WANKANER - On the bend of river
Wankaner derives its name from the
geographical feature related to the location of the town: 'Wanka' means
a bend and 'Ner' means water stream in Gujarati. Wankaner literally
means a bend on the stream and it is located on the bend of the Machchhu
The Jhala Rajput clan
ruled Wankaner, the capital of the former princely State of Wankaner,
till Indian independence in 1947 AD. It was one of the four princely
states of Jhalawad, other three being- Wadhvan, Limbdi and Dhangdhra.
Santanji founded the princely State of
Wankaner in 1605 AD and the town was fortified in the late 18 th century
for protection against the bandits and neighboring enemies. King
Amarsinhji, a noble ruler, who made Wankaner a rich city-state, ruled
Wankaner up till 1947 AD.
Under the patronage of Amarsinhji, 5
palaces and many bungalows were built and named after the rulers of the
princely states of Kutch, Rajkot, Mauurbhanj and Jamanagar.
Amarsinhji built the Ranjit Vilas
Palace on a hill, overlooking Wankaner town. It took seven years to
complete (1907-14 AD) and was designed by Amarsinhji himself. It was
inaugurated by and named after his dear friend Jam Ranjitsinhji of
Jamnagar. The ground of the palace extends to two hundred and twenty
five acres. The state guesthouse, Chandra Bhavan is also located in the
same campus in the vicinity of the Ranjit Vilas Palace.
Ranjit Vilas Palace is a very eclectic
building, a bold attempt to sythesise various architectural styles. The
front and back facades are appropriately designed in response to its
location. The receding volumes, on the front, creating a series of
terraces culminated in two beautiful designed pavilions with gothic
arches. The back facade, on the town side, really establishes the palace
as in impressive landmark. The seven storied central clock tower capped
by a Mughal dome and two five storied high bastions, at the both
corners, culminate in hexagonal chhatris. The facade has arcades of
arched Victorian windows, Italianate pillars, Gothic arches and
classical parapets. A massive Dutch roof spans the central wing of the
palace. A double staircase is the unique feature of the interior of this
palace, where the royal ladies could ascend and descend without being
seen by men. A similar double staircase at Chateau de Chambord, Loire,
France, dating to the Renaissance period, inspired this staircase.
Ranjit Vilas Palace has memorable
collection of swords, shields and daggers, 95 species of stuffed
animals, dueling pistols, pig sticking spears, silver, lines chests,
silver-platted howdahs, thrones, painting and portraits. The palace has
magnificent spiraling marble staircase , stained glass galleries,
chandeliers and period furniture. The garage, on the grounds of the
palace complex, has Vintage cars like the 1921 Rolls Royce Silver,
Ghost, some imposing American cars and horse drawn carriages. The palace
also has a stable of Kathiawadi horses. There are large grounds with
beautiful Italianate fountains.
Wankaner also has a step well, the last
one to be built in Gujarat. In the royal oasis complex, the 3- storied
step well, has 2 underground floors with cool subterranean marble rooms,
fine sculptures and a fountain.
Wankaner was among the first few royal
families of india to convert their palaces into Heritage Hotels, which
have guestrooms, maintained in the original royal style.