The Royal Tour: Maharaja Gaj Singh
Maharaj Gaj Singh
Royalty is deeply connected with all things luxury; what is your definition of luxury?
True luxury is more to do with taste, excellence and style, than with sheer indulgence, with which it is sometimes confused. For me, luxury means evoking the finer refinements of life. Today, though we are blessed with more conveniences in life due to
technological advancement, luxury tends to be connected with yearning the 'good old days'; for example, my love for vintage cars.
Can you give us a glimpse into the royal collections at Jodhpur?
With the demise of the Princely States and finally de-recognition of the princes, many old collections were broken down and dispersed. However, we in Jodhpur, have managed to preserve a collection of fine arms, miniature paintings of the Marwar School, palanquins, elephant howdahs, children’s cradles, clocks, polo and racing trophies, albums and photographs, much of which are on display in the Mehrangarh Museum and the Umaid Bhawan Palace museum.
Where did your passion for vintage wheels stem from?
I grew up and learnt to drive some of the cars, which are still in our possession and hence, I developed a strong affinity for them. We have a humble collection of about a dozen cars. big and small, dating from the 1920s. My favourite car is a 1948 red and white Convertible Buick because that is the car I drove the most in my childhood and it was a gift from my father to my mother.
Any special acquisitions or fond memories about them?
I have not really cquired any new cars outside the family collection, which I inherited, and a few I acquired back from our relatives who were gifted some in the past. The most special car for me is the Rolls Royce Phantom II Aluminium body pardah car, which was gifted by my grandfather to my aunt, Maharani of Dhrangadhara. The car however, remained in Jodhpur and after a while got dilapidated due to lack of use and maintenance. Very recently, I requested my aunt if we could have the car and get it restored for our Car Museum. It now occupies a prestigious place there.
As part of several vintage car rallies, how do you envision motoring heritage in our country?
Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in a unique 'All Phantom Rolls Royce Rally' in Rajasthan. Eight enthusiastic couples from England and Europe came with their cars and were joined by my Phantom, which I had lent to two of the organisers, Peter Vacher and Gordon Ashley Carter, who helped me restore the car. I joined them in my Blue Convertible Phantom II. it was a truly exhilarating experience.
Having converted the Umaid Bhavan palace and other royal properties into heritage hotels, how does it feel to let go of these ancestral homes?
Actually, converting our palaces and homes into heritage hotels has given them a new lease of life.We have not let any of them go
in reality, they are still owned by us, and we use them as and when we want. My family and I permanently live in one part of Umaid
Bhawan Palace, which is now a professionally managed property. The other smaller properties are under our own management with a franchise agreement with WelcomHeritage, which is a joint venture with ITC and my hotel company, Marudhar Hotels.
How do you envision the future of heritage tourism in India?
As Chairman of WelcomHeritage and also the Founder President of the IHHA. Indian Heritage Hotels Association. I see a long and
enduring future for heritage tourism in India. We aim to provide an all-round experience for travellers.
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