Our short trip to Jaipur last month was not just about the fabulous wedding we attended. A small but significant highlight was the delightful beauty of the Hotel Mandawa Haveli, where we stayed. Before checking out and heading back home, I caught Aadyaa and Amma in action. They bonded, as only a granddaughter and a grandmother can over flowers and decor, a shimmering swimming pool and tantalizing jharokhas. I followed them around, taking these pictures and admiring the unassuming yet typically Rajasthani beauty of this modest, but well run hotel.
Where did you stay? That was the question I got asked most after returning from the trip to Anandpur Saheb and Bhakra Dam. Well, where we stayed was certainly a most memorable part of our journey. Thanks to the resourcefulness of Kiran, to whom we all owe this wonderful little sojourn (she runs Birdsong and Beyond, a niche travel venture), we got a peek into the life of the landed royalty of Punjab, in the quaint comfort of their own home.
Bharatgarh is nestled atop a hill in a landscape full of rivulets and ravines, a mini Chambal with a lot more greenery you could say! Located near Ropar at the foothills of the Shivaliks, the fort offers stunning views of the landscape around. From what I understood, it has the distinction of being the only royal residence in the Punjab that has been occupied continuously since it was built. Eleven generations of the Singhpuria Misl of Jat Sikhs have lived here, a clan that was started by Nawab Kapoor Singh in 1763. He is well known in Sikh history as a man of valor and he had the honor of laying the foundation stone of the rebuilt Harimandar Sahib, better known as the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine in Amritsar.
The current inhabitants of the fort, Sardar Deepinder Singh and his wife Sardarni Maninder Kaur, run a discreet, simple and elegant home stay in three refurbished rooms in the heritage wing of this delightful little fort residence. It is clearly renovated and maintained with painstaking love and care, and considerable taste. At the same time, it isn’t over the top. Living in Bharatgarh felt like you were within slice of history, yet it felt like home. The warm hospitality and home cooked, simple food meant we could relax completely, explore the fort freely. The hostess especially came across as a cultured and gregarious person, sharing with us stories of their life, their world view and their attitude, how they achieve the careful balance between the pace of modern life and royal legacy and tradition it is their duty to preserve. Just before we left, we were honored by a peek into their own private quarters, which at this time are being renovated in preparation for their daughter’s engagement, to be held later this year within the fort premises.