:: Memoirs of Maharaj Sajjansinghji,
    a first cousin... ::


Invitations were sent out to all the Kings and princes of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa. Twenty one Kings and Princes accepted the invitation. Some of the principal attendees were Maharaja Fatehsinh Rao of Baroda, Maharaja of Rajpipla, Maharaja of Sirmur, Maharaja of Devgadh Baria, Maharaja of Rajgarh and the Maharaja of Sailana. The old palace which was the official state Guest House accommodated the princes. It was given a grand new look and refurnished with exquisite French furniture specially imported from Europe. Beautiful cars such the Rolls Royce, Packard, Buick, De Soto, Jaguar and Daimler transported the royals to and from Kusum Vilas Palace. Local people from the town and surrounding villages flocked to view the lavish ceremonies. These lavish ceremonies lasted for three days and nights, during which processions were taken out every day in the silver carriage accompanied by the Royal band and gaily dressed men and women singing and dancing all the way. All the subjects were invited to feast every day at the Kusum Vilas palace. The subjects of Chhota Udepur responded to this gesture, by arranging a grand dinner in Bhai's honor at the Durbar Hall in Chhota Udepur. Bhai loved his subjects dearly, and realizing the fast changing times, he donated the Durbar Hall, considered to the best after the Durbar Hall of Baroda, to the public. This structure is today the Town Hall of Chhota Udepur. This gesture endeared him all the more to the people of the town.

On the fourth day, of the ceremonies, the special train with its special fleet of railway saloons left Chhota Udepur for Palitana. The royal entourage from Chhota Udepur was cordially received at Palitana, by His Highness of Palitana with the princes of Bhavnagar, Gondal, Wadhwan and other jagirs of Saurasthra.

No stone was left unturned to ensure the comfort of the Royal guests at Palitana. The marriage ceremony started the next evening, and I was the "best man" to the bridegroom. I stayed with Bhai during the entire ceremony that lasted well into the late hours of the night. The next day, our special entourage left Palitana for Chhota Udepur to reach home the next morning. News had already spread of the arrival of the new Queen and King to Chhota Udepur. The entire track from Bodeli to Chhota Udepur were lined with people and crackers were burst as the train passed by. At every station, crowds of people waited to greet Bhai and congratulate him. Finally the entourage reached Chhota Udepur, where townsmen waited to greet their Maharaja and Maharani, and to take them to the Mahakali temple to get the blessings of the presiding deity. Meanwhile, the guests were taken to the Old Palace where they relaxed till evening.

That evening, was the grand reception to the newly wed royal couple. Choicest Scotch and Champagne flowed like water, and the celebrations continued till late in the night. Thus concluded one of the most high profile weddings of the royals of Gujarat.

Bhai was a real sportsman with a strong sportsman like spirit. He was very fond of cricket, tennis, squash, badminton, riding and shooting in which he participated well. He formed a local cricket team, and encouraged the youngsters to take to the game, which they most enthusiastically did. He also got the former Test cricketers Nyalchand and Kishenchand to train the boys. Thereafter he formed his own team which participated in many tournaments, and proudly won most of them. Cricket was in his blood and he spent generously on the game providing the necessary kit and other expenses for the team.

Chhota Udepur has a beautiful gymkhana adjacent to the cricket ground built by H.H. Maharaja Fatehsinghji Chauhan, and named after him. The gymkhana boasts of excellent tennis courts, a closed badminton court with wooden flooring, a squash court - also with a wooden flooring, a billiards table, a spacious table tennis room and a Cards room. Soft drinks and delicious snacks were also served on demand, and the important people of the town came every evening without fail to take delight in the available facilities. Many princes who visited Chhota Udepur, were entertained at the Gymkhana and were lavish in their praise of the place.

The one sport that Bhai and I loved most was "shikaar". Chhota Udepur is a mountainous area with thick jungles, which have plentiful wildlife especially panthers and black bear. The jungles of Chhota Udepur also had a population of tiger, which has today been depleted on account of massive deforestation. Chhota Udepur also has a huge population of tribals, especially the Rathwa, Bhil and Koli tribes. These people are the original residents of this area. Their main occupation being tilling their small plots of land, and rearing cattle and goats. While grazing in the mountains, these animals would frequently be attacked and killed by the panthers. The grieved tribesmen would approach Bhai to get rid of the menace. One such incident happened in Tejgarh, which is hardly 12 kms from Chhota Udepur. A panther had killed and devoured a bullock, and the grieved owner approached Bhai to get rid of the hunter. Whenever Bhai went on a shikar, I used to accompany him as a second gun and a shikari, to throw light on the animal at night.

When Bhai got the news, he immediately called me up to be ready to leave at 5.00 am the next morning. However we could leave only at 6.30 in the morning on account of some contingencies. We were sure that by then the panther would already have reached its cave. We however were surprised to hear its roars every five minutes. This was a strange behavior as the panthers normally move around in stealth and its only during the mating season, that they call out to their mate. We asked the tribal whose bullock had been killed to tie a goat on a raised platform called "machi", and if the goat was devoured, we should be informed accordingly. The goat was killed that night, the news of which was conveyed to us. Bhai, had a machan constructed and he and I went to the place of the kill early in the evening at around 5.00 pm. Time passed and at about 6.30 pm we again heard the roars of the animal, indicating that it was out of its cave. Every five minutes we could hear its roars, and this helped us know about the movements of the animal. Slowly the animal came down the hill, and was approaching the kill. A little away from the kill, the sounds stopped, so we knew he was instructing the kill and the surroundings. Being satisfied with the setup, the animal receded and went for a drink. The calls of the animal continued till 2.30 am in the morning, and then again started getting louder, as it again approached the goat. Since it was a beautiful moonlit night, we could clearly see the happenings below, as the kill was placed in an open area. The goat was tied on a small platform about six feet in height, so that the hyenas could not kill it. The panther took one leap and was atop of the machi, and remained actionless reviewing its surroundings. Realising all was in order, it started devouring the goat and we allowed it to relish its meal for about ten minutes, as the scene was interesting. Bhai whispered to me to take aim, which both of us did. The tribal switched on the light and the panther looked up. Bhai fired, but I did not, as the bullet had done its work and the animal collapsed on the kill. After we got down from the Machan, and brought the panther down, we realized that it was a full grown female.