When John Proudfoot Stratton was not laying down roads, putting down belligerent banditry in the arid moors of Bundelkhand and instituting the practise of vaccination into Central India, he also found time to become the Political Resident of Jaipur State, his period of Residency coinciding with the ascension of the progressive Maharaja Madho Singh II as the ruler of Jaipur State in 1882.
His home in Jaipur – and that of other Residents’ before and after him – was, what is now SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace. But the palace did not start-off as the home for venerated and very able Political Resident’s of Rajputana and Jaipur. Originally, and with the founding of Jaipur, Rajmahal Palace was in fact a walled garden, built by Maharaja Jai Singh for his queen Chandra Kanwar Ranawatji, a princess of Mewar.
Through subsequent treaties and with the advent of the modernising Maharaja Ram Singh ji, Rajmahal acquired a more permanent status as the home of the British Political Agents to Jaipur, albeit on lease to the East India Company.
Following independence and the merger of States into India Rajmahal was back in the possession of the Jaipur royal family and Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II, or “Jai” as he was called by friends, converted it into the family residence. His wife, the former Maharani and Rajmata of Jaipur, Gayatri Devi recalls in her book that Rajmahal, “had been the old British residency, which we had converted into a guest house and remodelled again for our own needs. It was much smaller than the Rambagh, but when the workmen had finished it had charm and character and a pleasantly informal atmosphere.”
The charm, character and a less formal than before atmosphere is what SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace exudes. The ample demesne of the palace, in the shape of verdant lawns – green even in the yellowest of summers – and the paean to royal living in the form of the interiors imparts a unique position to SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace within Jaipur. The history of the palace, resident in every corner and spacious hall and corridor is an invigorating encounter for anyone who walks in, whether as a resident or a visitor come to sample the scrumptious cooking, straight out of the royal kitchen and its organic gardens.
Although the Polo season is still a few months away, Jaipur is its home in Rajasthan. With Royal Ascot commencing this week, one is reminded of the strong bonds and association between royalty and equestrian sport walking through the Polo Bar at the palace. Pictures of Her Majesty the Queen abound alongside trophies of shimmering silver and photographs of the successive Maharaja’s of Jaipur, to whom this has always been, above all, their home.