The Magnificent Maharajas' and their Fabulous Machines

Fort Museum

Way before Indian royalty fell in love with the motor car; they were enthralled by Sir James Watt's creation. An object of perennial fascination and amusement - the steam engine has been a part of the lives of kings and queens in various avatars. Over here, we list a few that tell the tale of a more genteel era that has gone by.

With the passage of time, all the princes vied with each other to display their ostentatious carriages. Maharaja Gaekwad of Vadodara not content with gifting his son a toy train, went on to install a royal throne in his personal coach. As a matter of fact, the Nizam of Hyderabad's private railway car was covered with thin strips of ivory and had solid gold hardware.

As a child, yuvraj or prince Madhav Rao Scindia was fascinated by the railway train. Seeing this, his father the royal Maharaja built a two mile rail track on his palace grounds. One would often see the little prince taking his friends on a joy ride on the palace grounds on his special locomotive that ran on a two feet gauge track.

Govt. Bangur Museum

It was around 1880, that the princely states in India took the initiative to lay their own railway lines with contributions from their own exchequers. But Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur had his own little railway, a year in advance. The Raika Bagh Palace was probably the first railway station in India! Even when it came to the state of Vadodara, the passion for the railway was intense. As a birthday gift, Maharaja Pratapsinh Gaekwad gifted his five year old son, Ranjit Singh Gaekwad (the present Maharaja of Vadodara), a fully functional toy train that ran on ten inch gauge rails !

Jaswant Thada

The Maharaja of Gwalior had a silver model train chugging along the centre piece on his banqueting table. Meant to circulate liqueurs and cigars to his royal guests, the train was operated at the touch of a button. The Maharaja was immensely proud of the show that his little toy train was put up at the end of every royal banquet. Alas ! Once, the train derailed en route its tiny voyage. The Maharaja's rage knew no bounds. The servants quivered in their boots as the Maharaja ordered an inquiry to ascertain the reason behind the accident ! History does not record the quantum of punishment handed out, if any.

In 1936, the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company built a luxury state coach for Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar of Indore. Probably the most luxurious railway carriage ever built and the largest ever to be constructed in Britain at that time, the art deco interior used sycamore wood, chrome, pink mirrors and an internal telephone system. And such was the attention to detail that it also had air blown over ice to keep the carriage cool in the tropical climes.

MAHARAJA -Oxford definition
[mah-huh- rah -juh, -zhuh]
-noun (formerly) a ruling prince in India, esp. of one of the major states.

The Maharajas of India were not just a breed apart but actually a world apart from the rest of us. They were fascinated by everything that moved or flew; with money being no object to acquiring their latest flight of fancy. From the day they were born, they were adorned with emeralds, diamonds, rubies and sapphires that were sprinkled in the humble gold. They grew up in a world where the English nanny was more prized than the latest Rolls Royce. A world where the royal women were surrounded by eunuchs and courtly retainers wielded tremendous power behind the scenes.

A Maharaja was always born into royalty. But it took a lot to live up to the royal title. A title that made the subjects shout in joy, Maharaja ki jai ! Maharaja ki jai ! Glory be unto the king !

Jhanki Mahal

t was around 1880, that the princely states in India took the initiative to lay their own railway lines with contributions from their own exchequers. But Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur had his own little railway, a year in advance. The Raika Bagh Palace was probably the first railway station in India! Even when it came to the state of Vadodara, the passion for the railway was intense. As a birthday gift, Maharaja Pratapsinh Gaekwad gifted his five year old son, Ranjit Singh Gaekwad (the present Maharaja of Vadodara), a fully functional toy train that ran on ten inch gauge rails !

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