On our first evening in the simmering desert we could only be persuaded to leave the protection of the gardens by one thing – the Palace. We travelled in the car, receiving slight solace from the heat from the wind pouring through the window (the wind was still hot, but better than nothing!) as we passed through the Samode village (from which the palace gets its name) that lies between the gardens and the palace .
Entering through the huge wooden gates, there it was…… The Samode Palace. The Palace shot into prominence due to the landlords lineage traced to Maharaja Prithviraj Singhji, the 17th prince of the house of Kacchwaha Rajputs. For a time it was under the British Raj but was restored to the Nathawat clan with the hereditary title ‘Rawal Saheb’ or ‘Maha Rawal’ in 1757, and this lineage is continued to this date. It is built of sandstone at the foot of the Aravalli range of hills (the foremost mountain range of north-western India) with a fortress like setting. The palace has three levels (planned in a sequence of courtyards of increasing height) with a patio on each floor.
As we were entering a cheeky monkey passed by (apparently they also occasionally get panthers!)
Then the halls…. GASP! The interiors of the palace are absolutely stunning, composed in the ancient architectural style of Rajasthan. The rooms comprise marble floors, intricately ornamented pillars, mosaic walls (with tiny pieces of small inlaid stones) and with luxurious carpets, and decorated with old wall paintings (hunting scenes, floral motifs and so forth).
there was an another hall said to be even more amazing but we were told to wait until the next day to see it. After exploring some of the rooms, we headed up to the top level
and as the sun set, we lay down on the lounges (with the fans on full speed as it was still hot) beside the pool
and had a feast in this surreal setting. Their uncle specializes in both fine dining Indian and Mediterranean fusion.
No wonder they poached him from a high flying restaurant in Mumbai! Eventually we made our way home and slept soundly in air-conditioned comfort with full bellies. Late the following morning, after again seeing the kingfisher
and had lunch in the formal dining room where normally, they only serve fine dining Indian – it’s a recent addition to the Palace and brainchild of the Chef. We had the room to ourselves as it is off season (no-one else was staying at the “tents” and there were only a few people at the palace) and as i said earlier – only a few people are mad enough to brave the heat unnecessarily. Due to this and also, because we were with the chef, instead of sticking to the menu i asked for his recommendation.
It was AH MAZING.
One of, if not the best, salad i have had –
As if i wasn’t content enough, we then went to the Palaces gem – the Darbar Hall. Rawal Sheo Singh, (Prime Minister of Jaipur state for several years in the mid 19th century), further expanded the Palace by adding the Darbar Hall with a gallery and the Sheesh Mahal or the hall of mirrors. My honest reaction to the exquisite halls “this S***’s on the Sistine chapel!” Really. And the sistine chapel is still relatively fresh in my mind having seen it in May. I was shocked into silent admiration.
I could have spent hours letting my eyes get lost in the details. The frescoes depicting royal hunts
and the nuances, like this Ganesh hidden amidst the florid painting of the walls
It had so many colors and was so incredibly ornate but somehow,
So much thought had gone into every aspect, with everything tailored to suit the different light conditions and change the vibe, ever so slightly, of each room. the best example of this is the room leading to an outside veranda. Everything about the two elements – intricate man made and harsh natural desert, should contrast and clash. But it doesn’t – it goes together beautifully.
Traditionally, the rooms we were exploring were created as a viewing gallery for the women to watch the proceedings of the men in the hall below. This was to protect the beauty and chastity of the noble women from male visitors who were unable to see them through the blinds as they sat below.
I was in awe of it all and truly couldn’t wipe the smile from my face – i am SO, fortunate. In an incredible place, with incredible people.
The perfect combination.