The owners of the palaces of Gondal are members of the Jadeja Rajput clan, descendants of Lord Krishna and the moon God, who ruled the princely stats of Kutch, Jamnagar (Nawanagar), Rajkot (Sardhar), Morbi and Gondal for more than 300 years. But it was the late-19th and early-20th century under Maharjah Bhagwat Sinhji that saw Gondal grows into one of the most progressive princely states of the region with an efficient system of a taxless economy.
Gondal was also a progressive state where women were concerned - Bhagwat Sinhji's rejected the Rajput system of 'Purdah', made education compulsory for girls in his realm and did not make 'Zananas' (women's wing) in his palaces. The present owner of the palaces of Gondal is the great - grandson of Maharahah Bhagwat Sinhji
Even today, Gondal is a picturesque town with plenty of gracious architecture, wide tree lined roads ad European lampposts. Here One can enjoy a real royal holiday experience in the renovated heritage hotels - swim, play squash, watch scores of coloruful birds, take a boat ride, enjoy continental food from colonial period recipes, stroll in the orchards, shop in the silver bazaar, relax on the lawns, relish the sunset at Veri Lake, witness traditional folk dances of Gujarat, and see glorious architecture and Vintage cars.
Attractions Within The Palace Complex
The Riverside Palace (Heritage Hotel):
Built in 1875 AD by Maharajah Bhagwat Sinhji for his son, Yuvraj Bhojraji, the Riverside Palace is set in lawns and gardens besides the river Gondali. The 11 double bedrooms are spacious, high ceilinged and lavishly appointed with elegant period furniture, framed paintings and western style bathrooms. There are 2 marvelously appointed sitting arrangements - the living room furnished in typical colonial style with chandelier, antique wooden furniture and sofas, and the Indian room decorated with beadwork, brass ware and paintings, and many pleasant sit-outs on the terrace and galleries overlooking either the river or the garden.
Orchard Palace (Heritage Hotel):
Located in a huge complex of fruit orchards, lawns and gardens, the Orchard palace is a wing of the Huzoor palace (the present royal residence) where the ruling family of Gondla entertained personal guests including relatives from other princely states of Gujarat. The 7 doubles are beautifully furnished and have modern tilled bathrooms with western toilet fixtures. The 'room of miniatures' is a splendid sitting room with a collection of miniature paintings, brass and antique furniture.
The oldest extant palace in Gondal, the 17th Century Naulakha palace is a festival of stone carvings with exquisite Jarokha balconies, a fabulous pillared stud courtyard, delicately carved arches and a unique spiral staircase. The large chandelier lit 'Darbarhall' has stuffed panthers, gilt wooden furniture and antique mirrors. The private palace museum has an impressive display of silver caskets which carried messages and gifts for Maharajah Bhagwat Sinhji on hills silver jubilee as ruler of Gondal, one of the many golden caskets received by him on his 50th anniversary, the weighing scales on which he was measured against silver and gold on the respective anniversaries, and princely relics.
The Royal Garages, Carriages And Salons
The royal garages, have an extensive collection of Vintage and classic cars including a 1910 New engine, a Delage and a Daimler from the 1920s, a 1935 Mercedes, 1935 Packard 2 door Convertible, 1941 and 1947 Cadillac, 1955 Cadillac Limousine, sports cars from the 1950s and '60s like the Mercedes 300 SL, Jaguar XK 150 and Chevrolet Camaro, numerous imposing American cars of the 1940s and '50s, a fleet of 4 wheel drive vehicles from the WW-2 and post war period, and some contemporary sports cars. Most of these cars are restored and some bear the original Gondal state number plates. There are plans to restore a selection from the extensive collection of horse drawn carriages, which includes Victorian showpieces and a Shetland pony carriage.
The 2 rail salon coaches of the Gondal royal family have now been renovated to offer accommodations from October 1997. The salons comprise a suite of dinning room, bedroom and bathroom, with restored furniture from the times when they were in use as royal rail carriages. Located in the palace orchards, they offer a novel experience for honeymoon couples wanting privacy and locomotive enthusiasts.
Bird Watching In Gondal
Gondal is a paradise for birdwatchers, Peacocks, Tree Pies, Cuckoos, Sun Birds, Bee Eaters, Peafowl and other birds abound in the Lime and Chickoo groves of the Orchard Palace, and the Owlets, Ibises, Waterhen Egrets, Herons, Waders, Brahminy Kites and Vultures can be seen from the river side palace itself.
Veri lake attracts Demmosile and common Eastern Cranes, Rosy Pelicans, Flamingows, Spoonbills, black, white and glossy Ibises, myriad species of Ducks and many kinds of wading birds, often in flocks of over 1,000 each. The royal grasslands are populated by Cat, Sandgrouse, Great Horned Owl, Grey and Painted Francolin Partridge, Quails, Larks, Warblers and Pipits. Harriers roost here in winter ad Floricans nest in monsoons.
Facilities For Visitors
Jeep for game viewing at the grasslands and oats for bird watching at the lake can be provided to the visitors. Bird watching camps at both sites are also planned.
The palace management also provides long distance excursions for mammal-and-bird watching at Hingolgadh sanctuary, Blackbuck viewing at Botad, Lion Safari at Gir and bird viewing at other lakes of Rajkot district.
SIGHTSEEING IN GONDAL
Outside the precincts of the royal properties too Gondal has much to offer by way of sightseeing.
The Bhuvaneshwari Ayurvedic Pharmacy & Stud Farm
The Bhuvaneshwari Ayurvedic Pharmacy still takes traditional herbal medicines according to ancient principles. The Bhuvaneshwari stud farm has remarkable specimens of Kathiawadi Horses, Gir cattle and other ethnic breeds of livestock, which have won prestigious awards at national level and prizes at local horse and cattle shows.
Temple Of Swaminarayan
The Swaminaranyan temple has an awesome aura of devotion and some lovely wall murals of the various Swamis who preached this faith.
The Sangram Sinhji High School
The Sangram Sinhji High School is a model of Eton in Gondal, with some fabulous Gothic architecture, Italian marble floors, old European Laboratory equipment, an antique clock tower and intricate wooden ceilings. Spinning, weaving, brass boxes, silver smithing, beadwork, woodcarving, etc. are some crafts of Gondal.
Gondal is the staging post for many interesting day excursions, Junagadh, 60-km south of Gondal, is one of India's most historic cities, known for it's 3rd century BC Ashoka rock eddicts, magnificent Uparkot fortress, splendid royal mausoleums, Darbarhall Palace museum, Junagadh museum, and Sakkrbah zoo.
The 3,660 ft high Girnar peak has exquisite 12th century Jain temples on the summit and holy Hindu temples in the foothills.
Dhoraji, which was the second most important city of Gondal state, has a Darbargadh Palace, which is a fabulous maze of traceries and sandstone sculpture.
The textile town of Jetpur, 30-km from Gondal is known for its screen-printing, block printing and yarn dyeing workshops.
Rajkot, 40-km form Gondal, has the fascinating Watson museum, Mahatma Gandhi's old residence and handicrafts including silver and textiles.
Gondal is 40-kms for Rajkot, which receives regular flights and trains from Bombay. Ahmedabad situated 250-kms from Gondal is well connected to most of the important regional capitals of India by air and rail.
FOR RESERVATIONS: Manager, The Palace, Gondal