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The Wild Land of the Chambal
... in Madhya Pradesh
Text: A Ganesh Nadar. Photographs: Jewella C Miranda and A Ganesh Nadar
When in Gwalior, you must visit the Scindia Palace, built in 1874... the fort which hovers above the city… and, of course, the famous Chambal valley which has given us bandit queen Phoolan Devi, among others.
The palace inspires awe. The first sight takes your breath away. It is very big. Very very big. After you pass the outer wall it takes quite some time (and a number of entry fees) to reach the main palace. There is a majestic horse-drawn carriage at the entrance. They charge Rs 5 per person for a ride around the humongous palace grounds. There is a museum. Actually just certain quarters of the palace have been converted into a museum.
You have to pay Rs 10 for the entry for your car. I believe it is more for buses. The entrance fee for the museum is Rs 20. You have to pay another Rs 20 for your camera. The security man at the entrance tears your ticket in half and tells you to retain the other half. You enter a corridor that has long lines of portraits of Maharajahs.
Ahead you see a glass enclosed enclosure designed like a forest. Its almost life like. Stuffed tigers, lions and deer roam. There are also many photographs of hunting sprees. Hunting on elephants. Every photograph has seven to eight dead tigers and the Scindias posing, with some British officers beside them. Obviously there was no such concept as endangered species in those days.
The corridor was full of sculptures, statues from the 11th and 12th century. Then there was a carriage used by the Maharajahs. This was followed by 16th and 12th century statues. And photos of the family of the rajas.
Up the stairs to the first floor. On the right is a huge hall and on the left another huge hall. And plenty of lovely antique furniture there. Then two rooms full of musical instruments which included a piano. The next room contained an ornate table, gilded with a glass top. There were drawings showing scenes from Napoleon’s battles. Then more paintings followed.
And then a room full of money. This was an interesting room and it displayed coins from the bygone eras. Plenty of specimens from the 12th and 13th century. Next door was a room full of ladies decked up in their finest saris. All dolls, but nearly human looking.
The next room was surprise. A room full of passionate marble statues. A naked man kissing a partially naked lady. A swan between the legs of a naked damsel pecking at her breasts. A nude woman. There is a calf drinking milk from its mother cow. Then there were three men on three lions...
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