Jaipur’s first girls’ school celebrates 153rd anniversary
The Maharaja’s Girls High School was started during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh of erstwhile Jaipur State in 1866. It was started in Natani Haveli, which till 1866 was the residence of Bikharidas and Lunkaran Natani, who were among the wealthiest salt dealers of the city.Updated: May 12, 2019 13:01 IST
While moving from the walled city’s Chhoti Chaupar towards Mirza Ismail Road, popularly known as MI Road, you may have seen a big haveli with a huge arched gate on left side of the road. This Rajputana style structure is Jaipur’s first girls’ school, which celebrated its 153rd anniversary recently.
The school, named Maharaja’s Girls High School, was started during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh of erstwhile Jaipur State in 1866. It was started in Natani Haveli, which till 1866 was the residence of Bikharidas and Lunkaran Natani, who were among the wealthiest salt dealers of the city.
Their descendents still live in the properties adjacent to the school. Vinod Natani, a successor of the Natani family and secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Natani Pariwaar, tells that the haveli was spread across a large area, where presently the school, along with a police station and a temple, are situated. “Our residence is right beside the school. The school, temple, police station and our residence together constituted the Natani Haveli,” he says.
“Our ancestors gave up a large part of the residence as a gift to start the first girls’ school of the state. The step was taken at a time when nothing much was done for women’s education. Since the school started, it played an important role in contributing towards girls’ education,” he adds.
The school building, a heritage property, is presently owned by the central government.
The school officials say when there were not enough girls’ schools in the city, the school used to run in two shifts and had nearly 5,000 students. Now, the number has come down to nearly 1,400 students, who study in a single shift in 40 big and small classrooms.
When one enters in the huge gate, one sees pathways opening on open grounds and residential rooms, which are now the classrooms.The building houses four courtyards. While three courtyards have classroom wings, the biggest courtyard is now used as the assembly ground for the students. The school houses several reminders of the bygone era. The school has a well right in the middle, which has been closed. It has several garages made centuries ago, which were used to park the vehicle. Not only Indian students but foreign students whose families settled in the city, too, studied in the school.
An alumnus of the school, Priti Kalra, who is presently a commerce teacher in the school, says the school enjoyed huge glory for several decades, but as soon as the private schools mushroomed in the city, there was a downfall in its popularity. “Girls from wealthy families including royals preferred to study in Maharaja’s school for several decades. It is a school where caste and class divide has never existed. Still, our school is one of the most sought after for senior secondary studies. Unlike private schools, the building and the calmness of the haveli style architecture with spacious areas sets the stage for a student to grow socially and educationally,” says Kalra.
Another alumnus of the school, Shashikala Pareek, who has also been the principal of the school, says the school has contributed in uplifting the women’s education in the area. “The school has stood the test of time, there is no doubt about it. The school has a long history attached to it. The school has been one of the most prestigious and it has contributed a lot in the women’s education since past 153 year,” says Pareek.
The school is also a home to several folklores where some say that the school also has a basement which has been closed by constructing a wall against a hollow chamber. The school has several locked rooms, which are presently not being used as classrooms.
“We have heard from our ancestors that the school has a basement which has several tunnels connecting to other forts so that the king and the members of the royal family visiting or studying in the school could escape during an emergency situation. Some even say that there is a temple in the basement. We do not know how true these facts are,” says Natani.
The classrooms of the schools, which used to be the residence, have not been renovated and have been kept as per the old style architecture, which gives us ample idea about the bygone era.
First Published: May 12, 2019 13:01 IST