The Building of Quila House
The Jalan Collection
A Parade of Visitors
The Next Generations
Contact Quila House
In the early 20th century, R. K. Jalan worked closely with the British
administration under the Raj, and was rewarded successively with the titles “Rai Sahab”, “Rai Bahadur” and finally,
towards the end of the Second World War, “Dewan Bahadur”. This last title was given in recognition of his services
in organising the war effort in that part of the country.
Both before and after becoming Dewan Bahadur,
R. K. Jalan regularly received and entertained every visiting dignitary who came to Patna.
Dewan Bahadur (in white at the centre of the picture)
being honoured by the judges of the High Court of Bihar
A day at the races:
Dewan Bahadur with a lady of his acquaintance
Indeed, family lore maintains that when members of the British
administration visited the city, they were ferried around, even whilst discharging their official duties, in R. K. Jalan’s
private car. This he graciously made available for their use, since they didn’t have any of their own. Amongst those who
benefited from R. K. Jalan’s largesse was the Governor of Bengal, which at the time included the present-day states of
Bihar and Orissa.
The services rendered by Dewan Bahadur to the British Raj before and
after receiving the title earned him an invitation to several royal events: the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of King
George V in 1935, and the Coronation ceremonies both of King George VI in 1937 and of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Out of
these, he only attended the first and the last; the former being the most memorable of his two European trips.
On his trip to Europe Dewan Bahadur took with him not only his own
servant but also his manager, his driver, and his car. He rented a bungalow in London for the
six months of the trip. And on every Europe-bound ship from India a consignment of drinking water was sent to him.
If this sounds remarkably like the elaborate travel arrangements of an
Indian Maharajah, it is with good reason. Indeed, already during his lifetime Dewan Bahadur was referred to as “the
uncrowned King of Patna”. On the public sphere, he made many contributions to Patna and to Bihar; he was,
for instance, the founding President of the Bihar Chamber of Commerce.
Dewan Bahadur and Hira Lal Jalan greet a visiting British dignitary
Dining al fresco on the Quila House verandah.
Dewan Bahadur and Hira Lal Jalan are in the background,
respectively in the black and grey tops
And yet Bimla Bai, Dewan Bahadur’s
eldest and favourite granddaughter, remembers him as happiest when travelling
outside Patna, and declaring himself only truly alive once past Mughalsarai, the
train hub at Benares.
Dewan Bahadur’s eldest
granddaughter further describes him as fond of eating, and of entertaining,
and of card games; eager to invite people for dinner parties, where he would
have magic shows and puppet shows staged. According to her, Dewan Bahadur was
passionate about gardening, ordering seeds and plants from catalogues; and so
passionate about antiques that he would have sleepless nights, snacking on dry
fruits that he kept by his bedside, thinking on how to acquire a recently seen
piece. Incidentally, R. K. Jalan’s passions seem to have
been shared out amongst his inheritors too: card games for his grandson G. M.
Jalan, cooking for his great-grandson Nikhil Jalan, and the latter two for his
grandson B. M. Jalan.
Dewan Bahadur (second from right) enjoying one of his
favourite past-times: a game of bridge
Copyright © 2009 Aditya Jalan
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Paula Gonzaga de Sa