Immediately on his accession in 1915, Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla began construction of a large civil hospital, and a railway bridge over River Karjan and new terminus right at the edge of the capital town. The railway bridge and station were inaugurated in 1917, and the hospital in 1919.
Infrastructure was always on top of the Maharaja’s mind, and he commissioned a power house and water works.
He then turned his attention to education, and built a stately high school in the early 1930s on a hillock overlooking the new main bazaar that he had laid out in line with contemporary town planning methods. Sports were made compulsory for youngsters and the dhaba ground was laid out for cricket, hockey and football. On the other hand, the Rajpipla Gymkhana and polo ground were set up, along with a public garden for leisure activities of the people. The Rajpipla Chitrashala not only housed a fine collection of art but also trained budding artists.
Maharaja Vijaysinhji was a horseman to the core. Polo was played every evening in Rajpipla during the winter, and over the years he became a world-famous racehorse owner. His horses won several prestigious races in India, United Kingdom and Europe. He clinched a hat-trick of Derbys, being victorious in the Indian Derby in 1919, Irish Derby in 1926 and reached the pinnacle in 1934 when his Windsor Lad triumphed in the blue riband of the turf, the Epsom Derby of England.
While he carried out several benevolent reforms for the benefit of every section of society, his taste and sophistication were reflected in the architectural marvels that he created, principally the Hanumanteshwar Castle on the banks of River Narmada, Sommerville European Guest House and the best of them all, Indrajit-Padmini Mahal also known as Vadia Palace, dubbed in its heyday as ‘The Taj of Gujarat’.
The aerodrome that he laid out is now being revived with the coming of the Statue of Unity and the growing importance of Rajpipla.
Post independence of India came the question of merger of princely States. In 1948, Mr. V.P. Menon, Secretary in the Ministry of States under Sardar Patel, approached Maharaja Vijaysinhji to convene meetings at his seaside home ‘Palm Beach’ on Nepeansea Road, Bombay, with his fellow rulers of Gujarat and convince them to merge their States with the Union of India. Maharaja Vijaysinhji chaired meetings for three consecutive days which went into the late hours, at the end of which he read out a statement on behalf of the rulers of Gujarat announcing their decision to merge their States with the mother country.
He then sailed for England where he had a property ‘The Manor’ at Old Windsor, after handing over the administration of his beloved Rajpipla State to the praja mandal or people’s group for the last few months till it was taken over by the administrator appointed by the government. Maharaja Vijaysinhji was a multi-faceted personality, but three things that he will always be remembered for are (a) his great Epsom Derby triumph, still the only Indian owner to win this coveted race; (b) the magnificent Indrajit-Padmini Mahal; and (c) his magnanimous role in the merger of Gujarat States with the Union of India. He left a mark that will not be forgotten for a long, long time.