An inner courtyard with a stunning, multi-layered red sandstone facade, verandahs lined with beautiful marble tables and imposing bronze sculptures on each one of them - the family home of Rajyashree Kumari Bikaner, an erstwhile Rajasthani princess, is a palace that has hosted the then maharajas of Travancore, Palanpur, Patiala and Gwalior.
The Lallgarh Palace: Home of the Maharajas of Bikaner, a book by Rajyashree Kumari Bikaner, chronicles the history of her century-old family home in Bikaner; peppering it with anecdotes and lore that keep the mystery and the magic of the Rathod clan alive.
"Once on a summer trip to Northamptonshire to visit Althorp House of the Spencers, the family home of late Princess Diana, I bought a book written by Earl Spencer, the princess' brother, in which he had covered the home they had lived in. While reading the book, I felt that since I had also lived in a grand palace with a rich history, it was time I wrote something about it. So I decided to write an anecdotal book about our dynasty, palace and family," Rajyashree told IANS.
Her palace, said the scion of the Bikaner family, was built over several periods. It is within a walled area, spread over roughly 66 acres.
"The first wing was completed in 1902 by architect Swinton Jacob and the last wing was completed in 1926," Rajyashree said.
The Rathod clan, to which the author belongs, owes its origin to the ruler Rao Jodha of Jodhpur and Rao Bika of Bikaner, the founder of the principality of Bikaner.
Legend says that Bikaner was formed in a moment of banter when Rao Bika, one of the many sons of Rao Jodha walked into the "durbar with his uncle Rao Kandhal and sat down in discussion. Turning towards them, Rao Jodha wanted to know if they were planning to conquer a new kingdom for themselves", Rajyashree writes in her book.
Rao Kandhal rose and announced that his nephew and he were ready to face the challenge. The Rathod princes gathered a band of loyalists and set out to conquer new lands.
The book, launched at a glittering function at the Oberoi Hotel here Saturday evening, is divided into nine chapters that map the architecture of the palace and its origin. It begins with a description of the Junagarh Fort, the ancestral family home of the Rathod clan, the Lallgarh Palace and its sections like Laxmi Nivas, Sadul Niwas, Karni Niwas, and Shiv Vilas.
The book, replete with photographs and illustrations, has been published by Dev Publishers and supported by the Maharaja Ganga Singh Trust. It is priced at Rs.1,800.
The author, who studied at Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi, said she had a "tough time getting back to the grind" while researching and writing a book.
"It was a terrible struggle. I haven't written anything since I left college. I was busy raising a family. As a result, researching, going to libraries, collating information and disseminating them were difficult," she said.
The author's pillar of strength has been her father, Maharaja Karni Singh, who has written two books.
"He was a special person and three of his traits that inspired me the most were his sense of responsibility, duty and love for people. He taught us something very vital - that your real wealth is your ancestry," she said.
The Lallgarh Palace has now been converted into a heritage hotel.