Auberges and the Renaissance Man

A former hospitality management professional in Udaipur builds hotels and resorts with architectural fragments from dilapidated historical buildings.
Jitendra Rathore | Dinesh Shukla
Jitendra Rathore | Dinesh Shukla

Jitendra Singh Rathore, owner of Udaipur-based hotel group Fateh Collection, builds hotels and resorts from dilapidated buildings. For his current project, the 50-year-old is supervising the piecing together of architectural fragments salvaged from a historical haveli that will form the entrance to his upcoming hotel Fateh Niwas in Udaipur.

“Fateh Niwas has balconies, brackets, columns, arches and facades from an old haveli that we bought in Udaipur. It has the ruins of a temple, which we are restoring and converting into a restaurant. The hotel will open in early-2016,” he says. “This is the hallmark of the Fateh Collection, which is creating hotels and resorts based on traditional principles of architecture, often by rescuing heritage buildings due for demolition and using their pieces for construction.”

A hospitality management professional, Rathore worked in senior positions in hotel groups, including the palace hotels of Udaipur. He took a two-year sabbatical from work from 2002 and came across a castle called Ravla Koshilav, which had been taken over by a realty developer who was going to demolish it. Rathore bought the castle, not the land, and dismantled it into 65,000 pieces, which were moved to a riverside site near the Jain temples of Ranakpur, where he owned land.

The property was reconstructed under the supervision of engineers and artists, with modern facilities like a front desk, restaurant, swimming pool, banquet areas and garden. “Hotel Fatehbagh opened in 2004, but we got a good offer from the Historic Resort Hotels, and we leased it to them. But this experience was invaluable as I learnt that it is sometimes more financially viable to move a heritage building to a tourist location than to restore one which is off the tourist track or in a crowded place. It is a good way to save heritage buildings from demolition,” he says.

After Fatehbagh, Rathore started working on Fatehgarh, a heritage renaissance hotel, 150 km from Udaipur. From an old fort, he transported balconies, columns and other material to his hilly hotel site. “In this property, we have used traditional architectural styles. For example, stepped wells were built for retaining water in arid areas between the 11th and the 19th centuries, but in the last century this water harvesting practice was discontinued. The stairway leading from the lobby to the terraces takes inspiration from the stepwells. We aim to bring about an architectural renaissance in reviving these traditions,” says Rathore. Started in 2008, it is a big draw for tourists, weddings and film shoots. Called Fateh Safari Lodge, it takes inspiration from old hunting lodges.

A two-night room and breakfast package at Fateh Safari Lodge costs Rs15,000 per double bedroom. At Fatehgarh, two nights with breakfast is for Rs25,000 for a double bedroom.

Rathore is now working on Fateh Safari Suites, which will open next year. “Set on a hilltop, this will be a villa which will be among the highest points in the Kumbhalgarh area. We want to woo the luxury segment looking for exclusive boutique hotels. This too will integrate traditional architecture and nature as part of the Fateh Collection,” says Rathore.

Rathore used 65,000 pieces from an old castle to build Hotel Fatehbagh near the riverside Jain temples of Ranakpur

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The New Indian Express