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Remembering Maharaja Jyotendrasinhji Sahib And His Passion For Racing And Arts

| Updated: February 11, 2022 16:30

Gujarat is poorer after the demise of Maharaj Sahib Jyotendrasinhji. An era came to an end on January 31 this year when Maharaj Sahib, an avid auto enthusiast and car collector, had a cardiac arrest in Huzoor Palace, the current royal residence. He will always be remembered for many feats and wins on Indian race tracks in the 1960s. The Royal Opera House of Mumbai was his brainchild. It was inaugurated by King George V in 1911. It still holds relevance and reverence in the cultural fabric of contemporary Mumbai and is in fact India’s only surviving opera house till date.

Orchard Palace Gondal

Fondly known as Jyoti Bapu, his patronage also extended to performing arts, particularly music. Thanks to him and a little persuasion from Maharani Saheb, Royal Opera House opened its doors again in October 2016 as he commissioned its restoration. Today, it is the only surviving opera house in India that can now reclaim the title of being one of the “Finest theatres in the East”, with spectacular opera and musical concerts, theatre, and other such enriching events.

An obituary of Maharaja Jyotendrasinhji Sahib

 In the chronicles of India’s motoring history, the erstwhile royal family of Gondal is, without any doubt, one of the most important. Beginning with Maharaja Bhagvatsingh (1865-1944), the Gondal family have been one of the greatest ‘‘patrons” of vintage motoring. Their garage was one of the greatest collection sections of vintage cars in the whole of Asia. The collection ranged from the 1910 New Engine to the more elegant 1940-50s Cadillacs as well as a few truly impressive American cars of the 50s. The show stopper of the Royal Garages was the remarkable collection of horse drawn carriages, which were manufactured in the Victorian era.

Opera House

In 1958, “Yuvraj Jyotendrasinhji Vikramsinhji Jadeja was visiting Europe and he was seriously considering the possibility of either acquiring a Ferrari or a coach-built , customised Bentley Continental. But he ended up swinging a Mercedes 300 SL. Old-timers recall Jyoti Bapu setting the race circuits ablaze in his favourite Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster. He also raced in his Jaguar XK 120 and 150 and some other cars. He loved describing the driving experience and how he used its immense torque on the track and utilised its nimble handling.

It would also be apt to delve back into Gondal’s rich historical past with particular reference to Maharaja Bhagvatsingh Sahib who ruled Gondal from 1888 until his death in 1944 and it was during this period that Gondal rose to the peak of its prosperity. The first Gujarati dictionary was compiled by the Chief Education Officer, Chandrakant Bechardas Patel in Gondal with the financial support of Sir Bhagvatsighji Maharaj. He was known for tax reforms, compulsory education for women and also for stopping the practice of purdah (female seclusion) at a time when the royal households of India were known for this tradition Jyoti Bapu carried his legacy with much fervour and fanfare.

Akshar Mandir 

According to him“ – Gondal may be a quaint little town of Gujarat and most tourists to Gujarat may not even be aware of its existence until they set foot in this charming town and savour the famed Gondal hospitality. The British may have left long back but there is still a whiff of Britain in Gondal, courtesy the Sangram Sinhji High School, which has been built in the traditional Eton style of architecture. Apart from royalty, Gondal is renowned for its indigenous Ayurvedic clinic – the famed Bhuvaneshwari Ayurvedic Pharmacy, which even today manufactures the age-old traditional herbal medicines. Inside the premises one will come across the Bhuvaneshwari Stud Farm, which has some of the best specimens of the famed Kathiawari horses.

Naulakha Palace Hallway  

Gondal has a history of art and literature. It is the birthplace of poets, singers and artists like Pankaj Udhas, Manhar Udhas, Nirmal Udhas, Dhumketu, Makarand Dave, Jay Vasavada.

The ancestors of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, belong to Paneli village in Gondal.

Opera House

Maharaja Jyotendrasinhji of Gondal will certainly be remembered for his achievements on the race track and his vast and varied car collection. At the same time, all artistically inclined residents of Mumbai will also remember and thank him for restoring the Royal Opera House and making it the cultural capital of Mumbai.

Written by: Samarjit Singh Mahurkar, Heritage Revivalist


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