Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Day 234-A Night In The Life Of A Maharajah

Entrance at Devi Ratn Resort- 8pm 

12 Hours After Delhi

our car finally drove up to the magnificent entrance of Devi Ratn, Jaipur, our accommodation for The Day which of course, has turned into The Night.  Despite the fact that we were tired, hungry and very grimy, we were blown away. You would think a Maharajah has seen it all but no, he can still be awed. 

An empty reception area the next morning

We were of course the only guests for the night and standing at the entrance and waiting were our guest relations manager,  Aji, together with 4 others. Aji  was so worried (since we were late by almost 8 hours)  that she had called our contact in Mumbai to check if we were still alive, a few times.  I didn't want to explain about the train or the jam or the punctured tire because any Maharajah worth his salt would have just taken the camel.  And unlike the afternoon, this time , we were very grateful for the welcome drinks.

The empty dining room at Devi Ratn- Proof that we were the only guests for the night

Being the only guests there (bears repeating to convince the sceptics out there), the kitchen was awaiting our orders before they start on any preparations. Aji suggested a traditional Rajasthani thali feast to which the chief concubine enthusiastically agreed. About an hour later, we arrived at the dining room. A pleasure to the senses, this room was built to create a shimmery silver and gold ambience. But the long and tiring journey has taken a toll on the entourage and the harem girls started quibbling over the littlest of trifle.

"The ceiling is in 2 shades of gold."
"Nonsense! It's just the light, there's only 1 shade." 
"Rubbish! Actually maybe there are 3 shades."
"I TELL you it's just one shade of gold and the rest is silver" 
 and on and on and on

while

@-@ <---Maharajah rolls eyes

Thali

Finally the food arrived and the music started. How fitting that it was a song from the movie that inspired it all (My Mahararjah's Palace), the theme from Mira Nair's "Kama Sutra-A Tale of Love". The food was good but not extra-ordinary and it did not come cheap. 

Window seat in the room with a bowl of hazelnuts on the table


The Room

We have a beautiful room and on each pillow is a little tube of aromatic oil, each one a different scent.  "Peace", "Dream" and "Tranquility". And that was exactly the kind of night we had in the beautiful resort. I slept so soundly that I didn't even hear myself snore.

Devi Ratn

Facade of the Villa 

My Singaporean friend, now located in Mumbai, recommended this resort to me. At the time we were there, the resort was not yet opened to the public. Let me tell you this is how one gets exclusive possession without paying the full price. The flip side is of course,  you also do not get to enjoy the full suite of facilities. 

View just outside the room of linkway to another building in the resort compound

A feast for the eye and as far as I am concerned, an architectural marvel, Devi Ratn celebrates the pink city of Jaipur by infusing the architectural tradition of Rajasthan-with its red sandstone structure-and paying homage to Maharajah Jai Singh's ancient astronomical observatories, one of them, Jantar Mantar , and the biggest, lies right here in Jaipur city.

This is where we sat to settle our bill the next day. And realise that dinner cost a bomb!

Once again, I did not intend this post to be devoted to just Devi Ratn but I think some of my architect friends will enjoy the pictures. 2 days ago, I wanted a one entry post on this part of my trip. Last night,  I thought maybe it will be a 3 parter. Tonight, it has become a mini series of 4 episodes.  

Tomorrow, I will show you Jantar Mantar and the City Palace, only if it pleases you of course. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Day 234-A Day In The Life Of A Maharajah

Picture taken in Durbar Hall, Samode Palace

I am Maharajah Singh Kapoor Sans!

I am sure many of you are curious to know what a typical day in the life of a great man like me is like : what I eat, how I behave, do I snore when I sleep? You are in for a treat today as I shall endeavour to show you what it is like indeed to live a day in the life of a Maharajah. 

Neemrama Palace Fort- taken with a digital camera and therefore could not capture the full length of the Palace

They say "A man's house is his castle"

Except that my house is really a castle *chuckles. Seriously now, this is one of the oldest palace in India and the one closest to New Delhi. It is called the Neemrama Fort Palace and was built since 1467 by the direct descendants of Prithviraj Chauhan III after the latter was killed in battle and they fled from Delhi in 1192.

View through a cannon hole in the fort.

The Palace is located 122km on the Delhi-Jaipur Highway, high up a hillock, commanding the most magnificent views of the surrounding beauty. You may find it baffling how the Chauhans could think this was a safe enough distance from Delhi. Especially as it was a mere 1 1/2 hour car ride away barring traffic jam. But back in those days when men travelled by elephants and camels and there was no highway or my way, the journey might have taken months. Maybe even years if the elephants were on strike. I will show you what I meant by that later. 

Camel resting outside Neemrama Fort Palace at the Camel and Car Park

Car or Camel? Same Same No Difference

But first let me tell you about the Day. I was in Delhi the day before for some party business, the ha-ha champagne type and nothing to do with politics. Since we were unable to get our train tickets for the Shatabdi Express (having been conned four times, ask me in comment and I may tell you), my entourage and I decided to take the car early next morning (i.e. The Day) to Jaipur. By early, we meant 8 am and of course, we ran into the worst nightmare of a weekend traffic jam ever. That was when we decided to stop over at Neemrama Fort Palace.

Keys hung very high up on the wall right after the fort door. 

Palace or tribal house, the keys are the same. 

Jars of water for a Maharajah's entourage?

Upon arrival, I spotted these jars on the wall facing the fort door. They must be for water offered to a thirsty guest but we did not come for the water. We came for this: 

Palace toilet at Neemrama Fort Palace

Now I will have you know that this is not just any toilet. It is a palace toilet and you mustn't expect it to look like the one in your home. The one that a Maharajah uses is really quite splendid. 


Firstly there are the flowers, surely they are for quelling any unpleasant odour. And then, notice how the door can be locked from the front? Must be to prevent anyone else from using it. Of course once a Maharajah is expected at the palace, I assume all toilets will be immediately unlocked to prevent a embarrassing situation of the Maharajah having to,  heaven forbids, wait in a state of emergency. 

Hallway from Fort Door to Palace's Reception Room

The palace is of course more than just its splendid toilets. Once you step inside, you are quickly transported to an entirely different world. 

Beautiful iron railings flanking the pathways of the palace

Stairway to stargazing at the Verandah

Samovar against the sky

Be it walking through the baghs (gardens), one of them a Hanging Garden, or meandering from terraces to verandahs, one can't help but be captivated by the ambience. 

 Stone seat in one of the baghs

with its period furniture


for the children

A prince's play chair  in the drawing room

another one 

 and another

or the adults.

The entourage enjoying the view on a hitchkar

But what is a palace without the works of art? And a Maharajah is surrounded with only the best.
  
Clay sculptures at entrance


Art in the Open


Spotted- An intricately carved wooden shutter encased on an ancient wall.  

As far as I am concerned though, the true beauty of an Indian palace lies in its ancient facade. 


Unapologetic, unabashed, undoing. 

In 1947, Raja Rajinder Singh of Neemrana, deprived of his privy purse,  moved down to Vijay Bagh as the façade of his Fort-Palace crumbled and its ramparts began to give way. For forty years he tried to rid himself of his liability but there were no takers. Finally, in 1986, the ruins were acquired for restoration and today, Neemrama Fort Palace is amongst India's oldest heritage resort.

Amphitheatre

And so it is that this palace is no longer a Maharajah's lodging. Where once an amphitheatre stood for mighty princes and kings to tame wild elephants, today it is a popular venue for weddings or 


  picture taking  for the tourist


who may dream for that fleeting moment when the picture is snapped that all the splendour  is hers....

Well, all sojourns, no matter how good, must end. It was noon already and we had thought if we leave then, we might be in time for tea at Jaipur, the pink city. This was an even wilder dream than the tourist's for no sooner have we left the road, we ran smack into another jam and a 


punctured tire. 


"I am not a happy harem camper!" says the unhappy harem camper.


Maybe we should have gone with the camel. Speaking of which, do you know that a camel is a highly intelligent animal? They can find their own way through the desert back home and are sometimes used to transport contrabands across borders. And then there are the really special ones, the Maharajah's Favourite who can perform special abilities. Like this one that can swallow a log .


Haha! GOTCHA! 
"The picture above was taken when I was yawning, silly!" says the camel.

Told you they are intelligent. And sometimes a little rude. 

.....to be continued

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Day 232- A Dreamer's Screen Painting


This is a Daydreamer's story.


It is the story about a peacock 


and a tiger 

and   

H   O   W 


they each found the other so beautiful

        
that they just sat across the river 

from each other 

and stared.

 

Alas, this strange obsession angered the Gods so much 

that they decided the creatures must be punished.


 So the Gods built a four fold screen and then put

 the flighty peacock 

and the mighty tiger 

on opposite sides of the screen

so that they can never look the other in the eye again.


But you know what the creatures thought?


At least now we will be together forever.

The End 


On 3rd March 2011, the day I was due to leave for India, I received a surprise package from Betsy, a daydreamer, an artist, my friend. I gasped out loud  when I opened the box, revealing a four fold screen, 6" tall and 9.5" wide with the most vivid depiction of India's iconic animals. Like the creatures for each other, I could not keep my eyes off the beauty of Betsy's art. Did you notice that apart from hand painting the  beautiful creatures, she had put crystals in the tiger's eyes and jewels on the peacock's head? Exactly how my Maharajah will want them..

The story I wrote on this post was inspired by another, also about a tiger and a peacock who saw each other when they were on different sides of a river. They instantly fell in love but because they could not cross the river, they could only stood and stare at each other. Being the compulsive basher that I am, I changed the ending of course. 

So Betsy,  I hope you like the story that I have bashed for you by way of a thank you and to tell you how much your work has inspired me. Your screen will enjoy pride of place in my palace.

THANK YOU, my friend!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Day 232- 245-From Palace To Ashram

pic from lodging.com

From a splendid example of a regal Indo-Saracenic architecture,

pic from lodging.com

the style and fashion of which I hope to replicate in
My Maharajah's Palace,


to a spiritual haven built for a subliminal awakening

pic from tripadvisor.ie

teaching a giving  life  I  aspire to lead, 

this is the journey I will be embarking for the next 2 weeks.

And


am

excited,


very excited.

In another few minutes, I will be leaving for the airport to catch my 0230 hrs flight to Delhi . In the course of the next 14 days, I will be travelling through the vast Rajasthani deserts, chugging along ancient pilgrimage route and dunking myself in the sacred River Ganges. Yes! THE Mother Ganga! THE Very Source Of Life!

It is unlikely that I will be on the world wide web while experiencing these wonders of Mother Nature. I will miss you all and although  I cannot bring each and everyone of you along, I hope you can at least join me on another  wonderful trip around our human planet. O yes, don't miss my twig ladder and about a thousand or more of my fishing traps in the video which should really be watched full screen. 



I have watched it many times and I still get the goose bumps each time.

Thank You , May, for thinking of me and for giving me the link.

And till I am back from India, my friends, 

namaste!

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