Kanker Palace – a wonderful homestay with a royal family

Nearly a week ago, we left Bastar and drove to Kanker to stay at the home of the Kanker royal family, who greeted us themselves with garlands (Tina, the second son’s widow placed them over our heads) and the customary marking on the forehead and circling incense done by Jai, the third son of the family. The family can trace their origins in Kanker back to the 11th or 12th century, having come originally from Odisha.

We spent time with most of the resident members – Tina and her son Jash, Jai and his wife and daughter Jingle, the dogs Leo and Jasper and the youngest daugher of the family, as well as Jai’s mother. We arrived in the middle of mourning for an uncle who lived in the palace in Jagdalpur, Bastar which we had tried to visit, but which had been closed:

The gate to the palace in Jagdalpur

As a result of the mourning period, a number of guests dropped in on their way to visit the mourning family, so Jai, Tina and the rest of the family had much entertaining on their hands, but somehow never made us feel in the way.

The eldest son, the Raja, is the academic I wrote about in a previous blog about the extraordinary village ceremony I witnessed, and he is resident in Delhi, although he too was coming to pay his respects. Jolly, the second son (Tina’s husband and Jash and his sister’s father) sadly died during the Covid period.

Tina showed us round the wonderful kindergarten and primary school that her sister-in-law (the royal family’s daughter) had set up in the grounds of the palace, converting buildings into school rooms and offices. The old tiger house – built to rehabilitate man-eating tigers – was a useful addition as office space and the conversion had been paid for by two guests from the UK who had been visiting for seventeen years.

The youngest kids doing their morning exercise
We visited all the classes and were treated to a number of poem recitations, complete with appropriate gestures (Sue is standing next to Tina)
Jash, Tina’s son, reciting ‘If I was a super-hero’ for us.

The audience hall of the Palace – where guests were received and entertained – was also the space to which the village deities would visit, at certain times. We understand that the deities can be a bit unpredictable and crash about – not really what you would want in such a place.

Jai and Tina, Sue and me in the audience hall
Enjoying a meal with Jai’s wife just before departure

There was one more guest at the palace – a very special German photographer called Robert Huber, known as Safed Haathi (the white elephant) because of the vehicle he has driven around India for more than forty years.

He has photographed many of the royal palaces and families (of which there are more than 500), and is a great friend of the Kanker Palace family. Somehow, Nikhil persuaded him to take a picture of us with Tina and Jai – Robert set it up with the jeep which sits just outside the palace. We are awaiting Robert’s professional photo, but here’s someone else’s photo of us posing for our photo – notice the wonderful hat that Jai is wearing.

2 thoughts on “Kanker Palace – a wonderful homestay with a royal family”

    1. Intensive therapy? I guess this could just be a family story – there were two stuffed tiger heads and a whole stuffed tiger in the main reception hall…


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