Hawa Mahal in Padma. Picture by Vishvendu Jaipuriar
Hazaribagh, Sept. 5: The walls of Hawa Mahal (Kashmir Palace), which were once witness to the presence of Ramgarh rulers, today bear lines scribbled by lovebirds and its shaky roofs testify the neglect that threatens to make it a thing of the past.
No wonder, residents of Padma block where the palace stands, 17km from the district headquarters, are desperate that conservationists take up a facelift plan by the state arts and culture department seriously and fast.
According to residents, the double-storied palace situated close to a training centre of Jharkhand Armed Police was built by Maharaja Ramnarayan Singh some 110 years ago.
With its several ornate doors and five big arches, the popular palace is noted to be a fine example of Kashmiri architecture.
Shankar Mehta, a septuagenarian, said Maharaja Ramnarayan Singh built a 1.5km underground passage from Hawa Mahal to Padma Palace for its use by his queen Rani Rikhi Nath Kunwari.
He also built a bauli (pond) on five acres for his queen. “Boundary walls, which are 5ft thick and 25ft high were raised around the pond, where the queen bathed, to stop anyone from trespassing,” he said.
Sagar Pratap, a resident of Padma who works in a Delhi firm, added, “Though the pond was in place 10 years before the palace was built and remains neglected, anybody will be surprised by its beauty. It’s better than a swimming pool of any five-star hotel.”
Local villagers said demands were made several for conservation of the palace, but no effort had yet been taken.
The entire palace turned into a grazing ground for cattle, they added.
“Thieves have even removed thick wooden logs from the ceiling of one of the rooms. We never go there, fearing the roof might cave in,” said a villager.
If any roof collapsed, the arches would also get damaged, he added.
“We want the department concerned to start conservation work as soon as possible to save the palace,” he said.
The popular Ramgarh rajas built a number of monuments. Sources said the most popular king of the Ramgarh dynasty and grandson of Ramnarayan Singh, Kamakhya Narayan Singh, built the main entrance to the palace.
During a visit by Mahatma Gandhi to take part in the 1940 Ramgarh Congress, Kamakhya Narayan Singh even built a road named after the former, sources added.
Before the road was opened for the public, everyone including the royalty had to take off their shoes while crossing the stretch.
The arts and culture department, in collaboration with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, had recently taken a decision to take up conservation of Hawa Mahal, besides a bauli in Padma Palace and Isco village’s rock and cave paintings in Hazaribagh.
Hazaribagh sadar MLA and a scion of the Ramgarh royalty Saurabh Narayan Singh said he had permitted the state department to renovate the Padma palace gate and its bauli. He admitted that Hawa Mahal too needed a facelift, but he has a different plan. “The palace should either be developed into a school or a heritage hotel,” he said.
Singh said he had spoken to Union tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay in this regard, adding the latter had also supported the idea of turning the monument into a heritage hotel, as practised in Rajasthan for instance.
The legislator is waiting for approval from the government to help him to renovate the palace.
“It’s my plan and I am working on it,” Singh said, pointing out that the Ramgarh kings had ruled in the area for 700 years until Independence.