ITRHD Celebrates Jadhav Kothi as Model Restoration!

Nestled within the city of Gwalior is a rare heritage oasis is this 20-acre rural property, engulfed on all sides by unplanned urban growth, causing pollution and civic damages, is a paradise which belongs to the Sardar Dhananjay Jadhav and his wife Rani Umadevi Raje who are doing all to maintain the heritage values of this paradise.

The property has architectural, historical and natural heritage!

Guests who stay at Deo Bagh run by the Neemrana group can enjoy the peace and calm that envelops this stunning paradise.

The property has been with the Sardar Jadhav family for the last 5 generations. The Jadhavs were one of the 5 biggest jagirdars of the former princely state of Gwalior. Earlier, the family lived at Laxmi Vilas which is popularly known as Jadhav Mahal at Maharaj Bada. In 1954, when Sardar Deorao II and his wife Ranisaheb Lady Kamaladevi shifted residence to Jadhav Kothi, they renovated and increased the capacity to house their children and staff.

The first two generations used this bageecha to house their elephants and stables, so also to grow food grains for their large retinue. Sardar Deorao II was a keen agriculturist and when he shifted residence to this property, he further beautified it with orchards and some rare ornamental trees.

It is the current owners who have restored and converted the zenana portion of their home into a hotel.

The Jadhav Kothi has an inner wall comprising an ancient char bagh and an outer wall with fields and orchards. Built on the Mughal tradition, the Char Bagh was possibly laid out in the late 16th century with a water feature in the centre. It has four walkaways from the centre to the north, south, east and west.

To the North is the Mardana cum buggy entrance, now the Jadhav Home. Towards the turn of the last century, the family used this area for picnics and outings. The men rested here during the day, while at a separate pavilion on the south in the zenana area rested the ladies of the family. To the East is a dallan, which needs restoration. And to the west are the ancient temples are Chatris.

The centre piece of the property is the Baradari, in all sense of the word. It has an underground chamber with water to be filled all around to keep the chamber cool. There are air ducts in all 4 directions for ventilation.

The Baradari Pavilion, conserved in its original form is a living testimony of the era and the time. It is an iconic location in Gwalior, an ideal venue for a musical performance or even a theatrical show. Imagine, watching Ghasiram Kotwal or Agra Bazar within this surrounding! People visiting Jadhav Kothi or Deo Bagh Hotel always get a photograph taken with the Baradari as the background. It even inspired a young lady, a professional Kathak Dancer to perform impromptu in the Baradari.

The historical heritage starts with a reference by Emperor Babur, a prolific diary writer who is believed to record after every 4/5 hours.

During his reign, he was once travelling from Agra to Gwalior and perhaps stayed over in this area which is believed to be a resting place of armies, where from he had spotted a “Hindustani” temple on the Gwalior Fort before riding towards it. The temple that he saw from this property was the Teli ka Mandir built in the South Indian  Gopuram style and so he declared it to be a Hindustani temple.

We fast forward to 1857, the First War of Independence. During this tumultuous time, Gwalior was the epicentre of the action when Rani Laxmibai and Tatya Tope used the fort to plan their strategies. Jadhav Kothi being close to the fort they often conducted their secret meetings in the zenana area.

Later, when the family moved residence, it housed a school for neighbourhood children. Umadevi has renovated, repaired and conserved this part of the area and it serves as the dining hall of the hotel.

It is now a perfect case study of adaptive reuse of a heritage structure.

On the western side of the property are the architectural gems – the mandirs and cenotaphs. One chatri is 175 years old, almost maintained in pristine condition, has exquisite stone work all along the four sides while the other is 125 years old. The temples with their ancient wall paintings are living temples where pujas are performed daily and festivals celebrated as per the calendar.

With a stupendous 40 plus varieties of trees which are home to almost 30 species of birds listed so far, the property is a bird watchers’ delight. Bicycles and binoculars are available for going around the campus and watching the birds in their natural environment. Spotted owls, Barbets, Indian coucal, partridge, grey hornbills, and a host of others shall greet you with their charming staff while the peacocks can perform a ballad almost on demand.

The natural wealth of the property has been left untouched. Wheat, mustard and other crops are cultivated. The green walkways are a delight for the eyes while various types of flowers bloom in the garden. The scent can only be experienced not photographed or described! Nothing is wasted. Dry flowers from the temple are recycled into making chemical free agarbattis by a women’s organisation. Pickles and other produce from the farm are packed often for sale on the premises.

The Jadhav Kothi is a unique destination and the Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development have decided to turn it into their centre for handicrafts and performing arts in the Bundelkhand Chambal region. The first such festival will showcase works by artisans and performing artists from other parts of the country and local craftsmen and musicians.

On World Heritage Day, April 18, 2024, the Jadhav Kothi story was presented to a very distinguished gathering by ITRHD. It was attended by people connected with heritage, culture, conservation, architecture and the arts.

Amitabh Kant, presently G20 Sherpa, was the Chief Guest. In his address, he spoke about the paradigm shift happening in the world of travel and hospitality where luxury tourism is getting replaced by heritage and cultural locations. In his view, mass tourism needs to be replaced by value tourism. He was very appreciative about the property and said he wished he knew of it before the G20 so that it could be the perfect host for a conference of Tourism Ministers of the G 20 countries. He suggested that ITRHD should present the Jadhav Kothi blue print to families who own such locations all over the country.

Welcoming the audience, S K Misra, chairman, ITRHD, reiterated the Trust’s commitment to conserve rural heritage which in turn can provide a source of income to the rural population. The World Heritage Day is observed by ITRHD as an occasion to celebrate heritage related activities in all aspects, he said.

Uma Devi Jadhav, representing the Jadhav Family, made a passionate case for making policy decisions about protecting rural areas full of traditional wisdom from unplanned urbanisation. She emphasised on the challenges to keep a rural territory protected from the urban onslaught, pollution hazards and unplanned urban growth.

Junhi Han, Programme Specialist and Chief of Sector-Culture, UNESCO, spoke about the role of protecting Cultural Heritage being played by UNESCO in India.

An audio-visual presentation along with a talk show was made on the various aspects of Jadhav Kothi by Sujit Sanyal, Director, ITRHD.


Sujit Sanyal functions as Director, HARTS and Youth Affairs for Indian trust for Rural Heritage and Development. He has spent over 47 years in advertising, authored books and teaches Brand Communication. He runs Kahaani Koncerti, a digital platform on culture activism.


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