BARODA The name "Baroda" derives from the older "Vatapadraka," literally, "a dwelling by the banyan." Situated today at the division of the Bombay-Delhi and Bombay-Ahmedabad railway lines (244 mi., or 392 km, north of Mumbai and 62 mi., or 100 km, southeast of Ahmedabad), Baroda (present-day Vadodara) first gained its prominence in the region in the eighteenth century. It was not until the reign of its fourteenth ruler, Sayajirao Gaekwad III (r. 1881–1939), however, that the city witnessed a large-scale building effort, growing to its full urban character in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was during those six decades that several large-scale building complexes were erected in Baroda: palaces, including the sprawling Laxmi Villas Palace, Baroda College and Kalabhavan (an art school), the Nyaya and other temples, the Mandavi tower, parks and gates, and bridges across the Vishwamitri River.
The Gaekwads trace their origin to Poona (Pune) to a Maratha Kshatriya clan by the name of Matre, which was corrupted to Mantri, meaning "minister." Legend has it that in the seventeenth century a prosperous farmer, Nadaji, became a militant protector of cows, gaining the nickname gae-kaiwar (one who protects cows). The label stuck to the family and was simplified into Gaekwad. It was Pilaji Gaekwad who "rescued" Baroda from the clutches of an oppressive Mughal governor in 1725 and restored order. Pilaji is believed to have lost his life fighting both the Mughals and the peshwa (the Maratha prime minister, who had his power base in Poona) to defend Gujarat against exploitation by these outsiders.
It was not uncommon for Indian rulers and princes to undertake public works projects, and even to develop an abiding interest in city beautification, at least in their capitals. The Mughal passion for parks, gardens, and lakes had survived into the British period, and it received a fresh impetus from Ebenezer Howard's "Garden City" movement, which in late-nineteenth-century England aimed at intermarrying town and country. Such urban plans and new architectural designs were not lost on the Anglophile Indian rulers, and they did not hesitate to imitate them in their own territories.
Sayajirao Gaekwad (also spelled Gaikwad or Gaekwar) was born into a modest peasant branch of the Gaekwad family in Kavlana village, some 300 miles (483 km) from Baroda in 1853. In May 1875, at the age of thirteen, Matushri Jamnabai Saheb, widow of the late Khanderao Gaekwad, adopted Sayajirao, changing his life from that of a farmhand into that of a crown prince.
One of the duties of the British Resident of an Indian princely state was to protect British interests; what better way to ensure them than to provide an English education to the local rulers? Sayajirao's English biographers, Stanley Rice and Edward St. Clair Weeden, confirm the young prince's insatiable appetite for books and new ideas. His Indian teachers (including Diwan Sir T. Madhav Rao and the Parsi Dadabhai Naroji, who later became the first Indian elected to the British Parliament and served three times as president of the Indian National Congress, earning the sobriquet "Grand Old Man" of Indian nationalism) and his English teachers (including F. A. H. Elliot) instilled a love for literature and an appreciation for the arts in the young prince. Another influence on Sayajirao was Maharaja Chamarajendra Wodeyar (r. 1863–1894) of Mysore. In early 1876, the princes met in Bombay (present-day Mumbai) on the occasion of the visit of Edward, the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria's eldest son, who would succeed her as Edward VII. The Wodeyars, with the assistance of able diwans (ministers) who recruited European architects and planners, contributed richly to the urbanization of Mysore and, by example, to that of Baroda.
Sayajirao's travels to Europe and the United States in 1906 and 1910 deepened his interest in education and architecture. On his first visit to the United States in 1906 he met Booker T. Washington, the African American social reformer who had risen from slavery to complete his education at the Hampton Institute, Virginia, later founding the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. On both his visits to the United States, Sayajirao traveled extensively throughout the country, visiting Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and San Francisco, frequenting museums, art galleries, and libraries. On a visit to Europe in 1923, Sayajirao met King Victor Emmanuel and Benito Mussolini. Sayajirao was impressed by Italy's recovery after World War I and by Rome's postwar buildings, stadiums, parks, and wide roads.
These exposures to America and Europe left Sayajirao with the conviction that education was the basis of all reform; his belief prompted him to introduce free compulsory primary education and a state-supported free public library system in Baroda. He even committed state support for the promotion of industry, albeit with limited success. Sayajirao recruited British engineers R. F. Chisolm and Major R. N. Mant as state architects to implement his architectural vision, and appointed a custodian for the upkeep of his capital's public buildings. Drawing on Saracenic sources (domes; chhatris, or umbrellas; towers; and courtyards) and on classical schemes, they produced unusually diverse architectural forms, spaces, scales, and imagery. Their work included the Laxmi Villas Palace, Kamati (Committee) Bagh, and the Residency (home of the British Resident). Chisolm and Mant may have influenced the Indo-Saracenic vocabulary that Edward Lutyens later employed in his architecture in New Delhi. In the belief that India could not make progress without industrial development, Sayajirao approved the use, wherever possible, of new industrial materials such as steel and glass, in place of the old brick and mortar.
The modernization and urbanization of Baroda was put on firmer ground with the founding of Baroda College and the art school Kalabhavan, which heavily emphasized engineering and architecture while teaching art, representing a synthesis of ideas borrowed from America's Tuskegee Institute and Europe's Staatliches Bauhaus. Western ideas continued to influence Baroda even after Sayajirao. In 1941, Herman Goetz, a German émigré, took over the directorship of the Baroda Museum. Goetz supported contemporary Indian art and used the museum to promote visual arts education in Baroda. The Maharaja Fatesinghrao Museum was founded in 1961, the year that Gujarat state was created, in the Laxmi Villas Palace complex. By any measure, Baroda's credentials for becoming the capital of Gujarat in the 1960s were impressive, given its museums, parks, playgrounds, colleges, temples, hospitals, industry (albeit nascent), progressive policies, and cosmopolitan population. However, Baroda's princely heritage and the Gaekwads' Maratha origins prevented the city from being chosen as a state capital in democratic India.
Erdman, Howard L. Political Attitudes of Indian Industry: A Case Study of the Baroda Business Elite. London: Athlone Press, 1971.
Gaekwad, Fatesinhrao P. Sayajirao of Baroda: The Prince and the Man. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1989.
Rice, Stanley. Life of Sayajirao III, Maharaja of Baroda. 2 vols. London: Oxford University Press, 1913.
Weeden, Edward St. Clair. A Year with the Gaekwar of Baroda. Boston: Dana Estes, 1913.
"Baroda." Encyclopedia of India. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 20, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/baroda
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