On our way to Rajkot during our return phase of our pilgrimage trip from Somnath, we entered the Gondal city to see the royal palaces. It is a city in Rajkot district of Gujarat, around 40 km away from Rajkot city.
The Gondal state was one of the eight first class princely states of Kathiawar Agency during Bombay Presidency. The state spanned an area of about 1000 sq miles comprising four towns and more than 175 villages. Gondal finds mention in texts like Ain-i-Akbari (written in the reign of Akbar) and Mirat-i-Ahmadi as Vaghela state in Sorath (Saurashtra). The Gondal state in Kathiawar Agency was founded in 1634 by Thakore Shri Kumbhoji I Meramanji from Jadeja dynasty, who received Ardoi and other villages from his father Meramanji.
Later Sir Bhagwat Sinhji who reigned from 1888 until his death in 1944, was its most noted ruler, known for his various tax reforms, compulsory education for women and also removing the purdah tradition for women at a time when the royal households of India were known for this tradition. Maharaja Bhagwat Sinhji was a progressive free thinking ruler and to his credit, he held a Medical degree.
Naulakha Durbargarh Palace was built during the 17th century. This palace is one of the oldest and the most beautiful palace in Gondal. This palace is situated on the banks of the river on a grand masonry base, rising to the monumental scale of at least 30 meter above the river bed. This palace was built in about rupees nine lakhs (nau lakh, in Hindi) then and thus named so.
The palace is approached by the high gateway with the clock tower from the town side.The entrance leads to a huge open space with administrative blocks on the right and a grand staircase with balustrade on the extreme left corner leading to the intricately carved pavilions on the open terrace.
There are stone carvings with exquisite balconies, fabulous pillared courtyard, delicately carved arches, and a unique spiral staircase in the palace. The grand Darbar Hall has series of huge windows which open into long balcony supported by intricately carved brackets. This balcony overlooks the river. The Darbar Hall has large chandeliers, stuffed panthers, gilt wooden furniture and antique Belgian mirrors.
The private palace museum displays artifacts, gifts and messages received by Maharaja Bhagwat Sinhji as a ruler of Gondal, on his 50th birthday and various other relics.
There are many old horse-drawn carriages kept in the palace for public display.
The Huzoor Palace is the current royal residence. The Orchard Palace was built in 19th century as an addendum to the Huzoor Palace complex in the late-19th century to host personal guests of the Maharajas. Converted into a seven-room heritage hotel, it is appointed with 1930s and ‘40s art deco furniture, antiques and handicrafts. The Orchard Palace is opened for public. In fact, a part of it is being used as a heritage hotel, where a traveler can stay in cool, natural environment with chikoo, lime and mango groves in the background. Beautiful peacocks add to the beauty of the place.
It is known as the Orchard Palace because of its huge surroundings of fruit orchards, lawns and gardens. There are many peacocks in the gardens of the palace. The Room of miniatures is a splendid sitting room with a collection of miniature paintings, brass, and antique furniture.
The palace estate houses a collection of vintage and classic cars from pre-1910 to contemporary makes, a royal rail saloon beautifully finished with inlaid wood and ornate furniture. The Royal Garages have an extensive collection of vintage and classic cars, for which it has been famous all over the world.
There is one railway couch available for public view in this palace, which was one part of Gondal Royal Railway.
Rain is following us everywhere. Here also it was raining almost continuously as we were having the tour of these palaces. The rain affected my photography too. After visiting the grandeur of the Maharajas of Gondal, we left for Rajkot, the city famous for traditional Gujarati sweets and dandiya/garba raas dances. Mahatma Gandhi pursued his early education in Rajkot.
Famous Hindi movies “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” and “R..Rajkumar” were shot in these palaces.