Overlooking the Polo Grounds, this red-bricked structure is well-known as the residence of one of the cricket legends, Captain Vijay Hazare, who led India to its first-ever cricket test victory against England in February 1952. Although the building’s history stretches back before Captain Hazare took it over, all the way to Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad-III’s reign over Baroda state. During a trip to England, the Maharaja became enamoured with European horse carriages and architecture, which inspired the design of four boutique colonial heritage bungalows: Pushpakoot, Padmakoot, Amrakoot and Chitrakoot. Constructed in 1902, these buildings covered approximately 20,000 square feet each, sharing a garden of an additional 20,000 square feet.
Captain Hazare’s occupancy lasted until 1976, after which the building ‘Pushpakoot’ was transferred to the government under the Urban Land Ceiling Act through a “distress sale”.1 The structure eventually became the office of the Charity Commissioner until 2019, whose request to raze the building in 2021 was accepted by the state legal department in February 2022.
The building now faces the threat of demolition.
The Heritage Trust based in Vadodara filed a PIL seeking to halt the demolition of a building and have it recognised as a heritage property. “The building is such an important part of our history. It is unfortunate that it is being pulled down. We have requested the authorities to preserve it. On the one hand, we are talking about making a heritage square in Vadodara and then such heritage structures are being demolished,” said Sameer Khera, vice-president of Heritage Trust. Hazare’s son Ranjit also commented on this news, “We spent so many years in the bungalow and have adorable memories of that place. I was very sad on learning that it was being razed. I wish that the authorities preserve the bungalow and make a memorial or museum of Vijay Hazare there.”2
However, Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Aniruddha Mayee reprimanded the Trust for hastily approaching the Gujarat High Court without conducting any historical research on the building. The Chief Justice remarked, “If you are really working in this field and sincere about it, you would have done a lot. Nothing has been done by you…You are not even aware of the procedures and provisions about how a property is declared a heritage property.”3 The Gujarat High Court declined to stay the destruction of a mansion. According to officials, the contract was granted to Pearl Buildcon of Surat after a formal tendering process.
The building’s visible and extensive signs of neglect and damage overtake the iconicity of its architecture. Even this expansive accumulation of history does not guarantee the safekeeping of the structure, with conservation appearing to be an elusive goal as usual. It is ironic, considering the half-baked obsession we harbour pertaining to our nation’s history, which only accentuates further when it comes to heritage structures. Yet, we struggle to protect our heritage structures.