The city of Vadodara (earlier Baroda) in Gujarat is a perfect example of a place where different strains of the past meet to create a celebration of history. The Mughals and Marathas who ruled the city at different points of time have left their legacy and old connections in the form of architecture. In the heart of the the city for instance, you will find the exquisitely adorned Tambekar wada or mansion that connects to Satara in Maharashtra. Built in the 19th century, this triple-storeyed wooden mansion, boasts of some of the most exquisite paintings in India.
From the outside, Tambekar wada is deceptively simple looking. It masks the grandeur inside. As the name suggests, it belonged to the Tambekar family, who came here from the Tambwe village in Satara, Maharashtra. The family, like many others had come and settled here after the Marathas conquered Gujarat in the 18th century and established their seat in Baroda. The Tambekars were Sahukars or moneylenders, who raised capital to pay for the Maratha armies. As a reward, they were given prominent positions in the administration.
The wada was built like a traditional Maratha residence with multiple rooms built around a courtyard.
This particular mansion was built by Vithalrao Khanderao Tambekar, popularly known as Bhau Tambekar. He was the Dewan to Ganpatrao Gaekwad (the ninth Maharaja) between 1849-1854. The wada was built like a traditional Maratha residence style with multiple rooms set up around a courtyard. Important rooms such as the prayer hall and the main bed chamber were embellished with paintings stretching from floor to ceiling.
The most interesting paintings are the ones done in European convention reflecting Victorian lifestyle.
In Tambekar wada, the murals range from depictions from Indian mythology to 19th century political and social events. The mythological scenes include episodes from the life of Lord Krishna - like the lifting of mount Govardhan, Rukmini haran and the story of Sudama as well as snippets of stories from the Puranas like Gajendra moksha and the image of Vishnu on his Sheshnaga. Besides this there are other narratives from the two epics – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The non-religious themes painted include depictions of historic events such as the bombardment of a Maratha fort by the British, among others. But the most interesting paintings are the ones done in European convention reflecting Victorian lifestyle.
In the late 19th century, this mansion was deserted as Bhau Tambekar, the owner got into trouble with the British, because he had close links with the Indian nationalists. He was forced to leave Baroda. Soon after, in 1872, Tambekar wada was converted into a school. Art classes were conducted here and children, out of curiosity and mischief, had rubbed off those portions of the paintings that their hands could reach.
In 1872, Tambekar wada was converted into a school and children out of curiosity rubbed of the paintings.
It was only in 1951 that the Archaeological Survey of India adopted a part of the building which housed the wall paintings. The rest of the wada is in a dilapidated condition.
What has been saved, is a window to another exquisite world, making Tamberkar wada a must visit for anyone visiting Vadodara.
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