“Many structures on the Diggi palace premises are over 200 years old. Trying to make changes to them without disturbing their original traditional look is a challenge,” Thakur Ram Pratap Singh Diggi, the owner of the palace, which is the venue for Zee Jaipur Literature Festival (ZJLF), told dna.

Thakur Ram Pratap Singh Diggi, the palace owner
Suhit Kelkar
dna
“Many structures on the Diggi palace premises are over 200 years old. Trying to make changes to them without disturbing their original traditional look is a challenge,” Thakur Ram Pratap Singh Diggi, the owner of the palace, which is the venue for Zee Jaipur Literature Festival (ZJLF), told dna.He was walking this writer through the six venues of the palace premises which are being readied to welcome the 2 lakh-plus visitors expected at the world’s largest literary event. “This is why the work on refurbishing the premises has been going on for a better part of the year, ever since curtains came down on ZJLF 2014.”The changes, which local heritage conservation expert and INTACH member Dharmender Kanwar called “sensitive” have been done in a manner which does not suggest that they are new at all. These include stone-lined paths to walk around the lawns at all the six venues, which have improved access due to new sandstone stairways. “We now have toilet blocks, restaurants and smoking zones attached to every single venue. Given the huge volume of people attending the sessions, this was common feedback. We wanted to address it.”The Durbar Hall, a beautiful example of the Mughal-meets-Rajput aesthete, is one of the most grand edifices on the property. An entire bar on the right of the stage of the venue, where the first festival took its baby steps in 2006, was removed. “This necessitated repainting the whole wall with murals identical to other parts of the Hall,” explained Diggi, admitting, “It was tough removing the ornate bar which my father had gotten installed.”The foreground of the Hall, which would see a melee as visitors use it to access venues, has not only been widened but the venues have also been connected to each other with alternative access points. “Now, everyone won’t come through the same patch creating crowds,” said Diggi.Kanwar told dna, “Given the sheer size of the festival, it would have been very difficult to go ahead without making some necessary changes. It is heartening to see how they are doing it without disturbing the soul of the place. Its heritage look is not being disturbed at all.”

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Innovation, conservation go hand in hand at ZJLF venue