Naulakha Palace of Gondal – A Jewel of Saurashtra

Early 7th century AD – the desert state of Rajasthan was perhaps no different from today as per its artistic life was concerned. There were scores of communities, who flourished in its sanddunes through their innovations in music, art and architecture. One of them was the Kadia Kshatriyas. The community was known for its master craftsman skill in constructing temples, forts and palaces.

But Rajasthan also had harsh climate often forcing its inhabitants to migrate. The Kadia Kshatriyas were also forced to move to Saurashtra in the 7th century AD. In Saurashtra they settled in 36 villages. Some of them also moved to Kutch and settled in the village Dhaneti.

Gradually, the Kadia Kshatriyas made Sauarashtra and Kutch as their innovation labs for making sculptures and building forts and palaces. They were an enterprising community. The vast sea trade allured them to venture into the Arabic Peninsula, the Persian Gulf and East Africa. Subsequently, with the arrival of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British, they also expanded their ventures deep into the European nations.

Through these ventures they refined their skills and from time to time brought in new ideas, fusing their own style with the art and architecture of the western world. They became experts also in carving of doors, windows, pillars and statues of gods.

Their expertises were drawing attention of the newly emerging kingdoms throughout Saurashtra and Kutch, who patronised their talent. They were invited to erect their palaces, forts and temples. One such kingdom was Gondal, one of the eight first princely states of Kathiawar Presidency during Bombay Presidency. The state however was established much earlier in 1634 AD by Thakore Shri Kumbhoji I Meramanji from Jadeja Dynasty.

Located on the bank of Gondali River, the town of Gondal had been a major centre of politics and social reforms in the British Era. Most of its credibility goes to Sri Bhagwant Sinhji who ruled in the first half of the 20th century. He was known for various tax returns, education for women and removing the purdah tradition.

But during its foundation age, its erstwhile rulers had built several palaces and forts, the most prominent being the Naulakha Palace, an epitome of Kadia Kshatriya creativity. The palace dates back to the 17th century and located in the centre of the town, besides the river Gondali. It soars up to the height of 30 m from the river bed. Uniquely designed with carved arches, striking balconies, impressive courtyards and gorgeous spiral staircases, the palace also offers fusion of local and western art and architecture. A striking art is the Corinth leafs and columns combined with Indian elements like peacock, local women, guards in Kathiawari gesture, Ganesha, Rajput Jharokas and pilaster.

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The palace is a private property and houses four museums showcasing a range of horse carriages of late 19th and early 20th centuries, personal belonging of the royal family and the gifts received by them from various visiting dignitaries.

The palace can be approached through a massive gateway and a clock tower. It has a massive Durbar hall too.

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