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Darbargadh

દરબારગઢ

Etymology

"Gadh," originating from the Sanskrit word "griha," denotes a fortified city. Even after the family's departure, it continued to serve as a venue for entertaining guests and hosting political meetings. Later, it was transformed into Darbar Bank, symbolizing the kingdom's prosperity, hence earning the name Darbargadh.

Significant History

Consisting of two gates, the eastern (Janana; women’s wing) and the western (Mardana; men’s wing), the Bhavnagar Darbargadh was centrally located and was built by local artisans during the early 1800’s during the reign of Vijaysinhji. During Vijaysinghji's time, he and his twenty wives resided here. However, when Takhatsinhji took over in the late 1800s, he decided to relocate to Motibag Palace, as this part of Bhavnagar had become the city's focal point and was thriving economically. The Darbargadh was not constructed all at once; it was built gradually over the years as the family grew and the kingdom prospered. The grandeur of Darbargadh epitomized the greatness and prosperity of the kingdom. Initially, atop the Darbargadh, there stood a magnificent peacock crafted from solid gold, which was the focal point of the palace. However, it was later removed when half of the Darbargadh (the western side) was leased out to a bank for a mere 1 rupee. This occurred during Krishnakumar Singhji's era when it became the Darbari Bank. Now, of course, it is the State Bank of India (SBI).

 

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Architecture and design 

The eastern gate was beautifully carved and these carvings still draw the attention of passerbys. 

The carvings include - 

  1. Apsaras - beautiful, supernatural female beings. They are youthful and elegant, and superb in the art of dancing. They are often wives of the Gandharvas, the court musicians of Indra. They dance to the music made by the Gandharvas, usually in the palaces of the gods, entertain and sometimes seduce gods and men. As ethereal beings who inhabit the skies, and are often depicted taking flight, or at service of a god, they may be compared to angels. Apsaras are sometimes compared to the Muses of Ancient Greece and this influence of European carvings can be seen here. They are also a symbol of fertility) 

  2. Toran - The architectural gateways built in front of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples and stupas are called torana, as are the wooden carved or constructed arch-like forms placed at strategic road crossings in rural areas, which are dedicated to deities to gain their protection. This one with elephants represents strength, protection, wisdom and good luck with the elephant being a symbol of positivity for any home till date. 

3. Krishna and his cow - Krishna the eighth avatar of Vishnu, God of protection, compassion and love. The meaning of the cows besides being the friends of Krishna is how integral they were and are with agriculture and prosperity. The bulls and oxen plough the fields, and cows give milk. 

4. A Dvarapala, (gate protector)  is often portrayed as a warrior or fearsome giant, usually armed with a weapon. The dvarapala is a common architectural element in Hinduism and later buddhism and jainism. Their origin is usually in tutelary deities like the Yakshas and Acalas. They have been placed outside temples and palaces for centuries now to stand as protectors. 

5. British royal emblem - the british emblem is seen on the top corners of both sides of the entrance gates. This emblem is called the royal coat of arms and is technically only used by the King of England in present times. The British government also uses it for formal documents. This depicts a lion and a unicorn. Kings believed that the mystical unicorn was the most powerful creature, the best representation of power. The lion is England and the unicorn is Scotland. The reason for having this carved at the entrance was a testimony to the good relationships between the Bhavnagar kingdom and the British monarchy. 

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The interior of the eastern side of Darbargadh is reminiscent of the earlier Sihor Darbargadh, featuring stairs on both sides arranged in a triangular formation. Even today, the same intricately carved windows and doors remain. However, old photographs reveal that a beautiful tree, likely where the women of the royal household relaxed, was cut down at some point. Additionally, other wooden works were removed when the eastern side was converted into Hotel Vrindavaan after India's independence.

 

There is a lack of information boards, aside from a small one from the State government, providing accurate and detailed information about this gate. The western gate is often overlooked, as people usually visit for banking purposes. The Indo-Saracenic architecture and elements found here are also seen in many other structures in Bhavnagar, such as the motifs in Nilambag Palace and the architecture of Alfred High School. This style gained popularity in British India from the 1790s, with Chepauk Palace, the residence of the Nawab of Arcot, being one of the earliest examples. 

 

Given that this style blends elements from Indo-Islamic architecture as well as Western and European art, it's not surprising that Bhavnagar state engineer Simms continued to adopt it even in the late 1800s for structures like Alfred High School.

 

On the western side, there are beautiful columns on the first floor, visible only after entering the gates of Darbargadh. These columns are inspired by Roman Villas. Passersby on the western side can admire beautiful jharokhas, columns, and long pillars on the first floor, all with intricate detailing. The windows and barricades of the western gate exhibit detailed workmanship in the form of jaalis, reflecting the Indo-Islamic influence of Indo-Saracenic architecture. The old gate is still there, adorned with the Bhavnagar state symbol.

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