Landscape architecture, garden design, planting design and management - Rowland Byass

Kaliadeh Palace

29/06/2012

Kaliadeh is a 5 mile cycle ride north of Ujjain. The ride takes you through the northern outskirts of the city through villages and millet fields, past the crumbling remains of several old buildings, some evidently once grand. The palace is announced by two stone gate piers with rusting iron gates, on one of which is inscribed 'Kaliadeh Palace'. Clearly modern, these date from its most recent period of occupation in the early twentieth century, when the Scindia family, the rulers of Gwalior State before Indian independence in 1947, restored the medieval palace built by the Sultans of Mandu. They added a colonnaded verandah around the outside of the medieval building, and a long low building in a colonial classical style, directly aligned with the palace across a small ravine.

There is a small entry on Kaliadeh in the Gwalior State Gazetteer of 1907:



The palace itself sits on an island in the river, reached by a stone bridge. It overlooks a series of tanks cut into the stone bed of the river, lined with stone chambers along each river bank and with  three stone pavilions standing in the river channel. Located on an outcrop of stone just before a drop of about three metres, the flowing water is directed through a series of narrow rills to fill the tanks, set into the descending topography of the river bed.

Here you can see the palace (far right) on its island in the river, with the pavilions and tanks carved out of the riverbed in the foreground.

At the edge of the outcrop, the water emerges from the channels to fall off the outcrop over angled chadors – water chutes of Persian origin (the name is from the Persian for veil – the same word used to describe the black 'cape' worn by women in Iran). In most gardens, a gentle trickle of water over a chador is animated by the carved surface of the chute, designed to produce patterns in the flowing water. Here, the swollen post-monsoon river makes them roaring cascades.



The Mughal Emperor Akbar is recorded stopping here in 1599, when the Mughal historian Abul-Fazl described the site as 'one of the most delightful places in t he world'. Although most of what is visible here was built by the Sultans of nearby Mandu in the fifteenth century, they built over a temple dedicated to the Sun god Surya that was already here. They extended the tanks and channels that already existed here, adding pavilions and terraces, and building their palace on the site of the temple building.

 


The palace is now abandoned and semi-ruined, although still apparently owned by the Scindias (who are now prominent politicians in the modern state of Madhya Pradesh, the successor to Gwalior State).

In the entrance hall are some very thirties-looking glass cabinets set into niches in the wall. An effigy of Surya has been installed in the central chamber on the ground floor, denoting the reinstatement of the site as a Hindu temple. You can just about make about the pale skinned god standing in the gloom, behind a metal grille. On the terrace outside are the remains of flowerbeds and a couple of ragged palm trees, clearly vestiges of the twentieth century planting scheme. I can just about imagine the Maharajah's guests standing under the verandah, a gin and tonic in each hand, looking out over much the same scene. This is a quite inspired work of landscape architecture - and worthy of the name - for the way it adapts the regular, formalised use of water in the Islamic tradition to the natural topography of the place.


 

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