Thursday, August 7, 2008

DEVGAD BARIA – YET ANOTHER PRINCELY STATE TOWN IN THE TRIBAL HEARTLAND OF GUJARAT












A visit to Devgad Baria was in my mind even before I visited Poshina. It was a princely state, small town and more over located in the tribal heartland of eastern Gujarat. I visited Devgad Baria along with Kalini, my wife in a weekend in the month of August.

Situated at a distance of nearly 180 km from Ahmedabad, in the eastern most district of Dahod, Devgad Baria is a charming princely state town. The town is surrounded by low lying hills, forest and river Panam.

Devgad Baria’s history is closely linked to Pavagad. In the 15th century when Muhammad Begda, the Sultan of Gujarat conquered Pavagad, the two sons of King Vatai Rawal, the then King of Pavagad escaped from the region to the tribal belt. Elder son Uday Sinh established the town of Chota Udaipur and the younger son Dunger Pursinh stabled Devgad Baria.

However, the town of present Devgad Baria was established in the year 1782. The state of Baria was always safe from the Muslims and Maratha attacks due to its geographical location. Its rulers representing the Chauhan Rajputs were progressive and took utmost importance to develop even its mahals – Sagtala, Rajgadh, Dhanpur, Limkheda and Rodikpur.

One of Baria’s rulers King Mansinh was a reformer and had a modern outlook. He started some important educational institutions – an English medium school, a school for the boys and a school for the girls. He also established a police force, and justice and revenue departments.

Mansinh’s son Ranjitsinji took over the charge of Baria as the King in 1908. Highly educated and a person with brilliant career, he had joined the Imperial Cadet and was awarded the title of “Knight Commander of India”. Because of this prestigious title, he was popularly known as Sir Ranjitsinhji. Some important public institutions, such as a high school, a veterinary hospital, a tower, a gymkhana were established. Free education was offered in the state.

Today’s Baria is an impressive tribal town with royal gates, palaces and watch tower. The palace built in the plan of an European castle has retained the legacy of Baria of yore.

During the visit we had an audience with the queen of Baria Urbashiji in her sprawling estate Avanti, located at a distance two km before Baria. Urbashiji is a warm kind hearted women still retaining the charm of the royal culture. She has inherited the family tradition of philanthropy. She is a running two schools and a college educating more than three thousand local students. The chief attraction of her estate is however the drawing room – full of family photographs, trophies, art books and exotic decor from around the world. She is fond of animals which can be seen even by looking at the displays of miniature animal statues of all kinds.