I had lots of temples and palace’s on my list to see in Vadodara that I could not see because there was some disturbance in the town. Our driver told us that Kirti Mandir can be seen. But he was so unenthusiastic about it that I assumed it must be just another temple. Thank God, we insisted that we want to see it – for we were in for a big surprise. Though it looks like a temple with stretched arms, it was no ordinary temple, in fact, it is not a temple in the usual sense of the word.
Kirti Mandir, Vadodara
Resting Place of Gaikwads
Kirti Mandir is the resting place of Gaikwads of Baroda. Behind the E-shaped temple-like structure is the Shamshan Ghat or the burning ground called Kardeshwar ground where members of the royal family are cremated. The main building is a hall with a bust of Sayyaji Rao III. Who had built this place in 1936 in memory of his ancestors? In fact, it was designed by Sir Edward Lutyens along with the Baroda state architect V R Talwarkar. While laying the foundations of this building Gupta Era bricks were discovered dating back to 400 CE, giving this place an added ancestral aura.
This hall has few paintings by renowned artists like Nand Lal Bose depicting Mahabharata, Ganga, and Nati puja of Bengal. This hall is used for prayer meetings, ceremonies, and for holding musical concerts.
I was curious about the rooms all around the main building on multiple floors – all of which were locked. My initial guess was that they are staff quarters. But then they were too many for staff quarters. Valu Bhai, who has been a caretaker of this place for the last 65 years, told us that this is where the royal family continues to live after they leave their bodies and I wondered how. He opened a couple of rooms and showed us the busts of the family members – usually couples in the same room. The busts were very similar to the ones we saw at Laxmi Vilas Palace in the city.
Female busts had jewelry that could be seen beneath several layers of their garments like folds of Sari. I wish I could see more of them, but Valu Bhai said these are not open to visitors. But he showed us a few, as we were too keen.
Glory of Gaikwads
Valu Bhai also pointed us to the finial that is made of bronze. And consists of sun, moon & earth – with a map of India carved on it. This is to indicate that the glory of the Gaikwads will remain till these three heavenly bodies remain in the universe. The rest of the building is made of Kota Stone. When I was there I could not see the tall building completely. But now that I look at them in pictures – it looks like a palace with temple tops or Shikharas.
There are two small temples in front of the main structure. The buildings looked dilapidated a bit, I am sure they can do with little more maintenance. But then it is not really designed as a tourist spot where they expect visitors. I guess this place must be getting active only when a member of the family moves in here as a bust.
I found this monument quite intriguing. And it was a chance discovery as we had some time on hand that day.
Recommend you to read the following travel blog on Places to visit in Gujarat.