The Kota Garh Museum, situated in the rambling palace complex on the banks of the Chambal in South-East Rajasthan is the most important tourist destination in Kota. The old city has three sets of concentric walls which have been built over time as the city has grown. The thickest and most recent set was built under the Dewan Zalim Singh in the early nineteenth century and forms some of the most impressive fortifications in India. The foundation of the fort can be traced back to 1264 and Kotah officially became a separate state from Bundi in 1624 under Rao Madho Singh, hence the name of the family trust, Rao Madho Singh Museum Trust. The Trust was formed in 1970 at the initiative of M.K. Brijraj Singh under his father, Maharao Bhim Singh with the object of setting up a museum to educate the public about the history of Kotah State and to preserve Kota’s heritage for future generations. (The State and Royal Family spell Kotah with an ‘h’, and modern Kota post-independence is spelt without an ‘h’.)
Pandit Madan Mohan Shastri, who had just retired as Curator of the Rajasthan State Museum in Kota, was instrumental in helping M.K. Brijraj Singh set up the museum. They were aided by Thakur Jaswant Singh and others.
In 1960 the Kota Barrage had been built across the River Chambal right next to the Palace complex and some of the buildings had been damaged and flooded as a result.
The Garh had not been the primary residence of the Royal Family since Umed Bhavan Palace (now a Welcome Group Heritage Hotel ) had been built at the beginning of the twentieth century, but it was regularly used for ceremonials and worship, particularly at Dusshera, the most important festival in the Kota calendar. Parts of the complex had been leased to schools and colleges and still are. The Government Museum was in the City Palace for some years but moved out in the 1990s.
The Palace is most famous for its wall paintings, the best of which are in the Bada Mahal. The museum also has an excellent collection of silver howdahs and palanquins as well as Royal memorabilia including garments, weapons, musical and astronomical instruments and games. The most prestigious item is the famous copper-gilt mahi-o-maratib or ‘fish and dignities’ standard which was presented by the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah to Maharao Bhim Singh I in 1720. It is the single most important Mughal honour enjoyed by the Maharaos of Kotah.
This content has been created as part of a project partnered with Royal Rajasthan Foundation, the social impact arm of Rajasthan Royals, to document the cultural heritage of the state of Rajasthan.