The charming haveli with a rich history has been a royal hunting lodge and a school in its past. Today, this historic hotel with hidden courtyards and manicured lawns, captures the 18th-century heritage of the property through its interiors and its splendid suites.
Havelis or traditional mansions in Rajasthan are both historical and architectural landmarks. While the state always had havelis (an Arabic word for private space), stately mansions gained huge significance under the Mughal empire. Many from the royal families as well as Rajasthan’s merchant families built themselves grand havelis, with facades and interiors covered in sculptures and paintings. Several havelis combine the beauty of Mughal architectural influences with the grandeur one associates with Rajasthani palaces, though on a much smaller scale.
Royal Heritage Haveli – by Niraamaya Retreats, a luxurious 150-year-old boutique property, is an old hunting lodge built like a haveli. Khatipura in Jaipur, where the property stands, is very close to the Amer Road and the imposing Amer Fort. Once, the area was camouflaged by dense jungles teeming with wildlife, including elusive leopards and tigers, and was used as a hunting grounds by the Jaipur royal family. Now, the city of Jaipur has edged its way right up to Amer Fort and Khatipura. But that doesn’t take away from either the serenity one experiences at the Royal Heritage Haveli or the charm associated with staying in an imperial property with a royal past.
Much like all such lodges in Rajasthan, once hunting was banned, the erstwhile royal families converted them either into private homes or boutique hotel properties. Even in the harsh desert conditions that Rajasthan once was (now, Jaipur is among one of India’s green cities), havelis such as Royal Heritage Haveli found their moment of architectural glory in the pierced sandstone jaalis, filigree as fine as lace that filters in sunlight and air.
In its 300-year-long history, Royal Heritage Haveli has been a family home, a hunting lodge, a school and even an army supplies storage room. Now owned by Maharaj Jai Singh of Jaipur, the Royal Heritage Haveli is run by his niece Angelique, her husband Pradip and their two daughters Shambhavi and Shivangni, and managed by Niraamaya Retreats. The gracious host family is well-versed in the history of the property. The hosts often interact with guests at dinnertime. Their stories about the haveli and about Jaipur’s fascinating past, are engaging and will make you believe that you are at a warm dinner at someone’s home, instead of in a hotel.
Life in a Haveli
Built in 18th century by Madho Singhji of Jaipur, this former hunting lodge is atmospheric and full of character. Breezy courtyards, lush gardens and tranquil lawns define the haveli’s outdoor spaces, including one on which you can play a game of croquet, a sport said to be the favourite of the late Maharani Gayatri Devi.
The rooms and suites in Royal Heritage Haveli – by Niraamaya Retreats are an ode to Rajasthan’s vibrant culture of design. The haveli has been exquisitely restored, with some new areas being built from scratch. The 14 plush suites and an apartment are a beautiful blend of Indo-European décor. The palette, as Shambhavi points out, is muted and ranges from a regal blue to a pretty pink, marigold and turquoise blue.
The ceilings are frescoed; gaze up even as you lie on your bed and try to figure out the different elements within elaborate painted ceilings. The bathroom walls are all white, but the floors are a mélange of patterned tiles. Arches divide several suites into different spaces. Some shelter a reading nook, others a bed or a writing desk. Many suites have a sit-out balcony. The suites are furnished with historical pieces that the owners have collected over the last two centuries.
It is the attention to details (such as impromptu cooking lessons that teach you heritage family recipes, conversations with the family, kaftan dressing gowns and interesting nightcaps) that sets the Royal Heritage Haveli – by Niraamaya Retreats experience a class apart.
Lonely Planet explored the architecture unique to havelis in Rajasthan through this article
Explore Jaipur’s royal past on a website dedicated to documenting it