Celebrity Homes

COURTING THE COURTYARD

Airy with a view of the sky, cool summers and warm winters, open privacy for extended families – courtyard houses are a blend of functionality and connectedness.

Priya Narayan

Courtyards have existed for thousands of years in ancient Egypt, China, India, Rome and Greece. Structured at the core of a building, open and unroofed, airy and spacious, they stand unaffected by the world outside, providing a sense of calm and quiet. They give a sense of being on the ‘outside’ without compromising convenience and privacy and create an element of connectedness with the rest of the house.

Courtyard houses are built on the principles of Vaastu which dictates that Brahmasthaan – the centre of the house – be vacant and free of construction. This area is considered the root of energy which is then dispersed in every direction of the house.

Generally bound by passages with rooms along the sides, the courtyard is a multi-functional space. In smaller towns or villages, it could be the extension of a kitchen or a place for washing and cleaning. It could serve as a living room when there are guests or as a cosy evening set aside for family-time with laughter and bonding over games and chit-chat. It could be the mini-playground for children to play in after school. It could even transform into a bedroom on a cool summer night or into a place to relax with a good book on a warm winter afternoon. Light pours in during the day illuminating the courtyard and the night sky hangs over it like a starry blanket.

Above the Vindhyas

Havelis

Havelis, for example, which are mostly found in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab, refer to town houses or mansions of the merchant class. Some were fortified too. Their courtyards could be surrounded by a single or double-storeyed structure with beautifully carved arched columns. Many were influenced by Mughal architecture with vaulted gateways, arched windows, pillars and lattice windows.

In regions where women were under purdah, it was the only open air space available to them. It was a different way of life as Geeta finds in her new household in Rama

Courtyard_of_Samode_Haveli,_JaipurMehta’s book, Inside the Haveli – the women had little contact with the men of the haveli, living as they did in separate quarters. What is more shocking for this college-educated girl from Bombay who marries the son of an ex-prime minister of Mewar and comes to live in her in-laws’ traditional haveli in Udaipur is that there is no life for women outside the haveli’s high walls. That she creates an identity for herself and more importantly, begins literacy classes for women and sends the female children to school is the story of how life was partitioned and lived in havelis prior to the transition to a new world.

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Wooden havelis

A unique feature of the havelis of Gujarat is that they are made of wood. With a chowk or a central open court from which many rooms open, the typical Gujarati haveli has richly carved brackets and facades. With filigreed struts and doorways carrying ornamentation, they were once a symbol of the family prestige and power. The Ahmedabad Heritage Walk gives guided tours of the pols – residential areas in the old city connected by narrow lanes – where many of the wooden havelis continue to stand. Mangaldas ni Haveli is one such haveli open for tourists.

The Bohra havelis of Sidhpur on the other hand display European influence. These have clear separations within, ensuring privacy to its women – an entrance platform, an arrival space, a courtyard and other rooms, with the upper floors housing the bedrooms. They are three to four-storeyed and are built along broad avenues, enclosing a mohalla, sometimes bringing colour to the street with a multi-coloured facade. Adopting the Gujarati tradition, these havelis display intricate wood work too.

Wada

Wadas, popularised by the Marathas, are more common in Maharashtra. They are large multi-storeyed buildings with groups of rooms arranged around a single courtyard. There are primarily two types of wadas – the first, which is more or less like an apartment building or a chawl meant for the middle class families and the second, which is meant for only one family often owned by the peshwas or traders or their relatives. Most of the rooms around such wadas were ventilated by the courtyard and some courtyards – often when a wada had multiple courtyards – even consisted of wells or places to tie horses.

Rajbari

Rajbaris are a characteristic feature of Bengal and although influenced by western architecture, their inner courtyards are quite traditional. They are large in size, sometimes with a garden in the centre, and are surrounded by multiple-storeyed buildings with arched columns. The Shobhabazar Rajbari, built in 1700 by Raja Nabakrishna Deb, son of the dewan of the Nawab of Cuttack, is a reminder of the zamindari era.

Today, many of Kolkata’s Rajbaris are rented out for weddings which helps pay for their restoration and maintenance. Some are available for stay too. The thakurdalans, that is, the open courtyards are a place for Durga puja.

Badas

Badas on the other hand can be found in Chattisgarh and can be rectangular or circular in shape with cement flooring. The courtyard was mainly used for cooking and also served as a seating area for family members. Badas often had a rear courtyard meant for gardening and agricultural purposes.

Below the Vindhyas

Manduva Logili

Manduva Logili of Andhra Pradesh means courtyard house. The roof is generally supported by logs of rosewood or teakwood and the roof itself is covered with red tiles. The centre is usually left uncovered and rainwater is collected in a pit and is channelled out of the house through a drain. Manduva houses with closed tops have a pipe which channels rain water into a small pit. During dry days, it is a place for pickle-making, papad-drying and oil-bathing children too.

Nalukettu

Kerala’s Nalukettus are compact courtyards surrounded by four halls joined together with a sloping tiled roof on all sides overhead. While Nalukettu had one courtyard, Ettukettu had two and Pathinarukettu had four courtyards. Simple-structured columns hold the roof up around the courtyard. The courtyard is called Nadumuttam and generally consists of a tulsi plant in the centre. These houses are simple yet large and can house a large number or people. Many generations of matrilineal family lived within.

NalukettuChettinad houses

The Chettinad courtyard house with its long, rectangular courtyard is a typical residence of the Chettinad villages in the Siva Ganga region of Tamil Nadu. Headed by ‘aachi’ the senior lady of the house, traditional Chettinad houses have at least two-columned courtyards into which spacious living rooms open. These houses can be identified by the colourful glasswork, marble and tiled-flooring and Burma teak pillars in addition to intricate woodwork. Used for many ceremonies including births, weddings and deaths, the courtyards have also been designed in such a way that rain water can be harvested which shows how well-planned they are.

Modern-day courtyards

Courtyards these days have a trendy and chic look, are found in various shapes, sizes and designs. They may not necessarily be bound by passages or rooms on all sides and instead may have high fences for privacy. A lot of courtyards have tasteful woodwork and tiling with beautiful seating arrangements, grass or shrubs and plants and sometimes even swimming pools and water features. They use artificial lighting for the night which is not too bright and gives a warm look to the courtyard. However, the cost of land and construction being high courtyard houses remain the privilege of a few either as homes or as weekend getaways.

Courtyards may be simple open spaces with stone slabs for flooring and a tap in a corner for washing or for other household work; they may go a step further and have a basic seating arrangement with a chair and a table or sometimes even a swing; or the larger ones and the mansions may be grand with arched decorative columns along the perimeter of the courtyard and even plants, trees or a small garden for a little greenery and a cool atmosphere. What is true of each of these is that they were places to live, breathe and celebrate.

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Splendid Palace By The Beach

The Vijay Vilas Palace in Mandvi was the summer retreat for the erstwhile royal family of the princely state of Kutch. A part of the palace is now a heritage resort and a beach camp.

Words: ShivanganiDhawan

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Vijay Vilas Palace was built by King Khengarji III for his son and heir Vijayaraji. Construction started in 1920 and was completed in 1929. The imposing palace, located at Mandvi in Gujarat’s Kutch district, was built in an Indo-European style with exquisite stonework.

The palace was built in red sandstone and structured with beautifully carved stone meshes, stunning Bengal domes boasting exquisite artwork along with coloured stain glass and stone work on the walls. The palace is set in the middle of well-laid gardens with water channels and marble fountains

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A 360-degree view of the surroundings from the roof-top gives a splendid view of the horizon along with the Arabian Sea.

The palace shot to fame when Bollywood movies “Hum Dil De ChukeSanam” and “Lagaan” were shot here. It has now become a popular tourist destination. The palace also has a museum accessible to the public. Visitors can see the interiors of the palace along with the rooms and terrace.

The palace is nestled in 450 acres of lush greenery, and also has a two-km-long private beach. It has its own private sanctuary as well which is maintained in an eco-friendly manner to preserve its pristine beauty. One can see blue bulls, jackals and an occasional chinkara in the sanctuary.

During the 1940s, the Vijay Vilas Palace was the summer estate of the Maharao of Kutch. Maharao Vijay Singh would shift with his administrative staff during the summer months.

Being a summer palace, it has latticed windows, terraces and pavilions where the family could enjoy the sea breeze and the spectacular views. After the 2001 earthquake, many of the palaces of Kutch were damaged, but they were gradually restored.

The Maharaos of Kutch belong to the Jadeja Rajput clan, claiming descent from Lord Krishna. The Jadejas came to Kutch from Sindh and became rulers of the region under Rao Khengarji I Hamirji, in 1540. They later expanded their rule over Jamnagar, Rajkot, Morvi, Gondal and other princely states.

Bhuj was the Jadeja Rajput capital of the Kutch Princely State, but Mandvi was their commercial capital when the port was thriving. Maharao Lakhpatji, in the 18th century, was known for building great palaces and he also built one in Mandvi which is now a woman’s college. The present owner of the palace is Pragmal Madansinh III.

A heritage resort also forms part of the Vijay Vilas Palace complex, but it’s not a palace stay. The resort is in a heritage building, which was built with the palace to accommodate the royal family members and their guests.

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ChandrahasRathore, proprietor of Vijay Vilas Palace Resort, sheds light on the essence of the palace and the heritage resort. Excerpts from an interaction:

What is the USP of the palace property?

The greatest luxury on offer is silence and peace that surround the palace. The chirping of birds and the lush green lawns add to a refreshing and enchanting surrounding. The palace has sprawling lawns, and the Arabian Sea can be seen from the terrace of the palace.

Could you tell us more about the architectural history of the palace?

The blending of the architectural styles of different regions of India can be distinctly seen in the design of the Vijaya Vilas Palace. The balcony at the top affords a superb view of the surrounding area. The tiny intricate windows give one a feeling of openness; cool sea wind breezes in from the windows.

The carved stone works of Jalis, Jharokas, Chhatris, Chhajas, murals and many other artistic stone carvings, coloured glass work on windows and door panels all have been done by architects and craftsmen from Rajasthan, Bengal, Saurashtra, and even the local Kutchi artisan comunity, the Mistris of Kutch.

Could you tell us something more about the resort?

The building which is now a resort is not a palace and was previously used for the guests of the erstwhile royal family. It was converted into a resort; we also have tented accommodation.
The resort provides spacious rooms and suites. All the rooms are well designed and are comfortable.

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SUN, SAND AND SURF

The beach camp at Mandvi is a private resort on the Vijay Vilas estate. It is located on a private beach and offers air-conditioned tented accommodation.

According to Anil Baghia, manager, reservations and marketing, during the days of the Raj, princely states set up camps with well-appointed tents to accommodate guests for special occasions like weddings, coronations, hunting trips, etc.

The tented resort at Mandvi beach is designed like the colonial guest camps with furniture to match. It is set at the edge of the palace estate where it meets the private beach stretch. The Raj-theme of the tented resort goes with its location in a palace estate and does not intrude on the natural landscape of the beach, he adds.

The beach camp comprises 10 air-conditioned tents, each with its own verandah, spacious air-conditioned bedroom and attached bathrooms. The camp has 24 hour electricity with backup generators. There is also a thatched roof dining area on the beach, a barbecue area, and amenities like deck chairs. The beach is ideal for long walks and the sea is also safe for swimmers.

The Fascinating Places Of Gondal

Travel back in time to the 17th and 18th centuries to the erstwhile princely state of Gondal and stay in the palaces, now converted into heritage hotels, in Rajkot district in Gujarat, to get a sense of that era

Words: Shivangani Dhawan

The owner of the heritage hotels of Gondal, Jyotendrasinh Vikramsinh, is the grandson of Bhojraj, the man behind the evolution of Gondal. The palaces of Gondal date back to the 17th century and have exotic and legendary stone carvings with exquisite balconies, a fabulous pillared courtyard, delicately carved arches and a unique spiral staircase.

The large chandelier-lit courthouse contains stuffed panthers, gilt wooden furniture and antique mirrors. Also, the private palace museum has a remarkable display of silver caskets which were used to carry messages and gifts of the royals in the past.

“Gondal is an erstwhile 11-gun salute princely state, which spans over a vast area comprising four towns and more than 175 villages,” says Bhavesh V. Radhanpura, general manager, Gondal Palaces.

“The state was modernised under Bhagwat Sinh (Bhojraj’s father), and it became distinguished for the number of educational and public institutions, and for possessing infrastructure that did not exist even in larger princely states or in areas under direct British rule.”

Bhagwat Sinh (1865-1944) not only made education for the girl child free and compulsory, but he also abolished 40 dues including rates, taxes, customs, octroi and export duties. He also started a travelling dispensary, a home for the poor, a hospital, introduced wide roads, drainage systems and electricity supplies in Gondal town.

He also built excellent road and irrigation networks across the state of Gondal connecting its villages and towns.

Gondal consists of three main palaces namely the Riverside palace, the Naulakha palace and the Orchard palace also known as the Huzoor palace. It also has its unique and splendid vintage car collection.

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The Riverside palace

Built in 1875 by Bhagwat Sinh for his son Bhojraj, the palace has beautiful lawns and gardens with well-appointed sitting arrangements. “The living room is furnished in typical colonial style architecture with a chandelier, antique wooden furniture and sofas,” says Radhanpura.

The Indian room is decorated with beadwork, brassware and paintings. The palace has now become an 11-room heritage hotel. “All rooms of the hotel are air-conditioned and have TVs and attached baths with hot and cold showers and western fittings,” he adds.

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The Naulakha palace

Dating back to the 17th century, the Naulakha is the oldest extant palace in Gondal. “The private palace museum has an impressive display of silver caskets, textiles, brassware, royal wardrobes, library, trophies won by the Gondal princes at motorsports events and a collection of toys,” points out Radhanpura.

The Orchard palace

The palace is surrounded by fruit orchards, lawns and gardens. Also known as the Huzoor palace, it was built in the late 19th century to host personal guests of the maharajas. It has been converted into a seven-room heritage hotel, featuring art décor furniture, antiques and handicrafts from the 1930s and 1940s.

“The room of miniatures is a splendid sitting room with a collection of miniature paintings, brass, and antique furniture,” he adds.

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The royal garages have an extensive collection of vintage and classic cars, for which it is famous all over the world. The collection includes a pre-1910 New Engine that belonged to Bhagwat Sinh. It features a superbly crafted gas-operated lamp, curved glass windscreen and woodwork interiors of the coach.

The Delage D8, Daimler and the grand 1935 Mercedes seven-seat saloon are examples of supercharged European cars of the 1920s and 1930s. They are known for their superbly bodywork and high performance.

American cars in the collection include a 1935 Packard two-door convertible coupe, a 1930s Buick convertible and a 1935 Ford convertible. Other cars include a 1941 Cadillac Saloon, a 1947 Cadillac Saloon convertible, a 1947 Buick convertible, a 1947 Oldsmobile, the 1940s Studebaker convertible, the 1947 Lincoln V12 and the 1950s Cadillac Eldorado Limousine.

“The Gondal collection also has Jeeps, station wagons and pick-ups,” says Radhanpura. European cars in the collection include a 1958 Mercedes 300SL two seat roadster, and a 1959 Jaguar XK150.
Indeed, looking at this fascinating collection of vintage cars and also going around the different palaces, one can imagine the majesty of the times when they were occupied by members of the erstwhile royal family.

KATHIWAD’S PRIDE – KHIRASARA PALACE

An interview with DilipsinhRana, the managing director of Khirasara Heritage Hotel

Dilipsinh Rana purchased the Khirasara Palace in 1994 and finished the restoration in 2010. Now known as the Heritage Khirasara Palace hotel, it has emerged as a popular place for weddings and conferences, and hosts tourists throughout the year. Excerpts from an interview with Rana:

Pictures: Urban Vaastu
Words: Shivangani Dhawan

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What is the historic significance of the palace?

The vibrations and culture of the mysterious land of Kathiawar bestow a unique character and personality, not only to the place but also to its people. Legends and myths signify that Khirasara Palace has a unique geography and an incomparable history of more than 450 years under the undefeated rule of the Thakores.

Can you give an insight into the erstwhile royal family of Khirasara Palace?

There have been three phases of Khirasara state and the Thakore rulers recorded by historians.
Shree Kaloji of Dhrol had seven sons including Sangoji the eldest, Bhimaji the second and Junoji the third. After the death of Kaloji, Sangoji succeeded the throne and after his death, the throne came upon Bhimaji who then gained the small Khirasara castle.

His successor, ThakoreRanmalji, restored the castle and brought glory to Saurashtra. He visited ‘Nale-Sat-Pir’, a Sufi fakir from Sindh residing near the castle in a dargah. The Pir suggested that he build a holy place within the castle premises to ensure that the people remain unbeaten. He also said that by doing so his legend would live forever through the significance of this glorious castle.

Taking his advice Ranmalji constructed a temple on the north side of the castle. The Pir and his retinue stayed there for many years and the castle remained unbeaten. The restored palace was looked at with envy by the Nawab of Junagadh, who attacked it twice, but failed to take it over. As of a memory of this victory, two canons of the Junagadh artillery were mounted at the eastern gate of the castle.

A member of the seventh generation of the Khirasara family, Sursinhji made efforts to resurrect and rebuild the palace. He educated the people of Khirasara state, and improved the conditions of farmers.

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Tell us more about the palace and heritage hotel?

Khirasara Palace has been resurrected twice by two generations of Thakores and still stands tall atop a hill spread over seven acres. The castle became a heritage hotel in November 2010.
The hotel consists of 26 suites, including a Maharaja and Maharani suite. There are three dining venues: Wind’s and Wave’s the coffee shop; Deep Mahal, the open candle light dining facility; and Sheesh Mahal a multi-cuisine restaurant.

There are two wedding lawns situated at the centre of the palace, as well as two banquet halls. The smaller one can accommodate 125 guests and Darbar Hall, which is one of a kind in Saurashtra can accommodate 1,500 guests. There is also a swimming pool with the look of a traditional ‘vav’ and with a modern day musical fountain.

What are the USPs of the palace property?

The property is strategically located atop a hill, providing a breathtaking 360 degree view at different times of the day. It is situated 14 km from the bustling city of Rajkot, providing serenity, peace and clean fresh breeze, whilst ensuring hospitality of the traditional Kathiawar culture. Sixty per cent of the palace has been restored keeping in mind the original colonial architecture.

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Fortress Of Royal Splendour

Samarjitsinhrao Gaekwad, a member of the erstwhile royal family of Baroda,talks about the history, beauty and future of the magnificent Laxmi Vilas Palace, currently home for Rajmata Shrimant Shubhangini RajeGaekwad, Samarjitsinhrao Gaekwad, YuvraniRadhikaraje Gaekwad, PadmajaRaje and NarayaniRaje, in an exclusive interview.

By: Shivangani Dhawan

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A WALK THROUGH RICH HISTORY:

The palace completed 125 years in 2015. It took 11 years to build and was completed in 1889. This palace interestingly was built only for two people to live in,SayajiraoGaekwad and his wife Chimnabai.The palace was designed by a British architect Major Charles Mant. There’s a legend that goes that as the construction of the palace was happening he thought that he got some of his plans mixed up and he passed away during that period. It was later completed byRobert Fellowes Chisholm, a well acclaimed architect of his time.

“The palace has some special features,” remarks Gaekwad. “When one stands in front of it, the intricate design tells you about three religions, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. So even in that era they tried to design the features of those religions in the palace.”

The engineering of the palace in that period was contemporary British. The design, carvings and the intricate details that you see are all very Indian. “The palace is largely built in sandstone that was brought from the Dhrangadhra region in Saurashtra,” he adds.

Every corner of the palace walls are covered with detailed carvings on stone. “I sometimes wonder the amount of thought and detail that must have gone into it,” marvels Gaekwad. “And then to back it up with execution musthave been an incredible task. Today we have computers and a lot of tools to do these things but to pull it off in that era must have been incredible. I’ve seen carvings in places where one wouldn’t even imagine, and would visit rarely, like the terrace areas. Today to do something like that, with that same quality is just not possible.”

Samarjitsinhrao notes that in 2013, a family dispute was resolved amicably. “I have seen that if you leave the judgement to the courts then it can ruin or shatter you,” he says. “My father towards the end of his days tried toresolve the matter. I was very eager to settle this since it was holding me back from achieving or doing so many things that I wanted to.This fight or litigation wasn’t allowing me to do anything and I knew that settling wasn’t going to be easy. I think that the essence is the spirit of settling whether it is giving, taking or parting with things that you like, but you need to take that call and go in with that mind-set, to sort it out.”

Pratap Singh Gaekwad of Baroda, the last Maharaja of the erstwhile Baroda State, founded the Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) in 1949 on the wishes of his grandfather, Maharaja SayajiraoGaekwad III. The present chancellor of MSU is RajmataShrimantShubhanginiRajeGaekwad, mother of SamarjitsinhraoGaekwad.

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INVOLVEMENT IN SPORTS:

SayajiraoGaekwad patronised a number of sports. The palace then hadakhadasfor wrestling and other Indian sports. He also backed a lot of other sports. During his reign, he attended the 1936 Berlin games where the Indian hockey team had played.

The cricket ground is historic with many legends who have played there. It is still functional. Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) has produced many great international players and this ground is important to them.Samarjitsinhraois presently the president of the Baroda Cricket Association (BCA).

Apart from cricket Samarjitsinhrao also got himself involved in the construction and development of various other sports facilities on the palace campus.

“The palace had indoor badminton and tennis courts and in 2013 I got a golf course built, which added an extra dimension to this place,” he points out.“It works well because the palace is in the centre of the golf course and it’s something unique. Also, with this many locals and visitors get to see and use the estate, which is actually a good thing because structures of this nature require a constant flow of people.”

The palace runs a club with various facilities including two tennis courts, a swimming pool, golf courses and other amenities. “I plan to get two more tennis courts built this year along with 10-12 new badminton courts for the club. I want to build world class sporting facilities. Personally I am also a sports enthusiast and that is also one of the reasons I’d like to build such facilities,” he adds.

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CONSERVING AND RESTORING THE HERITAGE:

Since the historic palace is huge its need for conservation is also massive. Samarjitsinhrao involved himself in the repairs of the palace. “Last year I undertook massive repairs of the palace. We started in October after the monsoons since we had major issues with water logging and seepage. It took a while for me to get someone who was an expert and who also understood the structure and then gave the necessary advice on how to go about it and restore it in the proper sense.”

The northern half of the palace has been restored and now the work in the southern part will commence by the end of this year. Since the palace has some ancient carvings, stain glass windows, chandeliers and artefacts it needs to be divided into parts so that each area is restored to perfection.

“The palace has by far the largest number of stain glass structure in India and what makes it even more special is that the theme that is painted on them is Indian mythology,”he adds. “The future plan for this palace is to become a hotel and we are moving in that direction with the restoration process.”

A FUTURE ROYAL HERITAGE HOTEL:

With future goals to transform the palace into a heritage hotel it has already gone in for an architectural documentation.

“Since the palace was initially built only for two people it doesn’t have very many living rooms. So constructing toilets and creating a drainage system is going to be a challenge,” remarks Gaekwad. “Also, we would like to keep the basic feature, characteristics and charms of the palace intact. Constructing or dividing rooms for the hotel is another challenge.”

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Royal Reminiscence – NILAMBAGH PALACE – BHAVNAGAR

A walk through the history and development of Bhavnagar’s Nilambagh palace

Words: ShivanganiDhawan

The members of the erstwhile royal family of Bhavnagar reside in theNilambagh Palace, a part of which has been converted into a heritage hotel. The family members include Vijayraj Singh Gohil, SamyuktaKumari, YuvrajJaiveerraj Singh Gohil and BrijeshwariKumariGohil.

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Yuvraj studied at Les Roches Hotel School in Switzerland and came back to look after the palace hotel. Brijeshwari completed her degree in archaeology and art history and now manages the art collection at the palace.

With many heritage sites around, the city has seen a surge in tourism. The palace hotel has 26 double bedrooms, including two executive luxury suites. Many of the furniture pieces date back to the royal era. The palace also has an old fully functional elevator along with a one of its kind museum of bird paintings.

The corridors of the palace walls glorify the traditional art and culture of the city, featuring an array of artefacts and handworks of the tribals of the region. The palace hotel also has a stunning Roman-styled pool along with a fully functional health club with the latest equipment.It also has a sprawling tennis court and a martial arts studio.

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Bhavnagar was an independent state ruled by the Gohil family in the pre-Independence era. In 1947, SardarVallabhbhai Patel undertook the ambitious and complex process of unifying 565 princely states with the union and it was the first state to join India.

The Nilambagh Palace was founded by BhavsinhjiGohil and was built in the 18th century. It is set amidst a huge 10-acre estate and was designed by a German architect. The building fused elements of Indian architecture with a contemporary outlook. The palace is now redesigned to accommodate tourists.

The erstwhile royal family of Bhavnagar is active both in public life and in business. Its interests span hotels, real-estate, agriculture and ship-breaking. SamyuktaKumari is involved in women’s empowerment and education and has started a free pre-school for children in the palace grounds.

About 3,500 girls study at the school, which also has an option for English medium. The family also runs Kumarshala, with about 1,200 boys studying there. The focus is also on sports and fitness and many of the students have represented Gujarat in judo and martial arts competitions.

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Old Bhavnagar was a fortified town with gates leading to other important regional towns and remained a major port for almost two centuries. Bhavsinhji ensured that Bhavnagar benefited from the revenue that was brought in from maritime trade. During the late 19th century, the Bhavnagar State Railway was constructed; it was the first state railway system built without any aid from the central government.

Bhavnagar is also one of the earliest towns to have underground drainage in Gujarat, and was among the first to have a water filtration plant, which was the largest in Asia when set up by Krushna Kumar Sinhji.

It has a rich heritage and the former royalty have played an important part in the prosperity, development and culture of the city and in preserving the heritage.