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Indian royal residences join Palace Day

CHH collaborates with 40 royal houses across the country, ASHIMA PARGAL takes the digital tour

Centre for Historic Houses (CHH) of O P Jindal Global University collaborated with 40 palaces, cultural and political institutions across the country to participate in the International Palace Day event this year. Supported by UNESCO and World Monuments Fund, their efforts provided Indian palaces a spot on the digital map and marked our country’s first collaboration with European Network of Royal Residences.

Neemrana Palace

The event — entirely digital this year because of the pandemic — was held on July 19.

“Both Europe and India have influenced each other in many ways. This exchange has resulted in a brilliant and innovative culture. I believe Palace Day, which now includes so many Indian palaces, will help accentuate this beautiful relationship,” said Esther Schmidt, director, CHH.

She added, “Cultural exchange or encounters are a two-way street. I believe it will be very positive for both Europe and India, resulting, possibly in more collaborations between them.”

A special discussion, ‘Palace Day 2020: East meets West,’ was organised. The participants included Shubha Banerjee, education officer of Rashtrapati Bhavan, P. C. Pal, from the royal family of Karauli in Rajasthan, and Akshita Bhanj Deo, from the royal family of Mayurbhanj in Odisha.

Several pictures showcasing the unique architecture of palaces and their connection to the annual theme, music, were shared on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Many palaces dug up musical archives and paid tribute to the classical heritage. This social media campaign reached more than 85,000 people and witnessed participation from royal residences all across the country.

“Palace Day is a beautiful and celebratory moment but at the same time it has the potential to have many positive and long-lasting effects,” said Schmidt. “For once we have so many amazing historical buildings in India but they have never really been unified or have had a lobby or institution to interact between the various stakeholders — from the group of owners, to the government, heritage experts in various capacities and the public. We hope that communication amongst them grows and we are able to organise many such events to celebrate Indian heritage.”

Participants in the project included several royal families — of Baroda, Thanjavur, Dhenkanal, Cossimbazar (now, Kasim Bajar), Mayurbhanj, Bhavnagar and Rajkot.

Luxury hotel chains, such as Taj and Neemrana, were also represented.

Schmidt said the Palace Day programme aimed to gain recognition for the beauty of Indian heritage while providing a form of digital escape for people during the lockdown.

Started in 2019 with the Palace of Versailles in France, the Palace Day initiative found support from European Network of Royal Residencies. With participation from India, the digital map has grown.

“The most exciting thing about Palace Day for me is its novelty. An event like this has never been held in India before and it is wonderful to see that we were able to bring together palaces from all across the country,” says Simar, an intern with CHH.

Apurbaa, another intern, said: “Palace Day is an opportunity to acknowledge the rich architectural history of our country.”

Karauli City Palace