BritishPathe has no documentation for the video (only noting it "appears to be some kind of celebration") and through personal communication with me confirmed that the "1930-35" date estimate was based only on other films found in the same canister. I'm excited to reveal my research on this incredible footage of not only pre-revival "Bharatanatyam" but also royal activities in a princely state before Indian independence! While the identity question is still being investigated, I feel like I can make an educated guess about the date: mid to late 1920s, most likely 1926! This is based on the youthful appearance of Pratapsingrao in the video and the fact that a BritishPathe film crew was present and would likely have only done so for especially large events, most likely the 1926 Golden Jubilee.
Why is the Date Important?
Identifying the Royal Family
The "Maharanee of Baroda" as alluded to in the title is not the only royalty of the princely state of Baroda seen in the video; her husband, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, and his grandson and heir Pratapsinghrao Gaekwad can be seen as well! Together they ruled Baroda from 1875-1939 and 1939-1951 respectively.
|Seated left to right: Pratapsingrao, Sayajirao|
Notice his mustache and his very lean and thin frame? These physical characteristics are starkly in contrast to his appearance from at least the mid-1930s and beyond in which he continued to gain ever increasing amounts of weight and shaved his mustache. Here are some early photos; since he was born in 1908, the undated photos would have to be the 1920s when he was in his teens and early 20s:
|Undated photos: left , right (source)|
|Sayajirao's family portraits: left , right (1926, )|
Circled in red: Pratapsingrao; in blue: presumably sister Indira Devi, who had her last child in 1920
|Left to right: 1934 (source), 1939 (source), unknown (source), 1948 (source)|
The lean and lithe Pratapsingrao in the BritishPathe video serves as the strongest evidence for its being filmed in the 1920s or no later than the early 1930s. I could be more precise if I could find pictures of Pratapsingh from 1927-1933 (this lot at Bonham's says it has pictures from his wedding to Shanta Devi in 1929--anyone have 312 pounds to spare? ha!). But given the information below, 1926 seems the most likely date for the video!
While Sayajirao certainly became accomplished and is fondly celebrated today for his progressive actions, social policies, infrastructure improvements, and care for his people, he was anything but a docile puppet to the British Raj. Among other things, he aroused suspicion through his employment of Indian nationalists and "achieved notoriety" by his breach of protocol at the 1911 Delhi Durbar for King George V in which he wore plain clothes without his British decorations and insulted the king by turning his back on him before the prescribed distance (though there is evidence other rulers failed protocol too ).
Maharaja Sayajirao and Baroda's Grand Events
Parties and events are a recurring theme when researching Sayajirao and the activities of the ruling family in Baroda. Like many other princely states in pre-independent India, Baroda held many Jubilees celebrating the anniversary of years of reign of its Maharaja, Sayajirao Gaekwad. While little information is available on Sayajirao's Silver (25-year) Jubilee in 1907, his Golden (50-year) and Diamond (60-year) Jubilee celebrations in 1926 and 1936 respectively are thankfully fairly well documented. Each Jubilee was graced by the visit of the Viceroy for a few days, and certainly this fact as well as the significance of the greater Jubilee celebrations would have drawn outside attention (like BritishPathe) to document the events of a lavish Maharaja. I highly suspect the BritishPathe video was shot at the events surrounding the 1926 Golden Jubilee having ruled out 1936 Jubilee based on the appearance of Pratapsingrao.
1926 Golden Jubilee
Sayajirao’s Golden Jubilee was to be held in May 1925 but was put off until January 1926 when the weather had cooled . The festivities began on January 11, 1926, with “a public reception, arranged in a vast mandap or marquee especially erected in the Waroshia field to the north of the city." The main event of the Golden Jubilee was this reception, but “over the rest of the week, there were other functions too: a review of the army, a garden party, a display of fireworks, a children’s party, public feeding of the poor, the performances of plays in Marathi and Gujarati, musical evenings and classical dancing"  as well as wrestling matches and a Children's Gathering at Nyaya Mandir . Not connected with the Jubilee celebrations was another event on January 15 in which the Maharaja laid a foundation stone of a Kirti Mandir and that evening held a banquet for private club members followed by "open-air entertainment by singers and dancers" . Before the Jubilee celebrations officially began, there were other events celebrating the Maharaja in December 1925 such as arena animal fights and a New Years Eve state banquet in the Laxmi Vilas Durbar Hall featuring Indian and European guests . Given how many of these events match what is in the BritishPathe video, it is impossible to make any definitive match based on description alone.
|Celebratory artwork |
|Parrot tricks by Sardarmiya |
Of great interest to this post is the lengthy description Panemanglor gives of the performance of the Tanjore dancers, named as Kanta and Ghoura (!), for the Viceroy in the Makkarpura palace drawing room. The Orientalist outsider tone (much like the examples in Ragothaman's recent post) is strange given that Panemanglor was Indian, but since he was closely involved with British visits (looking "after the comforts" of the Prince of Wales during his 1921 visit and serving as the "Special Duty Officer at Makkarpura" for the visit described in the book) I assume he documented the visit with British sensitivities in mind thus the overly-positive and whitewashed tone throughout.
"But here in the Drawing room, Lord Reading was minutely surveying the Tanjore Dancers who were giving an exhibition of ancient Hindu dances, the like of which he had never seen before. These dancers hailed from the South and the dances were peculiar too and required a tremendous amount of energy which the dancers in spite of their age seemed to have plenty. They seemed to make as much noise as possible, now beating the floor with their feet, now turning to the left, then to the right, now making a sudden forward movement as if they were going to fall on the spectators but then suddenly stopping their progress and now again making wonderful gestures to suit their weird music and quaint dance, while the persons who stood behind them with darkish faces but wearing gold and red turbans seemed to have absolutely no mercy on the instruments they held. So wonderfully had they coloured, clothed and jewelled themselves that they became objects of admiration and their dances were loudly applauded. After showing several types of dances, Kanta and Ghoura as they are called gave imitations of the snake charmer and of kite flying and finished up by playing the Hindu mythological scene of Radha and Krishna, one playing the hero and the other the heroine. His Excellency had a huge smile as he evidently thought that a demonstration of this kind on an English stage might perhaps cause a sensation. Every one of the guests appreciated these dances but Capt. Sadekar who was sitting by the window side was half asleep but it was no fault of his and he felt relieved when the 'noise' ceased."
1936 Diamond Jubilee
I was delighted to find two rare videos of the 1936 Jubilee celebrations at the website of Movietone, another British digital newsreel archive similar to BritishPathe. "Viceroy and Gaekwar" was filmed at the Viceroy's visit, and "Gaekwar of Baroda's Diamond Jubilee" was shot sometime during the greater Jubilee celebrations. Since I can't embed the videos, click on the images below to view them at Movietone's website (it may require you to create a free account first):
RARE VIDEO! Click images to link to video pages
In the "Viceroy and Gaekwar" video above, the shot of the group walking in the open space outdoors is in exactly the same location as the segment in the BritishPathe video after the arena animal fights. See the same building in the background circled in red?
|Left: Movietone 1936 video Right: BritishPathe video|
Reasoning Out the Date
The grand Jubilees were not the only events of their kind held in Baroda. Mention of many of the same activities in other events from the time period are found in multiple sources. For example, the Prince of Wales' 1921-22 visit to Baroda with a garden party at Motibag, Viceroy Irwin's visit to Baroda in 1930 , and the 1943 celebration of the Maharaja's birthday featuring arena sports and a durbar. Likewise, the Governor or Resident may have been treated to durbars for annual visits during the time period . It seems there were constant durbars, garden parties, arena sports, and other events often held in the same locations as the BritishPathe video with presumably the same canopies and set pieces brought out as needed for each event. So the events seen in the BritishPathe video have innumerable possibilities!
Nevertheless, I still think that since the BritishPathe video was presumably shot by a BritishPathe crew on location, the Jubilees are the likely events given their significance being something BritishPathe would have been interested in documenting. If Movietone documented the 1936 Jubilee and Viceroy visit, surely BritishPathe did the same for the 1926 Jubilee! Given that there is no sign of the Viceroy or his large party (numbered well over 80 at the 1936 event ) in the BritishPathe footage and given that the events filmed do not match the descriptions of the Viceregal visit, I suspect that while it was likely filmed at the Jubilee events it was not at the specific visits of the Viceroy but either the preparations beforehand or the Jubilee events held for the Barodian people. Given Pratapsingrao's prominence in the BritishPathe video, we must also consider milestones in his life as possibilities, such as his marriage to Shantadevi in 1929 or the birth of his first child in 1930 (which saw the declaration of a public holiday and statewide celebrations ). By the way, footage of Pratapsingh's crowning as the Maharaja in 1939 can be found here at Movietone (clip is called "Gaekwar of Baroda Installed").
Filming Locations of the British Pathe "Maharanee of Baroda" Video
After tracking down Panemanglor's book "The Viceregal Visit to Baroda 1926," I was able to determine the locations of nearly all the footage in the BritishPathe video thanks to the numerous photographs and descriptions. The video is shot in four main locations: the arena/agad near Pani Gate, the Motibag Palace gardens, the Nazarbag Palace gardens, and the Nyaya Mandir. There are a few very brief segments that I could not determine the location of. The British Library's Online Gallery has an excellent collection of photographs and descriptions of historic buildings in Baroda, and after browsing the collection it became clear that around the famed Laxmi Vilas Palace itself (which is not seen in the video) are many smaller palaces, like Motibag and Nazarbag, built by past Maharajas and featuring large pleasure gardens for entertaining.
Arena - Animal Fights - The animal fights seen at the beginning of the BritishPathe video (0:00-2:15) clearly take place in the same arena as the buffalo and elephant fights shown in Panemanglor's book, describes as the arena "near the Pani Gate" located on the backside of the "palace of the old Mahomedan Rulers of Baroda." Curiously, there are only buffalo and ram fights in the footage and no shots of the famed "Sathmari" elephant fights Baroda was well known for. According to Panemanglor, Baroda's arena sports were cruelty free and the animals were separated at the first sign of injury. He names the elephants who performed and fought as Rupkali, Mangal Gaj, and Albela; Rupkali can be seen performing tricks in this 1933 video at BritishPathe.
Top: Arena animal fights at 1926 Jubilee 
Bottom: BritishPathe video Motibag Palace gardens
Motibag Palace Gardens - Garden Party (2:16-7:10). The building circled in red was key to identifying this location in both the BritishPathe and Movietone videos. I believe the domes below are also similar; apparently Motibag Stadium is today used as cricket grounds. The Motibag Palace is "one of several small palaces in the [Laxmi Vilas Palace] grounds built by past Maharajas including the Vishran Bag, Mastu Bag, and Chiman Bag" (British Library).
|Motibag Gardens 1926 (Panemanglor); Motibag Stadium/Cricket Grounds 2009 (source)|
|Same gardens in BP video|
Nazarbag Palace Gardens - Devadasi Dance - The Nazar Bagh Palace Gardens appear to be the setting of the devadasi dance with musical ensemble (7:11-11:57), the female singer and musicians (14:02-15:22), and the shots of people walking around and setting up (17:19-17:58, 18:11-18:24-19:25 end). The gazebo in the photo below is the key landmark--its spires and design at the base of the columns match the gazebo in the BritishPathe video.
|Gazebo in Nazarbaug Palace Garden (source)|
Same gazebo in BP video
Nyaya Mandir - Children’s Gathering (12:50-14:01, 15:42-17:06, 18:00-18:11) - Performances by local children are a common feature in descriptions of events in Baroda. The large hall and set of five windows at the front in the BritishPathe video clearly match photos of the Nyaya Mandir.
|Nyaya Mandir - (left source)|
|Same two large and three smaller windows|
If my well-researched theory that the video was filmed in the late 1920s/1926 is correct, that means it provides intriguing visual evidence regarding the much-discussed topic of what “authentic” devadasi dance (especially nritta) might have looked like and what changes Rukmini Devi Arundale and others supposedly brought to the form as it was “rehabilitated” into a respected artistic practice of middle and upper-class/caste women. Of course, this view has to be tempered with the fact that we don’t know if the particular dance in the video was considered “good” or not or if it was altered for the event or due to the BritishPathe film crew being present. But I still can’t believe I've witnessed a recognizable Alarippu from 1926!
Some interesting subjects for possible future research came to mind as I wrote this post. Were there differences in anti-devadasi sentiment and legislation in princely states compared to the directly-ruled areas of British India? How was the "devadasi question" handled in princely Baroda, especially since Sayajirao enacted many daring social reforms, among them issues affecting women, but devadasi dedication doesn't appear to be mentioned in any writings about him? When exactly did the state artists, presumably Gauri and Kanthimati, stop performing, and why? I'll add that to my neverending backlog of things to research and post about. :)
Sources (I tried a standardized footnote style this time...):
1. Administration Report for 1935-36 (Baroda). "Chapter II: The Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Maharaja Saheb's Reign."
2. Campbell-Johnson, Alan. Viscount Halifax: A Biography. 1941.
3. Gaekwad, Fatesinghrao P. Sayajirao of Baroda: The Prince and the Man. 1989.
4. Panemanglor, Krishnarao N. The Viceregal Visit to Baroda 1926. 1927.
6. Sergeant, Philip W. The Ruler of Baroda: An Account of the Life and Work of the Maharaja Gaekwar. 1928.
7. Singh, Nagendra K. Divine Prostitution. 1997.