Neemrana Fort Palace is about an hour’s drive away from the small Rajasthani town of Alwar. It dates back to the 16th Century is considered to have beeen occupied by members of the Chauhan dynasty. It has since been converted into a glamorous heritage hotel that is usually flocked by weekenders from neighbouring cities.
The hotel is decorated in a colourful traditional Rajasthani theme. Traditional ‘Muddhas‘ and chairs have been placed in its curious nooks and corners, where one can sip a cup of Chai and enjoy the view.
The Fort’s windows and many terraces offer a serene view full of lush green vegetation and the blue rooftops of the surrounding hamlet in the middle of an otherwise barren landscape. The atmosphere in the hotel is quiet and relaxed. It has a unique vibe, which to put in words, is a combination of nonchalance and productivity. It seemed to me like the perfect place to stay and write a book.
I stayed in the Sheesh Mahal. My room was decorated with traditional mirrors and was painted in a vivid blue hue. Vibrant trunks were placed in different parts of the room to add a pop of colour. The bed was also traditional and consequently very high. A stool was provided for the purpose of climbing the bed. There was also a beautiful wooden ‘Jhoola’ or swing/hammock as it is called in English. The Sheesh Mahal was also known as Rani Mahal was one of the more luxurious rooms in the palace. Apparently, Shah Rukh Khan had also stayed in the that room a few years ago.
I was initially allotted the Meru Mahal, atop a tower in the Fort. However, when I felt that room was very secluded, the hotel management was kind enough to offer me a room closer to my parents’. Despite that, I got the creeps at night. Somehow, staying in old palaces and mansions invokes in me an irrational fear of supernatural hauntings. But the is always worth it.
The next morning, we treated ourselves to a sumptuous buffet spread. After which, we headed down to see Baori in the village. A Baori is a step-well constructed for the purpose of water conservation. In medieval times, when it rained, the water would collect in the step well and the villagers would descend the flight of steps in well to collect the water. The Baori is decorated with intricate carvings depicting various tales from Hindu mythology.
But it was quite disheartening to see that the Baori is on its way to quick decline. The water in the well was full of moss and the steps were littered with plastic bags and packets of chips. It has become a dumping ground of sorts. It saddened me to witness such blatant disregard for our national heritage.
While we were at the Baori, a crowd had gathered to see the sights. This crowd comprised of the local villagers and the sights were “us”. We with our fancy clothes, cameras, and phones were a source of entertainment to the villagers in their idyllic life. They watched our tourist activity with fascination and listened to our English conversation with great intent, perhaps, hoping to decipher some words known to them. Although, I am from India and I see inequality every day, but it is experiences like these that really highlights the divide between the haves and the have nots to me. On one hand, people can afford to stay in a luxurious palace hotel and visit the Baori for entertainment. On the other hand, people lead lives marked with austerity and visit the Baori to see the people who live in the Palace for entertainment.
In the afternoon, we went for a ride in one of the Palace’s vintage luxury cars, a Bentley designed in 1944, and refitted with luxe interiors. Our chauffeur was an agreeable fellow with a dynamic personality. He spoke to us about the unfavourable effects of industrialisation on the natural beauty, environment and spirit of Neemrana. He said that many companies were buying land in Neemrana. Soon, the idyllic life would vanish from this village. He mentioned that many farmers are selling off their lands at good prices and buying luxury cars such as BMWs from that money. However, in his opinion, that was a mark of unintelligence, as the wise thing according to him, would be to buy more land to sell off at an even better price later.
In the evening, I went for a swim in both the pools at the Palace. One of the pools, is a bigger pool with a better view and actually meant for swimming purposes. The other pool is at height and is more private in nature. It is quite shallow so it is difficult to swim in properly. But it nice spot to spend a summer evening. There were two Indian middle aged women who were learning how to swim, and a Dutch couple who had visited India in the 90’s and were now revisiting with their kids. At the smaller pool, a group of young men from Delhi were enjoying their weekend break with their lower bodies immersed in water while they smoked and drank beer .
Later that evening, a group of dancers performed “Kalbelia”, a Rajasthani folk dance. I missed most of it because I had gone for a swim but from what I saw of it, it was a lively dance composed of elegant movements.
We ate a local delicacy called “Laal Maas” for dinner. It was utterly delicious. The dinner hall was lit in dim candlelight and traditional folk songs filled the air within. After which, I proceeded to my room for patchy sleep.
Next morning, we were given a tour of the palace by Mr. Bhom Singh, who had worked at the palace for almost a decade. Bhom Singh told us about the owners of the palace. The palace is owned by Mr. Aman Nath and Mr. Francis Wacziarg, who if I remember correctly is French. They started their business by restoring this property and converting it into a luxury hotel providing the authentic Indian royal experience. Soon afterwards, they expanded to other heritage properties and they now own 23 other properties across India.
Their story was quite inspirational because twenty years ago, it was difficult to market such unique experiences as their was no internet. Moreover, it must have been difficult to access this remote location at that time. Bhom Singh also told us how the categories of guests visiting the hotel has changed in the past decade. At first, it was mostly foreigners who were visiting India. Now, because of the economic boom in India, most of the guests are young professionals from New Delhi, looking for a relaxing weekend.
Neemrana was a pleasing experience, away from the loud honking of motor cars and the hustle and bustle of Indian cities. I highly recommend this trip for those of you who are looking to soak yourself in Rajasthani culture with a touch of luxury. Neemrana also makes for a great relaxing weekend as they have a well-equiped spa and massage room, which unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to try. It is a Viable option for those who stay in Delhi or Jaipur.
Things to do in Neemrana:
- Camel Ride
- Vintage Car Ride
- Visit Alwar to see the Alwar Palace
- Spa and Massage Therapy
- Fort tour
- Adventure activities like zip-lining
Neemrana Fort Entry Fees
- It is approximately INR 1900 (inclusive of a buffet lunch) i.e. if you are not staying at the hotel itself.
How to get there:
- By train to Alwar and then a cab to the Neemran Fort Palace
- Road trip from Delhi (which takes about 3.5 hours)
Approximate Cost of Wedding Venue
- According to Mr. Bhom Singh, approximately INR 25,00,000 in 2016.
For more information, check out Neemrana Group’s Website.