By Nivi Shrivastava
The time machine has not been invented yet, but I always wondered what if we could travel back in time and get a glimpse of past in the present. Fortunately, the universe worked on my wish and I was invited by the Princess Rajyashree Kumari of Bikaner to be a guest and experience a wonderful stay the magnificent Lallgarh palace (residence of the royals of Bikaner which is now a heritage hotel).
The royal residence Lallgarh was built in 1902 A.D. by Maharaja Ganga Singhji, in the memory of his father, Maharaja Lall Singh. Princess Rajyashree Kumari, who is the daughter of Maharaja Dr Karni Singhji and great granddaughter of Maharaja Sir Ganga Singhji of Bikaner, now looks after the heritage property.
Lallgarh palace is built entirely in red sandstone; hence it gets its name as Lall in Hindi means red.
Memoires of the Princess:
Perched amidst the vast Thar Desert of Rajasthan, this shining example of Indo-Saracenic architecture was the home of the royal family for a very long period. Speaking about her memories associated with the palace, Princess Rajyashree Kumari mentions, “It was a great privilege to have spent one’s childhood in such a magnificent home, though as children we naively assumed that everyone lived like we did. We lived very happily within the secure embrace of the Lallgarh Palace. It was our self-contained little world. We could not have wished for a kinder or more generous father. He made our childhood fun and enjoyable but at the same time we were taught our obligations and responsibilities towards the ancestral family and towards each citizen of Bikaner.”
Like every daughter, Princess Rajyashree too had a special bond with her father and she remembers, “We had a truly amazing childhood mainly because of our wonderful father. We spent carefree years growing up and enjoying life to the full. We explored every inch of Lallgarh Palace and thought that we had seen everything and then find that there was so much more to discover. In the winter months, we spent every minute out of doors till it was time to go indoors at the end of the evening. We played tennis and croquet, swim in the Karni Niwas pool and shot regularly on the Shiv Villas lawns, all without even leaving the palace compound. It was our very own private world, complete in every way. When we were children the dining room was a favourite place to play in after dinner. We used to troop down and engage in relay races and games of catch and even hide-and-seek in the large rooms.”
Reliving a real royal experience
Across the world, most of the luxury hotels boast of the amazing facilities and hospitality, but if you crave for re-living the real royal life then you must stay in a palace to experience it firsthand. For a traveller, there’s nothing more exciting than reaching a destination that holds heaps of history, and Lallgarh is exactly the kind of place that will take you through the corridors of Bikaner royal lifestyle.
The palace built in Rajput, Muslim and European styles of architecture has around 50 rooms for guests, and each room has a different architecture and décor that will leave you spell-bound. The interiors are done in peculiar Rajasthani fashion using a lot of stuff made by local craftsmen – from the beautiful wooden kathputli dolls to painted earthen pots and hand-woven upholstery, every corner has a traditional touch.
Here’s a video of my exquisite room:
The walls of this 100-year-old palace double up as a royal photo album as framed pictures of the royal family members hang in every room. One will also observe a number of taxidermied animals like leopards, tigers, bears, antelope etc hanging across the galleries with the light of chandeliers sparkling in their eyes – some of you may find it spooky but I always looked at them and felt that we were being watched by the dead all the time.
Even though the palace remains cool even in hot summer it has new age facilities like AC, refrigerators, TV etc within the rooms. My room at the palace had an old-style wooden AC and it took me a while to figure how it worked and that was my first discovery during the trip. The main areas in the palace are Padam Mahal restaurant, the Sadul Niwas courtyard with open-air dining and bonfire, and the Durbar Hall. The staff of the palace was really warm and on the first day of our stay, they organised a folk dance and local music entertainment in the Sadul Niwas courtyard to welcome us.
The best thing about out our stay was a dip in the indoor swimming pool after a long day in the sun. It was so amazing to swim in the cold water surrounded by the beautiful stained glass windows and marble benches around pool area – and each time we talked inside the pool the voice echoed which gave a surreal touch. For recreation purposes, there is a Billiard room, a spalon and a beautiful terrace in the palace, where guests can relax.
We had a great time at the Lallgarh palace and would highly recommend a visit to our readers who want to experience the unmatchable hospitality of Rajasthan. According to the latest tariff card, the presidential suite at this palace would cost you around INR 25,000, a suite for INR 14,000 and deluxe room for double occupancy at INR 6,000 and single at INR 5,000. Also one can book the location for pre-wedding shoots for INR 15,000 as we noticed some couple scouting for really amazing spots for a fairy-tale wedding album.
How to reach Lallgarh:
The Lallgarh palace in Bikaner is around 528 km away from Delhi and can be reached via road or train in an overnight journey. The airport is yet to start in Bikaner we heard, and the nearest one is in Jaipur (capital of Rajasthan) which is 330 km from the city.
What to see:
- Bikaner is a small town in Rajasthan that has a few interesting places to visit. Just like Lallgarh, there is a Junagarh Fort that will give you an insight into the grand lifestyle of Rajputs.
- The world-famous shrine of Karni Mata, also known as the rat temple, is a must visit when you are in Bikaner. It is located 30 km south from Bikaner in the town of Deshnoke.
- Devi Kund, a royalcrematorium and is wonderful piece of architectural brilliance in Bikaner. One will find a number of royal cenotaphs (almost 77 chattaris or inverted umbrealls) erected in the honor of late kings and queens.
- Also, there is a royal Sri Sadul museum in the premises of Lallgarh palace that has some of the most interesting pieces of Rajputana history for guests. One can see the first royal train carriage built for the Maharaja of Bikaner and royal costumes made in real gold and silver along with old currencies and textbooks.
When to visit:
The royal venue is used for official functions and state banquets these days and is also available for conferences and weddings for those who want to experience the rich culture and heritage of Rajasthan. The palace is operational throughout the year, and during the Indian festival of Diwali, it’s decorated beautifully to celebrate the occasion.
Since the demise of Princess’s father and later her brother no such major event takes place in the palace on annual basis, however on Diwali every year the palace is lit up and a special menu is served for pre-Diwali dinner and also on the Diwali night. Prior to dinner firework show on the front lawn is done for the guest and Princess join them in that. She interacts with the guests and exchanges Diwali greetings with the guests (make a note if you are planning to visit Bikaner around that time of year).
We’d say don’t wait for an occasion or a reason, pack your bags and treat yourself to a royal vacation in Bikaner! Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.