“I asked my soul: What is Delhi? She replied: The world is the body and Delhi its life!” These oft quoted words, by legendary Urdu poet Ghalib, defines the simmering cultural cauldron that the Capital is, perfectly. While one corner of the city sees film festivals and classical dance recitals, the other part warms its heels for a fashion week.
As we get set for a couture week in Delhi, the research for the same lead us to the doors of Bikaner House, the 7.5 acre property which will witness the finale of the five-day fashion showcase. Seems like an unlikely place for models to strut down in lakhs-worth of finery? “He (Rohit Bal, the finale designer) called me and said “I wasn’t planning to do a fashion show this time, but if I can have one at Bikaner House, I’ll do it.” So, he just booked the entire place!” says Priya Pall, the curatorial director of the princely house, which opened last year in November to commercial art exhibitions, book launches and even jazz performances.
For many of us, Bikaner House has only meant the terminus from where one boards a bus to the many parts of Rajasthan. “The restoration work started in 2014, when the offices that housed the building were shifted to different parts of the property. Now, the essentially brick and mortar structure has seen a shift in terms of interiors, with artworks lining the wall, and the place is now open to cultural events of all kinds,” Pall adds. The interiors are, admittedly, impressive. For the finale (scheduled for July 24), the models will walk on a no-runway format, across the many rooms of the gallery.
The many galleries of Bikaner House are lined with artworks from all over the country. (Amal KS/HT Photo)
In a book released recently called Princely Palaces In New Delhi, author Sumantha K Bhowmick throws light on the history of Bikaner House, and writes about architect Charles Blomfield being entrusted with the construction in the late 1920s. “Maharaja Ganga Singh produced an elaborate list of requirements of Bikaner State for its palace. Therefore, Blomfield had to do a fine balancing with the expectations of the enthusiastic Maharaja and the legacy of Lutyens,” he writes.
While the office space turned cultural hub gives you a glimpse into city history, does it also align with the city’s fashion scene? “The spirit of couture aligns beautifully with a heritage property like Bikaner House. While the Maharaja’s bespoke thoughts designed the palace, the designer’s creativity gives birth to couture, which is completely bespoke in nature too. So, the philosophies match, along with the grandeur,” says Fashion Design Council of India president, Sunil Sethi.