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My family built a palace similar to Windsor Castle. I’m making it a safe house for LGBTQA

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When I came out some years ago, my parents publicly disowned me and disinherited me from the ancestral property, writes Manvendra Gohil.

I am in the process of developing the first-of-its-kind LGBTQA (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer Allies) Community Centre in India, which will be located in the royal establishment of Hanumanteshwar in Gujarat state.

This 15-acre estate, situated on the banks of the holy river Narmada, was developed by my great-grandfather and the last ruler of Rajpipla princely state, Maharaja Vijay Singhji in 1927.

It is not only a spiritual place named after Lord Hanuman, who is believed to have performed a sacrifice here and got a boon from Lord Shiva, but it also has historic value since it hosted Lord Wellington, who later went on to become Viceroy of India.

My great-grandfather built a beautiful palace on the royal establishment of Hanumanteshwar, similar to the architecture of the Windsor Castle. He even imported weeping willow trees from the UK, and planted them on the banks of the Narmada, giving it the appearance of Windsor Castle on the river Thames. Unfortunately, the palace was destroyed and damaged by floods from the river.

I’m in the process of restoring some portions of the palace; I’m also adding new structures to the old building. This property was gifted by my father after I came out openly as a gay person. He even laid the foundation stone by performing a ritual for the LGBTQA Community Centre renovation and extension. The priest of the centuries-old Hanuman temple in the neighbourhood was also present for the ceremony.

The centre has hosted functions attended by other royal family members, government officers, student groups, Bollywood personalities, etc.

The thought of developing this resource centre for the LGBTQA community came to my mind after I went through discrimination myself, when I came out. My parents publicly disowned me from the royal family and disinherited me from the ancestral property. But later, they resolved the matter and I got this royal establishment as a compromise.

But other LGBT community members in our country are not that lucky when they come out to their parents – quite often when they want to prevent being pressured to marry by their families. Most parents emotionally blackmail their children and force their gay or lesbian child to get married to the opposite sex in spite of coming out. This is because they fear being stigmatised by the conservative, homophobic society. If the children resist, they are disowned and thrown out of homes and boycotted socially.

A lot of us are mentally conditioned to be attached to our parents, and are also dependent on family for shelter and food. This situation gives rise to some people attempting suicide due to social and financial insecurity. This centre aims to empower them by building a social support system, and giving them the tools to become financially independent.

But there is something unique about this centre – it also includes ‘allies’. I have always believed in inclusion and not exclusion. If we want to get our rights, then we need to get accepted by the larger society. If the non-LGBTQ community or the allies accept and understand our issues, things become easier for us.

The LGBTQA Community Centre will provide computer skills and language skills, especially English. I am also going to introduce music therapy for treatment of psychosomatic disorders like blood pressure, heart trouble, diabetes, hypertension, insomnia, etc. As a student of Indian classical music, I know about the impact it can have. So there will be a music room too.

We have a provision for a multi-purpose room where training and workshops will be conducted for skills like make-up, fashion, choreography, photography, art, interior designing, etc. This hall will also conduct yoga and meditation workshops. In addition, we will have a community kitchen to teach cooking skills and also give an opportunity to the community to cook its own meals.

The centre will be provided with its own in-house clinic, which will take care of all the health issues, including HIV-AIDS healthcare and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. It will also develop safe sex educational seminars.

I wish to construct a new building to make a shelter home for all those who are thrown out by their families and rendered homeless. This will have eight rooms to accommodate 20 to 25 persons. People can stay here till the time they feel comfortable to live on their own.

I have estimated a cost of approximately Rs 65 lakh to complete the project. It has been a challenge to raise funds.

I hope more and more people in India start this kind of facility in their own geographical areas. In times to come, there will be a huge demand for this kind of centre, as more people come out.

This centre will provide a safe haven for the marginalised and ostracised members of the society by giving them dignity and respect.

Manvendra Singh Gohil is India’s first openly gay person from an erstwhile royal family, Rajpipla in western Gujarat. His Twitter handle is @PrinceRajpipla.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Manvendra.. we met last year in DQFTF.. you were beside me . Sitting in the 1st row.. I remember you holding my hand.. while i kept on sobbing on a play… would like to get in touch with you..
    Please contact me 9718596740…
    On watsapp..
    I wanna volunteer for such noble cause.

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