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Published: March 5th 2016
The journey from Devi Garh to Deogarh was a mere 2 hours on good and relatively uncrowded roads – a first for this holiday! We detoured briefly en route to see Rajsamand Lake. At one end of the lake is a long earth embankment – not really a dam – erected in 1670 by the local ruler to celebrate a number of victories he had over Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb during his interminable wars against the Rajputs and the Deccani sultans which Aurangzeb waged in the second half of the 17th
century. It is now used by women doing laundry and youths taking a swim in the lake.
We are staying in Deogarh Mahal, the palace of the Rawat of Deogarh which was built in 1670. The Rewat is one of the top rank of nobles under the Maharana of Udaipur (the king of Udaipur is styled Maharana not Maharajah). The Rewat was given a land grant called a jagir by the Maraharana which covered a large area and encompassed some 210 villages. Although the palace is all built in a similar style, it has been added to in a higgledy piggledy fashion, making it a warren of stairs, corridors and courtyards.
Our room is reached by crossing a rooftop and then going up and down some steps. Our bed is under one of the huge onion domes that dot the roofline, and we have a sitting area divided from the bed by three arches. It is wonderful to be back in somewhere where the history has been retained and celebrated rather than brushed over as at Devi Garh.
We take the audio tour of the palace, which is narrated by the late Rawat in conversation with the Scottish historian William Dalrymple. We were the only people to do so, which seems s shame given how many stories the building has to tell. We learn that the three huge doors in the entrance courtyard were to elephant stables, hence the ramp that leads down from them to a grassy area that used to be used for washing the elephants. Behind a small black door the palace moneys were kept. They had a twofold role – they were a live fire alarm, and were also used to taste all the master’s food. If they were still lively after half an hour the food was deemed safe to eat. In more recent times,
we were amazed to discover that the current Rawat’s mother, who married in 1958, initially kept purdah, living in the zennanah or women’s quarters. Her husband decided it was time to stop the practice, and the first time she was seen by the local people was when she and her husband went to vote. The locals were all shocked and horrified to see them riding together in the front of the car, His Highness driving.
We are having a quiet beer in the shady courtyard on the second floor in the early evening when the previously silent palace is interrupted by the sound of jackboots marching across the gravel below. Peering over the parapet from the jharoka David announces that the German coach party has arrived. Men in lederhosen stretched over their ample stomachs enter the courtyard with their mobile phones and video cameras stuck to their eyes as they record their triumphal entry ready to share on their return to the beer halls of Munich. Oh dear, peace shattered.
More pictures below
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