Maharaja’s Girls High School at Chhoti Chaupad, Jaipur which was started during the rule of Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh of erstwhile Jaipur State in 1866, recently celebrated its 153rd anniversary. The school was started in Natani Haveli, which till 1866 was the residence of Bikharidas and Lunkaran Natani, who were one of the wealthiest salt dealers in the city.
While going from the city’s Chhoti Chaupar towards Mirza Ismail Road, also famous as MI Road, you might have noticed big haveli with a huge curved gate on the left side of the road. This Rajputana style structure leads you to Jaipur’s first girls ‘school.
The Natani family still live in the properties adjacent to the school. Vinod Natani, one of the successor of the Natani family, also secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Natani Pariwar, tells that the haveli was spread across a huge area, where presently the school, police station and a temple, are situated.
“Our residence is right beside the school. The school, temple, police station and our residence together constituted the Natani Haveli. Our ancestors gave up a large part of the residence as a gift to start the first girls’ school of the state. The step was taken at a time when nothing much was done for women’s education. Since the school started, it played an important role in contributing towards girls’ education,” he says.
The school building, a heritage property from the past, is presently owned by the central government. The school official’s states when there were not enough girls’ schools in the city, the school run in two shifts for nearly 5,000 students. Now, the number has come down to 1,400 students, who study in a single shift in 40 well-structured classrooms.
When a person enters the huge gates, they’ll notice four courtyards. While three courtyards have classroom wings, the biggest courtyard is now used as the assembly ground for the students. The school buildings are the royal reminder of the bygone era.
An alumnus of the school, Priti Kalra, presently a commerce teacher at the school itself says, “The school enjoyed huge glory for several decades, but as soon as the private schools flourished in the city, there was a downfall in its popularity. Girls from wealthy families including royals preferred to study in Maharaja’s school for several decades. Till now the school is one of the most sought after for senior secondary studies. Unlike private schools, the building and the calmness of the haveli style architecture with spacious areas set the stage for a student to grow socially and educationally,” says Kalra.
“We have heard from our ancestors that the school has a basement which has several tunnels connecting to other forts so that the king and the members of the royal family visiting or studying in the school could escape during an emergency situation. Some even say that there is a temple in the basement. We do not know how true these facts are,” adds Natani.
The classrooms of the schools, which used to be the residence, have not been renovated and kept as per the old style architecture, which gives us a great reminder about the glorious past.