Royal Heritage Haveli – A reminiscent of 18th century royalty

Dear Honourable Guest,

I am delighted to personally welcome you to our family property, “The Royal Heritage Haveli.”
My ancestors often entertained guests taking them for deer and wildboar hunts in the surround ing jungle on Queen’s Road, named after Queen Mary of England. During her visits to the Delhi Durbar in 1911, the Queen also visited Jaipur & took a drive to see the animals in our private sanctuary. The days were filled with adventure in the wilderness and the evenings complete with food, drinks and companionship inside the safety of these walls.

Today, we are proud to continue the tradition of hosting guests in a similar way. While your days maybe filled with a different adventure in the Pink City of Jaipur, we will continue to entertain you in the traditional style of yesteryears.
Sincerely
Maharaj Jai Singh of Jaipur
(signed)

This is a welcome message on the third page of the brochure kept in the room of the Royal Heritage DSC_0711Haveli which happens to be the property of Maharaj Jai Singh of Jaipur and today converted into a heritage hotel by his niece. It makes the guest feel elated that he is a guest of the Maharaj with such a warm welcome.

The Pink City has expanded now and where the Haveli stands is all surrounded by busy lanes and houses. When I drove into the premises guarded by high walls, I had not imagined that the Haveli could be such a serene place inside. A wall right at the entry ensures that the world outside the Haveli is curtained from the interior. A well-pruned lawn with hedges, shrubs and trees adds to the peaceful environment. As I got out of my car, I found myself before a humble structure ornamented with greenery. A valet and another attendant were already waiting. I was led into the building, going up a ramp to the first floor. At the entry to the building there was a seating area for non-residential visitors. A tea/coffee maker was neatly placed for the visitors.

The first level had the residential area. I was led into my room – it was furnished to make a stay comfortable; a large bathroom and also a study table in one extended structure of the room. Having DSC_0697driven 300 kilometres from Delhi on a slow moving traffic-ridden highway, I wanted to sit back for a while with eyes closed when I noticed the brochure on the table. Flipping the pages with the welcome message from the Maharaj of Jaipur, pictures of the glorious past and the history which said it was built in the 18th century by Madho Singh ji of Jaipur.

I could not refrain myself from making a round of the historic building. Out of my room was an open terrace which looked upon the large lawn before the building while on the other side were the guest rooms built in three blocks. A swimming pool hidden by floral shrubs had guests relaxing under the foliage. A spa functioned at the other end of the pool. Though the swimming pool seemed a modern addition to the old structure, it was noticeably built in a way that pigeons and birds could not land near water and dirty it with droppings. Often hoteliers have faced problems with pigeons and other birds coming down to satiate their thirst in the pool, causing nuisance, if not more.

To restore a 200-year-old building is a gigantic task; one cannot pull down walls or any part of a heritage building, it must maintain its original architecture and still one has to find ways to create rooms and functional public area.

On my first evening, I discovered that along with a restaurant there was an open terrace area shaded by a large tree that served as dining space with lamps lit all over after dusk. There was yet another verandah which had tables laid out for meals and a third was a ‘Barahdurri’ in the lawn behind serving dinner for groups. Ample choice and space for resident guests.

As wax lamps lit up the entire dining area on the terrace in the evening it reminded me of the festival of lamps – Diwali. Almost all tables seemed occupied; resident guests had come back from their tour of the Pink City and were enjoying drinks exchanging notes of their experiences. A lamp was lit up on my table as a menu was presented. I would have loved to have the famous ‘Lal Maas’(spicy mutton preparation) of Rajasthan but for once ordered a continental fish dish.

As I relaxed enjoying a drink, I noticed a tall lady walk up to each table, chatting with guests. In a while she was at my table. She was the landlady of the house and niece of Maharaj Jai Singh. I wanted to have some more information from her, but had to put it off for the next evening as her husband was not in town. The couple has together restored the historic building which they manage personally taking care of all guests.

The fish was delicious and I ate rather fast than I normally do. After all nobody can hold back after a tiring day amidst unruly highway traffic. A leisurely walk and then into my bed.

Not an early riser, but a desire to see the early morning charm of the property, I got out of my room. The sun was still creeping out of the East, but its light had already driven away the darkness. The Haveli stood in silence as if recalling its past grandeur. Cool morning breeze soothing all senses. I could barely believe that I was staying in a Haveli now located in a busy part of the city.

A pair of lapwings ran across the lawn making loud calls as they searched for worms and insects. The water from the fountain in the centre of the lawn made rippling sound resembling the sweet laughter of a mermaid. There was a bird cage, seemed empty and lifeless stationed at one edge of the lawn. I was in no mood to rush to take a shower before breakfast, a lazy morning made me move to the terrace dining area where I settled myself to see the sun, lazy like me, roll up in the sky slowly.

The breakfast was based on a healthy diet. Cashew nuts, almonds, cornflakes, assorted cheese, bread, butter and fresh fruits. There was choice of ordering a fix menu in addition to the laid out buffet.
A full one hour long breakfast made me fit to roam the Pink City the whole day.

The day was spent driving in the city and to the nearby suburbs famous for their block printed textiles. It was almost tea time when I reached the Haveli. Tired, I sunk in to my bed for a quick nap.

The dinner was with the owners of the Haveli. It is always exciting to hear narratives from owners of heritage properties.

The chat that followed over dinner was indeed interesting. The lady of the house, Ms. Angelique described how, together with her husband, Pradeep Singh, they decided to restore the Haveli which
had remained locked up for over half a century. She approached Maharaj Jai Singh to allow her to restore the Haveli into a hotel which he agreed and then began the process of renovation and resurrection. Now the two have been maintaining and managing the property for past seven years. The passion with which the property was restored is evident from the fact that the two lived in each and every room of the Haveli as it was restored to have a first hand experience of stay in each one of them.
I had one question all along in my mind which I could not refrain myself from asking, “I saw an empty cage in the lawn, have you ever kept birds captive in that cage?” What I learnt from my hosts satisfied me and calmed the agitated wildlife lover inside me. The answer came from Pradeep who narrated the story of a tiny kingfisher which landed in their lawn. He took the kingfisher in his care, feeding it and leaving it in the protection of the cage. The bird grew up and ever since lives on the large tree on the terrace. So the bird cage is no longer useful. Pradeep showed me the grown up kingfisher perched on a branch of the tree in the light of a torch. “It comes back every evening to its home here. It is a visitor whom I wait for every day,” said Pradeep. “We do not keep birds caged at all,” he added. I was reminded of the lapwing couple which had been making loud noises in the morning, perhaps they were happy to have found a home in the Haveli where none disturbed them.

The couple told me that they do not run around much for getting business, it is promoted by word of mouth. “Travellers who come here, go back to inform others and the wheels keeps moving,” added Pradeep.

The chat went on till midnight; I could notice that it was time to give the couple a break who had been working since morning on the property, talking to guests, supervising maintenance works and keeping an eye on the quality of food.

I had a unique experience at the Royal Heritage Haveli. It was a pleasant surprise when before check-out one of the stewards came up to me to ask what sandwiches will I prefer. Taken aback, I had replied, “No I didn’t order any.” One does not have to order these sandwiches, the Haveli offers packed sandwiches complimentary to all guests at the time of check-out so that they do not have to buy anything on their journey back from the Pink City.

Impressed, but with a little hesitation, I had said that I am not fond of sandwiches. So, on my departure from the Haveli I was handed over a bag with some fruits, biscuits and chocolate cake to keep me running till I reached Delhi. Thanks ! The hospitable gesture indeed left an indelible impression on me.