Design and Indian Royalty

Most kingly is the king of all.

I clearly remember my experience on a personal tour of “Salim Singh ki Haveli” in Jaisalmer back in 2014. A 300 year old construction from 17th century and supposedly the only royal construction outside the walled fort of Jaiselmer, owned by the then Prime minister of State Salim Singh Mahto. But this is not the part that amazes me. Almost every other historical construction in India is full of such narratives.

What is beyond imagination is the idea of its superlative design, its vernacularity, climatic adaptability, security while still adhering to the royal codes. Jaisalmer, a place of extremely arid climatic conditions, where a bucket of water used to be daily wage for people, establishing a royal construction amidst the city and away from the fort must have brought its own challenges . Challenges which even modern machinery would not fix. The minds who worked out this construction were not mere designers, they were Gods of Design thinking.

Arid climate where every drop of water was precious as a pearl, how could one use water in construction? how could that gallons of water which will let people live for a few more days, be used in a construction. The only solution to his was a detachable building. A construction completely based on interlocking of stone with metal binders. A complete knock-down that can be re-assembled somewhere else. I only heard of a furniture of such kind till then.

Thats merely a small characteristic to the other surprises this building was to unfold. Now less water comes with its own luxury challenges. No water means, no flowers for decoration. In fact no source of permanent decoration. The same problem was faced even in the Royal fort. Solution- Why dont we just carve the flowers in stone and fit them on the walls and ceiling like a screw. So whenever they are needed at a different location, they can simply be unscrewed and installed elsewhere. I mean seriously ???

My Neurons came out of my mouth when the security mechanism of the building was explained to me. Staircase with steps of uneven height after a few normal stairs were constructed. A thief will always be in a hurry and hence when he starts climbing fast, due to irregular heights, he will fall. Once he falls, his “Turban” will fall off. In a hurry, he will run due to the sound of fall to avoid being caught by the guards. The turban he left behind will identify his clan (as each clan had its own turban to define social structure). And the “Vaid” of that clan will tell ‘who recently came with an injury caused by the fall”.

Such has been the role of design in aspects of Royalty in India.

It surprises me equally the way it makes me proud. Design for royalty is not always just about expensive and lavish studded garments or gold painted walls. Commissions like ‘Salim Singh ki Haveli’ leave behind a legacy and more so a thought on design that modern day minds can only anticipate to ideate. Leave the execution.

Think about it…

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