Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III

Overwhelming Hospitality

The French traveller and author Louis Rousselet describes his stay with the Maharaja Khanderao from the 11 June 1865 and the overwhelming hospitality of His Highness who would not let him leave until 2 December of that year. 

Witnessing a procession he writes "The nobles of the realm, the ministers, the governors of provinces, all mounted on twenty four elephants, whose immense coverings of gold-fringed velvet hung down to the ground." Finally he sees the Maharaja's elephant "... That on which the King sits is a gigantic animal. The howdah, of massive gold - a present from the Queen of England - sparkles with jewels. The Gaekwad is seated in it on embroidered cushions. He wears a red velvet tunic, over which is a profusion of magnificent jewels; his turban is adorned with an aigrette of diamonds, amongst which blazes the "Star of the South". On the footboards, on each side of the elephant, stand four men, clad in elegant attire. One of them carries the hookah presented to His Majesty by the Viceroy of India; the others wave fans composed of peacocks' feathers. Amongst them is the King's herald. The King's elephant is completely hidden under his ornaments, resembling a mountain of gold sparkling with diamonds. 

Another narrative of  Rev Edward St Clair Weeden gives us a glimpse of the Gaekwad customs, traditions and overwhelming hospitality. He wrote a book of his Baroda experiences titled “A Year with the Gaekwar of Baroda”. In this book he leaves behind a fascinating description of the Gaekwadi lifestyle during the turn of the century. His description of the royal Diwali with the Gaekwads is as follows:(Source:

“We have just been celebrating one of the great Hindu festivals, the Diwali, or "feast of lamps," held in honour of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, so you will not be surprised to hear that it is a great day in Baroda. It began with a grand State function the removal of the Gadi, or throne, from the Old        Palace to Lakshmi vilas.

“At breakfast the Gaekwar proposed that I should have an Indian dress made and dine at the banquet in the evening in Indian fashion. I jumped at the idea, and a message was sent to the tailor, who came to my rooms at two o'clock to measure me and submit patterns ; such a funny old man, very tall and thin and extremely deferential. At seven o'clock Sanka entered beaming, with a fine new dress all quite ready, exactly like the one Maharaja wears. It is quite a pleasure to put on the soft, light underclothing, and my only regret was that the beautiful waistcoat of peach-coloured silk with gold embroidery was covered by the long white outer garment, just showing faintly through the fine lawn. However there was a lovely jetab to match, about ten yards long, which Sanka wound round my head with great care.”

“I found that my tray was pided into a dozen little compartments, each containing a different kind of food, and the servants went busily about replenishing them from larger dishes. The food was excellent, and I was able to enjoy it, as I had been provided with spoon and fork, all the others using their fingers. Half-way through dinner Mr. Pluck brought me the wing of a partridge with cauliflower and salad, so I did very well.”

“The meal ended with the customary ablutions, the number of antique silver vessels used again recalling the days of Solomon, and was followed by an open air concert by native singers and dancers, after which we went on to the terrace to watch the display of fireworks. It was quite magnificent, beautiful effects being produced by the reflection in the waters of the lake, the illuminated fountains, and the Bengal lights burning in the background among the trees.”

“The Nazarbaug Palace at Baroda where all the jewels of the Gaekwad family were kept. On the day of the Lakshmi Pujan, all the jewels were bought out of the vaults and worshipped in a traditional way.”

“The next morning I drove with the Gaekwar to the treasury, and watched him doing pooja, or worship, to the State jewels, which were all spread out on cushions, a blaze of barbaric splendour. We worship our wealth in a different way in England, but I think that their way is better ; it is certainly more dignified and honest. Later in the day Shivajirao went through a similiar ceremony at the palace with the family jewels, which are almost as numerous and magnificent as those in the State collection.”

“In the afternoon there was a large garden-party down by the cricket-ground to which all the English people and native officials were invited to meet the Maharana of Lunawada. It was a very gay scene, a pageant of moving colour; the tennis-courts were full, and a number of English and Indian ladies were playing croquet. The acrobats gave a performance, and three great elephants in full dress took parties of the guests for a ride round the park. The band played lively tunes, and at intervals a company of pipers in Highland uniforms marched about at some distance, playing Scottish airs on their bagpipes. Of all the British customs introduced by the Gaekwar, I think the pipers are the most successful. They are much better than the band, which is not quite up to the mark, probably because the music appeals to them more. Ices and other delicious refreshments were served in a marquee and several other smaller tents gay with flags, and as it grew dark the trees were illuminated with coloured lights and Japanese lanterns.”

“At dinner Maharaja asked me if I would like to go with him to Bombay that evening and see the illuminations there, and orders were sent to Sanka to get my luggage ready. We spent the evening in the Maharani's drawing-room, listening to a performance on stringed instruments by three men who are evidently great artists. I had not realized before what Indian music could be; it was indescribably beautiful, plaintive melodies, so soft as to be at times almost inaudible, floating above a gentle murmur of chromatic accompaniment. Quarter-tones were freely used, and probably other still smaller intervals which my ear, trained only to our Western scales, failed to detect. It was a delightful evening, and we were sorry when we heard that the car was waiting to take Maharaja and myself to the train. We drove across the park to the private station and then to Bombay.”