Royalty is the cachet of Rajasthani hospitality. Its imprimatur is visible on the Royal Heritage Haveli in Jaipur, too. The 18th century property was built by Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I, ruler of the state of Jaipur from 1750 to 1768, as a hunting lodge. Almost two centuries later, it opened its doors as a boutique hotel. It now belongs to Maharaja Jai Singh and is run by his niece Angelique, her husband Pradip and daughters Shambhavi and Shivangani. Angelique restored the haveli, which was in a state of disrepair, and with the help of her daughters brought a subtle aesthetic to the place.
Leaving behind the busy lanes of Khatipur to enter the gates of the haveli is to leave the chaos of the city behind. The graceful villa with its Indo-Saracenic façade is set on five acres of verdant lawn, and with quiet courtyards, verandahs and arches. The large marble pool is inviting in summer and the alfresco dining experience will relieve the claustrophobia of being marooned in a room.
At the time Sawai Madho Singh built the lodge, most of Jaipur was forest and the kings were great hunters. The Royal Heritage Haveli is guarded in name by the matronly 16-year-old Muffin and her six-year-old daughter Zoya. Go back a few centuries and this pair of Basset Hounds would have been part of a royal expedition.
The haveli has been running for close to a decade. However, now, it has joined hands with Niraamaya Retreats that marks its foray into the north. A South-based group, its branches are in Kovalam, Kumarakom, and Thekkady, besides one in Kohima, Nagaland.
Pradip and Angelique are examples of traditional Rajasthani hospitality, interacting personally with guests and arranging specially curated evenings—folk entertainment, horse shows and cooking workshops. With Niraamaya—predominantly a wellness and Ayurveda hospitality chain —entering the picture, the haveli has a team comprising a doctor and an expert masseuse to make the spa experience original. The stress has also moved to wellness. On the menu is just not the de rigeur lal maas and gatta curry, but the hotel serves Continental fare and British breakfasts, too.
The Kigelia restaurant here is named after the great eponymous tree, which is hundreds of years old that stands casting its shadow over the terrace. Among the hotel’s illustrious guests over its 150 years of existence was England’s Queen Mary, or so it is claimed. The rooms at the haveli reflect its royal heritage. They are typical of Rajasthani feudal architecture of the time with naves and pillars, floral ceilings and wide, low furniture. Each suite boasts its own individual decor in muted shades of blue, lilac and other cool colours.
“Large” describes the gigantic Royal Signature Suite; its private terrace, lounge and dining room are fit for a royal reception. The equally large bedroom overlooks a landscaped garden. Remember to ask for the history of the Blue Room. It is said this suite was once the ‘zenana’ where all the unmarried girls in the royal household stayed together. The zenana is long gone, but the sense of privacy remains uninterrupted here.