Twisted Philanthropy of the Maharaja of Jodhpur.

Umaid Bhavan Palace - last of the great indian palaces of India. (sanjay austa austa)

Umaid Bhavan Palace – last of the great indian palaces of India. 

It is touted that the Umaid Bhawan Palace was built as a drought relief measure by Maharaja of Jodhpur Umaid Singh. The idea was to make a luxurious private residence for the Maharaha in order to create employment for the starving people of Jodhpur. I find it ironic. Imagine a man thinking of making a 347 room luxurious villa for himself out of the misery of the people is he supposed to serve. Surprisingly the Maharaja is glorified till this day as a philanthropist for his `noble gesture’.  The moment you enter the Umaid Bhawan a large plaque informs you about this `generosity’.

Umaid Bhawan Palace’s construction was begun in 1929 and employed 5000 men for 16 years. Of course these men were paid. But the money Maharajas in India had was not theirs in the first place. It was state money. Money of the people they ruled over. Money the Maharajas were supposed to spend on their people’s welfare. But it was the money the Maharajas generously helped themselves to from time to time to fund their extravagant lifestyles.

I am surprised that it did not occur to the Maharaja to put the money to dig wells, to harvest water, or in funding the various traditional skills of his famine  stricken public. But then he was a Maharaja and what else could he think of other  than a palace of luxury?

In 1977 more than half of it was converted into a hotel. It is divided between a luxury hotel, a museum and the residence of the Maharaja’s successors. But it is so massive that it still remains the largest private residence in the world. After the imposing Mehrangarh Fort, Umaid Bhawan is the next monumental attraction in Jodhpur for tourists.

The imposing Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur (sanjay austa austa)

Umaid Bhavan is the next stop for everyone after visiting the  imposing Mehrangarh Fort

Today Maharaja’s of Jodhpur are  depicted in the media  as though they  were the  original Indian patriots of yore.  That’s perhaps due to the personal charisma of the present Maharaja of Jophpur Gaj Singhji II who according to those who have met him is a humble unassuming man very unlike his predecessors.

 An interesting fact which is often forgotten is that during the Partition of India the then Jodhpur Maharaja wanted to join Pakistan. He had to be prevailed upon by this nobles,  village elders and the ruler of Jaisalmer to do a rethink.

But when he had to sign the Instrument of Accession in the viceroy’s office he  threw a regal tantrum. He is said to have held a revolver to the secretary’s head saying ‘I will not accept your dictation’. But after this display of royal bluster he signed on the dotted line.

5 Responses to “Twisted Philanthropy of the Maharaja of Jodhpur.”

  1. Saimi Sattar says:

    Interesting observation.. Sanjay Austa.. might be interesting to do a series on what many of the maharajas and kings of yore did to ‘elevate’ the masses…and examples abound throughout India..

  2. Rebecca says:

    Atleast they were authentic Maharajas. Tell me what today’s fake Maharajas aka the politicians are doing with public money. Atleast this Maharaja built a monument that lasts and the public can walk in and see but today’s Maharajas built palatial homes for themselves, children and grandchildren and squirrel the rest away offshore.

  3. Anish Bhatia says:

    Damned if you do, damned if you dont..

    You have been blessed by a super power (god, if you believe in God) to write well, hence you cannot be taking the responsibility that when you print a book, a kid on the street lights of Mumbai may be selling it. It wont be your fault that he is not lucky enough to afford two square meals a day, or that he is not in school studying but instead trying to make a living selling your books.

    In the same manner, any monument be it the White House, be it the Cathedral or the Juma Masjid, were all made by workers who were more than happy to be earning their lively hood instead of sitting unemployed.

    My grand-father was the chef engineer for this project and he has shared stories about how the Maharaja offered money to these very same workers, but instead they told him they would rather be busy with some job, and hence they conceived and created what surely is a master piece even now.

    Which society is devoid of its very own ‘Maharajas’ ? Even today we have a practicing ‘maharani’ who rules over a democracy of over 1.2 billion people…

    • sanjay austa says:

      Thanks Anish but the compliment but I am not sure if i understood your analogy of the street kids selling an author’s books. Its great to know your brand-father was the chief Engineer for this project. Its indeed a beautiful palace very intricately constructed. I ask the question in the post about why didn’t the Maharaja dig wells, harvest water etc in the time of famine. It would have helped alleviated the pathetic condition of his subjects and also provided employment?

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