HERITAGE SITES IN RAJPIPLA

Rajpipla is the headquarters of Narmada District with bustling markets that offer a wide range of products, and medical facilities of every kind. It is renowned for its enchanting natural beauty, blessed with the holy Narmada River, Karjan River, streams, waterfalls,the Satpura mountain range, valleys, thick teak forests, and evergreen banana and sugarcane plantations.In the natural hilly and thickly forested area along the valley and reservoir of Narmada River, there are sloth bears, panthers, deer, antelopes, foxes, jackals, hyena, monkeys and other small animals, and birds like eagles, green pigeons (parrots) and owls,among others, whereas one can find crocodiles and otters in the rivers.The climate is bracing year-round without excessive cold, heat or rain.

Indrajit-Padmini Mahal (Vadia Palace)

Indrajit-Padmini Mahal - also known as Vadia Palace - is a marvel of architecture and one of the iconic palaces of India. It was dubbed as ‘The Taj of Gujarat’ in its heyday in the 1940s. It was in the spring of 1934 that His Highness Maharaja Shri Sir Vijaysinhji, the last ruler of the 4,000 square kilometres first-class princely state of Rajpipla, decided to take over 160 acres of land on the eastern outskirts of Nandod, as the capital of the State was known at the time. Having shifted the village Vadia to another location close by, he decided to name it Indrajit Park after his then eight-year- old son Prince Indrajitsinh.The same summer, on 6th June, Maharaja Vijaysinhji achieved a feat that no other Indian racehorse owner had earlier, nor has anyone managed since. His horse Windsor Lad won the coveted Epsom Derby of England, which is considered the world’s greatest horse race, dating back to 1780. In the euphoria of this brilliant victory, and buoyed by his huge earnings from the race, Maharaja Vijaysinhji decided to build a magnificent palace in Indrajit Park. He commissioned the renowned architect Burjor Sohrab J. Aga of Shapoorjee N. Chandabhoy & Company to design a palace like no other. After visits to many palaces, and several detailed discussions with Maharaja Vijaysinhji, Burjor Aga planned the most exquisite monument of his life in Art Deco design, which was the trend in those decades between the two World Wars. And so Indrajit-Padmini Mahal was built in a predominantly Indo-Saracenic Revival style with a few western features. The finest Italian marble of various colours was used in different geometric patterns, such that no two rooms or galleries are floored alike. The 1,000 doors and windows, and the two large spiral staircases in either wing of the Palace winding right up to the terrace, have been crafted in the best Burma teak. The breathtaking pristine white palace was ready in 1939, having cost around Rupees forty lakhs or four million to build, a huge sum in those days, one of the costliest and last palaces to be constructed in India. Indrajit-Padmini Mahal has a unique shape, and is built in a manner that the two private porticos on either side are not visible as one approaches the Palace, subtly guarding the privacy of the royal family. The main portico in front was meant for guests and other visitors. The original palace buildings cover an area of almost an acre - 4,320 square yards, including the outhouses comprising a large circular kitchen complex and a small secretariat on the other side. The kitchen is partially sunken, so that it did not disrupt the view of the enchanting estate from the galleries,or of the intricate facade of the Palace from the grounds. A 30-yard long insulated underground passage took food in trolleys from the kitchen to the pantry in the main building.Inside, the palace retains much of the European character that one would expect from one erected during the 1930s and 1940s. There are marble globes, which were filled with exotic perfumes, and a water circulation system in them spread the pleasant aroma all around. An elevator took the royal family and their guests to the first floor and the terrace. At the rear is a marble fountain with intricate patterns matching the flooring of the piazza in which it is situated. Much of the palace was centrally air-conditioned, with ducts still visible on the walls. The lavish bathrooms had towel rods with heating elements.The various rooms of the palace are adorned with frescoes by Italian painter Valli, whose depiction of even Indian devotional and local themes is flawless. Every room has its own unique character. The reception behind the portico is painted with floral and faunal subjects. The drawing room has concealed lighting in the ceiling and beautiful paintings from Lord Krishna’s life. The dining room has paintings of wildlife,while the bar has murals of drunk monkeys. The ballroom has Burma teak flooring,and the sitting room is done up in frescoes of dancing girls. The puja or prayer room has a series of wall and ceiling murals.The sprawling estate of Indrajit-Padmini Mahal had well laid out gardens, fountains,and mango and lime orchards. The Rajpipla State band would play near the main gate.Indrajit-Padmini Mahal is indeed an architectural marvel that houses many delightful features, and an enchanting heritage of princely India. It became the final symbol of the 600-year rule of the valiant Gohil Rajput dynasty over Rajpipla State.

Equestrian statue of Maharaja Vijaysinhji

It would appear that the exhilarating and unprecedented win in the Epsom Derby of England in 1934, the completion of twenty years of his reign in 1935, and the accomplishment of several development works and reforms in the State, led to the idea of putting up a statue of Maharaja Vijaysinhji in Rajpipla. There was certainly a feel good factor in the latter half of the 1930s. A hunt began for a suitable sculptor, as also the process of finalising the site. As it happened, the fabulous Vadia Palace was also under construction at that time. The architect of Vadia Palace, Burjor Aga, suggested the name of the renowned sculptor Rao Bahadur Ganpatrao Mahatre. The Dewan of Rajpipla State Pherozshah Kothavala, after diligent enquiries, also came up with the name of Rao Bahadur Mahatre. It was decided that the statue would be erected at an angle at the entrance to Rajpipla town, by road as well as rail, at the head of the avenue leading to the main bazaar. A small circle would be built around it. After detailed discussions with Rao Bahadur Mahatre in 1938 it was concluded that it would be an equestrian statue in bronze of heroic size, that is, twelve-and- a-half feet in height with a pedestal about as high. Rao Bahadur Mahatre quoted a price of Rupees 38,000, which is believed to have been lowered by a couple of thousand Rupees at the time of final negotiations. Earlier a silver statue about two feet long of Maharaja Vijaysinhji had been crafted by Mappin and Webb, London, in which the horse was resting on all four legs. Rao Bahadur Mahatre suggested that the horse in this statue should rest on three legs, with one of the front legs braced. Maharaja Vijaysinhji gave ten to twelve hours sitting to Rao Bahadur Mahatre to perfect the lines and likeness of head and shoulders. The sculptor asked for about two years to complete the statue after he had finished the work already in hand. As the statue progressed, times began to change. Born in 1879, Rao Bahadur Mahatre was no longer a young man in the early 1940s. He started keeping indifferent health around 1946, and passed away in the early part of 1947. At that time, it would seem, the statue was more or less complete. Independence of India and merger of princely states followed soon. The statue just lay. The Maharaja passed away in April 1951. The citizens of Rajpipla, euphoric about the benevolent 33-year reign of their popular ruler, decided to finally install the statue. The municipality of Rajpipla oversaw the installation, and it was inaugurated in 1952 in the presence of the royal family, dignitaries and large gathering of citizens. The statue of Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji, the last Gohil Rajput ruler of Rajpipla, stands tall today, evoking reverence from passers-by, and obeisance from many generations of citizens of this royal town, a reminder of an era that was.

HarsiddhiMataji Temple

HarsiddhiMataji is the family diety of the Rajpipla royal family but is also worshipped by people from far and near. The idol of HarsiddhiMataji, with a sindoor(a traditional vermilion red or orange-red coloured cosmetic powder, usually applied by married women along the parting of their hair)face, was brought on foot by MaharanaVerisaljiI(who ruled from 1705 to 1715) to Rajpiplafrom Ujjain (in Madhya Pradesh, where the original temple of HarsiddhiMataji is located). The temple is situated in the western part of Rajpipla town. Although devotees pay obeisance to HarsiddhiMataji throughout the year, it is during the Navaratrifestival that thousands of worshippers visit the Temple for prayers and various ceremonies.

Victoria Gate

The Victoria Memorial Gate was constructed by Maharana Chhatra Singhji opposite the past Old Palace and the present S.T. Depot. This archway has the Statue of Queen Victoria on the top and it was to commemorate her rule as Empress of England and the Indian Empire.

Red Tower

The Shewan Memorial Red Clock Tower was constructed by MaharanaChhatrasinhji in the late 1890s in memory of this British officer and his association withRajpipla State. The Tower has European architecture and is located near the statue of MaharanaGambhirsinhji.