We come down to breakfast to find the party of Canadian tourists unable to leave the hotel. The Maharajah explains that the Jats are causing “some agitation” back towards Bharatpur where we were a few days ago. Within the caste system, the Jats are a relatively high caste of farmers and they are complaining about the injustices (as they see them) of the quota system by which the lower castes, the dalits and the tribals get preferential treatment when applying for jobs, government positions, university places etc. The higher castes feel this positive discrimination has gone too far these days, and periodically these grievances spill over into agitation and worse. The Jat king had his seat at Bharatpur and so Bharatpur district is suffering some disruption, not least the blocking of the road to Agra. This is where the Canadians were heading so at the moment they are stuck at the Bhanwar Vilas. It seems the Jats have also caused havoc in Delhi by sabotaging the water supply to about 60% of the population. The Maharajah seems to have some sympathy with the Jats’ complaints; clearly many Indians feel the quota system, originally introduced for a ten year period in 1951, has now tipped the balance too far in the other direction. Bring back the Raj! At least everyone knew the system was fair in those halcyon days…..
The morning is taken up with a visit to the Kaila Devi temple outside town. This is the other temple whose temple trust is run by the Maharajah. A faithful retainer is summoned to accompany the honoured guests, which is a relief as it ensures we do not get lost. The temple itself is not that old, but is clearly revered all over India for its presiding deity. We get the preferential treatment, which we have never had in a Hindu temple before, which makes the visit much more interesting. We leave our shoes in the private cloakroom, get the marigold garlands on arrival (!), have the deity and her abode explained to us (lots of silver and gold work around), process around the sanctum, and then do the other stuff – visit the shotgun armed temple guard on the roof, see the storeroom, visit the “barracks” for the temple security staff, see their mess hall, stuff you never realise exists within a temple precincts. There is also a dining hall where poor people can come and eat free of charge, courtesy of the temple trust. We also go out into the village to see one of the guest houses, where pilgrims can come and stay for free if they have come from afar to worship and the deep wells lined with stone carvings. Then on to the Maharajah’s personal guest house that has been opened up specially so the esteemed guests can stop for a wee. We carry on to one of his outlying farms to inspect this fruit trees and wheat fields. All fascinating stuff! And not something you get to do as an average visitor.
Some people might feel this ancient system of the Maharajah retaining his title and exercising his ancient responsibilities to his “subjects” is old fashioned and has no place in the modern world. But where is the harm in it? He provides livelihood and support to hundreds if not thousands of people and asks little in return, because he sees it as his duty. It may not accord with Western liberal thinking and Mr Corbyn would not doubt disapprove, but where is the harm in it?