Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 1 : Oct 2005  > Features >  Maharaja Nights


Maharaja Nights
By Charlotte Anderson & Gorazd Vilhar

The castle town of Mandawa serves as the ideal anchor for a visit to Shekavati. In the 18th century Thakur Nawal Singh built a large castle fortress from which to oversee his local landholdings and enterprises. Today, in far different times, his descendants have opened the Castle Mandawa as one of India’s unique Heritage Hotels, where guests can touch the romance of Rajasthan’s legendary past. Mandawa has its share of beautiful frescoed havelis, and guests with a little more time can seek out even more of them in the neighboring towns and villages. The castle also has some frescoes of its own. There are 70 rooms, each decorated uniquely with antiques, folk crafts and some of the old portraits and memorabilia of this noble and historical family. A large staff of turbaned retainers sees to one’s every need.

Afternoon tea can be taken leisurely on the broad, shaded veranda or the sunny castle rooftop. As darkness descends, guests gather in the castle’s courtyard beneath the desert sky, on plump cushions and bolsters around a blazing bonfire. While dinner of Rajasthani delicacies is served, village musicians circle the courtyard balcony above, singing ancient songs of this amazing land. The Singh family has created another special lodging experience, more rustic and at one with the surrounding rugged nature, but with all the amenities one would wish. Desert Resort, with its village-style mud brick architecture, stands alone among the sand dunes just outside Mandawa. Its turquoise swimming pool is the only spot of color in this stark but becalming landscape.

The resort’s earthen walls are decorated by village women with traditional “mandana” folk motifs in white lime paste. Interiors are simply but handsomely styled and enhanced with local pottery and colorful Rajhastani textiles, while walls are trimmed with charming patterns of mirror-and-shell mosaics. In keeping with the atmosphere, oil lamps are employed for illumination.
Websites: www.castlemandawa.com and www.mandawahotels.com.

Getting There

Air India offers flights from Narita to Delhi four times per week, two of which are direct, and two requiring transit in Bangkok. Singapore Airlines flies daily from Narita to Delhi, with transit in Singapore. Indian Airlines has daily flights from Delhi to Jaipur.

Mandawa and other places in the Shekhavati region are most conveniently reached by hired car and driver, taking about four hours from Jaipur or six hours from Delhi. To reliably and reasonably book this service, or custom-designed Rajasthan tours to suit your specific needs, contact Mr. I.V. Singh at K.K. Holidays & Vacations. The head office is in Jaipur with branch offices in all the main cities of Rajasthan. E-mail: kkholidays@tantramail.com