Saturday, July 19, 2008

ON THE HISTORIC CORRIDORS OF RAJPIPLA, A PRINCLY STATE TOWN IN THE EASTERN PART OF GUJARAT












One of the important princely towns of Gujarat is Rajpipla, situated at the heartland of forest, agricultural land and river valleys. I visited Rajpipla in a weekend of July in a rainy day. The town looked very impressive in planning, filled with heritage structures, broad roads, forest and parks, thanks to the contributions of its former rulers, especially Maharaja Vijay Singhji, who came to throne in the year 1915 AD. As a great administrator and a visionary ruler, Maharaja Vijay Singhji’s imprints are found everywhere in this lovely town. He introduced free primary education, nominal high school fees, hospitals, courts, roads a 40 mile narrow gauge railway line connecting Rajpipla with Ankaleshwar.

Some of his other contributions were in the areas of land revenue systems, pensions for public servants and increased salary to the police and military. His interest was also in agriculture, which was the basis of the state’s economic growth. During his rule there was a considerable improvement in the quality of cotton, grains and fruits in the state.

Maharaja Vijay Singhji was also pioneered in town planning, which is evident on the two central roads of the town – the palace road and station road, which are dotted with places and regal structures of bygone era. The buildings looked well-integrated and harmonized.

Maharaja Vijay Singhji though known for his long sojourns to Europe and his loyalty to British crown started a nationalistic movement in his state under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi.

Vijay Singhji’s successor Maharaja Rajendra Singhji also contributed greatly for the higher education in his state. He donated the palatial European guesthouse his father had built to accommodate the British delegates for the promotion of higher education, which is named toady as Maharaja Rajendra Singhji Arts and Science College.

Rajwant Palace has been the royal residence of Rajpipla for about 100 years. The palace had been built by Maharaja Chhara Singhji for his son 1910. The chief attraction of the palace is its location beside the dam and forest and the royal museum which displays the trophies won by the maharajas, especially Maharaja Vijay Singhji in various polo and horse races. A tribal museum is also located within the palace highlighting the local tribal culture. The museum has been converted into a heritage hotel.

Vadia Palace is yet another impressive structure of the town. The palace is also known as Indrajeet Padmini Mahal. The building shows a remarkable fusion of European, Mughal, Rajput and Deccani architecture. It was built in 1930s and presently occupied by the forest department.

Vijay Singhji divided his time between England and India. To accommodate his European guests he built the European guest house, which is yet another landmark in Rajpipla. The guesthouse was later converted into a higher education centre – the MR Arts and Science College. The structure has excellent facade and a majestic ivory brown wooden spiral staircase.

Harsidhi Mataji is the deity of Rajpipla. She was brought from Ujjain in 1615 by Maharana Verisalji. The temple is located near Ranjit High School on the outskirt of the town. The other impressive remains are the Victorian Gate near the ST bus stand and the Shewan memorial clock tower which was built in the memory of a British officer, who had a strong association with Rajpipla.