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Published: October 21st 2008
Shiva statue at Susagar Lake
The 'SurSagar Lake is named so because many Indian classical music schools flourished nearby. Vadodara had good cultural background.
Vadodara was known as Baroda formerly
When I started to write about our recent trip to Vadodara, I found to my delight that the venerable ‘Vatvriksha’ became a mundane ‘Banyan’ tree in English language because early British found that the Hindu Gujrati ‘Banias’ (merchants) mostly conducted their business in the shade of these trees.
Whenever I start writing a travelogue, a gather from the Net many such nuggets of what Avi calls “Profuse and Useless Information”.
So, dear readers, like Avi, if you are interested only in ‘short and useful’ information, please refer to a travel guide.
Vadodara, at present is a small town in Gujrat. It was the seat of princely state of Maharajah Gaekwad till 1947.
What progress Vadodara has shown today is due to a very able ruler Sayajirao Gaekwad.
Politics always amuses me and British politician are the most entertaining.
The British under Lord Dalhousie had refused to recognize the adoption of a child as an heir to the throne of Jhansi and which later led to Rani Laxmibai’s part in the so-called ‘1857 mutiny’.
The same British actually helped Maharani Jamnabai of Baroda to adopt a child Gopalrao in 1875, who later became famous as Sayajirao Gaekwad.
Perhaps, if Rani Laxmibai’s uncles had behaved as Royal uncles should behave and had tried to poison the British Resident with arsenic, the British would have allowed her to adopt a child heir.
This leads me to conclude that politics is not about principles, it all about money, Honey.
However, it is neither here nor there. (BTW, can somebody clearly tell me the meaning of this inane-sounding phrase?)
The best gifts the Gaekwads bestowed on Vadodara are the Sayaji Garden with a fabulous museum, the Khanderao Market and maybe, the Laxmi Vilas Palace with Fateh Singh Museum on the grounds.
I cannot vouch for the last because we found it in a forgotten and deserted corner of the palace grounds, and we were afraid that if we let go of the autorikshaw, we will be stranded there for all eternity, and people visiting there in 2020, would find an old man and old woman collecting berries for survival. We did not want to take that chance and came back to town in the same auto.
The Palace grounds are choked with weeds and had a general unkempt air. Even the Palace looked dilapidated.
By contrast, the Sayaji Garden and Museum are extensive and beautiful.
The most interesting exhibit in the museum was a skeleton of a blue whale which became stranded on Gujrat shores in 1944. The 73 feet of its length and 8 feet height of its ribcage makes you thankful that it is dead. A space-starved Mumbai resident like me could happily live in that skeleton and have a room to spare. (and give it on leave-license or to a paying guest)
When we had visited a ‘heritage hotel’ in Goa, the owner had proudly shown us a huge, conical tooth decorating a wall and told us that his grandfather had harpooned a whale in the nearby sea and the tooth had belonged to the whale.
I had dismissed it as a classical, whale-sized fib because I had never heard before of whales inhabiting Arabian Sea and had decided that the tooth was most probably plastic.
But now I am having second thoughts. Maybe it was true.
How come we do not have ‘whale-watching cruises’ in Mumbai?
Another interesting exhibit was a Moa skeleton.
This must really be a rare exhibit.
A pair of huge elephant tusks also interested me a lot.
Of course the museum was full of the usual bric-a-brac that did not interest me much, at least, not enough to exercise my tired legs.
Our visit to Vadodara was made memorable by our visit to the Khanderao Market.
I had read about the famous ‘Baroda Pearls’, Emeralds and such other fabulous gemstones before going to Vadodara and expected that they would be displayed in burglar-proof glass-cabinets in a high-security museum.
(Should I mention here that I had also read with great relish about one of the Maharajas marrying a ‘scarlet woman’, a young beauty referred to as “The Indian Wallis Simpson”? Better not, though it is delicious gossip even after all of them are dead. However, Princess Diana gossip is more recent and more juicy.)
But, when we visited Khanderao Market, we were surprised to find priceless rubies, large, green round emeralds, strands of flawless, while pearls being sold by kilos there, that too at throwaway prices.
Yes, I am talking about prices like 6 pomegranates 10 rupees, shining green gooseberries at 8 Rs/kilo and corn-cobs.
Apart from the low prices, the very profusion, variety and colors of the vegetables and fruits made the visit quite attractive.
Sad to say that we are total ‘gajarparakhi’s (in Marathi, it means those who appreciate carrots) and not ‘ratnaparakhis’ (Those who appreciate gems.)
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