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Royal nostalgia: Reminiscences of hunting expeditions
Jaipur, March 16 - At a time when hotels are largely adopting a modern outlook in terms of their decor and ambience, these two historic lodges in Rajasthan stand tall as reminders of an era gone by, of Maharajas and their hunting expeditions and of solitude, synonymous with countryside.
About 35 km from the Pink City lies The Gateway Hotel, Ramgarh Lodge -- an oasis of bliss and charm, surrounded by the Aravalli hills and overlooking a vast expanse of agricultural fields. Once the favourite hunting retreat of the Maharaja of Jaipur and Maharani Gayatri Devi, the intimate property is now managed by the Taj Group of Hotels.
Built in 1933 by Sir Swinton Jacob with a Spanish theme, this erstwhile hunting lodge is spread over four acres and set away from the hustle and bustle of Jaipur. It is located on the banks of the man-made Ramgarh Lake that has since dried up.
The first few hours of my visit were spent in the lush green lawns of the lodge, watching the bliss of the countryside -- its many men and women dressed in traditional attire walking past the adjoining farms -- come alive before my eyes. It is an almost magical environment as you hear the birds chirp, the squirrels play around and the leaves fall off from the trees with a gust of the wind.
Enter the lobby and an almost museum-like setting welcomes you. Heads of a tiger, a single-horned rhino, a black bear, a bison and a bull -- all trophies of the extensive royal hunting expeditions -- are on display. The Aravalli Hills were a frequent retreat of the erstwhile Maharaja of Jaipur and this lodge was often the halt of the troops during hunting expeditions.
The rooms are all spacious and built in traditional Rajasthani style. They are decked up with furniture and upholstery reflecting Rajasthani traditions, and offer uber luxury with a huge lounge area and spa-pool. The historical suites of the Ramgarh lodge boast of mountain views and A-grade facilities for boarders.
There is nothing much to do around here. One can go for a trek or some rural sightseeing, but these do not stand out from what most other properties in Rajasthan offer. The best thing about The Gateway Hotel, Ramgarh Lodge, is its silence. You can hear your thoughts as you sip a glass of wine against the fire at the dinner table or out on the lawns!
Checking out soon after breakfast the next morning, we set out on an almost three-hour-long drive to our next destination -- Sawai Madhopur. The tryst with royalty and the nostalgia of hunting expeditions continued at Vivanta by Taj - Sawai Madhopur, Ranthambore.
Replete with tales of the Maharajas' spirited shikars, this was the preferred pit spot for royal families out on hunting expeditions. Today the tents have made way for luxurious rooms and suites. The art deco-styled lodge still houses the original dining hall, bar and lounge and the spirit of the Lodge continues to complement the traditions of the chivalrous Rajputs.
Folk storytellers at the hotel weave their magic under the starlit sky and recount tales from times when victorious Rajputs roamed the state even as guests have the opportunity to indulge in a host of activities.
The hotel's proximity to the Ranthambore National Park makes it the perfect place to experience the thrill of the jungle. The park is one of the best locations in India to see the majestic tiger in its natural habitat.
Ranthambore is also a famous heritage site because of the pictorial ruins that dot the wildlife park.
Needless to say, the Jungle Safari was the high point of my visit, but while it can be enjoyed from any other hotel in the region too, the silence, traditional heritage and an old-world charm are what makes this property really special.
Discover the other side of Rajasthan -- unwind, relax and spend some time with yourself -- at these two magnificent properties that recreate the nostalgia of hunting expeditions.
(Saket Suman reviewed these two properties at the invitation of the Taj Group of Hotels. He can be contacted at email@example.com)
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