The Gaikwads ruled over Baroda from 1721 to 1947. Sayajirao was one of the social reformers. He made primary education compulsory for boys and girls . He abolished untouchability and banned child marriage. He also created effective rail and road system. He started the Bank of Baroda to encourage commerce. He also encouraged musicians. He had Ustad Inayat Khan and Faiyza Khan at his darbar. He encouraged painters too. In fact he was the one who commissioned the famous painter Raja Ravi Varma to paint Indian deities for him. Dadabhai Naoroji was his diwan. He had employed Shri Aurobindo in the Baroda college. He had sponsored the education of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar at the New York’s Columbia University.
I had read all this. It had a great impact upon me. I was too eager to visit Baroda and see all the legacies of the great ruler first hand. I went to Sayaji Bag first. It is a manifestation of the monarch’s vision. It was opened in the year 1879 on the banks of the Vishwamitra river to offer the people of Baroda both employment and education. I saw sections of the 113 acre park. It included Grecian statures around the Victorain style bandstand, the deer in the large zoo, the botanical garden, the aquarium, the planetarium and the History of Health museum. Such was the impact of visit to these places that I was totally in awe of the great ruler.
The Baroda Museum and picture gallery is the jewel of the Sayaji Bag. I was able to see a Egyptian Mummy, the skeleton of a 71 feet blue whale that floundered up the Gulf of Khambat in the year 1944. The paintings of the European masters impressed me.
Then I went to the Laxmi vilas Palace. The startling eclecticism of Saryajirao’s influences was seen in the dramatic facade of the Laxmi Vilas palace which he built in the year 1890 and named it after his wife. The palace is a marvel of the East-West synthesis. In the morning the darbar room is brightened by sunlight streaming in through the large stained glass windows illustrating stories from the Hindu epics. The throne room is decorated with the fourteen paintings by Raja Ravi Verma.
I was impressed with the thorough audio tour at the Laxmi Vilas palace. It gave me all the information about the palace very aptly. Also the Maharaj Fateh Singh museum on the grounds has a large collection of paintings by Raja Ravi Varma.
The visit to Baroda had a great impact upon me. I was impressed with the vision of a King so many years back. He was indeed much ahead of his times. Such was the impact of visiting Baroda that I wrote to all the ministers to follow the example of Gaikawad of Baroda.