12 May, 2021

The Remains of Days Past

In a state brimming with historic towns, monuments and artefacts, the quake was also a wrecker of heritage

The Remains of Days Past
IT'S a truly majestic 18th century palace, ironically flanked by a modern-day 500,000-litre water tank. If you ignore this brick-and-mortar monstrosity, the Darbargadh in Morbi—a bustling 800-year-old trading outpost for some 230 villages in western Gujarat—is a revelation: fine ashlar masonry—masonry of hewed or square stone—on handsome yellow sandstone where strains of neo-Gothic and Graeco-Roman styles clash happily in a high noon of eclecticism in architecture. Look down from the palace and you see indelible signs of European city planning: a straight processional road flanked by what used to be a pretty, 120-year-old, low-slung bazaar of 300 shops with semi-circular arches. Walk down the road and you reach a town-gate tower, the cast-iron for which was shipped in from Birmingham. With its crescent-shaped boundary and low buildings, mostly two-storey with colonnaded pillars, Morbi looks like a dusty, frayed, tropical echo of a 'classical' English town like Bath.

But all that was largely before the fateful January 26 earthquake that flattened most of the historic...

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