Delhi: I

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India Gate area: princely states’ ‘houses’

The Times of India, May 08 2016

Palaces of erstwhile princes in Delhi and their integration in the capital city of Delhi; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, May 08 2016

Of Rajas & the Raj: Delhi's palaces tell many tales  Like thousands every day , Sumanta K Bhowmick passed by the sprawling edifices around India Gate named after the erstwhile princely states who built them--Baroda House, Patiala House, Bikaner House, Hyderabad House. But unlike most, who hardly spared a second thought to the buildings now converted to art centres, courts and government offices, Bhowmick was fascinated by them. His desire to know more about them led hi m to the country's various historical archives and meetings with erstwhile royals of Travancore, Bikaner, Kapurthala and more. The outcome of his four year-effort is Princely Palaces in New Delhi, a book that maps the shaping and making of the various palaces of early 20th century Delhi, including the political and strategic reasons they came about.Post-1857 revolt, the British government was wary of offering permission to buy land to the princely states in what was then known as British India. But in 1922, within years of the end of World War I, the British government in India passed a resolution allowing ruling princes and chiefs to do so.

This, writes Bhowmick, “seemed to stem from the fact that the government could not do without the active help of princely India in comba ting the growing voice of a united people for justice and freedom.“

The book also offers peep shows and first-hand accounts of the elite's social life of the times: of lavish parties where the creme de la creme sported their finest jewels and foreign-tailored suits, horse shows and polo matches. “The Maharaja of Jaipur would even treat his ponies with champagne after a win,“ writes Bhowmick.

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