Gujarat – Day 2

January 14, 2020 : A Royal Welcome in Rajpipla

We depart the hotel very early this morning for a short flight to Vadodara in the state of Gujarat. From there we drive to the Royal City of Rajpipla where we are welcomed to the Maharaja’s Palace (our home for the coming two nights) by His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Manvendra, and his American-born husband DeAndre.

Rajvant Palace is the home of the Maharaja (the Prince’s father) and his wife. They live on the upper floor. The Prince’s mother completely rejects her son because he is gay. She will not appear to us while he is residing in the house. 🙁
The prince welcomes us to the palace and his husband presents a garland of flowers.
We have a welcome reception in the Darbur Hall of the Palace.
Prince Manvendra with Shashi from our Delhi Office.
DeAndre, husband to the Prince. He hails from Corvallis, Oregon.
Entry to the courtyard immediately outside my room at the Queen’s Palace.
The door to my room in the Queen’s Palace – adjacent to the King’s Palace. We have old skeleton keys for the padlocks.
I meet the Prince’s father, the current Maharaja, during lunch at his palace.
The Prince accompanies us on the official Toto Tours bus we will be using for the duration of our tour through Gujarat.
Our first visit is to the LGBTQA+ Community Center on the Prince’s property.
Here we learn about the organizations goals and the services offered to our community members.
I confess I was a little distracted during this presentation!
We move along to a space dedicated to skill building instruction. It was formerly a cow shed, as you can see from the feeding trough.
A group photo with some of the staff after we present a contribution to the work of the Prince’s Foundation–the Lakshya Trust.
Our final visit of the day is to the over-the-top Swaminarayan Temple at Poicha.
The Prince refers to it as the Disneyland of Temples.
We await the 5:30pm sunset parade of dieties – one carried on the back of an elephant.
I cruise around the Temple grounds to take photos of some of the more outrageous scenes.
Swaminarayan Temple at Poicha
The selfie-obsessed generation continues its addiction.
OK – well maybe I’m part of that segment of the population obsessed with selfies.
A colorfully clad drummer at the evening aarti ceremony.
The Temple Elephant stands patiently in the midst of the swirl of worship ceremonies.
She even yawned as if bored by the whole thing – which she sees every night.
Rich among the throngs watching the evening aarti ceremony at the Temple.
Aarti ceremony at the Temple at sunset.
As the sun goes down the temple gets illuminated with lots of fairy lights.
Caught in a spiritual reverie. Or is that simply preparation for another selfie?
The God has taken an animal form.
About to enter the inner sanctum of the temple
Inside the inner sanctum is a hall where worshippers can pray to an idol of the head of this religious order.

We return to the Palace for dinner with the Prince – with excellent food prepared by DeAndre. After dinner most of us collapse into a coma brought on by a surfeit of wonderful food at the end of a long and busy day!

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