A rough timeline of the 80's and 90's in Baroda under Sayaji

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`6th January 1881 married Lakshmibai renamed Chimnabai after marriage. Lakshmibai was the daughter of Haibatrao Mohite from Tanjore. Dewan T. Madhav Rao himself from Tanjore, helped finalise the match.

“ the printed programme of entertainments handed out the time makies illuminating reading. They include equestrain displays and horse racing; athlectics, wrestling matches and feats of strength; performances by trained animals and birds; plays and dances by professional artists; exhibitions of swordsmanship and spear throwing; exhibitions of handicrafts, of agricultural produce and a competition for ploughing; military parades, tatoosan elephant procession; prizes for school children; durbars, firework displays, shooting and hunting excursions; feasts for the wedding guests, for the army, for the entire town and for European guests; what is described as a ‘ball for the sahibs’, and a public performance by that all-time great among tight-rope walkers, Charles Blondin, who had been especially brought over from England. Squeezed among these festivities were the actual ceremonies connected with the wedding, and they went on for five days. On January 12th, the Resident, Melville, also laid the foundation stone for the new town residence of the Gaekwads, a palace-to-be which was already given a name which unambiguously underlines the mood of the time: Laxmi Vilas, or the ‘Abode of the Goddess of Wealth’.

Laxmi Vilas took ten years to build and cost ten million rupees.”

Excerpted from Fatehsinghrao Gaekwad’s  ‘Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda’ 

1881 Sayaji Rao’s first daughter Bajubai is born.

December 28 1881 investiture took place, with almost the same programme of entertainments as the wedding. The ceremony consisted of presentation of robes to Sayajirao on behalf of the British Government, placing him on his ancestral gadi, or throne and proclaiming him a ruler.

“A photograph of Sayajirao at his investiture shows a trim young man with cool dark eyes and a confident expression, sporting a moustache and side burns that look oddly contemporary. He wears a somewhat dark velvet suit with gold cuffs and collar almost like the full dress uniform of a cavalry regiment, but over the collar are draped rown upon rows of implausibly large diamonds. On the pagree, or the ready tied turban, there is a jeweled turban clasp, called the shirpech which the Marathas traditionally regarded as a symbol of royalty.

In this runout he was led by the hand of Sir James Fergusson and made to sit on his right on a silver couch kept on a raised platform. Fergusson then presented the robes, and proceeded to read out the Viceroy’s message. “Dignified…but perilously close to the pompous,” comments Sir Stanley Rice. After that Sayajirao made his own speech of thanks, no doubt written by Madhav Rao and carefully rehearsed. A salute of twenty-one guns was fired and the British regiment and the Baroda troops fired a feu-de-joie.

And so the peasant boy who had become a Maharaja at twelve, became in his nineteenth year a full fledged ruler to be henceforward known by his full title: His Highness Sayajirao Gaekwad 111, Sena Khas Khel, Shamsher Bahadur, Farzand-i-khas-i-Inglishia, Maharaja of Baroda.

Only after all the ceremonies were over and the guests and deputations had departed was Sayajirao informed that his presence was desired at the Residency. And here, during this visit the newly arrived AGG, Colonel Waterfield revealed that “there were certain matters connected with his administration that he would be expected to refrain from interfering for another two years.”

It was almost as thought Colonel Waterfield was administering by proxy a Viceregial reprimand. Even though the curbs that the Government had thought fit to impose on Sayajirao were pretty innocuous, the manner in which they were revealed to him was calculated to drive home the subordinate relationship in which the Indian princes stood with the Raj. “

Excerpted from Fatehsinghrao Gaekwad’s ‘Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda’

1882 second daugheter Putlabai born the Maharaja still worked from Baroda, taking charge of the administration henceforth looked after mostly by Madhav Rao.

He reduced the huge retinue of servants and companions- the Mankaris- who were supposed to accompany him and attend to him at all times. Took control of the Khangi, or household departnemtn.

1882- Madhav Rao and Sayaji Rao in conflict over the capital punishment in a certain case where a man had killed a boy for the ornaments he had worn. Sayajirao upheld capital punishment over Mahdhavrao’s commuting it to a life sentence.

Sayaji now left on a tour of his state, a group of scattered bits of land peppered all over the map of Gujarat and Kathiawad. D.N.Apte, in his Marathi biography of the majaraja, writes “The camp… was like a bustling township, with a population of 2,637, to say nothing of 910 animals”. Everything that a Maharaja might conceivably demand was taken on a tour, and Sayajirao himself was astonished to discover on this tour a very large tent that housed thousands of pairs of shoes of all types, Hindu, Mulsim and European, that had been brought for his use ever since he had come to Baroda as a boy of twelve!

1883- Fathesinghrao was born. He was the first born direct-heir born to the throne of the Gaekwads in four generations. Sugar was distributed to the people of the capital by courtiers riding on the backs of elephants and saris were distributed to every woman who came and asked for one at the palace gate. The festivities lasted a month.

Sayajirao continued the tour of his state during spring, so that he did not travel only in the winters, ie, once a year. He sent his brother, Sampatrao, with an entourage, to England to continue his further studies. December 1884- started his tour. 8th January 1885- ceremony performed to make a reservoir twelve miles from the city. “A river and a watercourse were to be dammed to create a reservoir twelve miles away from the city, and the water brought in by pipes”. A “bright local engineer” Jagannath Sadashiv had thought up this scheme.

Sayaji’s second daughter Putlabai died, when the palanquin handle carrying her broke. The Maharani died soon after, on May 7, 1885, it was discovered soon before her death that she was in an advanced state of tuberculosis.

Maharaja began suffering from insomnia which would last through his life.

September 1,1885- Sayajirao went to Poona. ‘he had a special affinity for the intellectuals of Poona whom the British Government regarded as seditionists”.

December 1885- married Gajrabai, from Dewas, daughter of Bajirao Amritrao Ghatge Sarjerao, populary known as Mamasaheb. She was given the name of Chimnabai.

Chimnabai, fourteen, was given intensive private tuitions.

Sayaji worked on retrieving the barkhali lands- lands ‘bestowed’ by noblemen, or officials- to temples, trusts, mosques, holy men- one tenth of holdings of state- back to a :”uniform system of tenure”. It took him eight years to do this.

Travels by the first time by boat on the ‘Cutch’ to Bombay and Goa.

24th May- Victoria’s birthday- important day for the British Raj officials. 27th may, Maharaja’s acsesion day, he was out of town and only returning by the 27th. The new british AGG Colonel Berkely, complained formally to the Dewan that he seemed to be deliberately avoiding being in Baroda for the queen’s birthday. Sayaji reassured him and cut short his visit to Umarth by three days and hurried back.

Maharaja began- Separating executive( revenue officials) from the judiciary( magistrates)/ earlier the revenue officials would sit as magistrates also. High court established in Baroda and many smaller towns of the state got lower courts.

Medical facitlities, easy loans to farmers, public sanitation got a separate department, steps towards industrialization. A sugar factory and cotton mill already existed. Railway line got branches, towns were connected by roads. New schools, special schools for girls, for people from lower castes, for the Bhils, a special school with a hostel and a model farm for vocational training.

For several years, purdah was made to serve as a handy excuse to wriggle out of the tyranny of the ritual of the Maharani calling on the wives of Viceroys and Governors whenever they happened to visit Baroda, or even when the Maharani happened to be in the same town as them. Even among the males, the calling was seen as something of a ordeal, stiff, formal, and crackling with atmosphere. But, over the years, the drill of who was to call upon whom and walk how many paces to receive him and who sat upon whose left, had been laid down and the Princes trained to observe it without demur. But initially, largely because of the purdah and the language barrier, there had been no official intercourse among the ladies of the two sides. When,however some of the Maharanis had taught themselves English and to eat with their knives and forks instead of with their fingers and thus become ‘enlightened’ they had begun to meet Englishwomen socially.

… the wives of the Viceroys and Governors, ( and even AGG’s and District Collectors in their sphere) began to insist that they should treat them with the exact degree of respect to which their husbands were entitled from the Maharajas. …. Often the wives of officials were more jealous of protocol than were their husbands and incidents were frequent. In order to eliminate this particulary sensitive area of friction ( Sayaji Rao stopped the custom of ladies visiting each other in Baroda, on grounds of Purdah).

This served to lessen such sensitive incidents and also to propitiate more orthodox members of the Baroda aristocracy.

It was only in 1914, after ten trips to Europe’ that Chimnabai appeared without a veil in a public function in Baroda. She was in her mid forties and already a grandmother.

1886. Maharah received the Star of India (K.S.C.I.) he made a sea trip to Ceylon, crossing the kaala paani for a second time. Returned to heat, left for Mahabaleshwar, then thought of moving to Ooty. A British doctor said there was nothing particulary wrong with the Maharaj, and advised a trip to Europe. Ooty was cancelled and plans were made for Europe.

They left on the 31st of may from Bombay, with an entourage of fifty five , and two cows ( for fresh milk). The cows died mid route.

Returned in February of 1887. Electric bells put in palace. Lifts. Raods seen in Europe to be tried in Baroda. Wants gas and electricity for the city, asks for proposals. “Cassell’s dictionary of Cookery” ordered to be translated into Marathi. And a long list of books purchased for the city library. Instructions for collecting rare Sanskrit manuscripts, for improving the performance of the sugar factory and the cotton mill, for the installation of machinery for calico printing.

He stays in Baroda only long enough to perform the prayaschittya or the religious penace for having crossed the Black Water. The cost of the pooja etc. came to Rs. 27,000.

Eight days after arrival, he left for Ooty.

Good delegation of powers back home, the administration continued to run smoothly.

May 12th, 1887- Jaisinghrao born.

Sayaji left for four months for the health resorts in Switzerland. Without his wife, with a smaller entourage- with his friend and teacher Elliot- of the Indian Civil Service. When Elliot was now allowed to go officially by the authorities, he asked him to take leave and come. The British took umbrage at this though they could not stop Elliot from taking leave.

1889- Sayaji’s yacht- Zingara, bought and refitted for 10,000 pounds approx. sailed in Bombay. It contained a library of four thousand beatufiully bound books, which he had bought in England. 1889 Elliot’s promotion withheld.

March 1890 Prince of Wales to pays a days visit to Baroda. 31st July 1890- a second son, Shivajirao, born. The Ajwa reservoir approaching completion. Epidemic of fever in Baroda in the rainy season December Sayaji rao diagnosed with ‘double pneumonia’ March- on doctors advice, goes to Mahabaleshwar Early September returns to Baroda, delighted to see the Ajwa reservoir almost full.

19th February 1891. Indira born 29th March 1891: the Ajwa reservoir is declared open in a grand ceremony. Contemporary historian Govind Sakharam Sardesai “ the public of Baroda rejoiced to see a unique phenomenon…the first shoot of clean, sweet water in plenty…” Sayaji Rao makes a speech at the opening, tries to draw a ‘then and now ‘ picture of the progress since his rule started. Lists 118 miles of railway track completed, the countess Duffering hospital, the Baroda Middle School, a public park. A school of music, of handicrafts, a new market coming up( which eventually became the Court building- Nyaya Mandir claims settled, cash reserves in the place of public debt, export tax all but annulled, import duties much reduced, states forests being conserved… Declared “ with fear and trembling” that his ultimate aim was to decentralize the administration, to retain only supervisory powers, set up village panchayats, and elected miniciapla bodies in the town, to establish courts of small causes, and to separate the judiciary from the executive. Called the Laxmi Vilas Palace( which cost more than the reservoir) “that richly chiseled pile” And added “ All these to my mind are nought, compared with the blessing of pure water” a month or so later, left for Europe

in Europe, apart from the usual round of sightseeing, also visited factories, sewage farms, libraries, prisons- institutions he hoped to emulate in his state. ‘secret reports’ going to the Viceroy about the Gaekwad’s increasing resentment of being supervised, of his closeness of Justice M.G.Ranade, G.K.Gokhale, R.G.Bhandarkar

next year, April, again, on cue almost a trip to Europe. Sayaji Rao began feeling the Residency in Baroda and its officials partly responsible for his sleeplessness. He slept better the further away from them that he was.. In late October when he returned, trouble between the Gujarati and Marathi nobility in Baroda. Sayaji, plans to go to Europe again, perhaps expediently( rather than take action against one of the two powerful, factions). The Viceroy Lord Landsdowne, sends an angry letter. Sayaji leaves for Europe in December.

Ill health. The carnival at Nice reminds him of Holi back home. Complains that “Western education had deprived the life and vitality of our traditional festivals”. Writes that Elliot must introduce elective councils in at least 100 villages, before leaving India. Takes on into service a young man who though he had topped the list of that years examination for recruitment to the Civil Services, was dropped because he had failed to pass the riding test. This is Aurobindo Ghose, who is recruited into the service of the Revenue Department. Fifteen years later, Aurobindo is going to be the name behind a band of “desperate terrorists”. Another fifteen years, and he is accepted as a Mahayogi and becomes Shri Aurobindo, with his ashram at Pondicherry.

1896. Viceroy, Lord Elgin vists Baroda, and at a fireworks display held in the public park for his entertainment, the throng of onlookers was so dense that the railings of a bridge on which hundreds of people had clambered up for a better view, collapsed, killing thirty of them and injuring over a hundred.

1897 the epidemic of plague already in India, appeared in Baroda early in the year. Drastic measures for dealing with the disease- whole localities were emptied, ihabitatns shifted to camps, policemen went searching houses for suspected cases and driving out inhabitants of affected houses and burning household articles that might have come into contact with a plague affected person. A lost of resentment against authority.In Pune, the Special Plague Officer, W.C.Rand, was murdered.

Agitation by a group of Thakurs who would not subject their land to a survey. Cultivators also joined them. A force from Baroda dispersed the gathered 2,000, killing 13.

Then came famine, the rains failed. In December 1899, Sayaji wrote “ We are in the throes of a direful famine, and I am at a great loss to start useful works… our daily muster roll of labourers is already 65,000.” Lord Curzon, famed for his arrogance and high handed dealings with ‘natives’, becomes Viceroy

Spring 1900. Sayaji and family in England. 1900, July 27, the ‘Curzon Circular”sent to the Governors. Leaked to p[ress. Stating that henceforth, formal applications were to be made to the British Government and permission granted to rulers before they could go abroad.

In Europe, Sayaji Rao gets the news that Viceroy is visiting the famine affected areas of Gujarat, and will be camping in the Residency at Baroda for a day. The Viceroy refuses to attend a reception hosted by the Dewan on the Maharaja’s behalf, says he will be back in November when he hopes the Maharaja will be back in Baroda.

Sayaji, attending to his wife who is operated in July, and irritated by Curzon, does not return. Curzon cancels his trip to Baroda.

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