Upholding the need to protect heritage structures, the Gujarat High Court on Friday morning stayed the demolition of the iconic 1721 snow-white Nazarbaug palace of Vadodara, acting on a PIL filed by members of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cutural Heritage (INTACH), Gujarat State and Indian Institute of Architects Baroda and Gujarat (IIA).
The court has directed the family of Sangramsinh Gaekwad, in whose possession the palace is, to maintain status quo until the next hearing on June 3.
Hearing a PIL filed on Thursday by Sanjeev Joshi, co-convenor, INTACH, Gujarat and IIA, the High Court has stayed the demolition of the “deemed heritage” structure, pending a list of heritage monuments in the city of Vadodara. The Gaekwads had begun demolition of the Nazarbaug, stating that it was “dilapidated and would not survive the oncoming monsoons”.
The Indian Express has reported on the family’s plan to construct a commercial cum residential complex on the 1.75 lakh sq feet property after razing the palace to ground. Arguing for INTACH and IIA, Advocate Dipen Desai said, “We argued on the grounds that it is a heritage building as it belongs to the era of the Gaekwad rulers and has stood as a landmark in the city. Although it has not been listed as an official heritage structure yet, a listing process has already being undertaken. The structure cannot be razed pending the process of getting heritage status.” Desai said that he cited Article 49 of the Constitution of India that states that heritage buildings have to be protected.
Justice RD Kothari stayed the demolition while issuing notices to the respondents concerned, including the Chief Secretary of the State Government, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation, the Archaeological Survey of India and Sangramsinh’s son, Pratapsinh Gaekwad.
Pratapsinh has entered into MoUs toconstruct a commercial-cum-residential complex here. A classic piece of architecture, the Nazarbaug palace was created after the villas of Riviera with Greco-Roman architecture white alabaster and was floored with Italian marbles. It had corners of granite imported from Alhambra in Spain, interspersed with the world-famous Baroda green marbles and decorated with wall-fresco and ceiling-frescos from the B.C. era design of the Greco-Roman architecture.
The palace, which was adorned by lush gardens, fountains, baradaris, canopies and gazebos, was built in 1850 by Maharajas Khanderao Gaekwad and Malharrao Gaekwad to entertain guests. It later also became the Baroda state treasury. It was called the Nazarbaug palace because its beauty was said to satiate everyone watching it.