Five palaces, four medieval fortresses, and orchards, not to mention the thousands of rooms filled with priceless antiques, carpets, jewellery, and artifacts. The 38th member of his family to consecutively rule Jodhpur, Maharaja Gaj Singh was recently in Mumbai for the preview of Royal Salute—the scotch brand which has further extended its association with the international polo community. The brand has partnered with The Royal Salute Maharaja of Jodhpur Golden Jubilee Polo Cup for the fifth year in succession. The tournament, which will be played from 17th to 21st December 2013 will culminate with The Maharaja of Jodhpur’s Gala Dinner at the Mehrangarh Fort, set on a cliff top, 500m above the city of Jodhpur.
An affair with opulence
Dressed in a royal blue suit, greeting his guests with a warm smile and enjoying a glass of scotch, HH (His Highness) talks about how royalty has always been connected with everything that spells luxury. “Luxury is that which makes you feel good. I always enjoy a hot bath and if I get that in the middle of nowhere then that’s luxury, for me.”
One of the palanquins, on display, at Mehrangarh Fort
Pic: Rama Sreekant
Living the king-size life, literally, it’s not easy to surpass the ingenuity of the Maharaja when you ask him about his most prized possession. “The Mehrangarh fort,” he says with an unmistakable pride in his voice. And if you have visited the fort, you cannot but agree with him that the fort has an aura of invincibility and an unparalleled opulence that is reminiscent of the Maharaja’s royal heritage. Giving us a glimpse of the royal collections inside the fort, he adds “We have preserved a collection of fine arms, miniature paintings of the Marwar School, palanquins, elephant howdahs, polo and racing trophies, much of which are on display in the Mehrangarh Museum. We used to have a huge collection of 17th century Jodhpur and Marwar paintings. We lost most of them when Aurangzeb conquered the fort but acquired them back during the revivalist period.”
The Maharajas of Jodhpur have long been the patrons of polo in India, “We have got about 20 polo ponies,” he says. Besides his fascination for polo, the Maharaja is also known to have a penchant for vintage cars, “Rolls Royce, Cadillac, Buick...these classic cars are so beautiful. I love riding in them,” he adds. So how difficult is it to balance the royal life in a modern world? “More than balance, the challenge is in retaining the heritage. I stay involved and connected with people.
Carrying on your heritage is a huge task,” says the Maharaja, who is also fondly called Bapji by his inner circle, in the upper echelons. His Highness loves holidaying in Africa, “it’s the luxury of being in the open with birds and animals,” he says, while posing for the shutterbugs as his enviable guest list begin to pour in and greet him.