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    Baroda is also called the cultural and business capital of Gujarat. Baroda or Vadodara was originally Vadapadraka (a village amidst the banyan trees). Historical and archaeological findings date this place back to the 9th century when it was a small town called Ankottaka (present Akota) located on the right bank of the river Vishvamitri. It was flood-pronel; so Vadapadraka became the administrative headquarters.

    Ankottaka was a famous centre of Jainism in the 5th and 6th century AD. Some of the Akota bronze images can be seen in the Vadodara Museum.

    The Gaekwads, a Maratha clan who were originally the generals of the Peshwas in Maharashtra, carved out a kingdom for themselves in Baroda. Twenty years later, Damaji's nephew Pilaji became the founder of the house of Gaekwad. Although an English Resident was appointed to the Court of Baroda in 1802, the rulers had a good equation with the British. The wealth of the family is legendary, and stories abound of their priceless jewellery and works of art. The city witnessed a golden age when Maharajah Sayajirao Gaekwad came to the throne in the late 19th century. He brought about many reforms in education, medicine, religious tolerance and administration. Sayajirao was one of the three princes who rated and got a 21gun salute.

    Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III (1875-1939) is a legend; he was the adopted son of Queen Jamnabai. He took Baroda through a golden age with the help of an astute statesman - his chief minister, Diwan Madhav Rao. Sayaji Rao began constructing the Laxmi Vilas Palace, naming it after his first wife (a princess of Tanjore). 

    Baroda can boast of one of the finest palaces in India. Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad commissioned the famous British Architects, Major Mant and Chisolm to work on Laxmi Vilas palace. Designed in the Indo-Saracenic style, it is quite a long drive from the huge wrought iron gates with the mounted royal emblem, to the portico. You look around in amazement as you step inside - the colourful frescoes in Italian style on the walls of the palace surprise you with their splendour. Beautiful statues, marble fountains, Moorish arcades and stained glass windows adorn the structure. 

    The palace is a marvellous work of eclectic architecture, with a mix of all styles. Built in 720 acres, it was landscaped by Mr Gonderling of Kew. The work started in 1878 and was completed in 1890; it is still the residence of the royal family. 

    The Fatehsinh Rao Museum, located in the palace grounds, houses the royal collection of paintings, sculptures and other objects of art. Here also existed the Raja Ravi Verma studio, where he painted some of his famous works which today belong to this royal family. A garden house which remains shut today and a dargah (mausoleum) also find place here, (which is also shut); besides a pond with crocodiles. Many cricket ball and limb were lost here, when those playing cricket close by ventured into the pond;. There is an in-house cricket club too.

    Massive black bulls with blue eyes stand in the doorway leading into the palace and the grounds,-- real ones, but stuffed ages ago. The gold gilt work on paintings is a sight to behold; models of the palace can be found under the impressive staircase leading to the top floor, where the personal chambers of the royal family are located. Its ornate Darbar Hall has an Italian mosaic floor and walls with mosaic decorations, lie empty since the day the Republic took over.

    The convention hall has the entire gamut of carpets, painting, photographs of the royal family, silver, gold, ivory, furniture, Venetian chandeliers, domes and a decorous ceiling, There is a huge garden and a Navlakhi Vav (lucky stepped well) which is dry and covered in creepers said to contain a treasure worth millions, though no one has found it yet. There is a small mandir by the riverbank and the palace is surrounded on all sides by a modern colony - large sections of the palace grounds have been taken over by the government for them. 

    Heritage maintenance does not seem to be a priority in Baroda. Family disputes over property seem to have taken their toll, including the literature on the royal family and the architecture of the palaces is also almost impossible to obtain. Baroda makes for an ideal weekend getaway spot. You can visit the following places:

    Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum  A royal collection of art treasures by masters like Raphael, Titian and Murillo as well as modern, western and Indian paintings, Graeco-Roman exhibits, Chinese and Japanese art and a large collection of contemporary Indian art are open to the public and well worth a visit. It was established in 1961, and has an outstanding collection of the portraiture of Raja Ravi Verma, a 19th century portraitist. Another interesting section houses Chinese and Japanese porcelain artefacts, while two rooms on the ground floor are treasure troves of the Roccoco period in art. The ground floor also has a set of crystal furniture specially made for Sayaji Rao Gaekwad. The bed and chairs were part of his personal chambers. They also have royal rooms decorated as they had been in the olden days, which are also open for the public to see.


    A study on Vadodara origin reveals that the name of the city was mentioned in the charter of 812. The charter elucidates that the city existed beside the town if Ankottaka, a small town on the western bank of Vishvamitri river. According to the charter, the name of the city was Vadapadraka. The severe floods in the region in 600 AD is said to have forced the inhabitants of the city to move to the eastern side of river Vishvamitri. The residents of Vadapadraka are said to have settled in a village called Vatpatrak. It is at this site that the city of Vadodara came into existance. During the 10th century, Vadapadraka replaced Ankottaka.

    A study on Vadodara origin also reveals that the city was once called Chandamavati. The city was named so after its ruler, Raja Chandan of the Dor tribe. Raja Chandan fought with the Jains. The capital was also known as Virakshetra or Virawati. The city came to be known as Vadpatraka or Wadodara. Wadodara is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Vatodar', which means 'the heart of Banyan tree'. However, it is difficult to ascertain to what lead to the change in the original name of the city. Moreover, the Englishmen referred to the town as Brodera. The name Baroda is derived from the Englishmen's version of the original name of the city. Furthermore, in 1974, the official name of Baroda was changed to Vadodara.

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