19 May, 2015

Baroda Trip diary

A trip to the land which Gaekwads ruled!

When you are going to your close relatives place, you experience a warm, cosy glow inside. That was the kind of warmth which I was experiencing when I sat in the taxi taking us to Bandra Terminus, to go to my sister’s home. The ride upto Bandra station was fine. Bandra station to the terminus was unspeakable misery – garbage & debris piled up on one side of the road along with a partly constructed bridge. There was no road nor road rules here. Vehicles, birds, animals & humans were jostling in this chaos, with edge-of-the-seat thrills!

Relief loomed large once we reached the platform. One had to of course stay clear of luggage carts pushed noisily by the coolies, who seemed to be in a tearing hurry. Once the train was in, we found to our chagrin that we were in a chaircar – facing each other. We were stepping on each other’s toes, literally! There was a small sliver of wood fitted in between, which was to serve as our table. We made full use of this scarce real estate!

Baroda arrived at night. We had finished dinner in the train itself and retired for the night!

The next day was warm or should I say hot! It was hot by all standards, though inside the home, it was still comfortable. Venturing outside during daytime was strictly on a need basis. My sister was talking very highly about a eaterie on the periphery of Baroda called Plazo, which we decided to patronize that night.

We decided to seek some thrills before dinner and went to the inviting Inorbit mall. They seem to have sprouted all across the country! This was a commodious affair, as Inorbit malls usually are. We headed for the gaming area and tried a hand at bowling and pool. After lightening the purse somewhat, we decided to dash for Plazo.

It was more of a circumambulation of Baroda itself, that halfway down we despaired why we embarked on it at all! Then we were at the portals of Plazo and the hunger pangs started asserting itself! We had a good meal there & returned to the home and hearth of my sister.

Since Vadodara was so hot, it was only in the evenings that we slinked out. The exception was our trip to Lakshmi Vilas Palace, the erstwhile seat of the Gaekwads, which had to be in the morning. I was not a great fan of looking at the relics from the past, but kept and open mind and went anyway.

I’m happy I did.

Lakshmi Vilas Palace is grand by any standards. It is supposedly the largest private dwelling today – four times larger than Buckingham palace! The grand & imposing palace is set in 700 acres of land, has hundreds of rooms and the palace- itself an eclectic mix of Indian & European influences. The royal family stays in the palace till date, in it’s upper reaches.

The current royal descendant also talks in the audio tour… he talks of how the palace has always been his home and how they used to drive their bicycles in the corridors as children, bouncing them off the walls! He described his house as a big house! Enviable…

 It occurred that we have atleast one advantage over the Maharaja - we will never have any confusion about the number of rooms in our home!

We were given an audio tour of the palace and thanks to that, we got to know many details which we would have otherwise missed – like the peacock urn. Or the statue of the maharani in marble, where the pearl necklace was showing through from under the saree!

The European masters were tasked with many installations – Michaelangelo & Fellici had done work for the Gaekwads! So was the celebrated Indian painter - Raja Ravi Varma. His famous paintings of Godesses – Saraswati & Lakshmi, were there at the Durbar hall. Hithertoo, I had only seen the reproductions on calendars & lithographs!

There was the Armoury with their collection of swords, scabbards, knives, shields etc., in profusion. Interestingly, there was a contraption which could deliver chakras at opponents, a la Lord Vishnu!

The grandest was the last – Durbar hall. This hall had the crest of the Rajah – SRG – set on the floor. The floor was inlaid with semi-precious stones. The ornate ceiling was beautifully crafted with exquisite floral work. There were 15 feet stained glasses with Indian Motifs, which looked grand with the light streaming from behind. This palace is supposed to have the maximum number of stained glasses of any palace!

There was a courtyard with fountains with a couple of installations of Michaelangelo. The Mosaic painting ( made fully of small tiles ) on the outerwall of the Durbar Hall was awesome. See for yourself.

The palace was awesome. After some lunch we went home. 

One of the evenings we went to Sayaji Bagh, a sprawling garden, which houses a museum, zoo, amphitheatre, planetarium etc. That day the park was super crowded. We spent sometime there.

After dinner we went to a famous joint that sells the best sodas in Baroda – I had a Green apple soda. Nice!

End of the trip now. Mumbai beckons… we boarded the Swaraj Express, which offloaded us at Bandra Terminus. We were home in another 30 minutes. Holidays over… but we were happy to be back in Mumbai. Home , sweet home!

- A roundup of the trip to Baroda a week ago – Suresh Sadagopan 

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