Sunday, February 12, 2017

The new exciting Bikaner House

Ever since Bikaner House got a makeover last year, it has become an exciting venue for exhibitions and events. 
My friend Sumedha launched her book Mewar Ramayana there. The book is beautifully illustrated with paintings commissioned by Jagat Singh, the Maharana of the Mewar kingdom.
In the 17th century, Jagat Singh commissioned a manuscript retelling the Ramayana. The text is in Sanskrit and the illustrations are in three different styles of Mewar painting.

This is believed to be the most well preserved manuscript form of the Ramayana. The rulers of Mewar trace their ancestry to Lord Rama, and it is but natural that in Jagat Singh's long and prosperous reign of 24 years, a book like this was commissioned.

There have been lots of other launches here as well. A photo-exhibition by Jawai, several designer names, art shows, and so on. It's really shaping up well as an alternative to the more well-established India Habitat Center.
Adding significantly to the charm of Bikaner House is Vayu, a design store that offers handcrafted artifacts for the home. They also have lots of lovely curios, jewellery and designer apparel. You need somewhat deep pockets, but it's really lovely and I particularly like their vintage silver jewellery. Last year they had a fabulous pop-up of Bungalow Eight from Mumbai; and lots of other things as well. They're open all days of the week, between 11 am and 7 pm.

If you're heading to Vayu, you can round off the shopping with lunch at the popular Chor Bizarre, which has now opened an outlet in Bikaner House.

I'm really glad to see an old heritage building being re-purposed and brought to life. Bikaner House - along with other royal houses - came up in the 1920s, when the British were building a new capital for the Empire. A portion of this grand new capital was set aside for the princely states of India, that were not officially under the Empire, but operated as independent kingdoms acknowledging British power. A large chunk of India was under these princely states (see all the yellow bits in this map below).
Edinburgh Geographical Institute; J. G. Bartholomew and Sons. - Oxford University Press, 1909
To manage the relationship with the princely states, the British came up with the idea of a Chamber of Princes. The Indian name for this chamber was Narendra Mandal; and it provided a forum in which the rulers of the princely states of India could voice their needs to the colonial government of British India. Once a year, the princely rulers descended upon Delhi for a meeting of the Chamber of Princes. So it made sense to build palaces for them.
source: Getty Images
Some of the buildings were very grand indeed. The most impressive was Hyderabad House, reflecting the incredible wealth of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Indeed, the Nizam wanted to build something that would rival the Viceroy's building (now Rashtrapati Bhavan), but of course he was not allowed to do so!

The smallest and coziest of the palaces was Bikaner House, because it was more like a bungalow than a palace. The small size now makes it a perfect venue for events.
source: India Today

source: India Today

Go on. Head over and take a look. And let me know how it went!