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all photographs (except as marked) © by Randolph Langenbach / UNESCO, 2001

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1) Jamsaheb, the Maharaja of Jamnagar leading the visit to the ancient Durbargarh in Jamnagar.  2) This, the exterior gateway to the Darbargarh is all that the public has been aware of about the complex for almost 100 years.

FROM THE UNESCO REPORT:  Of those monuments not under protection, the most significant ones found on this mission to be at the greatest risk are the original Darbargarhs,” the city palaces of the former kings of the princely kingdoms that at one time made up the region.  The Darbargarhs pre-dated the coming of the British, and thus contain architecture, art, and sometimes-even artifacts, dating back several hundred years with less influence from Europe.  During the British Raj period, many of these Maharajas constructed new palaces on the edges of the cities and towns, moving out of the center of their cities and away from their subjects.  As a result, some of these original palaces have seen little use for close to a hundred years.  They have remained essentially in mothballs hidden away from view except for a few sections which are open to the public, such as the Aina Mahal Museum at the Darbargarh in Bhuj. 

While many of the British period palaces are also architecturally significant and damaged as well, it is these older palaces that have been identified on this mission to embody the most cultural and historical significance to the region and to India as a whole.  At the time that they were constructed and over the centuries that they were used, they formed the administrative and cultural center for the princely states. 

The Darbargarh of Jamnagar is one of the most magical, yet least widely known, historic complex in all of India.  Sir Bernard Feilden and William Connal, noted restoration architects inf Great Britain, consider this palace complex possibly to be the single most impressive secular heritage site in Western India.

The Darbargarh was inspected at the invitation of Jamsaheb, the Maharaja of Jamnagar.  Entering parts of this extensive complex was like entering a lost world with extensive evidence of a rich a varied history, as well as possessing significant artistic and architectural details.  Artifacts, some with evidence of not having been disturbed for more than a generation or two, were stacked or arranged in hidden rooms – rooms which remained locked and protected until the earthquake has now broken them open and placed the buildings and their contents at immediate of loss and destruction.

The Jamsaheb personally lead the site visit of the ancient palace complex, which was located in the heart of Jamnagar, but exists today as a hidden and nearly forgotten complex of ancient buildings.  Because new palaces had been built in the early part of the 20th century under the British period on the outskirts of the city, this original palace has rarely been used for almost a century, and hardly at all for the last 30 years.  The Jamnagar Darbargarh suffered significant damage in the earthquake, but not nearly as extensively as did the one in Bhuj.  Visiting this complex was more like walking through a lost city, than a single building, with courtyards opening off of courtyards, each with its own distinctive art and architectural presentation.  With the commentary by the Jamsaheb, the deep history of the place came alive as we passed through dusty rooms filled with wall paintings, mirrors in gilt frames, and thousands of dust covered and decaying artifacts of a departed way of life - a way of life, however, which existed near enough in time to be still within the living memory of some within the city.

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2)  Interior court and archway                                                    3) Durbar Hall exterior                                        



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4) Durbar Hall interior.      5) Top floor mirror hall in the private apartments of the Maharaja       6) Screened porch of one apartment for one of the wives in the Harem section of the palace.

In rooms now cracked open in places by the earthquake were wall paintings showing armies of olive shaped eyed men and women in settings from battlefields to palaces and ashrams.  In other rooms, thirty years of dust accumulation had to be swept away to reveal portraits of bejeweled princes, and photographs of city monuments.  In one corner was an entire crate of ornamental swords in their scabbards.  In another room – unseen by all but a few for several generations - was a room completely lined with ornamental mirrors and paintings – not unlike the one found in the Aina Mahal Museum in Bhuj, which now also is partly collapsed.  The rooms in this ancient palace were for the most part small and intimate, not grand or vast, as found in the later palaces.  Instead of being designed to impress one of wealth, they bespeak a way of life that was uniquely Indian – as the palaces in the pre-British period were not houses only for the Maharaja’s but small cities that housed the entire court that served as the government of each kingdom.  

JAMNAGAR DARBARGARH;  Rooms full of dust covered pictures of former nobles, princes, kings and views of the city - with the images visible only after the dust was wiped off - were opened up after the earthquake for the first time in years.


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11-14) Naked Sadus and Maharajas with olive-shaped eyes set in flat profile adorn the walls of several of the private apartments in the Darbargarh - in frescos dating back 100-200 years.


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15-17) In the same apartments, are dusty collections of the objects of princely ceremonies - oil lamps hanging from the ceiling, parts of a palanquin in the corner, an antique model train, and a crate full of swards in scabbards. 


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18-27)  With only a handkerchief to dust of decades of accumulated dust on the pictures, the task was like an archaeological dig - with elegant mustachioed faces gradually revealed from behind an opaque layer of dirt.







Jambungalow Palace.  This is where the Ranjitsinhji lived, and the Jamsaheb was born.  Ranjitsingh was the turn of the century Maharaja of Jamnagar, who, after being a famous cricketer for England, reconstructed central Jamnagar in the British style (see Willingdon Crescent below.)  The palace was damaged first by termites, then by a Typhoon, then by the earthquake.  It is no longer occupied.


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1) This is a three section panorama (the wings are actually parallel to the central pavilion.)  The Jamsaheb is standing in front of the central pavilion.  


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2) The interior lobby reveals pieces of the collections of the Maharaja, 3) Ranjitsinh's bed remains to this day unused since his death, where it stands with a small memorial to him resting on it.  His closths are still in the closet, and his painting on the wall.


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5) Jamsaheb, Ranjitsingh's successor, stands holding a signed photograph of King George V, Emperor of India, and Queen Mary.  The inscription on the back says: "With best Wishes for Christmas, 1914.  May God Protect you and bring you home safe.  Mary R. George R. J." 


Pratap Vilas Palace.  This vast building in an Indo-Saracenic style was constructed exclusively to serve as a guest house.  Damage in the earthquake was not as great as in Bhuj, but is none-the-less a costly loss of some parapets, and the separation of some upper walls at the roof level in some corners.


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1-2)  The vast scale of this palace is breathtaking, especially as it is now approached through a subdivision of ordinary concrete apartment buildings.  The fallen parapet railings can be seen in #2).



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3-4) Picture Gallery, Pratap Vilas Palace


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5) One of the roof level cupolas above the stairs shows the earthquake damage has separated the masonry walls from the roof.  6) Air Conde (retired) Suren Tyagi, long time friend and aid of the Jamsaheb.  As seen in the frescos, the framed paintings and the early photographs, the Rajputs are identified by their well-groomed mustaches.


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Willingdon Crescent (earthquake damage is visible on the left).    Circuit House, showing section demolished after earthquake damaged it.


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21) Bhujia Fort (Historic photo found in the Darbargarh)   22) First a section of this historic structure was demolished when the city walls were taken down - the gap is visible in # 22 to the left of the main bastion, and now the earthquake has damaged it further causing the top cupola to be removed.


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© Randolph Langenbach

M-Arch (Harvard), Dipl.Conservation (York, England)

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