Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Trip To Deogarh!

Luxury is non obtrusive; simplicity is rampant!

The stone on the Highway said: “Heaven Up, Hell down and Paradise Left.”
Obviously, I chose Paradise. No chance in Heaven, Hell is too risky, I thought.Paradise was a destination called Deogarh.

A story of many painstaking years resulting in an abode which is breathtakingly beautiful and exudes a sensuous luxury, combining aesthetic excellence and high functionality, revealing an amazingly detailed recreation of the historical royal tradition in architecture and interior design.

The village of Deogarh lies on a plateau about two and a half hrs drive NE of Udaipur in Western Raj. Its blessed height shields it from the harsh desert heat and is enveloped by the Aravali range, eroded by winds and monsoons into curiously interesting shapes. At the top of the village, and the very heart of the community, is the Deogarh Mahal.The Mahal, dating back 300 yrs, was a stronghold of one of the 16 Umraos of Mewar. Nahar Singhji, the present Rawat of Deogarh opened the formidable gates of the Palace to guests over 10 yrs back.An educationist and a historian, Rawat Nahar Singh ji, spent all his life teaching at Mayo College in Ajmer. Now he had a daunting task in front of him – how to restore the forefathers’ treasure abode. Perhaps the biggest challenge was to retain the period look and old world charm while offering international standard facilities, and to achieve operational excellence without compromising on aesthetic values.Fortunately, the values he had inculcated in his family members literally held the Fort. A deep understanding of the nexus between history and restoration became the guiding principle. The family employed no architect, they took it hands on with the three talented ladies, Bhooratna Prabha Kumari, Namrata Kumari and Bhawna Kumari being the restorative brains working creatively. The two dynamic sons, Veer Bhadra Singh and Shatrunjai Singh completed the dream and the mission to protect the heritage legacy.

It’s a tour in itself to go around the Palace. I chose to take a long walk understanding the saga of each and every corner with audio commentary of famous author, William Dalymple and Nahar Singh ji unravelling the various facts about the Palace.
Daunting Task
Earthy charm rooted in the local mitti forms the outstanding hue of the Palace walls. Each room speaks of the effort taken not to redo the walls but to create a whole atmosphere, keeping its original character alive. The domes are symbols of life itself. The circular ‘ghada’ denotes wealth, the next circular piece ‘amal’ denotes health and the third circle stands for ‘prosperity’.Old furniture, paintings, frescoes, architectural styles are used as emblems to create a ‘recurrent’ theme. Lamps stand on elephant ghantis, old cannon balls round off flower beds. Silk borders on curtains that were designed like old chiks, pankhis and brass torches used as lights… Deogarh can actually serve as a case study in Period Crafts & Art.

Deogarh Khayyams
While I had a choice of Maharana Suite to stay at the Mahal, instead I opted for ‘Deogarh Khayyams.’ As romantic and luxurious the name suggests, these are exquisite heritage tents, situated in the midst of eucalyptus trees with an amazing Anjana Fort standing proud on one side. I had two worries, one of being a kill for the leopard and other to witness the rain coming in. But no excitement whatsoever as nothing happened. I simply had a peaceful sleep. Comfort is of utmost importance and is well noticeable by the minutest detailing everywhere, right from the hot water in the showers to the cosy hot water bottles placed in the beds.

Fort Seengh Sagar
For all those who enjoy their high tea time, Fort Seengh Sagar, the erstwhile duck shooting lodge of the family, is a must visit. A perfect setting for sundowner, I spent one evening just watching the lake, the sunset and many beautiful birds. This is a miniature fortress, originally created as a setting for the grand picnics and parties of the ruling family. Now converted into a 4 suite haven, each suite has been beautifully and traditionally designed. Raag Megh Malhar suite has winding steps leading down to the lower turret of the Fort where an extraordinary bathroom has a bath embedded in a rocky outcrop and lined with green glass marbles.If you want an extra ordinary sense of calm – the joy of Seengh Sagar is just being there and for those seeking the ultimate escape the fort can be taken in its entirety for a private party.

Culinary Delight!
The gastronomic affair at Deogarh is indulgence personified. While the selection of dishes can be as strongly focused on regional specialities of Mewar like laal maas, ker sangdi, gavaar phalli, bharwa lauki, ghatte ki kadi…… it can get as global as Turkey or Barbeque Lamb Chops. If Jalebi and malpuva are served hot with rabri, there is also sinful brownie and tiramisu.

You Are Not A Guest!
The combination of an historically detailed restoration, the simple pleasures of rural life and the indelible warmth of a family who continue to have the passion, talent and flair for restoring and running such a stunning property make this the most complete package. They couldn’t be more right when they repeatedly say, ‘Palace is an abode of the Gods, it is not a hotel. Be part of the family.’One indeed feels a part of the Deogarh family….

Plenty to do in Deogarh
Go for treks. Mata ka temple on a peak is a must trekking route.Explore countryside on Hindalo Camel Cart – designed in –house.Go Bicycling in the village.Look Royal if you opt for vintage drive. ‘Dhameero’ waiting for you….Just enjoy the pool game in the Mahal’s bar.Various serene locations with lakes provide lovely picnic spots.A ride on the local metre-gauge train down a hill makes for a memorable experience.Sit by the lake for bird watching.Go for day trips to Kumbalgarh or Ranakpur.Or simply relax in the Spa at the Mahal.

How To Reach
Deogarh is accessible both by rail and road. It is a couple of miles east of National Highway No 8. By rail, it is on the Western Railway Route, between Udaipur and Marwar junction.City – DistanceJaipur – Delhi 270 kmsJaipur – Ajmer 130 kmsAjmer – Deogarh 145 kmsDeogarh – Kumbalgarh 85 kmsDeogarh – Ranakpur 100 kmsDeogarh – Pali 135 kmsDeogarh – Udaipur 135 kmsUdaipur – Ahmedabad 260 kmsMangliawas – Nasirabad 30 kmsSirohi – Mt. Abu 30 kmsNearest Airport: Udaipur and JodhpurRailway Station: 1 KmBus Station: 1 Km
Published in Hoosta Magazine . www.hoostamagazine.com

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