes the author, “when the only sounds in the morning were those of the chirping of birds –– woodpeckers, kingfishers –– and the feeling of the whistling breeze brushing you face. The night was for jackals and owls.” Now Princess Park as the area was known too is devoid of these charms.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 9:15:22 AM |

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