It is the 131st birth anniversary of one of the leading lights of the Indian princely order. Born on 30th January 1890, Maharaja Vijaysinhji ruled the 4,000 square kilometres State in Gujarat from 1915 till merger with the Indian Union in 1948. A benevolent ruler who carried out far-reaching benevolent reformsand huge development of infrastructure for the benefit of his people, he was a man of great taste, be it architecture and the arts or exquisite cars and thoroughbred horses.
He began his reign with the construction of a large civil hospital with the most up-to-date facilities and the expansion of the Rajpipla State Railway, which had been commissioned in the late 19th century by his father Maharana Chhatrasinhji.
Maharaja Vijaysinhji continued the development of infrastructure by settling up a power house and water works supplying electricity and water to the capital, Nandod (New Rajpipla). He laid out a market, in accordance with contemporary town planning methods. Overlooking the bazaar, on a hillock, he built a grand high school, and nearby an enchanting public garden.
While on the one hand, Maharaja Vijaysinhji commissioned the Rajpipla Gymkhana Club and polo ground, he had the dhaba cricket ground laid out for sports like cricket, football and hockey. Sports were made compulsory for youngsters.
The aerodrome that Maharaja Vijaysinhji set up became defunct after merger. Now, with the coming of the Statue of Unity in the vicinity, it is being revived.
Maharaja Vijaysinhji took the architectural beauty of Rajpipla to the pinnacle by building the Hanumanteshwar Castle on the banks of the Narmada, the Sommerville Guest House, and finally the magnificent Indrajit-Padmini Mahal (Vadia Palace).
The Maharaja set up the Rajpipla Chitrashala, which housed a collection of some of the finest paintings and also trained budding artists.
Among his collection of cars were marquee brands like Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Hispano-Suiza among other top makes, he also owned some unusual ones ones such as Graef & Stift and Auto Carrier (AC).
Horses were his passion, and Maharaja Vijaysinhji became one of the most famous racehorse owners of his time. His thoroughbreds won most of the prestigious races in India, the United Kingdom and Europe, the crowning glory being the blue riband of the turf, the Epsom Derby of England in 1934.
When it was time for merger in 1948, the Ministry of States, Government of India, decided that the meetings of the rulers of the Gujarat States would be held, not at the Bombay Secretariat, but at Rajpipla House, Maharaja Vijaysinhji’s seaside mansion ‘Palm Beach’ on Nepeansea Road. Maharaja Vijaysinhji chaired these meetings and after three days announced the decision of the Gujarat rulers to merge their States with the Union of India. He read out a statement on behalf of his fellow rulers, and thus the curtain came down on an epoch, never to return again.
Today, Maharaja Vijaysinhji is still revered at his magnificent equestrian statue at one of the entrances to Rajpipla town.