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History

Mayurbhanj State was one of the princely states of India during the period of the British Raj. It was one of the largest states of the Eastern States Agency and one of the three states of the Bengal States Agency.The emblem of the state were two peacocks for according to legend the ancestors of the ancient rulers originated from a peafowl's eyes.

 

The kings of Khijjinga Mandala, the predecessor state, had ruled in unbroken succession since about the 598 AD. The ruins of the temples and palaces of earlier capitals can still be found in Khiching (926 A.D.) and Haripur (1400 A.D).  Haripur is also immortalized through its mention in Akbarnama, the biography on Emperor Akbar which states that Daud Khan, the Sultan of Bengal took refuge here when he was attacked by the powerful army of Emperor Akbar because of its heavy fortification which was difficult to breach.

 

The Bhanjas are known to be the longest reigning clan of kings of the district. The Bhanjas ruled Mayurbhanj for more than 1000 years in royal succession until their merger with the Indian Union in January, 1949.

The present day occupants of the palace include, the Queen Mother Bharati Rajya Laxmi who is the daughter of King Tribhuwan Bir Bikram Shah of Nepal.  Her son Praveen Chandra Bhanj Deo who is the 47th ruler of the Bhanja dynasty and his wife Rashmi Rajya Laxmi of Mayurbhanj who belongs to the royal family of Jaisalmer.  The oldest princess Rajyashree is married into the royal family of Jhabua, while the younger two princesses Mrinalika and Akshita are social entrepreneurs and Directors of The Belgadia Palace and its philanthropic arm The Mayurbhanj Foundation.

The Idea

Photographed by Rohit Chhantbar & Rajesh Singh

The idea for running the palace as a boutique homestay was born out of the families interest in building sustainable communities and preserving the districts rich heritage and legacy.  Mayurbhanj is Odisha's largest district which is renowned for its art and architecture but it has very low development indicators which is a narrative the family hopes they can move the needle on through this initiative. 
 
The family renovated the home to be seen more as a platform than a property with social impact as its core ethos. The idea was to run The Belgadia Palace essentially as a startup whereby tourism is a vehicle of change to build a sustainable community which employs and skills local tribal people, houses and provides a platform for local community and small enterprises (whereby they get mentorship and potentially funding from travelers who stay and participate in artist residency programs), and finally invest in sustainable infrastructure to reduce the palace's carbon footprint so the property is self reliant and can take care of the surrounding community.

Photographed by Rohit Chhantbar & Rajesh Singh