Letter from New Delhi – Rejoicing like a Maharaja in Tijara Fort-Resort

Relish the royal lifestyle with authentic ambience, panoramic vistas, dancing and singing with sumptuous cuisine at Tijara Fort-Palace Hotel in words by Kul Bhushan and images by Nyay Bhushan.

The stage is ready. Lights and sound system checked. As soft music wafts across to the seated audience under the clear early night sky, a dancer glides gracefully to centre stage. ‘Huma, the Celestial Bird’ flies as dancer Shinjin Kulkarni, grand-daughter of famed Kathak dance maestro Birju Maharaj, presents graceful gestures. Shafts of different coloured lights beam on the dancers, theatrical smoke and fog enhanced the special effects. The ballet climaxes when the dancers play Holi with flowers. It is ethereal.

CEO Neemrana Hotels Sonavi Kacker

With the backdrop of tall arches and ramparts of the famous 19-century Tijara Fort-Palace Hotel in Rajasthan’s Alwar district, Jahan-e-Khusrau Sufi Music Festival gets underway. Around 150 connoisseurs of culture and cuisine made the two-hour road trip from New Delhi to this hilltop retreat to relish this event, curated by celebrity film-director-painter Muzzafar Ali of Umrao Jaan fame.

In a grand 19th-century Tijara Fort-Palace Hotel, sprawled on a hilltop overlooking miles of flat farmland, you feel like a maharaja. The lofty archways, the king-size airy bedrooms, tastefully styled with original paintings exude a regal charm. Tijara Fort-Palace is an exclusive weekend getaway from Delhi. The fort-palace offers 71 suites and rooms named after India’s leading painters, designers and aesthetes who have helped create them. These upgraded rooms and suites radiate luxury with generous balconies offering stunning countryside panoramas or manicured garden views.

In 1835, Maharaja Balwant Singh of Tijara started constructing a fort-palace on top of a hill. In the absence of roads to the hilltop, the large double pillars were carried to the top by elephants. Famous architects from Kabul and Delhi were engaged to fashion it. Due to the premature death of the maharaja, the construction was left incomplete till it was leased to Neemrana Hotels in 2010. Work to transform it into a fully equipped modern resort started that year and continues to this day.

Once you check-in at Tijara, you leave behind the mad rush of today’s rollercoaster lifestyle. Time moves charmingly because you see the graceful arches and huge ramparts of yore, the paintings of a bygone era, the simple, non-mechanical toys of the pre-war generation and a red vintage sports car in a specially built pavilion merging with the historic ambience. An outdoor pool sunk below ground level, flanked by an elevated sundeck around it keeps inviting. This secluded area takes a fairy tale charm at night when the high, adjoining palace wall lights up with a thousand lights. A major attraction is its cuisine as every meal becomes a banquet with lip smacking dishes from all over India and many parts of the world.

Banquet all lit up

Music and dancing epitomised Jahan-e-Khusrau Festival, just like the bygone era of maharajas. After the opening ballet, a mystical musical journey soared through Sufi poetry. Next evening, the talented Moti Khan Manganiar, a local budding singer, performed followed by Sami and Shahid Niazi Qawwal and ended with the famous Malini Awasthi. Related events included Sufi Metaphor in poetry by well-known author Rakshanda Jalal, past life regression and tarot reading. The guests were requested to dress in rose in the morning, white for dinner and black for the gala poolside dinner, making every meal a fashion show. Each meal was a culinary delight which included Turkish-Mediterranean, Lakhanavi from UP, Marwari from Shekhawati in Rajasthan and Haryanavi from Haryana. Banquets fit for a king.

The CEO of Neemrana Hotels, Ms Sonavi Kaicker, said that the event was a huge success and announced a similar two-day event ‘Weekend with India’s Dancing Icons’ from 7 to 9 October when well-known artistes Leela Samson and Malvika Sarukkai will perform in addition to other stimulating activities. Ms Kaicker, who is responsible for the successful launch of Tijara Fort-Palace in 2016, mentioned this property had a ‘full house’ during the summer and is very positive about the future.

Sufi singing

As we were leaving the next morning, the hotel was emptying, and we asked a manager how it kept going. He replied that another group was due to arrive for this stunning backdrop for a wedding; and it was popular getaway from Delhi for a weekend stay with domestic tourists while foreign visitors patronized it during winters. The terraced gardens, central pavilion, the sunken auditorium, or the poolside are all worthy of becoming the host of your special stay. And it is a fantastic venue for photography and history enthusiasts at this fort-palace. So, the party goes on round the year.

Kul Bhushan, who worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades, now lives in New Delhi

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