Democracy for India is an imported system of government derived from the British in the late Victorian period. Only with British withdrawal and even more with the abolition of the princely states in 1971 did a civilisation of courts finally come to an end. But the idea of the palace as a centre of power and culture is so strong in the Indian mind that even new hotels are designated palaces.
We shall be visiting some twenty of them covering several centuries, some now magnificent ruins, some still lived in by the former ruling families, some museums, some converted to lush hotels in which we will stay. They range from magnificent forts atop mountains to ones built down below in the main by British architects in the late Victorian era. This tour concentrates on visiting ones not on the normal tourist circuit.
We begin in Mumbai, the old East India Company trading station of Bombay, followed by a stay in a wonderful 18th century fort in the village of Maheshwar, and a visit to Mandu, a 15th century marvel of early Islamic architecture. We drive to Bhopal, our base from which to explore Sanchi, built in the third century BC, one of India’s most important – and oldest – Buddhist sites, famous for its superb sculpture.
We then travel to one of India’s best kept secrets – Orchha (which means hidden) – a remote collection of majestic abandoned cenotaphs, palace and fort stunningly located on an island in the boulder-strewn Betwa River. Next we drive north, via the magnificent 17th century Datia Palace, to Gwalior. This city is dominated by most impressive and least visited forts in India, approached through a canyon of mysterious giant rock sculptures of naked Jain deities. We continue, via the ruins of the 16th century city of Fatehpur Sikri to the ‘Rose City’ of Jaipur, with its colourful markets and eclectic blend of architecture including the Amber Fort.
Guest Lecturer, Sir Roy Strong, will enhance this remarkable journey with a series of fascinating lectures.