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Burglars targetting Gujarat palaces
Haresh Pandya | September 04, 2006 15:17 IST
Burglars seem to be target royal palaces in Gujarat. In the last two months two of them have been burgled months, while one was attacked two years ago.
In July, burglars descended on the legendary cricketer Ranjitsinhji's historic Pratap Vilas Palace in Jamnagar, Saurashtra.
They stole many expensive articles and damaged a lot of other things. Fortunately, not a single artifact to the master batsman was stolen thanks to a wise move by Shatrushalyasinhji Jadeja, the erstwhile ruler of Jamnagar.
"The burglars probably wanted to steal everything belonging to Ranji. But I've preserved his memorabilia � and there're so many of them � in the Ranji Memorial Trust that I had formed during his centenary year in 1972," Shatrushalyasinhji told this correspondent.
"But they didn't go empty-handed. They took away several rare bronze statutes, silver utensils, glass vases, paintings and many other ancient but invaluable things belonging to a different era. As if that weren't enough, the burglars damaged other equally priceless things, which outnumbered the ones they stole. I think they were angered at having failed to find a single item connected with Ranji," he revealed.
"The then Jamnagar Rangoon Society in Burma had presented an artistic gold-plated wooden pagoda to my father. The burglars completely destroyed it, presumably to remove its gold plating. The whole palace is in a mess and it's all very sad," said a dejected Shatrushalyasinhji.
None of the royal family lives in the Pratap Vilas Palace any more. It has been left in the care of a few old and "loyal" employees. One of them, Punja Kanara, informed Shatrushalyasinhji of the burglary and later a police complaint was registered.
Last week, a gang of burglars entered the famous Prag Mahal, the palace built by the late Maharaja Pragmalji II of Bhuj in Kutch, and stole many valuables and also damaged many rare antique items.
"The thieves stole many priceless items. What's more disturbing is that they broke and damaged many more antiques and left Prag Mahal in total shambles," said Vijayraiji Jadeja, the caretaker of the 19th century palace.
The two-storey Prag Mahal is a beautiful palace. It was built between 1865 and 1879 in Gothic style at a cost of Rs 31 lakh by an array of Italian engineers, artists and artisans. You can see the entire Bhuj city from its 45-foot high tower.
Adjacent to Prag Mahal is an exquisite and very ancient Aaina Mahal (mirror palace), which was built from 1752 to 1761, which has been converted into Madanji Museum since 1977.
Part of Sanjay Leela Bhanshali's blockbuster Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam starring Salman Khan, Ajay Devgan and Aishwarya Rai was shot in Prag Mahal in 1998. Many Gujarati films have also been shot there.
In 2004, thieves had stolen an entire marble throne belonging to the erstwhile ruler of Lathi in Saurashtra. It was recovered from a canal several days later. No damage was done to the mammoth throne and it was presumed that the thieves probably had a second thoughts after committing the crime. It was restored ceremoniously in the Lathi palace.
Though the prices of the items stolen from the Pratap Vilas Palace and Prag Mahal were estimated to be in millions of rupees, the managements of both buildings surprisingly estimated the losses at a few thousands in their police complaints.
"Both these palaces aren't just architectural marvels; they're historically important, too. The stolen and damaged antique items must have been invaluable. They cannot be quantified. It's a colossus loss," said Dushyant Pandya, a professor of history.