Maharao Pragmalji-III, the head of the Jadeja clan of Kutch, lived up to his ancestors’ lavish reputation on his wife’s 75th birthday. He celebrated the platinum jubilee of his Maharani, Pritidevi, a former Tripura princess, by distributing alms worth Rs 20 lakh among the needy and feeding fodder to cattle, a tradition followed by ancient Indian kings on such occasions.
The drought and famine conditions prevailing in Kutch this year made the act more than usually fitting.
Maharao Pragmalji-III (right) with Maharani Pritidevi doing Aarti at the Ashapura Temple
Pragmalji made his Maharani’s 75th birthday more special by opening the restored Darbar hall of the majestic Pragmahal Palace.
India’s first neo-Gothic structure is marked by a massive cloak tower and Arraish and Stucco carvings and built by Maharao’s ancestor and namesake Pragmalji- II in 1865.
The palace was severely damaged in the 2001 Kutch earthquake. The couple have undertaken the restoration of the palace at a personal cost of Rs 5 crore. They have chosen to restore the Pragmahal Palace, a trust property where they are never going to live, instead of renovating their private residence, Ranjit Vilas Palace.
"We chose Pragmahal because it has more heritage value than Ranjit Vilas. And what’s so great about we using our private funds for it? After all the palace was built by my ancestors," Pragmalji said.
The Darbar hall of the Pragmahal Palace, which was restored by Maharao Pragmalji-III of Kutch at a cost of Rs5 crore on his queen’s 75th birthday
Members of the royal families of Sirohi, Gondal, Baria, Santrampur, Sitamau, Samode and as far as Kawardha in Chhattisgarh and Panna and Chhattarpur in Bundelkhand, among others, were present on the occasion.
Maharao Raguvirsinhji of Sirohi said: "Pragmalji’s gracious and visionary act can inspire the entire royalty of India when it comes to their contribution to preserving our heritage." Pushpdan Gadhvi, a former Lok Sabha member whose father was the royal poet of Kutch in the princely days, said: "Kutch has had a unique tradition marked by four features - endurance, renunciation, self-control and balance. The royal couple’s act of celebrating the birthday in this manner bears the stamp of these high Kutchi traits."
The celebrations signified one more thing - the king’s love for the queen, cemented further by the fact that they are a childless couple. Krutharthsih Jadeja, an aide of Pragmalji, said: "The marriage of the two has been the ultimate bonding between water-plenty far east (Tripura) with water-scarce far west (Kutch). Educated at Loreto Convent in Shillong before getting married to Maharaosaheb at a tender age, Maharanisaheb has shown great capacity to adjust. This is a very befitting tribute to her by Maharaosaheb."
Around 80 artisans worked for one year to restore the 90x40 ft darbal hall. About Rs 1.2 crore of the Rs 5 crore restoration budget has been spent on the darbar hall alone. The reverence for the Maharao on the occasion was too pronounced to escape attention as pagriclad locals touched his feet and extolled their virtues at a function to honour the couple outside the palace.
The grateful husband released on the occasion a memorable photo biography of his wife - The last Maharani of Legendary Kutch.
Courtesy: Mail Online India