AS EVENING SETTLED upon the Diggi House, noises escaped from the family quarters of the haveli. Someone was on the tabla, a dancer’s steps followed, and a woman’s voice soon joined. The private performance was being guarded earnestly by a lathi-yielding chowkidar, but that didn’t prevent my aunt, renting a room at the house at the time, from being in awe. It was a typical evening enjoyed by the erstwhile Thakur Sangram Singh Diggi, whose heyday lay between 1918 and 1968—one of many evenings recalled by my aunt when she stayed there.
The Thakurs of Diggi (a thikana or sub-state about 50 km from Jaipur) were noblemen in the court of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in the 18th century. Asked to move their official residence to Jaipur when the Maharaja shifted his capital from Amber in 1727, the house that was built in the heart of the city became a symbol of power. Comparable to parliamentarians’ bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi, the Diggi House was built for the same reason—to be in close contact with the centre—and ran on similar principles, too—inaccessible to the public and often corrupt.
Recalling Sangram Singh, a close friend of the Diggi family tells me, “Like most of the landlords of his time, he was fond of the good life—drinking, horses, women, music, cars etc. But all that extravagance in post-Independence India was unsustainable. He was forced to sell some portions of the huge property.” The residential area that now lies immediately behind the house was carved out of the section that had been sold, and is known as Sangram Colony, named after the Thakur.