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Ramgarh: Breathing history

Set amidst lush gardens, this bucolic lodge overlooks the serenely beautiful Ramgarh Lake(an artificial lake) that existed up until as recent as seven years back. The lodge was also the hunting spot for a King.

travel Updated: Jul 12, 2011 14:53 IST

I really needed to get out of Delhi's maddening hustle-bustle to sustain whatever little sanity was left in me. A quiet getaway was just what was needed to rejuvenate the senses and come out as good as new. So when I was given the opportunity to take two days off and head 265 km towards a small town called Jamwa Ramgarh, there was no looking back. The excitement was so much that I could not even get a decent sleep. Thank god I wasn't going to be behind the wheels the next morning. It was just about 5 am and I think our beloved Hyundai i20 was already touching 100 kmph on the speedometer leaving the Gurgaon toll road much behind. It was after a long time that I saw the first rays of the sun slowly spilling its golden hues making the dew sparkle. As much as I enjoyed my tryst with nature, I could not wait to get to my destination. I had done a bit of snooping around on the internet to find out more about the place, and after a couple of readings I was quite sure of what I was going to expect. But let me tell you that no amount of reading is going to prepare you for the sheer blissfulness that comes with Ramgarh Lodge and that too, is an understatement.



Call me a nature freak, but give me a serene surrounding coupled with a book, TV and food (I say food because I honestly don't live to eat, I eat to live) and see my lips touching my ears to no end. Now, the USP about this beautiful lodge is the fact that it is situated 35 km from the main city, which makes it a perfect getaway, and since shopping was a big part of this trip, stepping into the main city was like hoping in a 20-minute drive, but that is another story. Second USP, is most definitely the location, because if you have not heard about the lodge you would simple pass by as if nothing of the sorts even existed in the vicinity. And I guess that is what made Ramgarh Lodge absolutely exquisite, because even though you are surrounded by civilisation one still feels cut out from the rest of the world. This was exactly what I wanted.



First Impressions

One needs to ride over a check-dam to reach the lodge and believe me, by the looks of it you would wonder what lies ahead however, once you enter the gates, you are welcomed by the in-your-face grandeur which exudes a world of royal charm making one feel exceptional to even be in the vicinity. Set amidst lush gardens, this bucolic lodge overlooks the serenely beautiful Ramgarh Lake(an artificial lake) that existed up until as recent as seven years back. It was here that we met Nagendra Singh Nada, GM, Ramgarh Lodge who with a big sense of pride, points at the almost crumbling tower where back in 1982 sat the umpire to judge the rowing competition held during the Asian Games of 1982. "Such is the glorious past of this property" he added further. At present, there is barely any water and the plains have been taken over by the locals using the land for cultivating crops. But a sight nevertheless. Right across lays the actual hunting tower and as Nagendra narrated, "the Maharaja with his close hunting mates would take a boat to the hunting lodge for the big game of Shikar and stay for days together enjoying the chase". The European-style lodge has been host to many royal dignitaries including Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, who were personal guests of the Maharaja.



The Lodge

Built in 1920s, the property was the former hunting lodge of the Maharaja of Jaipur and this is proved by the huge stuffed tiger that stands tall and mighty in a glass enclosure just as one enters the property's main hall. If you look 45 degrees to you right, there is a lion looking straight at you and a similar sight awaits you the moment you turn 90 degrees. Hunting trophies are the highlights and keep you mesmerised every time you look at one. The oldest on is the bull trophy, which dates back to 1934. But this is nothing; you will find almost each and every animal on the walls. My personal favourite is the single-horn Rhino because one can only imagine the size if this mammoth animal judging by the size of its huge head that now sits pretty on the main walls.



It was here Nagendra Singh Nada, informs us that the lodge has undergone a complete face-lift and the new rooms and suites are a seamless blend of history with contemporary style. Hunting trophies of the bygone era, old-world artifacts and sweeping views of the landscape recreate the ambience of an early 20th century hunting lodge whilst recent refurbishments and modern amenities infuse it with a contemporary touch. Even though the lodge has got a complete face-lift back in 2008, the management has done a fabulous job at retaining the rustic hunting lodge feeling to it. What, however, has been added is the touch of hospitality that makes you feel at home. Take the main hall for instance, the wooden flooring matched with the wooden walls with hunting trophies spread across to remind you of the history that this place has seen. As I sit on one of the couches, I cannot help but wonder, what it would be like back in days when the both the late Maharaja and the Rajmata would come back with the kill for the day. The late Rajmata was a big fan of the game of hunting herself, Nagendra added. She has personally eliminated 27 tigers. Of course at this point with "save the tiger" slogan doing the rounds, killing tigers for mere entertainment does not go down the throat too well. However, as Nagendra explained, back in the days of the Raj, Hunting was a sport and unlike now where tigers are killed at the mere site of it, back then, there were rules which were followed to the T. There were seasons when the hunting was allowed and the times when the whole sport was given a rest. It is believed that Gayatri Devi herself admitted to killing 27 tigers before she gave up the murderous slaughter, saying, "I feel sorry for the animals."



After a brief tour of the property, Nagendra lead us towards the property and to show us to our room. The best part, I got to choose the room, which I wanted to stay in. But making the choice was not difficult at all, because the moment Nagendra advised that second room was the favourite room of late.Rajmata Gayatri Devi, my decision was made. It was told that this was the very room that the late Rajmata used to stay in. Well, I may sound a bit cheesy here, but, how many times does one really get to share a room, which has had the honour to be "the favourite room". For me, this was as close as i could get to being associated with the royal blood. My room opened to a huge private balcony, which became my favourite spot apart from the time when I would be curled on the couch channel surfing. But sitting at the terrace sipping on masala tea I would really try and imagine things the Rajmata would do probably sitting at this very spot. The views that this terrace allowed were spectacular and personal.



Inspired by the Art deco style prevalent in early twentieth century, with strong tones of Portuguese fenestration treatment, the Lodge is a green oasis. Generously scaled furniture with period details combined with opulent fabrics and finishes to create a truly regal ambience in each and every guestroom. Monumental art deco rugs sit over the Lodge's terrazzo flooring. Carefully selected original artworks, gathered from the Lodge's historic collection and painstakingly restored, ensure that each room conveys a sense of the history of the palace and its royal residents, and royal it was!



"Remember the movie Zubeida?", shot Nagendra as he stood with us at the balcony of the room. Well, it was shot right here in this very balcony. Well, that was a double whammy! I though to myself while trying to hide my excitement under my not-so-perfect poker face.



Breakfast on the Terrace.

Nagendra had promised us a a sight that we would probably never for