We have a history replete with stories of kingdoms and dynasties which have adorned our land over many centuries. Today as these stories of the kings and their palaces fast become fables the only glimpse we have of their opulence and grandeur are the architectural legacies left behind by them. Some have been lost to time but there are many which are still alive, telling the story of their glorious past. The fort in Neemrana is one such place.
Neemrana is a small town, situated about 90kms from Gurgaon on the Delhi -Jaipur highway now famous for Neemrana Fort. This 15th century fort which has now been restored and converted into a privately owned heritage Hotel is high on the list of weekend getaways from Delhi-NCR. The moment we had read about this place we had decided to stay there on a weekend sooner or later.
Planning a trip to Rajasthan in May is not what anybody would suggest but the off season does help as you can get a room on a short notice. Hence we had quite a few options to choose from and settled down for a room called Garuda Mahal. The weather was being generous on the day we had planned our trip. Instead of the hot and arid “loo” typical of north Indian summer a much cooler breeze made the temperature bearable. The fort is just off the NH 8 almost 90 kilometers from Gurgaon .We reached there in about 2 hours.
Once through with the parking you enter the fort through the huge entrance which would have been the first check post of this erstwhile fort, manned with Raja’s sentries carrying out their version of the security check. After having confirmed our booking we moved further, awestruck by this colossal palace weathered with time and oozing with an aura of a magnificent past. It is quite a walk up to the reception and as you go up you start getting the view of the present day town of Neemrana with adjacent industrial areas. Amidst the growing swath of new age monotony this palace on a small hill stands still in time with all its glory now restored.
The palace has a variety of rooms or “Mahal” as they are called suiting your budget and family size. From single occupancy to suites you can choose an option in a range of Rs 4000 a night to Rs 20000 a night. Garuda Mahal where we had opted to stay was in the new section which has been built from scratch. Great care has been taken to restore the ruins to what the palace would have been like in the pink of its health. We had checked in just in time for lunch which gets over at 2.30 pm.
This palace is full of beautiful balconies and terraces around every corner which are perfect vantage points to enjoy the quiet country side as the sun sets .We took up one very close to the reception and right next to the bar. Hues of orange and red had started appearing in the sky. Cool breeze flowing across this dry land was soothing. Having treated ourselves with some cold and refreshing drinks we moved over to a higher spot from where you could stare into the horizon. The sun had set and sky grew darker
At 7.00 pm as per the schedule local folk musicians took the temporary wooden stage made in the area just outside the reception. They rendered a form of music which is moving into an oblivion in today’s age of item numbers and techno beats. Simple and soulful is what our folk music is, with lyrics which can be full of tease without any vulgarity. A band from Alwar played some of their compositions which were interesting and innovative. One of their songs was on the words with the suffix “tar “. More like a narrative it put together almost all the words you can think about ending with “tar “in one composition. It was not a surprise that this small group has gone beyond the borders and performed at places like London and Edinburgh. For an hour we were truly enchanted with this rare dose of music rooted deeply in our traditions and then it was time for dinner which starts at 8.00 pm here.
At night the walls of this palace come to life with an array of small electric bulbs looking like diyas. The sight of this huge palace illuminated against the backdrop of dark sky is fascinating and makes you stop and marvel at this royal abode in the lull of the night.
This is a place to be if you want to be away from the urban noise while you sneak a look into how our maharajas once lived .