Escape to the arms of luxury and experience lifestyles of royalty in an exotic setting
Nestling among the Aravali ranges 42 Kms north-west of Jaipur, Samode Palace is reached by a branch road from the Delhi-Jaipur highway. When we visited Samode, the first view as it rose like a mirage above cobbled streets and stone houses of the village of Samode, took our breath away. It turned out to be one of the most fabulous escapades in Rajasthan
The Rajputana Gazetteer of 1879 tells us that Samode was a large and flourishing town. The " Zamidars" (landlords) of Samode were the Nathawat clan from Chomu, a branch of the house of Amber, tracing their relation to the Jaipur Maharaja the fabled Prithviraj Singhji the 17th prince of the house of Kacchwaha Rajputs. Samode Palace is a perfect example of Rajput-Moghul architecture.
In the early days Samode Palace was a little more than a fortified stronghold in the rugged Rajput tradition. Only in the early 19th century under Rawal Berisal did the castle begin to take on the lavish aspects it is now known for. Rawal Berisal was an eminent statesman who reached distinction as the principal signatory (on behalf of the Jaipur Maharaja) of the historic 1818 treaty making Jaipur a protectorate of British East India Company. He later became Chief Minister of Jaipur and weilded absolute power.
Samode Palace began expanding at the time of his reign and continued under his descendant Rawal Sheo Singh who was the Prime Minister of Jaipur state for several years during the middle of the 19th century. He is credited with the Palace's most fabulous addition - the extravagantly florid had painted Darbar Hall and the viewing gallery which forms the breathtaking Sheesh Mahal or the hall of mirrors.
Samode Palace is a perfect example of Rajput-Moghul architecture. The palace is built on a small hillock and planned in a progression of courtyards of increasing height. It was transformed into one the country's premium palace hotels in 1987.
The interiors inspired by traditional design themes reach their fullest expression in the intricate marblework, woodwork and fabrics that accentuate the guest rooms. The spacious rooms with marble, mosaic floorings, high ceilings, cotton woven rugs "durries", antiques and beautifully carved four poster beds provide a sense of luxury.
Each of the guest room and suites have a balcony or patio. Rooms are decorated in the warm colours and textures of local Rajasthani hand block print textiles and adorned with traditional artifacts.
All rooms have en suite bathrooms with tubs and showers, hot and coldwater. Air-conditioning, heating, mini-bars, television and cable connections.
You may like to spend the time enjoying the ambiance of the palace, and never stir out of its walls. But you will finmd it interesting to spend the day exploring the quaint village of Samode on foot, on pedal cycles, camel back or horse back or just enjoy a picnic lunch in the mango orchard or at the nearby Samode Bagh (the garden resort). For the more adventurous, there are horses to ride up the hillocks into the sand dunes.
For those with energy to burn, climb the 376 steps uphill to the Samode Fort. The climb is steep but the views across the valley make it worth the effort. Camel and jeep Safari, are also available.
Shekhawati - Castle Mandwa and the Desert Resort
The Shekhawati region of Rajasthan has been described as a region of strange profound beauty. Here is a arid and hostile land where dusty towns appear between sand dunes there are an incredible number of mansions, palaces and cenotaphs decorated inside and outside with colourful murals commissioned between 1770s and 1930s, by the regions merchants. Mandawa is a a remote feudal principality in the centre of the Shekhawati region. It was a trading outpost for the ancient caravan routes that stopped here from China and the Middle east. Today the world comes to this storybook town to see its colorful frescoes on every subject under the sun ranging from the religious to the erotic.
When we explored Shekhawati we discovered two escapades with a common owner- the 240 years old Castle Mandwa- a fortress now converted into a luxurious heritage hotel. This hotel along with its sister hotel- the Desert Resort, are the best places to explore the legacy of Shekhawati. Mandawa is located 250 Kms from Delhi, and 168 kms from Jaipur. It is best to drive by car from Delhi, or you can fly to Jaipur and drive to Mandawa.
Explore Castle Mandawa at your own pace. Spend a leisurely hour over a drink in the colonial verandah that accommodates the bar. Or relax in the cozy comfort of the Diwankhana, the formal drawing room decorated with family portraits and displays of antique Armour. Simple pleasures leave a lasting impresion, whether it is a quiet breakfast on a terrace offering great views of distant temples and cenotaphs, a leisurely lunch in the mural painted dining room, sundowners sipped in the congenial setting of the verandah bar, or an alfresco dinner under the stars, entertained by Rajasthani folk singers and dancers.
From Castle Mandawa you can take a walking tour of the painted 'havelis' of some of the leading business families of the country. Though they no longer live here, the local caretakers are happy to show the visitors around. Enroute you can shop for the colorful art and crafts of Rajastha- tied and dyed textiles, metal handicrafts, carved wooden artifacts and more.