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  A Royal Honeymoon in Rajasthan

Contributed by Anil Mulchandani
Email : ssibal@ad1.vsnl.net.in
Photographs by Dinesh Shukla
Website: www.ahmedabadcity.com/html/dinesh.html

For newly weds looking for a honeymoon in palaces, castles and other heritage hotels, these are satisfying times. For taking a leaf from European royalty. more than 3 scare owners of palaces. castles. hill forts. colonial period country mansions and former royal hunting lodges in the states of Gujarat and Raiasthan have converted their ancestral homes in to heritage hotels offering a touch of period elegance, a glimpse of the lavish lifestyles of Indian royalty and a fine setting. Some of these properties of historic or architectural importance can even be chartered for entire wedding parties. After all where can you picture greater romance then in locations selected for the kings and queens: sparkling waters, candlelit dinners, beers on the Iakeshore, dips in royal swimming pools, gardens where the king romped with his queen, harem and concubines, courtyard barbecues, moonlit walks amid marble pavilions, king sized beds, deep soft mattresses antique fireplace, cocktails on lake facing terraces, chats with the royal family, it is all part of India's heritage hotel experience.


After 3 hours of driving away from Ahmedabad on the Ahmedabad-Udaipur segment of NH-8, and then 24 km off the highway, we came to Dungarpur where locals directed us to the arches gateways of Udai Bilas palace. From here everything was a bird paradise- the road changed to a tree-lined pathway along lake Gaibsagar and the roar of trucks giving way to bird sounds. We could see thousands of ducks on the lakes, moorhen and herons in the reeds and oriels, sunbirds and beeeaters in the trees. Presently looming in front of us was the Udai Bilas, one of the most aesthetically appealing palaces in Rajasthan with curved arches,, domes, cupolas and turrets. The Centrepiece is an elaborate pavilion with exquisite mirror inlays and wood carvings, which rises up 4 storeys from the heart of a pleasure pool in the courtyard. The pavilion is surrounded by ballustrades and the walls of the court are punctuated by balconies and relief carvings. Though the palace was built by successive rulers from His Highness Udai Sinhji in the 1840s to HH Laxman Sinhji in 1943, the architecture is so well harmonized that all the 4 walls around the court like one single construction. Beside the courtyard is an elegant dining hall, with art deco chandeliers, antique wooden side boards, a communal banquet table, an antique fireplace and walls spanned by hunting trophies. Our room on the first floor was a royal suite-like room, decorated with mirror inlaid floral mosaics, oil paintings and exotically patterned carpets, and appointed in original furniture from the 1930s and '40s art deco style. The marble bathrooms had showers, tub and English toilets.

Dungarpur has little of tourist interest and that is part of the charm for no other hotels have mushroomed here. It is the place to enjoy chilled beers and hot cups of tea on the lakeshore, lawns, watch birds float lazily by from the sun decks, take a quiet row in a boat, witness the sunset from the terrace, picnic at ancient fort ruins on a 1500 ft high hill offering views that are nothing short of magnificence and stroll in the private woods. We found much of interest and beauty in the Juna Mahal, the 13-14th century palace of the same owners, with some of the best frescoes, miniature paintings and mirror mosaics imaginable. When the pace starts getting to you, you can visit nearby temples, the colourful bazaar, tribal areas and the Silvat stone masons who carve the local stone into interesting artifacts. [page 2]

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