About the Book
This book evokes the romance of the rugged desert kingdom of Bikaner and its royal family. In the midst of the large and mysterious sands of the Thar Desert rises the imposing beauty of the Lallgarh palace, Bikaner. Stories whispered by the wind as it frolicked and raged over the long caravans that crawled across this mighty desert, have been caught and penned by princess rajyashree kumari. Built in 1902 by architect sir swinton Jacob, as residence of for maharaja Ganga singh, lallgarh palace is one of the best examples of indo-saracenic architecture amalgamating the best of Rajput, Muslim and European styles. Built by local craftsmen in dulmera red sandstone, its carved arches display the mastery of the local artisans. This book is an enchanting tale by princess rajashree kumara of her royal family as they lived and played over five generations in the backdrop of the imposing beauty of Lallgarh palace. In this intriguing story of a princess, Rajyashree recounts her life growing up in the Lallgarh palace. The little known customs and traditions that prevailed in the royal house of Bikaner and yet untold episodes from the lives of the great maharajas in her family. Now converted into a luxury heritage hotel, her story holds you spellbound as you relive the days when the grand courtyards and imposing lawns rang with the pomp and pageantry of royal durbans. The magnificence of the gilded age of the maharajas, the sheer luxury and laughter of its resplendent visitors, men from the pages of history, Lord Curzon, its first visitor, king Georage V, Lord Mountbatten all come alive as she recounts their visit bringing it to present day visitors. The secrets and mysteries of the house of Bikaner long since buried in the shifting sand dunes are brought to life by princess Rajashree kumara, who has actually lived them.
About the Author
Rajyashree Kumari of Bikaner was born in Bombay on June 4, 1953 and spent her childhood between her family homes in Bikaner and New Delhi. She is the daughter of Maharaja Dr. Karni Singhji and maharani sushila kumariji. Maharaja Dr. Karni shoot at the age of six years and she won her first medal in 1960 aged seven. During her sporting career spanning 20 years she represented India in the world shooting championship at San Sebastian, Spain where she was placed 8th in the world and was awarded the silver badge and the second Asian shooting championship at Seoul in Korea where she won a bronze medal in the team event. She was awarded the Arjuna award in 1969 by the then president of India shri V.V.Giri. Her other interests include the preservation of heritage properties and ancestral forts and palaces that belong to the Bikaner family. She is a life member of INTACH and is the chairperson of the six public charitable trusts set up by her late father maharaja Dr. Karni singhji that carry out numerous charitable and other philanthropic works in Bikaner. In 1999 she founded Maharaja Dr. Karni singhji memorial foundation in the memory of her late father.
The Lallgarh Palace stands as an outstanding example of princely patronage at the height of the British Raj. Built by Maharaja Ganga Singh, a statesman, soldier and patrons of the arts, the palace unites the ingenuity of Indian craftsmanship with the engineering and technical accomplishments of the late 19th Century. The residence was designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob to accommodate the lifestyle and needs of a modern maharaja, while maintaining stylistic harmony with traditional palace architecture of Mughal and Rajput dynasties, articulated in a pierced sandstone structure of unsurpassed quality and detail. Today The Lallgarh Palace plays an important role as the home of a museum and Archive that preserves works of art and memorabilia of the Rathore Dynasty of Bikaner. For students of princely India this residence is a rich source of contextual information which brings the period alive and for which profound thanks are due. For visitors to Bikaner, such as myself, the scale and design of the palace make a strong impression, capturing a sense of the greatness of this princely state.
Once on a summer trip to orthamptonshire to visit Althorp House, the stately home of Earl Spencer, I bought a book written by him in which he had covered the history of his ancestors and the home they lived in. Earl Spencer himself happened to be at the time in the gift shop and kindly autographed the book for me. While reading it occurred to me that I too had lived all my life in a rather grand home, which had an interesting story to tell, and it was time for someone to write the rich history of this magnificent palace and the family that lived in it for five generations. I must confess at this point that I am not a historian. Many worthy authors and scholars have covered in great detail the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture of the Lallgarh Palace and the merits of Sir Swinton Jacob's work. Though this book covers the main points of the architecture, it is about the heart of the palace and what made such a large and imposing building and its complex, which was a small city in itself, a home to us all. I have tried to bring together the skeins of the past, present and future and to introduce the many family members who lived here.
It was a great privilege to have spent one's childhood in such a magnificent home, though as children we naively assumed that everyone lived like we did. We lived very happily within the secure embrace of the Lallgarh Palace complex. It was our own self-contained little world. We could not have wished for a kinder or more generous father. He made our childhood fun and enjoyable but at the same time we were taught our obligations and responsibilities towards the ancestral family and towards each citizen of Bikaner. Each room and corridor of Lallgarh carries some memories and while researching this book it brought back several vivid memories of golden, blissful happy days, which, when I recall them seemed always sunny, when each day was packed with activity and adventure. Now that, one's childhood is in the past, we in the family try to carry out our responsibilities and duties as trustees of the Maharaja Ganga Singh Trust, which maintains and protects the palace and also makes generous grants to many worthy and philanthropic causes in Bikaner. That is the way my father would have wanted it. My father taught me much but the one important trait that he passed on to me was an abiding love, loyalty and respect towards this parental home of ours and our rich familial history. "Your real wealth is your ancestry," my father used to say, and now, I realise how right he was.
Maharaja Ganga Singh intended that this beautiful edifice that he created would give pleasure to all visitors and those who lived in it. I often watch my two pugs; Chiara and Sienna enjoy the large lawns of Lallgarh to its fullest, chase every peacock that appears on the scene, stalk the pigeons, and sit like little lionesses in the bushes. It is evident that this palace continues to cast its spell even on my little dogs. I hope very much that my great grandfather would be pleased with the changes that have been made and the way in which his legacy is being maintained. It is, indeed, an enormous responsibility. Whether I have succeeded or not, it is for others to judge, but for my part the effort is sincere, and the events and remembrances have been faithfully recorded.
The ancestral home of my family
The south wing of the Lallgarh palace
The west wing of the Lallgarh palace
The north wing of the Lallgarh palace
The east wing of the Lallgarh palace
Lallgarh palace complex
From one doll's house to another
Family members who lived in Lallgarh palace
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