It took me too long to figure out what this dilapidated, but once grand, structure was. That it was situated in the middle of the old town of Jamnagar should have been a clue. The part of this clue that you may not possess is that Jamnagar was the capital of one of the old princely states which merged into Gujarat after independence. That the area this stood in was called Darbar Garh should have been the final clue.
Instead I stood cluelessly in front of the enormous gate which is now a backdrop to a little vegetable market, and gawped. As I took a few photos I began to wonder whether this was the ancient palace. That gate would have taken an elephant with a large howdah on top of it. I looked at it for a while. On one side of it were exuberantly decorative scalloped arches, the other side had severe lines of lancet arches. Just above the enormous doors of the main entrance was a carved wooden balcony.
As I moved closer to take another photo of the door, an inset door opened and a man stepped out. I’d finally come to the conclusion that this must have been the palace of the Jam Sahib of Jamnagar. Memories of the cricketer Ranjitsinhji swirled in my mind and congealed around this idea. I had vague memories of Ranji playing Test cricket for England at the end of the 19th century CE (he was in the English Test team from 1896 to 1903). Didn’t he also represent India at the League of Nations? How old was this palace?
The city is supposed to have been founded in 1540 CE, perhaps with the original fortified palace somewhere in this place. The Gujarat sultanate had been annexed by the Mughal empire by Akbar five years before this. The Jamsahibs were allies of the Mughals. The current look of the town is attributed largely to a rebuilding by Ranjitsinhji in the 1920s. I suppose the European influenced wing of the palace was added in his time.
There seemed to be no ticket booth. Indeed, the whole place looked derelict. I read later that the Gujarat earthquake of 2001 had damaged the palace. No attempt has been made to restore this wonderful structure which, even at a superficial glance, contains wings built over a long period of history. I moved back to take photos of the fresh vegetables, which are the main reasons why people stop by this relic of history today.